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Outstanding Educators Honored

The Alliance for AG Higher Education honored nine award recipients during General Council 2023.

Paul R. Alexander, president of Trinity Bible College & Graduate School in Ellendale, North Dakota, presented nine awards on behalf of the Alliance for AG Higher Education. The Alliance, which consists of 17 recognized Assemblies of God institutions of higher learning in the United States, honored award recipients during the second day of General Council business as well as in a luncheon on Thursday afternoon. “The Alliance endorses and promotes its member colleges and universities by providing advocacy, professional development, and effective networking,” Alexander said of the organization.

As Alexander announced the awards, General Superintendent Doug Clay said to the recipients, “we love you and affirm you and may God anoint you”.

Currently, serving as Trinity Bible College and Graduate School’s Accelerate director, Governance mentor, and assistant executive director of Rural Advancement, David Bennett, was honored with the Outstanding Administrator Award. Bennett, who also served as director of Student Ministries, Placement, and Ministerial Internships, easily fosters relationships with faculty, students, and campus guests and is known for his positive energy and professionalism.

Paul Brooks of Southwestern Assemblies of God University was also recognized as an Outstanding Administrator. Brooks, in his 36th year of service in AG higher education and his 30th year of service as a member of the President's Cabinet at SAGU, has served as vice president for SAGU Student Development, vice president for Distance Education, and for the past 23 years as vice president for Academics.

An outstanding educator award also went to Michael Kolstad of Evangel University, Springfield, Missouri. Kolstad has served EU for three decades, was executive vice president for Advancement before being name Chief of Staff for the president. Known for being a consistent performer with an ability to manage multiple challenges with energy and grace, is an administrator recognized by EU as “a man who walks with God,” according to his nomination.

Several Outstanding Educator awards were bestowed. Southwestern Assemblies of God University’s Diane Lewis was recognized. In her 32nd year of service as an SAGU faculty member in Waxahachie, Texas, she has served most of her tenure as English Department Chair, and recently helped launch SAGU’s M.A. in English Studies. Distinguished through her consistent excellence in teaching and spiritual character, Lewis exemplifies the outstanding qualities of a professor “whose life and career has been dedicated to Christian thought and scholarship,” stated her nomination letter.

Professor of Leadership and Practical Theology at Southeastern University, Samuel Hemby, has served as an instructor for two decades, Hemby has poured into the lives of countless undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral ministry students at SEU. He is known for creating a learning experience that is spiritual, educational, and formative for his students where they leave his classes with a deeper faith and sense of calling.

Tricia Shaw, principal of Southeastern University’s Pathways of Excellence. Pathways of Excellence is a middle school and high school housed within SEU, is a program in Lakeland, Florida, for students with special needs. Shaw was presented with an Alliance for AG Higher Education’s Outstanding Educator Award due to her implementation of numerous initiatives, development of partnerships, and passion for equipping students with skills to experience their full potential.

Aaron Thurber, currently the longest-tenured faculty member, having served 22 years, at Trinity Bible College and Graduate School, Ellendale, North Dakota, was also recognized. A celebrated and admired Bible and theology professor while serving as the Bible and Theology Department Chair, Thurber is especially well-known among students as a professor who is not afraid to ask difficult questions while also challenging them to know and love God more.

Currently conducting her student teaching internship at Okinawa Christian School International in Okinawa, Japan, Southeastern University (SEU) student Taylor Alvare was selected for an Alliance for AG Higher Education’s Outstanding Student Award. Alvare is enrolled in SEU’s Bachelor of Science/Master of Education Exceptional Student Education (4+1) Program. While on campus, Alvare served in numerous roles at the university and was actively involved in multiple ministry and community service opportunities.

A former NFL player, Mayo Sowell received an Outstanding Student award. After football, Sowell turned his life around when he accepted Christ while in prison for selling narcotics. Upon release, he went into full-time ministry for nine years. Then, while pursuing his master’s from Southeastern University (SEU), he and his wife planted LIIV church in Atlanta and partnered with SEU to make the church an SEU extension. Sowell is currently enrolled in the SEU Doctor of Missiology program.

The nine award recipients were honored with a certificate of merit and were honored before the General Council where they received a standing ovation for their distinguishments.

LOWER PHOTO: L-R: Dr. Michael Kolstad, Chief of Staff Evangel Univerisity; Dr. Paul Brooks, Vice President of Academic SAGU; Dr. Dave Bennett, Shared Governance, Trinity Bible College and Graduate School; Aaron Thurber, Department Chair Bible/Theology, Trinity Bible College and Graduate School, Diane Lewis, Department Chair English, SAGU, Mayo Sowell, Student, SEU, and Dr. Samuel Hemby, Leadership and Practical Theology, SEU. Not pictured: Dr. Tricia Shaw, School of Education-Pathway, SEU, and Taylor Alvare, Student, SEU