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U.S. Surgeon General, Author-Minister, Renowned Pastor and “Prince of Praise” Anchor School of Divinity 94th Annual Convocation

Vice Admiral Regina M. Benjamin
Rev. Howard-John Wesley
Byron Cage
Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook
Vice Admiral Regina M. Benjamin
Rev. Howard-John Wesley
Byron Cage
Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook

WASHINGTON (Oct. 13) -- U.S. Surgeon General Regina A. Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., leads a team of renowned religious leaders and gospel talent for the 94th Annual Convocation of the Howard University School of Divinity.  This year’s theme is "Faith and (W)Holistic Health: At the Crossroads." 

           Joining Benjamin during the two-day convocation will be the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, Ph.D., best selling author and the woman the New York Times described as “Billy Graham and Oprah rolled into one;” the Rev. Howard-John Wesley, dynamic speaker and pastor of historic Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., and dynamic six-time Stellar Award-winning gospel singer Byron Cage.

           Benjamin, the 18th U.S. Surgeon General, will kick off the convocation at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3, with the opening address at the School of Divinity’s Thurman Chapel. 

            As “America’s Doctor,” Benjamin provides the public with the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and the health of the nation. She also oversees 6,500 uniformed health officers who serve in locations around the world.

             Benjamin is founder and former CEO of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic, a clinic for low-income residents in rural in Bayou La Batre, Ala., former associate dean for Rural Health at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine in Mobile, Ala., and immediate past chair of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States.  In 1995, she was the first physician under age 40 and the first African-American woman to be elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees.

            In 1998, Benjamin was the United States recipient of the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. She was named by Time as one of the “Nation’s 50 Future Leaders Age 40 and Under.” She was featured in the New York Times, People, Clarity magazine and was on the January 2003 cover of Reader’s Digest.

            She was featured as “Person of the Week” on ABC’s World News and “Woman of the Year” by CBS This Morning. She received the 2000 National Caring Award which was inspired by Mother Teresa, received the papal honor Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice from Pope Benedict XVI and was awarded a MacArthur Genius Award Fellowship.

            Wesley, only the eighth pastor of historic Alfred Street Baptist Church in its 205 years, will deliver the keynote address 10:30 a.m. Thursday in Thurman Chapel at the School of Divinity.

            A dynamic and visionary speaker, he served as pastor from 1997 to 2008 of historic St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, Mass.  Under his leadership, St. John’s grew from fewer than 200 to nearly 3,000 members with three Sunday services, two weekly Bible studies, daily prayer hours, and over 35 active ministries.

            He is doing similar work at Alfred Street Baptist Church, which has grown by more than 1,000 members in his brief time there.
Johnson Cook, author of 10 successful books and recent presidential nominee, will be the featured speaker at the Convocation Banquet, beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday with the dinner at 7 p.m.

            Her books include Too Blessed to Be Stressed: Words of Wisdom on the Move and Sister to Sister, Volume I: Devotions for and from African American Women, and her new book, Becoming a Woman of Destiny: Turning Life's Trials into Triumphs, which was released in September.  She is known for her innovative ministries and outreach efforts for women.
President Barack Obama nominated Johnson Cook earlier this year as ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, a position in which she would work with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

            Johnson Cook has spent more than 30 years in ministry amassing a number of “firsts”. She was the first woman appointed chaplain of the New York City Police Department, the first female president in the history of the 12,000-member Hampton University Ministers’ Conference and the first black woman to become the senior pastor in the 200-year history of American Baptist Churches of the USA.

            Johnson Cook worked as a White House fellow under President Bill Clinton, serving as a domestic policy advisor at the White House and in the special actions office at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  She also served on Clinton’s seven-member advisory panel, the President’s Initiative on Race.

She has been featured in the Ebony magazine as one of the nation’s top 15 women in ministry, as well as on the TODAY show, Good Morning America, the Tavis Smiley Show.

Johnson Cook received a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University; a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary; a Doctor of Ministry degree from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and graduated from Harvard University, where she later became an officer and faculty member.

            Cage, dubbed the “Prince of Praise,” will provide the gospel entertainment Thursday night during the banquet.  Cage is the winner of six Stellar Awards, the gospel music industry’s premiere award.  Among his awards are Male Vocalist of the Year, CD of the Year, Contemporary CD of the Year, and twice Song of the Year. 

            Cage, who began singing gospel as a teenager, joined New Birth Cathedral in Atlanta after graduating from Morehouse College.  It was there that Cage, currently the minister of music at Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Fort Washington, Md., recorded one of his greatest successes, “Byron Cage: Live at New Birth Cathedral.” The album produced four Stellar Awards.

            His 2007 release, “An Invitation to Freedom,” was also well received.  It was nominated for six Stellar Awards.  His latest CD is “Faithful to Believe,” a live performance recorded in Detroit and featuring special guests Tye Tribbett and Detroit natives, Karen Clark Sheard and Marvin L. Winans.

            Throughout his gospel career, Cage has worked with countless gospel figures, including such heavyweights as Kelly Price, Kim Burrell, Donnie McClurkin and Dave Hollister.

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