Story by Jim Bishop
The Alumni Association of Eastern Mennonite University honored two of its graduates Sunday for their work in reflecting the school’s vision, mission and values.
Dr. Ingida Asfaw, 67, of Grosse Pointe, Mich., a 1962 EMU graduate with a double major in biology and chemistry, and originally from Ethiopia, received EMU’s 2007 “alumnus of the year” award during the Sunday morning worship service of homecoming and family weekend. The award is presented annually to a graduate who has been recognized for significant achievements in their profession, community or church.
Dr. Clair E. Schnupp, 70, of Dryden, Ont., was presented the 2007 “distinguished service award” in recognition of nearly five decades as a missionary, working under “challenging conditions” in the extreme Arctic north. The annual “distinguished service” award seeks to recognize graduates who have demonstrated in notable ways the Christian service and peacemaking emphases of the university.
Dr. Asfaw is chief of cardiovascular surgery at Sinai-Grace Hospital, Detroit, Mich., while devoting consider time to improving health-care standards and providing greater access to medical care and supplies in his native Ethiopia through the Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Organization. He founded the volunteer network in 1999.
The organization today includes some 500 doctors, nurses and other members who offer their time and skills in Ethiopia, where there is only one doctor for every 100,000 people.
Asfaw leads health professional volunteers on semiannual medical missions to perform surgical procedures, conduct training programs and donate medical equipment.
In 2003, Asfaw performed the first open-heart surgery in Ethiopia. Asfaw came to the U.S. in 1958 on a cargo ship from Ethiopia, arriving late on campus for the start of classes and with limited English skills. This fall, nearly 50 years later, he returned to his alma mater as a distinguished surgeon to be recognized as alumnus of the year.
In 2006, he received a national “Everyday Hero” award for charitable service sponsored by Volvo automobiles, selected from a field of some 4,300 nominees.
Saturday morning, Asfaw led a Suter Science Center seminar on “the importance of spirituality in healing the cardiac patient.”
“Technology has forever altered the way in which we think about the cardiovascular system and the way that it heals,” Asfaw noted. “However, one thing has remained constant – those with strong spiritual connections seem to recover from insults to their cardiovascular system more quickly.”
Asfaw is married to Elizabeth Asfaw, originally from Memphis, Tenn., and they have two daughters and a son. He is a deacon in his congregation, the Plymouth United Church of Christ in Detroit.
Schnupp, a 1959 graduate with a double major in Bible/philosophy and social science, and his wife, Clara, have spent nearly five decades in mission work in hundreds of remote Aboriginal communities in Northern Canada, Alaska and Greenland.
Aviation plays a key role in the couple’s ministry. Over the years, they have flown different planes – on flats, skis and wheels – and have logged more than 12,000 hours to relate to thousands of Cree, Ojibway and Inuit people.
Today, Schnupp pilots a Piper Cheyenne II dual engine, turbo prop plane.
Schnupp is chairman of the board for Northern Youth Program (www.nyp.on.ca), a multi-faceted organization for Aboriginal ministry started in 1967. Under its rubric are Arctic Ministries and Beaver Lake Camp, used for youth and children’s camps as well as for counseling. Another program serves urban youth in Thunder Bay, while prison outreaches serve several cities.
Earlier this year, the Schnupps did biblical counseling for three weeks in the community of Sisimiut, Greenland. They termed this trip “a special joy,” as they observed sessions of lay counseling being carried out by earlier graduates of their program.
“My four years at [the former Eastern Mennonite College] gave me a missiological, theological and biblical foundation for ministry,” Schnupp said. “I thank God for that training.”
He went on to complete a masters degree in biblical counseling at Providence Seminary, Otterburne, Manitoba, where he is now an adjunct professor.
He earned a doctoral degree in philosophy of religion and society at Oxford Graduate School, Dayton, Tenn., in 1995. In 1997, Schnupp received a “Distinguished Service Award in Christian Psychology” from the Dr. Clyde Narramore Foundation.
He is a member of the Society of Oxford Scholars and he and wife Clara are members of the Professional Association of Canadian Christian Counselors.
Clara is a certified teacher and also received a masters degree in counseling from Providence Seminary. They have five married daughters and 25 grandchildren.
Jim Bishop is a regular contributor to The Augusta Free Press.