Concordia University, Nebraska confers special awards at commencement

SEWARD, Neb. – Five individuals will be recognized with honorary degrees and awards at Concordia University, Nebraska’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 5.

Honorary doctorates will be awarded to Dr. Charlyne Berens, Lincoln, Neb., and Rev. Albert Wingfield, Fort Wayne, Ind. Berens will also deliver the commencement address.

Dr. Berens will be presented with the Doctor of Letters degree for her distinguished contributions to the world of learning and service. A 1967 Concordia Teacher’s College graduate, she began her professional career in education, but then moved into the world of journalism.  In 1976 Berens began work as the co-publisher and editor of the Seward County Independent with her husband Dennis. She combined her love for education and for journalism when she took on the role of assistant to the dean in the College of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. After earning a master’s in political science from UNL in 1995, she joined the UNL faculty full-time as a journalism instructor. Berens earned a doctorate in political science in 2000. Having authored several articles and books about politics in Nebraska and its unique one-house, nonpartisan legislature, she has shared that expertise on the Unicameral with newly elected state senators. Berens received recognition as the 2005-06 Teacher of the Year at UNL and was inducted into the Nebraska Press Association Hall of Fame in 2011.

In recognition of his dedication to growing the church and expanding Christian education at home and abroad, Concordia will bestow the Doctor of Laws degree on Rev. Albert Wingfield. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Wingfield earned a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from Concordia Teacher’s College. He was called to The American School in Tokyo, Japan, and to Hong Kong International School before returning to the states to serve as founding principal of Lutheran High School North in Mt. Clemens, Mich. After earning his master’s degree at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., Wingfield served at Concordia Teacher’s College, River Forest, Ill. and at Concordia Theology Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind. He also earned his pastoral ministry colloquy there in 1983. Wingfield returned to secondary education in 1986, serving as headmaster of St. Paul’s Lutheran High School in Concordia, Mo., and then moved back to Michigan in 1989, where he served as assistant superintendent of the Detroit Lutheran High School Association until 1996. For the past 16 years, Wingfield has served at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Also receiving special recognition at commencement are Lauren Sommerer, Seward, Neb., Dennis Scheer, Lincoln, Neb., and Marilyn Walz, Bennington, Neb.

The Master Educator award will be given to Lauren Sommerer. Sommerer earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1993 from Concordia College in Seward. She received her first call to teach second grade at Ascension Lutheran School in Landover Hills, Md. In 1995 Sommerer returned to Seward and began teaching preschool at St. John Child Development Center, where she has remained for the past 17 years. Sommerer now serves as assistant director and technology coordinator at the center.

Dennis Scheer will receive the Distinguished Service Award. An innovative architect, Scheer has been involved in projects such as Lincoln’s Centennial Mall and the Woods Park Tennis Complex and Plaza and renovations at the Sunken Gardens and Foundation Garden, along with Concordia’s Thom Leadership Education Center and the new Seward middle school. He is senior principal and chairman of The Clark Enersen Partners in Lincoln and serves as a member of the Concordia Foundation Nebraska. 

The Crest of Christ Award recognizes those who support and sustain the public ministries and work of the church-at-large in a quiet and deliberate fashion. This year’s recipient is Marilyn Walz. Walz earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Concordia College, River Forest, Ill. in 1966, and began her career teaching at St. Paul Lutheran School in Perham, Minn. After moving to Seward in 1969, Walz served as a teacher at Seward Elementary School. In 1976 she earned a Master of Education from Concordia Teacher’s College and later obtained a specialist degree in education with an early childhood emphasis from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, Ill. Walz touched students at both Concordia College in Edmonton, Alberta, where she was director of church recruitment and registrar when her husband, Orville, was elected president and at Concordia College in Seward when he became president here. Active in her community, Walz was a member of the Concordia Tower Guild for more than 20 years, co-chaired the Seward Public Library Foundation building project, worked to bring the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life to Seward and established Concordia’s Scholarship Parade of Homes.