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Homecoming Honorees

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Alumnus of the Year

Ruben Mascarenas (BS ’92)

Ruben Mascarenas was born in Embudo, New Mexico on June 7, 1953. He graduated from Southwestern with a BS in Physical Education and Spanish in 1972 and later received his Masters in Education and Administration from the University of Northern Texas in Denton. 

Ruben and his wife Linda have two children, a daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren. Ruben works extensively with Men’s Ministry in Crowley, Texas and with Spanish-speaking adults who want to learn English. 

Reflecting on Southwestern’s impact, Ruben says, “Southwestern proved to be an experience that paved the way in my life. There were professors that took a personal interest in me and saw something in me that I never thought I had. Dr. Baikley took time every week to sit and talk and counsel me. Mrs. Lowry always found some way to help get tuition paid. Mrs. Diltz (girls’ dean) always stood up for me when I decided not to follow the rules. Mrs. Arauzo would continually tap me on the shoulder and tell me I was a good person and that I had a great future. As I look back, I see that it was all those positive influences that made me want to give back and share what was given to me.”  


Alumna of the Year

Heather Ann (Dobbs) Quintana (BA ’97)

Heather Ann (Dobbs) Quintana was born in Muldrow, Oklahoma on March 26, 1975. She graduated with a BA in English from Southwestern in 1997 and later earned her Master of Divinity degree from Andrews University in 2000. Heather has served as editor for Vibrant Life Magazine, the oldest health magazine in the nation, since 2008. She has written several Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs and has had several articles published in various magazines, including LEAD Magazine, Adventist Review, Adventist World, and Kids‘ Ministries Ideas. Heather also authored Momentum, a daily devotional published in 2013. Heather’s list of awards from the Society of Adventist Communicators (SAC) includes the SAC Award of Excellence, Best Magazine Design, Best Magazine Cover Design, Best Magazine Column, and Honorable Mention for Feature Articles. Heather has been married to Pastor Robert Quintana for 17 years. 

Heather says, “Recently, during a quick trip to Texas, I visited Southwestern and walked around the campus. It had been 20 years since I was a student there, but as I walked, a familiar feeling came back to me, a feeling I had carried inside of me as a Southwestern student. It was an aching, but happy. I couldn’t immediately put a word to the feeling, but after a few minutes, I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and got tears in my eyes when I realized just what that feeling was. It was hope. When I was a student, I was hoping my $850 car wouldn’t break down or that I would get a date to the Mimosa Memories banquet. But I was also hoping and dreaming about a God-led career, marriage, and life. Southwestern will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s not just where I earned a degree. It’s where I hoped—and prepared—for a life of beauty, adventure, and faith.”

homecoming, events, sports, university

homecoming, events, sports, university

Alumni Volunteer of the Year

Yddo Ortiz (’62)

Yddo Ortiz was first introduced to Southwestern Junior College (SWJC) through a missionary who visited Colombia, where Yddo lived, and who told his parents about Keene. In 1960 Yddo arrived in Keene, TX for his sophomore year, speaking no English. He worked at Harris Pine Mills and the College Press to pay his way through school. Yddo graduated in 1962 and continued to work for the College Press at several jobs ranging from janitor to pressman to graphic arts and salesman throughout the Metroplex. Yddo worked at the press for a total of 17 years. 

Yddo has also been an active entrepreneur. He has ran or owned a multitude of businesses, including an egg route, import/export business, his own print shop, a dry cleaning business on Highway 67 and College Drive, and a wedding photography business. He also manufactured women’s apparel and sold them in his own outlet store, and made his own perfume, which he sold in western stores. During all this time, he built a janitorial business, which has now grown to include not only Johnson County but the entire Metroplex and other outlying areas. 

He has served as Community Service Director for the Keene SDA Church for 22 years, and has been the Disaster Coordinator for Keene/Ft. Worth area of the Texas Conference. He is a charter member in Habitat for Humanity for Johnson County, and has served on the Board of Directors since 1996.

Yddo enjoys helping legal immigrants become established in this country. He helps them find jobs, housing, and obtain their papers for residency. “I have learned to love and respect my adoptive country,” Yddo says. Yddo also loves animals and has owned a variety of them over the years, including his favorite of all time: horses. He also enjoys skiing and travelling in his spare time.

Alumni Hall of Fame

Donna (Thrower) Berkner (BS ’92)

Dr. Donna (Thrower) Berkner was born in Alabama and attended Jefferson Academy. She graduated from Southwestern Adventist University with her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education with departmental honors in 1992. Ultimately she received her EdD in Education from Phoenix University in 2012. Dr. Berkner began teaching at Keene Adventist Elementary School (KAES) in 1995 as a first grade teacher. In 1998, she became the 8th grade teacher. In 2006 she became the administrator of KAES. Her years of experience within the Seventh-day Adventist educational system gave her the expertise that she needed in to write her doctoral dissertation entitled Teachers’ Attitudes Toward Inclusion Classrooms in Seventh-day Adventist Schools. Most recently, Dr. Berkner serves as the Associate Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Education and Psychology on Southwestern’s campus. She is married to Henry Berkner and together they have two children: Dayne and Bree. 

