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Soaring with Adventist Women Honorees

When Cheryl Saunders sat down at the piano on Saturday night, the bustling in the banquet hall ceased. She turned to the microphone beside her and began singing the simplest of songs—Jesus Loves Me—but as she riffed on the melody in her soaring operatic soprano voice, she took her listeners to another level. The audience cheered. And with that lyrical beginning the 26th annual awards ceremony for the Association of Adventist Women (AAW) began.
Women from Kenya, Germany, and the United States received Woman of the Year awards at AAW’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida October 11. Their stories of achievement made the evening soar like the song.
Kenyan High Court Lady Justice Mary Ang’awa’s story as told by Verla Kwiram began at the Maxwell Adventist School in Nairobi where Mary’s mother placed her children because she observed that the Adventist children were well-behaved. Mary eventually became an Adventist because of her time at the school. Her career within the courts of Kenya began immediately upon her graduation from the University of Nairobi Law School when one of her professors, impressed by her high test scores despite her Sabbath absences from class, nominated her for a magistrates’ position. Sabbaths were problematic on the bench as well. Her response was to accept lower pay, take the less desirable appointments and keep the Sabbath. So it was that she found herself assigned to the court in Mombassa, known for its corruption. Using a disciplined approach to the daily court calendar and procedures, she cleaned up a system that had been greatly abused by clerks, advocates, and magistrates.
After being named an Eisenhower Fellow, Mary came to the United States where she visited many courts finding models for innovations in Kenya’s justice system. Upon her return she set up training sessions for the judges on issues of human rights, women’s and children’s rights. Currently she is chair of the Kenya Women Judges Association. An active church member, she helped to establish the Adventist Lawyers Association in Kenya, she is a patron at the University of Nairobi SDA Church, and a member of the Board of Trustees for University of East Africa, Baraton.
Gabriele Stangl, a native of Austria and chaplain at Waldfriede Hospital, a Seventh-day Adventist Hospital in Berlin, was honored because of her work on behalf of pregnant women and new mothers. She has also been honored as an outstanding citizen of Berlin for her work. In 2000, she learned about “Babyklappes” (a baby deposit box) and encouraged her hospital to establish one as a way to reach out to desperate pregnant women who did not want to keep their child and give them humane alternatives, but she did not leave it at that. She wanted the hospital to be a place where women could get help and counseling and established those programs as well.
As an ordained elder, Gabriele also wants the church to be a place of help for women here and now. She advocates teaching women self-reliance so they can know life can be beautiful.
Sally Shadel Hasselbrack won accolades for her work at the Boeing Corporation where she established its textile laboratory and was instrumental in defining fireworthiness for aircraft. Because of her work, airplane interiors are far slower to ignite in a crash. Two major FAA regulations are a direct result of her work. She is the coauthor of a patent for Low Heat Release Phenolic Resin. She has also developed lightweight carbon-composite materials to form the tails, wings, and fuselage surfaces of airplanes. Boeing named her a senior technical fellow at the company, their highest technical engineering award.
As a child Sally had a physical impairment on her left side and she did not walk until the age of seven. One of her treatments involved doing leg raises with sandbags on her legs and feet day after day after day. She says the experience of having to try to gain muscle growth on her left leg gave her the courage she needed to make up her mind that there was not a thing in the world that she could not accomplish if she put her mind to it.
Cheryl Roberts Saunders, the woman with the soaring soprano voice, is also the dean of counseling, advising, and retention services at Minneapolis Community and Technical College in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her career in higher education includes time at the University of North Dakota where she was the director of the University Learning Center for six years. While there she received the Phenomenal Woman Award from the University’s Multicultural Student Services Department. Music performance has always been part of her life. She started playing the piano for church when she was 10. In North Dakota she was a member of the Grand Forks Master Choral, serving as a member of the board. Her husband is retired from the U.S. Air Force and the family has lived in many places. When they lived in England she founded and directed a British gospel choir, and presented seminars on African-American music throughout the Untied Kingdom. She serves on numerous education committees for the Mid-America Union Conference, and volunteers her time of offer career counseling for students at Maplewood Academy. Her goal, she says, is to glorify God and serve others.
Over 140 Adventist women have been honored by AAW since 1984 when the organization began the yearly awards program.

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