It required persistence, but the United Methodist Church was finally found a chance to present a surprise honor to Dr. Leslie Wessman of the Hope College faculty.

          Wessman, who is professor of education and chair
  of the department at Hope, has been named the West Michigan
  Annual Conference recipient of the 1997 "Francis Asbury
  Award for Fostering United Methodist Ministries in Higher
          She received the award on Sunday, Jan. 4, at
  Allegan United Methodist Church.  She was honored, according
  to the citation, "for outstanding leadership in supporting,
  strengthening and promoting the Church's Higher Education
  Ministries," having completed longtime service on
  denominational boards at both the regional and national
          Wessman was designated to receive the award
  several months ago, but circumstances delayed its
  presentation.  First, the death of her mother-in-law in June
  prevented her from attending the meeting at which she was to
  have received the honor.  The regional group scheduled a
  picnic for later in the summer, planning to give her the
  award then, but a fire at the chair's house prompted its
          Committed to making the presentation meaningful,
  the regional members opted to give Wessman the award during
  the January 4 service at the church, where her husband
  Robert is pastor.  They also succeeded in keeping the entire
  matter a secret during all the months in between--she didn't
  know about the honor until the presentation itself.
          "It didn't tumble until they got up to the
  microphone what was happening," she said.  "So it was a nice
  honor.  I appreciated the recognition."
          The award is named for Methodist bishop Francis
  Asbury, who in 1791 challenged all Methodists to "give the
  key of knowledge in a general way to your children, and
  those of the poor in the vicinity of your small towns and
  villages."  Through the award, the United Methodist Church
  recognizes individuals who guide the church in ministries to
  and with the learning community.
          Wessman was a member of the General Board of
  Higher Education and Ministry, a national-level appointment,
  from 1989 to 1996, and served as chair of the Campus
  Ministry Committee of the board's Division of Higher
  Education.  She played a leadership role in developing
  "Vision and Reality," the division's visioning document, and
  contributed to the writing of "Education:  The Gift of
  Hope," a local church study.
          She was a member of the West Michigan Board of
  Higher Education and Campus Ministry of the United Methodist
  Church from 1983 to 1996, and also chaired the board.
          The United Methodist Church's ministry in higher
  education includes 124 schools and colleges nationwide; more
  than 700 campus ministries programs; a loan and scholarship
  program that assists more than 4,000 students each year; the
  Black College Fund, which supports ministries through 11
  historically Black institutions of higher education; and
  Africa University.
          The West Michigan board's responsibilities include
  managing campus ministry programs at four state universities
  and at the two colleges in the region that are affiliated
  with the United Methodist Church:  Adrian College and Albion
          Wessman has been teaching at Hope since the fall
  of 1990.  Prior to joining the Hope faculty, she was
  director of the Michigan Out-of-Formula District Association
  in Lansing.  She had previously also been a master teacher
  at LaVerne University in California, and had held teaching,
  counseling or administrative positions at secondary schools
  in Hawaii, Rhode Island, California and Colorado.