By Allison Ens and Wayne Steffen

A lifelong love of learning led to a beautiful gift for the Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary.

Alan Sortor, M.D., and wife Pegi wanted to do something special in retirement. The high school sweethearts had already led full lives, he as a respected general surgeon with a private practice in Fresno, she as an accomplished soprano who sang with choral groups such as the Fresno Community Chorus and the church choir at Westminster Presbyterian Church, and both as world travelers—this on top of raising a family.

So it seemed quite natural to them to enroll in the seminary and study the biblical literature, theology and languages. Both the Sortors loved learning, with Alan especially proficient in Ancient Greek, according to Tim Geddert, Ph.D., professor and program director of New Testament. “Every Greek teacher’s delight is to have a keen student who shows up for class, always prepared, always eager to learn…without even the motivation of a good grade (or the fear of a bad one) to motivate,” Geddert says. “Thanks, Alan, for enriching my Greek classes.” 

In appreciation of their time as students, the Sortors gave the seminary “Watergirl,” a sculpture by Fresno artist Clement Renzi, when they sold their home and moved to The Terraces at San Joaquin Gardens retirement community. The bronze statute had graced the couple’s backyard for many years and enhanced their coffees on many peaceful mornings.

Such a generous gift deserves a proper setting, and other friends of the seminary stepped up to create a pergola featuring flowers, rocks and, of course, water for “Watergirl.” Contractor Tim Friesen of Friesen Construction donated time and materials to minimize the cost of the structure, and Randy and Ruth Ataide of Texas were lead donors.

Dr. Sortor and Friesen were among the guests when the sculpture and pergola were dedicated Tuesday, December 11, 2018, in a ceremony in front of North Hall on the seminary campus. Pegi, unfortunately, had passed away. Also at the dusk event were faculty, administration, students and staff. Speakers included Joseph Jones, Ph.D., president of Fresno Pacific University; Valerie Rempel, Ph.D., dean and interim vice president of the seminary and Dr. Sortor. “The gift of ‘The Watergirl’ sculpture and the setting that have been designed for it draws people to sit, to rest, to reflect,” Rempel said. “It offers a respite from the hurry of our lives. It is a tangible reminder of a biblical metaphor—that of living water and the life it offers.”

After the brief ceremony’s conclusion, all present were invited to share a meal together.