Dr. Berkner says, “I never dreamed I would one day be a faculty member for the school I love. Being part of the Southwestern spirit is one of my greatest joys.”

homecoming, events, sports, university

homecoming, events, sports, university

Alumni Hall of Fame

Larry Eugene Blewett (BS ’72)

Larry Eugene Blewett was born on April 18, 1943 in Granite, Oklahoma. After graduating with his Bachelor’s in Medical Technology in 1972, Larry received his Master’s in Public Health with an Emphasis in Health Administration from Loma Linda University in 1989. Larry married Alta Yvonne (Lake) and they celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary on September 3, 2016. Together they have a daughter, a son, and four grandchildren.

Larry has participated in several mission trips, Vacation Bible Schools, and Pathfinders. He taught Sabbath School in the Grandview Seventh-day Adventist Church for several years as well as served as an elder. Larry jokes that he was known as Mrs. Blewett’s husband because his wife was the secretary/registrar at Keene Adventist Elementary School (KAES) from 1996-2014. Currently, Larry serves as the volunteer bus driver, walking trail/footpath and foot-bridge restorer, Sabbath School teacher, and church elder at Summit Ridge Retirement Village in Harrah, Oklahoma. 

Larry says, “Southwestern provided the opportunity for a dirt poor boy from east Texas to become the first one in his family to get a college degree (tongue in cheek). I enjoyed Southwestern so much that I attended twice: 1962-1964 and 1970-1972. My studies at Southwestern provided the preparation I needed to become a worker for God on the Navajo Indian Reservation at Monument Valley Hospital, in Haiti at L’hospital Adventiste, in Pakistan at Karchi Adventist Hospital, and in other places we have lived. I praise God for the opportunities He has given my wife, Yvonne, and me, along with our family to serve Him.”


Alumni Hall of Fame

Laurice Durrant (former staff)

Dr. Laurice Kafrouni Durrant was born in Cairo, Egypt and raised in Catholicism. After her family’s conversion to Adventism, Dr. Durrant moved to the USA and ultimately received her Ed.D. in Health Education from Stanford University. Dr. Durrant has many years of experience working as a nurse at Adventist hospitals in Pakistan, Burma, and California. In 1974, she began her career in education, serving at Washington State University, University of Cairo-Egypt, Union College, Hanford Community Medical Center, and Southwestern Adventist University. Dr. Durrant has written many articles and papers for publication and made many presentations on various topics such as group testing studies, leadership styles, Middle East life and conflict, and nursing management principles. Dr. Durrant devoted herself to writing grant proposals that resulted in funding many programs throughout her career. Most notably, Dr. Durrant wrote a proposal for the Sid Richardson Foundation upon her arrival to Southwestern. This proposal was accepted, and $194,000 was given toward the start of the Baccalaureate Nursing Program here at Southwestern under the direction of Dr. Durrant. 

Dr. Durrant says, “First, I give credit and share this honor with God who led and guided in the nursing work done at SWAU. I claimed the promise in Psalm 32:8 every step of the way as I developed the Baccalaureate Nursing Program. I also am grateful for the patient support I received from my husband. After coming home late from the office for several evenings, he opened the door and asked (with a grin), ‘Do you live here?’” Dr. Durrant continues to serve humbly and diligently all those who cross her path.

homecoming, events, sports, university

homecoming, events, sports, university

Alumni Hall of Fame

Angel Rodriguez (former staff)

Dr. Angel Manuel Rodriguez was born on May 6, 1945 in Cidra, Puerto Rico. He received his Bachelor of Art in Theology from Antillian Adventist University in Puerto Rico in 1968. He continued his education and received an M.Div. in 1970 and Th.D. in 1979 from Andrews University. Dr. Rodriguez began his academic career at Antillean Adventist University in 1979 as the Academic Dean; by 1982, he was the president of Antillean Adventist University. In 1987, he moved to Southwestern Adventist University and served as a professor until 1989 when he became the Academic Vice President. Dr. Rodriguez served as the Director of the Biblical Research Institute for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists from 2002-2011. Most recently, Dr. Rodriguez served as the Chief Editor of Andrews University’s One Volume Bible Commentary (begun in 2012; published in 2018). He has been involved in many evangelistic outreaches in different countries. During the last 20 years, he has travelled to more than 100 countries around the world. 

Over the years, Dr. Rodriguez has received many awards including Doctor of Divinity Honoris Causa from Andrews University in 2011; the dedication of a book of theological studies by the Biblical Research Institute Committee in 2015; an Award for Excellence in Theological and Ministerial Education by The Inter-American Theological Seminary in 2015; the naming in his honor of a new building for worship and theological education at Antillean Adventist University in 2015; and a Medal for Excellence In Service to the Adventist ministerial family by the Ministerial Association of the General Conference in 2016. Furthermore, Dr. Rodriguez has authored a myriad of books, study guides, and articles. 

Dr. Rodriguez states, “The decision…to grant me the prestigious Hall of Fame Award was received by me with a mixture of joy and a sense of unworthiness. My years at Southwestern Adventist University are considered by us to be among the best in my professional life. I have thought many times about those days and praised the Lord for giving me the opportunity to serve Him and the young people of our Church in this place. Whatever good I may have achieved in my work at the University and in the sharing of its values with the world Church, I can only praise the Lord who in His mercy and goodness uses imperfect vessels to accomplish His purpose for us and for others. It is with great humility that I accept the award and express my deepest gratitude to the Alumni Association and its Board of Directors for their decision.”