On April 12, 2021, Juan R. Prestol-Puesán, treasurer of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, announced his retirement. This announcement came one day before the 2021 GC Spring Meeting officially began. Prestol-Puesán has served at the General Conference since 2007, first as undertreasurer, then as treasurer when he was elected in 2015.
He will continue in his current role until July 31. The new treasurer, Paul H. Douglas, who is the director of the General Conference Auditing Service, was elected on April 14, and will commence duties on August 1.
Prestol-Puesán has served as treasurer of various church administrative levels for almost 50 years, including the Atlantic Union Conference, the Euro-Asia Division, and the North American Division (NAD).
“Juan has been a great blessing to our church. In the North American Division we have been especially touched by his ministry as he served as the division treasurer for several years,” said G. Alexander Bryant, NAD president. “He has served faithfully. His integrity has been above reproach and he leaves a legacy of service and commitment for years to come. Our prayers go with him as he transitions to this next phase of life.”
“Elder Prestol-Puesán has long been a strong financial leader and proponent of transparency in the handling of world church finances,” Randy Robinson, NAD treasurer/CFO said. “His steady management, competent leadership, and unswerving commitment to the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has led to the world church being on a strong financial footing. He will be deeply missed as he makes this transition into retirement.”
Former GC treasurer Robert Lemon said, “When I came to the GC as an associate treasurer, Juan was treasurer of the Euro-Asia Division. It only took me a few weeks to realize that he was someone I could learn a lot from as we worked together on items for our interdivision missionaries.”
In recalling those early years, Lemon referred to Prestol-Puesán as a great teacher and mentor. “When he and Belkis returned to the NAD we worked together even more closely when he served as the North American Division treasurer. We spent many hours in discussions in our treasurer’s meetings, and I was always impressed by the insightfulness of his questions and depth of his understanding of the Church at all levels, from the GC up to the local church. … In 2015, it was an honor to turn over the GC treasury leadership to Juan, knowing he was a great treasury leader and a man of God.”
Recognizing Prestol-Puesán and his service in an Adventist News Network press release, Ted N.C. Wilson, GC president, said, “Thank you so much for your amazing contribution to God’s work over many, many years — decades! What a privilege that you and I have had the opportunity of working together in various parts of this globe, all to the glory of God. Thank you!”
In that same article, Prestol-Puesán thanked his colleagues for their support, trust and confidence over the years. “I will miss you and our camaraderie as leaders. It has been a blessing to serve alongside you and many others during my life of service,” he said.
A Few Firsts, and a Long Career
With his 2015 election, Prestol-Puesán became the first Latino to be elected an executive officer at the Adventist world church’s headquarters.
According to an October 2015 Adventist Review article, by becoming General Conference treasurer, Prestol-Puesán holds several records in the world church. In the article, David Trim, GC Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research director, shared that Prestol-Puesán is not only first Latino executive officer, he is also the first General Conference treasurer of color.
Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Prestol-Puesán graduated in 1969 from La Universidad Adventista de las Antillas (Antillean Adventist University, then Antillian College) in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a minor in religion. He began his work for the Adventist Church that same year as an accountant for the Dominican Conference. From 1972 to 1977, he worked as treasurer for the North Dominican Mission.
After moving to Berrien Springs, Michigan, to pursue his master’s degree at Andrews University, Prestol-Puesán began his career in North America in 1980 as treasurer for the Greater New York Conference, the same year he graduated with his MBA. He worked there for seven years, then served as treasurer of the Atlantic Union Conference from 1987 to 1993, and the Euro-Asian Division with headquarters in Moscow, Russia, from 1993 to 1996. Prestol-Puesán, his wife, Belkis, and their two children moved to Maryland in 1996, where he became associate treasurer then treasurer of the North American Division in 1999. He accepted the call in 2007 to serve the General Conference as undertreasurer, followed by the call to treasurer in 2015.
As reported in the ANN press release, throughout his long legacy of service, Prestol-Puesán has “continually pointed the Church and its leaders to dependence upon God’s guidance and protection in financial situations. A consummate professional, he has been a careful, ethical, mission-minded leader, focused on advancing God’s kingdom even through challenging times.”
In a 2015 Adventist Review GC Session Nominating Committee report, Prestol-Puesán, when accepting the role of GC treasurer, gave one of the shortest acceptance speeches in General Conference history. “On behalf of my wife and myself, we’ll do our best, God helping us,” Prestol-Puesán said.
Working with lay members and creating better relationships while striving for unity were challenges Prestol-Puesán shared in the Review article. Changing demographics and financial market volatility around the world also made the list. “Changes in financial markets, changes in world economies, perhaps a few surprises — we still have to trust in the Lord,” Prestol-Puesán said. “But we also have to be careful and mindful managers of the Lord’s funds.”
Several colleagues from his years working in the NAD shared their thoughts about Prestol-Puesán, with some sharing best wishes.
“Juan is an exceptionally talented and dedicated man and it was my pleasure and privilege to be associated with him,” said George H. Crumley, former NAD treasurer (1990-1998).
G. Thomas Evans, former NAD treasurer (2007-2018) shared, “From the union conference and NAD setting I had the honor of working with Juan in his roles of associate treasurer and treasurer of the NAD, and undertreasurer and treasurer of the GC. Juan was a person who worked well with his officers and treasury associates, whether it was with the divisions or unions. He is a Christian gentleman, a hard worker, a thinker, innovator, and leader. Juan will be missed by those he was associated with throughout the world field.”
“Juan set the bar high for those coming after him, and I counted it a privileged to have continued in his footsteps in filling the treasurer leadership of the NAD when he went to the GC,” Evans added. “He has a great love for his family as well as his church. My prayers are with him as he enters retirement. I am sure that Juan will continue to serve the church in some capacity.”
Shirley W. Evans, who worked as Prestol-Puesán’s executive assistant until her retirement on January 1, 2018, said, “Juan and I were privileged to work together for nearly 19 years. We were both new to the North American Division treasurer's office when we began working together in 1999. A friendship of service and dedication was soon developed that carried forward to Juan's becoming General Conference undertreasurer and treasurer.”
“Juan is always the professional with a heart of a leader, teacher, and supporter of those working with him. A deep thinker, I still miss our conversations on biblical topics as well as everyday life. Juan also has a sense of humor that could appropriately lighten the daily workload. My thoughts, prayers, and best wishes go with him and Belkis as they enter a new area of service for God,” she concluded.
Elaine Hagele, Mid-America Union treasurer/vice president for finance (2006-2015) said, “Juan Prestol was the model of leadership to me. I deeply respected him for his wisdom and warmness, sensibility and sensitivity, graciousness and godliness. I wanted to emulate him.”
“Retirement is not the end of the road, but just a turn on the road,” said Leon Thomassian, retired treasurer of the Atlantic Union Conference. “I would like to personally congratulate you on your retirement and job very well done. I enjoyed working with you at GNYC and NAD meetings for several years. You are a conscientious, incredible, hard worker and a true, faithful friend. Wish you and Belkis long life, health, and happiness. God bless you both.”
— Kimberly Luste Maran is an associate director of Communication for the NAD; Dan Weber, NAD Communication director, contributed to this report.