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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 10, 2004

Jason Chen To Receive Faith And Learning Award

Rev. Jason Chen, the retiring coordinator of the University of Iowa Geneva Lecture Series of speakers and luncheon discussions, has been named the recipient of this year's Faith and Learning Award. He will be presented with the award by the Geneva Lecture committee on Sept. 15 in Macbride Hall Auditorium at 8 p.m.

The award is presented annually by the Geneva Lecture Committee to a faculty member who fosters an awareness of the relevance of the Judeo-Christian faith to academics. The award presentation will be in conjunction with the Geneva sponsored lecture by screenwriter and director Paul Schrader.

Born in Kulangyu, Xiamen, China, Chen has spent the last 33 years in Iowa City, challenging students, faculty and staff at the university to think about how their personal faith relates to the other areas of their lives, especially academic and professional work.

"Jason deserves this award because of what he has done to nurture members of the UI community in their journeys of faith, to facilitate discussions about the relationship between religious belief and the academic enterprise, and to spearhead efforts to bring in speakers from far and wide to demonstrate to the campus community, not only that religious beliefs can be brought to bear on scholarship, but also that the results are often scholarship of the first order-by anyone's standards," said Loreen Herwaldt, UI professor of medicine and epidemiologist at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

"Jason reminds people every day that religious beliefs aren't just about having somewhere to go to worship once a week," said Karen Haslett of United Campus Ministry. "Jason's life work demonstrates the importance of integrating one's faith into every aspect of an individual's life. That's an important message to be reminded of, especially today, when our lives often seem compartmentalized and disjointed."

Chen also works with international students in Iowa City. From ferrying them to airports and appointments with immigration officials, and inviting them into his home, to taking them to visit American farms and -- Chen's favorite -- ski slopes, he has worked hard to help and befriend UI students from every corner of the globe and from many religious traditions.

"Jason is almost an institution in Iowa City," said Kathleen Staley, assistant director of the University Counseling Service.

Chen is often remembered for helping to comfort victims' families and members of the Department of Physics in the aftermath of the Gang Lu shooting on campus in 1991 and soothed tensions in Iowa City.

Chen is the first minister to receive the award, and only the second recipient associated in any way with the Geneva Lecture Committee. In view of his upcoming retirement, the committee voted unanimously -- in Chen's absence and without his knowledge -- to give him the award this year.

"Usually, the award recipient is someone who is a doctor, a professor, a nurse or an administrator," said Cary Covington, political science professor. "In this case we have given the award to someone who has spent decades helping doctors, professors, nurses, and administrators connect their work with their beliefs."

Everett Hamner, a graduate student in English said, "While Jason was concerned that the committee's decision to give him the award might seem unusual, the rest of us thought it very appropriate to honor him as he closes this chapter in his life."

Chen has a B.A. from the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines and a Masters in Divinity from Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, Mich. He began his work in Iowa City in 1971. He is currently an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church and the director of the Geneva Campus Ministry. He plans to retire at the end of December. He and his wife, Donna, have two sons and two grandchildren. Donna has served the Iowa City community for many years as a hospice nurse. The couple will continue to live in Iowa City.

Founded in 1976, the Geneva Lectures Series Committee seeks to foster an awareness of the relevance of the Christian Gospel to academic pursuits.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu; Program: Dirk Mouw, Geneva Lecture Committee, 319-643-7454, dirkmo@earthlink.net