Former Visitor Editor Wins Lifetime Award
By Karen Porter
A former Columbia Union Visitor editor, Don A. Roth, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 20th annual Society of Adventist Communicators Convention held recently in Newport Beach, Calif. Roth edited the Visitor from 1954 to 1965, while also serving as the Columbia Union Conference public relations and radio-TV secretary.
“I was totally surprised at the award, and appreciated the recognition,” Roth said.
In his nearly 60 years of professional experience, Roth has significantly contributed to reporting Seventh-day Adventist Church news and features within the denomination as well as in the public press. A reporter, editor, press relations specialist, book author, and special events organizer, he has worked at every level of the church organization, from his local congregation to the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters.
Roth’s love of writing and editing began in 1944, when he edited his school’s paper at Greater New York Academy. During his college years at Washington Adventist University (then Washington Missionary College) in Takoma Park, Md., this love continued as he worked at the College Press, joined the staff of the Sligonian, the school paper, and edited the paper during his senior year.
From the day his byline appeared over a feature story in the Sligonian to his present articles in this local paper, Roth has always had a story to tell.
During the height of the Vietnam War, Roth was the church’s chief reporter on the work of Adventists in Vietnam. Numerous articles under his byline documented events such as the visit of the Loma Linda University heart surgery team, and the closure of the church’s work in Vietnam and evacuation of personnel associated with it.
Roth’s personal relationship with U.S. news agencies in Saigon was a key to the evacuation process for more than 430 Vietnamese when South Vietnam fell to Hanoi in April 1975. Through his Associated Press and United Press International contacts, Roth learned the evacuation procedure for 36 women and children he escorted to Guam. On Guam, he found the U.S. Navy pressroom, where he composed a five-page, single-spaced description of his final hours in Saigon, which served as a valuable document that he and others used as a reference for later articles and books.
Much of Roth’s legacy as an Adventist communicator is the record of actions, events, news, and human interest stories published in the journals and newsletters he edited: the weekly Columbia Union Visitor, 1954-1965; Far Eastern Division Outlook, 1965-1975; and currently the AIMS Journal for the Association of International Medical Services, Loma Linda (Calif.) School of Medicine Alumni Association. He also edited several newsletters, including the Far Eastern Division Furlougher, and most recently the Calimesa News and Notes, the newsletter of his home church in Calimesa, Calif, which he edited for 14 years.
The Seventh-day Adventist Periodical Index lists more than 420 articles published under his byline, primarily in the Adventist Review. However, the list is incomplete; it does not include articles he wrote for the Visitor and other church periodicals before going to Singapore in 1965 as assistant secretary and public relations director, nor the hundreds of articles he has written for other public papers.
Roth has written or coauthored four books including Mundahoi, a story of a Borneo witch doctor who converted to Christianity, and autobiographies of he and his wife, Called to Serve, and has assisted and/or encouraged a number of other persons to write books of their own.
If asked, many Adventists would name Roth “the PR person” of the Adventist Church for the past 60 years. Few others possess his breadth of experience and length of service in communication and reporting for the benefit of the Church.