BC to Honor Eight Alumni During Alumni Weekend April 19-21
Eight Bridgewater College alumni will be honored as part of the college’s annual Alumni Weekend celebration April 19-21.
At the annual banquet of the Ripples Society on April 19, Ivan J. Mason and Peggy Glick Mason, both class of 1951, will receive the 2013 Ripples Society Medals. The Ripples Society comprises alumni who graduated from the college 50 or more years ago, and the class of 1963 will be inducted into the Society that evening.
At the Alumni Awards ceremony on April 20, the Distinguished Alumnus Award will be presented to Ronald V. Cox, class of 1959. The Young Alumnus Award will be presented to J. Christian “Chris” Obenshain, class of 2000, and the West-Whitelow Humanitarian Award will be presented to Aubrey and Esther Elswick Knight, both class of 1978, and their children, Emily Knight Wilson, class of 2005, and Justin Knight, class of 2008.
Ivan Joseph Mason ’51
Mason joined the U.S. Air Force when the Korean War was in full swing. During basic training in Texas, he applied for tech/electronics training, got it and was assigned to technical school at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. Six months later he returned to Texas for officer’s training and received his commission as a second lieutenant in June 1952. He then returned to Keesler for 42 weeks of technical training.
In 1953 Mason became an electronics engineer at MelPar Inc., a division of Westinghouse Air Brakes, in Alexandria, Va.
In 1961 Mason transferred to the Martin Co., in Baltimore, and in 1963 went to NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., as an electronics engineer and aerospace technologist on the Apollo space program. He was there on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, and for his efforts on the project received the Achievement Award for his dedicated service.
In 1970 Mason transferred to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, where he remained for nine years. From 1976-84 he was the operations director for the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) project and from 1984-89 was technical officer managing the contract to develop the Science Operations Center for the Hubble Space Telescope. Mason has received Special Achievement Awards for his service on the IUE and Hubble projects.
Mason was a church board member and board chair at the University Park Church of the Brethren in Hyattsville, Md. He enjoyed serving on the Boy Scout Troop Committee when his two sons were in scouting.
Peggy Glick Mason ’51
Peggy Jane Glick and Ivan Joseph Mason were in the same class at Bridgewater College and married in 1950 between their junior and senior years.
After graduating from BC, Mrs. Mason attended George Washington University where she received the M.S.A. degree in information systems technology.
Mason went on to teach junior-high mathematics in Prince Georges County, Md., but resigned to pursue a career in computer systems. She sub-contracted as a data analyst and programmer for NASA, and from 1980 to 1991 worked as a computer specialist for the Department of the Interior’s Fish & Wildlife Service, where she made many important contributions.
One of her accomplishments was automating the Bird Banding program, from the issuance of permits to people doing the banding through issuing the bands themselves and other markers. Mason also assisted in updating the Fish & Wildlife Service’s computer system that gathered and stored data from returned bands and produced data for biologists to use in their research.
For her endeavors in this area, Mason received several monetary awards from the Department of the Interior.
Mason has over the years been a Boy Scout den mother, a Sunday School/Bible School teacher, a church board member, a church district board member and a worship and book-study leader.
In addition, Mason has served as a member and treasurer of the Coordinating Committee of the Church of the Brethren’s Women’s Caucus.
The Masons have served as treasurers of the Bridgewater Home Auxiliary since 1997. The couple also serves as treasurers for the North River Library in Bridgewater.
Ronald Vernon Cox ’59
Helping build the American space program was Ronald Vernon Cox, a 1959 Bridgewater College alumnus.
Cox worked as a programmer with IBM at NASA’s Space Computing Center in Washington, D.C. His job on Project Vanguard – a program intended to launch the first artificial satellite into Earth’s orbit using a Vanguard rocket – was to program computers that kept track of orbiting satellites.
Cox spent from 1963-65 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., writing the first assembler for the then-unannounced IBM 360 Series of computers. He spent the next two years working on IBM’s project for the Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles that converted licensing renewals from a paper-file recording system to their first computer.
In 1967 Cox became the IBM systems engineer (SE) for the Shenandoah Valley, working out of his home in Harrisonburg, Va. He helped many Valley businesses install their first computers and upgrade them when necessary. He received several SE of the Year awards and was selected to attend a number of national SE Symposiums.
In 1975 Cox graduated from the IBM Systems Research Institute and in 1978 completed the Institute’s graduate program. He worked for the company’s Academic Information Systems at Virginia Tech and helped the engineering school establish its “every freshman required to get a PC” program. He took advantage of an early retirement incentive in June 1987 at age 49.
The Coxes built a house on Kiawah Island, S.C., and lived there for 20 years. While there, the Coxes worked as marketing representatives for CMDS (now Jenzabar) in Harrisonburg, demonstrating college administrative software to potential clients.
In 2003, Cox bought the house on Broad Street in Bridgewater that had been built by his grandfather, remodeled it and, in 2007, moved to Bridgewater.
