SU’s heritage builders

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Inspired by the centenary of the Divinity School of Silliman University this year, the Heritage Builders, the annual honoring of administrators, faculty, and staff who have gone to the Great Beyond, gathered those who had been part of the ministry of preaching and teaching of the Bible. Initiated 14 years ago during the term of university president Dr. Ben Malayang III, the Heritage Builders is a testament of a culture of gratitude perpetuated by the 120-year-old Christian higher education institution.

Dubbed as “The Year of the Faith Seeds Planters,” among the honorees are Rev. Dr. Irving M. and Mrs. Mary G. Channon, founding ministers of the Bible School now known as the Divinity School.  The Congregationalist missionary couple served Silliman University from 1921 to 1931. Both from Iowa, the couple used their own funds to build Channon Hall, which was the original home of the Divinity School.  The major development of the entire Theology area of the campus took place during the time of Dean Channon.

Other American awardees are Rev. Dr. Elmer K. and Mrs. Idella W. Higdon.  Dr. Higdon was Dean of the Divinity School from 1959 to 1961. They both served as faculty and Dean Higdon was a well-loved teacher in Homiletics.

Another honoree known for his dynamic leadership is Rev. Dr. Paul T. Lauby, who also served as Dean of the Divinity School. Dr. Lauby took on many responsibilities while serving Silliman — as pastor of Silliman Church, head of the Division of Instruction, head of the Division of Student Personnel, vice-president for academic affairs, and appointed as acting president. Also honored this year is his wife, Edna, who was a major force behind the development of the kindergarten school.  The couple served Silliman University from 1953 to 1968. In 1969, Dr. Lauby joined the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia.

Another honoree who was also with the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia is Dr. Patricia Ling Magdamo. This missionary from Rangoon served Silliman from 1957 to 1969 as director of Christian Education at Silliman Church. Her husband, Benjamin “Ben” Magdamo is also a Heritage Builder honoree this year.  It was in 1949 when Ben started working in Silliman. He served as chief engineer of radio station DYSR. The Magdamos left for the United States in 1970.

Two Filipino deans of the Divinity School are among this year’s honorees – Proculo A. Rodriguez and Lourdino A. Yuzon.  Rev. Rodriguez was the first graduate of the Divinity School in 1921. After serving Mindanao, he came back to join the faculty of the Divinity School in 1932 and served as acting dean in 1938. He became director of Extension Service in 1940.  His last position before going back to Mindanao was as Head of the Public Relations Division. His wife, Eleuteria, also an honoree this year, was the Church Music instructor at the Divinity School and Music teacher at the High School Department. In Davao, Eleuteria started the Music Ministry for the blind, which grew to become Mindanao’s School for the Blind. She received an Outstanding Sillimanian award for Humanitarian Service in 1988.

Rev. Dr. Lourdino A. Yuzon joined the Divinity School faculty in 1968. He served as interim Minister of Silliman Church in 1969. He was dean of the Divinity School in 1988 and was acting president from 1989 to 1990.  

Two members of the staff are in this year’s list of honorees — Virginia S. Remasog, who was secretary of the Divinity School from 1972 to 2003 and Sarah T. Dumalagan, who was secretary of Silliman Church from 1971 to 1982.

Women leaders came much later at the Divinity School, like Rizalina “Sally” B. Villagante, an honoree this year. She was the Silliman Medical Center chaplain in 1976 and joined the Divinity School faculty before her retirement in 2003.

There was a faculty home near the entrance gate of Langheim Road, which was like a youth center when the Rev. Mediador V. and Mrs. Madeline M. Jumawan, were residing there with their children. There was so much singing and eating in this campus home with the generosity of Pastor Didi, who was the Associate Minister of Silliman Church and Mrs. Jumawan, who was Christian Education director from 1985 to 1993. With their talented children, the home attracted so many students as there was always regular jamming with Christian songs and Bible study sessions.

As the Divinity School marks her centennial this year in time for the 120th founding anniversary of Silliman University, all deans were honored with portrait paintings done by alumna and Palanca awardee Lakambini “Bing” Sitoy, daughter of former Divinity School dean Dr. T. Valentino S. Sitoy Jr. Beyond these portraits now on display at the Divinity School, their life journeys have now become legacies that are treasured, becoming testimonies of the Living Truth captured by this year’s Founders Day theme, “Faith Anchored on God’s Omnipotence: 120 Years of Grace and Glory.” – NWI