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Garrett-Evangelical Names 2016 Distinguished Alums

May 27, 2016
Bishop Don Ott speaking at the 159th Commencement

The Rev. Dr. Tracy Smith Malone and Bishop Donald A. Ott were named 2016 Distinguished Alums at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary’s 159th Commencement on May 13, 2016. Each year Garrett-Evangelical chooses two alums to be honored as Distinguished Alums. One alum is chosen from the most recent 25 years of graduates, and one alum is chosen from alums who graduated over 25 years ago.

Rev. Malone first made a conscious decision to serve in the church when she was 13 years ago. Her calling led her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in religious studies at North Central College, a master of divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 1993, and a doctor of ministry degree from United Theological Seminary. She currently serves as the district superintendent of the Chicago Southern District and dean of the cabinet of the Northern Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Prior to being appointed district superintendent, Malone served at First United Methodist Church of Lombard, Illinois; Southlawn United Methodist Church in Chicago, Illinois; Wesley United Methodist Church in Aurora, Illinois; and Gary United Methodist Church in Wheaton, Illinois, several of which were cross-cultural appointments. She was elected by her colleagues to be a delegate at the United Methodist Church’s 2016 General Conference. On September 27, 2015, the Northern Illinois Conference General and Jurisdictional Conference Delegation announced the endorsement of Malone for the episcopacy in 2016 and on November 9, 2015 the Northern Illinois Conference unanimously approved the delegation’s endorsement.

Malone joined the Garrett-Evangelical board of trustees in 2012 and currently serves on the development committee. She is also the chairperson of the board of visitors for the Center for the Church and the Black Experience. Malone’s service as a pastor, District Superintendent, conference delegate, and member of several boards have earned her a high level of stature and influence in both the church and her communities.

Rev. Dr. Tracy Smith Malone giving her recorded remarks at the 159th CommencementUnable to be at commencement, Malone said in her recorded remarks, “I have been equipped through my theological education, through the mentoring and coaching of the faculty, through the shared learning from my peers, and even through my campus experiences. All of what I experienced at Garrett-Evangelical has prepared me to be an effective leader and pastor in the Church and the community, and even now as district superintendent serving the Chicago Southern District.”

Bishop Ott, a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, graduated from Carroll College with a bachelor of arts degree and attended Perkins School of Theology, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 1965, he was awarded a master of divinity from Garrett Theological Seminary. In 1992, the North Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church elected Ott to the episcopacy. From 1992 to 2000, he was appointed to serve the Detroit and West Michigan Conferences for two consecutive terms. Prior to his election as bishop, Ott served as district superintendent for the Milwaukee District in the Wisconsin Conference. He has also served as pastor of four Wisconsin congregations, while also serving five years as associate council director and three years as council director for the Wisconsin Conference.

He has been a highly valued board member of Green Bay’s Board of Family Service Association and the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. In addition, Ott’s mission travel has included Bolivia, Japan, England, Kenya, Soviet Union (Estonia and Russia), Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Israel, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, Latvia, and Lithuania. Ott joined the Garrett-Evangelical board of trustees in 1999 and was chair of the academic affairs committee from 2003 to 2010. In 2012, he was elected as a Garrett-Evangelical life trustee and received an honorary doctor of divinity degree from the seminary. Ott and his wife, Jan, also established the Bishop Don and Jan Ott Scholarship at Garrett-Evangelical to help students meet the financial challenges of a seminary education.

A highly respected and effective leader, Ott expressed great humility and gratitude during his remarks, saying, “I was and am pleased that [Garrett-Evangelical] found me worthy of this award. I was and am honored that the school I loved, my god, loved me.” In his closing words to the graduating class, he reminded everyone, “Let us live for what we hope to do and be, and be wary of recognitions of what might have been done.”