Local historian, activist and pastored honored

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Rhoda Gilman, Betsy Raasch-Gilman and Arvid “Bud” Dixen received honorary awards and twenty students received scholarships totaling $36,000 from the Hawkinson Foundation November 16, honoring their commitment to peace and justice. The foundation was created in honor of Reverend Vincent L. Hawkinson, a lifelong advocate for peace and justice.

Rhoda Gilman of St. Paul is a historian and former Green Party candidate for lieutenant governor of Minnesota. Betsy Raasch-Gilman of St. Paul is a social activist, grassroots organizer, and trainer in strategic nonviolence. Arvid “Bud” Dixen of Circle Pines is an ordained Lutheran pastor who marched for civil rights with Martin Luther King Jr., organized efforts to support farmers during the farm crisis, and helped found the Nonviolent Peaceforce.

In addition to the honorary awards, 20 students received from $1,000 to $3,000 in scholarship funds to encourage their peace and justice work. Most of the scholarships are awarded to current undergraduate students, although there are some high school students and some graduate grantees. This year’s featured scholarship was awarded to Moira Heiges, a second year law student to support her legal internship at the International Justice Mission in Cambodia.

As a young man, Reverend Vincent Hawkinson served his pastoral call “on the edge of the mainstream”, according to Jill Abenth, the administrative assistant for the Hawkinson Foundation and also for Grace University Lutheran Church, where Hawkinson served for thirty years. Before he joined Grace, Hawkinson helped persuade a church in Brooklyn which had never admitted African Americans to allow all races in their doors. Jill Abenth explains that Hawkinson was both an advocate for racial justice, and was active in the anti-war movement.

According to Abenth, the Foundation was created to honor the work and spirit of Reverend Vincent Hawkinson by honoring individuals who show significant and sustained contributions to peace and justice, by giving scholarships to students who have made a commitment to peace and justice, and by publicizing the activities of the honorees.

Abenth says that the Foundation runs on funds entirely received through donation, and that is run separately from Grace University Lutheran Church. She also points out that religion plays no part in the selection process, and that past scholarship winners and honorees have included Buddhists, Atheists, and Muslims.

Sheila Regan is a theater artist based in Minneapolis. When not performing or writing, she serves as educational coordinator for Teatro del Pueblo.