Richard H. Hart, MD, DrPH, president of Loma Linda University Health, was one of four people honored by the Charles E. Weniger Society on February 15, 2020, for their contributions to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Named in honor of the late seminary dean and English professor Charles E. Weniger — the Weniger Award has been presented to 182 prominent Adventists since the society was founded in 1974. This year’s awards were announced during the Society’s annual meeting at the Loma Linda University Church.
Hart has served Loma Linda University Health for 48 years, holding positions as chair of the School of Public Health’s department of health sciences, director of the Center for Health Promotion, dean of the School of Public Health, and president of the organization since 2008.
The Weniger Society’s award focused on how Hart’s vision extends beyond the walls of Loma Linda to the local community, and to the hospitals and medical clinics in villages and towns in the farthest reaches of the globe. Hart’s passion for service has inspired programs such as the Students for International Mission Service (SIMS), the Social Action Community Health System (SACHS) and the San Manuel Gateway College, part of Loma Linda’s San Bernardino campus.
The Society also noted that most of the mission hospitals in Africa and Asia would not exist without management support of Adventist Health International, a consulting organization Hart founded that supports the establishment and operation of Adventist health missions worldwide.
“Richard Hart is a living example of the type of visionary service that led the pioneers to sacrifice to build this health center,” said Lawrence Geraty, Weniger Society board member and president emeritus of La Sierra University.
In his acceptance comments, Hart reflected on the complex, polarized society of today, and how society calls out the absolute best of those who represent a belief system or institution.
“I wish instead that we could be measured by the standards of Micah 6:8 — justice, mercy and humility,” Hart said. “I wish the church would be more concerned about those issues than a lot of the other issues that guide us today. Those are the values that Christ would call out in each of us; those are the principles that make us unique.”
“It’s a privilege to be a part of an organization that espouses those higher principles,” Hart said in reference to the Weniger Society. “It’s a privilege I don’t take lightly.”
The 2020 Weniger Award program also included presentations for Reinder Bruinsma, a long-time Adventist Church administrator who in retirement ministers to people who are struggling with doubt, who have left the Adventist Church, or are on the margins of church membership; Andrea Luxton, president of Andrews University, and Ganoune Diop, director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church, and former church liaison to the United Nations in New York.
“We are grateful for all the contributions our awardees have made to society and to the Adventist Church, and it is our privilege to honor them with this well-deserved recognition,” said Bernard Taylor, the Weniger Society's president.
The Weniger Award for Excellence bears the name of a scholar and public speaker who taught at Pacific Union College, Angwin, California, then served as professor and dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary in Washington, D.C., and later on the campus of Andrews University. One of the most revered teachers in Adventism, Dr. Weniger's memory has been kept alive by a committee composed of his former students, colleagues, and admirers of the excellence he embodied. They in turn bestow this award on those identified as having made significant contributions to their communities, the church and the larger world. This award is presented, first, to a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church that Dr. Weniger loved so much; and secondly, to an individual who has demonstrated these qualities of inspiration, motivation, servanthood, and excellence as exemplified by Dr. Weniger.