Cox is active in the life of Bridgewater College, having established a scholarship fund, served as chairman of the alumni gifts committee, worked on the BC-Rockingham County Business Fund Drive and had his handcrafted wood art the focus of an exhibition in the Cleo Driver Miller Art Gallery.
Cox has served on the executive and search committees for the Richmond Church of the Brethren, worked as board chair and financial secretary for the Harrisonburg Church of the Brethren and participated in a Katrina disaster-relief trip with the Bridgewater Church of the Brethren.
J. Christian Obenshain ’00
Chris Obenshain works in the office of the attorney general of Virginia in Richmond, serving in the Sexually Violent Predators Civil Commitment Section.
Since May 2010, Obenshain has served as an assistant attorney general where he reviews and files civil commitment petitions in circuit courts around the commonwealth. In this role, he litigates numerous complex civil trials, in front of both juries and judges, to ensure that our communities remain safe from mentally ill violent sex offenders. He also handles a variety of appellate matters in both Virginia and federal courts.
Obenshain came to the attorney general’s office from Radford, Va., where he served as assistant commonwealth’s attorney from 2007-2010. While there, he represented the city in both misdemeanor and felony criminal matters in juvenile and domestic, general district and circuit courts. He also participated in a multi-jurisdictional task force to address and reduce sexual offenses against children.
Obenshain’s legal training has also included work in a variety of high-profile law offices, including the commonwealth’s attorney’s offices in Botetourt and Augusta counties and as a law clerk for the Hon. James W. Haley on the Virginia Court of Appeals.
Obenshain earned his law degree in May 2006 from the University of Virginia School of Law.
Prior to law school, he worked in the Washington D.C. office of Virginia Senator George Allen and served as director of correspondence for his 2000 U.S. Senate campaign.
Obenshain has remained actively involved in local and state politics, serving as secretary of both the Radford and Richmond Republican Committees, founder of the Roanoke/ New River Valley Young Republicans, a representative to the 9th Congressional District GOP committee and in various other grassroots positions. In 2010 he was selected for the prestigious Political Leaders Program organized by the Sorenson Institute for Political Leadership in Charlottesville.
Further, Obenshain is proud to have served his country in the U. S. Army Reserve since 2002. Having first enlisted as a Humvee mechanic and tow truck operator assigned to the 299th Engineer Company at Fort Belvoir, Va., he advanced to the rank of sergeant before accepting a commission in the U.S. Army JAG Corps after law school. In 2009, he attended the 178th Judge Advocate Officer’s Basic Course, where he was named to the Commandant’s List for finishing in the top 10 percent of his class. Today, he serves as a captain in the United States Army providing trial defense services to reserve soldiers in the Mid-Atlantic region.
His greatest joy is found in the work he has done with his church, Area 10 Faith Community, in Richmond. He has served as a member of the church prayer team, a small group leader, and part of the 2012 Vietnam Mission Team.
The Knight Family
For a group of abandoned, abused, poverty-stricken children in Latin America, the work of a dedicated family of Bridgewater College alumni have made all the difference between health and illness, comfort and loneliness, satisfaction and hunger. Many would have been condemned to survive as children of the street had it not been for the humanitarian efforts of Aubrey L. and Esther E. Knight, and their children, Emily Knight Wilson and Justin Knight.
Family patriarch Aubrey Knight is a doctor in Salem, Va., who began medical missions to Bolivia in the early 1990s. When a powerful earthquake hit El Salvador in 2001, Knight’s medical team was invited to provide care for a group of children living in a start-up orphanage in San Salvador. He agreed, thinking it would be a one-time trip and that he would resume trips to Bolivia when the mission was over.
“But we were touched by these kids and by the needs they had and the opportunity to be a part of their lives,” he said. “So we've continued to go each year.”
He and his wife, Esther Elswick Knight, established a non-profit ministry, My Father’s House International, to support the orphanage La Casa de mi Padre. Many of the children living at the orphanage have parents or other family members who simply abandoned them, typically because of poverty and lack of education. An important piece of that ministry is trying to reconcile the families and break the generational cycles of shattered relationships.
Esther has worked side by side with her husband in Bolivia and El Salvador since 1996. A lifelong educator who now teaches at Faith Christian School in Roanoke, she also serves on the board of directors for My Father’s House International.
Helping make this truly a family affair are their children, Emily Knight Wilson and Justin Knight.
Emily was an elementary educator until 2009 when she decided to stay home to raise her children. Now living in Simpsonville, S.C., she participated in many of her family’s mission trips to El Salvador between 2002 and 2011.
Justin, began making trips to the orphanage in 2002, and today still serves as an orphanage volunteer and translator, using his teaching and Spanish-language skills – he is a graduate student and associate instructor of Spanish at Indiana University – to further the humanitarian work of his family.
Dr. Knight arranges for three trips to El Salvador each year, including one with medical, dental and pharmacy students from Virginia Commonwealth University Medical School.
Knight graduated from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in 1982 and is currently the associate dean for student affairs at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. He remains clinically active, specializing in geriatric and palliative medicine.