Concordia University Ann Arbor is pleased to announce its 2020 Honorary Doctorate of Letters, Christus Primus, and Outstanding Alumnus award recipients.

These Special Awards are traditionally commemorated each year in tandem with commencement, but, due to COVID-19 constraints, the awardees will be recognized during a special Daily Chapel as soon as CUAA is able to resume in-person gatherings.

The Special Awards recognize the following contributions:

  • The Outstanding Alumnus award honors graduates of Concordia for reflecting in their lives and careers the values upon which the university was founded.
  • The Christus Primus is a service award presented to clergy, educators, or laypersons of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
  • An Honorary Doctorate of Letters is awarded to an individual who has rendered invaluable service to Concordia, the Church, the community, the state, or the nation, and comes from the ranks of business, religious, service, or political communities.
Special awards wall
Plaques honoring all awardees—past and present—are displayed outside of the Administrative Offices in the Student Union building on CUAA’s central campus.

Honorary Doctorate of Letters—Benjamin “Ben” Freudenberg

Ben Freudenburg is married to Jennifer, father to Cori and Sara, grandfather to Caleb, Markey, Adelaide and Micah. He has served the church for 48 years.  He is a Director of Christian Education having served Shore Haven Lutheran in Cleveland, Ohio, Our Redeemer Lutheran in Hutchinson, Kansas, Concordia Lutheran in Kirkwood, Missouri, and Christ Church-Lutheran in Phoenix, Arizona working with children, youth, and their families.  He earned his Bachelors of Science in Education, Certification as Director of Christian Education and Masters of Science in Family Life Education through Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska.

He served as President of Lutheran Education’s TEAM department and as President of Lutheran Education Association, a national professional organization for Lutheran educators.  He has written for a variety of education, youth journals and magazines and authored the books The Traveling Guide…. A Vehicle for Youth Ministry, Through Children’s Eyes, (a book of 52 Children’s Messages) published by Concordia Publishing House and The Family Friendly Church by Group Publishing

He was called to Concordia University, Ann Arbor in 2004 as Director of the Family Life Program and Professor in Family Studies. He is the founder of Family Friendly Partners Network where he created and launched the Family Friendly Partners Training Network.  He has trained over 90 churches in family ministry through networks of churches in Michigan, Nebraska, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana and Wisconsin.  He also created, launched and taught FAM101 for pastors and church leaders in Indonesia and India with students attending from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, India and the Philippines.

Presently, he is the founder and Executive Director of the Concordia Center for the Family with an expanding ministry to Ethiopia Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus and Compassion International Asia which includes training for Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Indonesia. In 2017 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Concordia University, Irvine.

Christus Primus—Ruth N. Koch (’65)

Ruth N. Koch has a long history of distinguished and faithful service to the Church and world, and is a strong advocate for the mission and students of Concordia University Ann Arbor. She has been a faithful member of the Concordia University Board of Regents since the 2013-2014 academic year, and served as the Chair of the Michigan Committee of Overseers for Concordia University Ann Arbor from 2013-2019.

Ruth is a mental health educator and National Certified Counselor. Trained in both social work and counseling, she specializes in conflict management, grief education, and everyday mental health issues that impact personal and family relations. For over 40 years, Ruth has conducted workshops and classes for mental health professionals, church professionals and their families, parents, caregivers, and others who are looking for practical and effective coping strategies for the ordinary as well as the complex problems of everyday life.

An author, speaker and consultant, Ruth designed the family conflict workshop, booklet, and tapes Now You’re Talking! and Taking Control: Saying Yes! to Healthy Personal Boundaries for Lutheran Hour Ministries. She is the author of Prepare to Serve!, a video study series on various mental health issues and leadership.

Ruth co-authored Lutheran Special Education’s Let’s Teach the Way they Learn! and Stephen Ministries’ Speaking the Truth in Love: How to Be An Assertive Christian. She is a regular contributor to the LWML Quarterly among other publications. Ruth authored Grace Notes, a book of meditations for women in the church and is a contributor to A New Song: Planted by Streams of Water, a women’s bible study devotional published by Concordia Publishing House in St. Louis, Missouri.

In May 2017, Concordia University Wisconsin bestowed upon Ruth The Christo et Ecclesiae Award during undergraduate commencement exercises.

Read more about Ruth.

Outstanding Alumnus—Patricia “Pat” Kemmerling Maier (’77)

Pat Maier is a 1977 graduate of Concordia Junior College, Ann Arbor. A pastor’s wife and former Lutheran educator, Pat met her husband David on this campus. She has been blessed to serve the Lord in the many ministries of their churches and schools in Michigan and Illinois. Most recently, as wife of the Michigan District President, she values the opportunity to connect with ministry wives and to help plan a yearly retreat (even if it’s virtual) for their encouragement. She has been active in planning and presenting at other retreats, conferences and women’s events, including the Camp Arcadia Women’s Retreats, Women’s Leadership Institute, and the Best Practices for Ministry conferences.

Pat enjoys writing, drawing and speaking to inspire others in their walk with Jesus. As co-founder of Visual Faith Ministry, she believes in the importance of applying educational research to faith learning by creating resources as well as teaching and writing about visual faith practices that equip and encourage all ages during focused time in prayer and God’s Word. She is a collaborator and artist for The Visual Church Year, a collection of worship resources which follow the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) Lectionary readings. A published artist, Pat completed a series of margin art for The Enduring Word Bible by Concordia Publishing House, as well as several recent hymn journals by Next Step Press. She believes that the creative use of language and art – when connected with God’s Word – can touch the heart, promote understanding, and spark joy.

Pat and her husband enjoy spending time with their four grown children and their families (which include five grandchildren) here in Michigan and while vacationing in Montana. Her ongoing focus is to spend time each day in God’s Word, connect with the people God places in her life each day, and to find peace in the realization and reality of His amazing grace in all circumstances.

View past Outstanding Alumnus recipients here.

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