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Evangel University Alumni Association to hold Trees of Honor ceremony

October 11, 2012 | Chase Replogle

Three former members of the Evangel staff and faculty will be honored for their exemplary and dedicated service to the university during Evangel’s Trees of Honor ceremony at 11 a.m. on Friday, October 12.

The event will take place on the EU Commons. In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved to the main concourse inside Riggs Hall.

“The Trees of Honor project began as an idea formed by a small group of graduates from the early 1960’s and took root following Springfield’s great ice storm of 2007,” said Chuck Cox, director of alumni relations. “They came to us with the idea to help replace lost trees and restore the natural beauty of the campus.”

Trees have been planted on Evangel’s campus in acknowledgement of the legacy of service each of the recipients has provided to the university. An engraved bronze plaque will be placed at the base of each tree as a permanent tribute to the person being honored.

The following individuals will be recognized:

Dr. Thurman Vanzant

Thurman Vanzant

Dr. Vanzant, professor emeritus, joined the faculty in 1957 and served in many capacities at Evangel during his 36 years of service. He served as an undergraduate professor, graduate studies professor, director of spiritual life and vice president of student development.

Early in Evangel’s history, Vanzant served as the one and only professor of theology, teaching courses in philosophy, Bible and psychology, among others. In addition, Vanzant served as a part-time guidance counselor in Evangel’s counseling center from 1968-1974 and served as the director of the educational development center.

“Dr. Vanzant joined the faculty in the very early years and served for a period of time as the only member of the Bible department, thus having a key impact in the early development of the Bible program of this institution,” said Dr. Glenn Bernet, vice president for academic affairs. “After completing his Ph.D., he rejoined the faculty and later served as the dean of students.  As the only Ph.D. in the Assemblies of God in the area of student development at that time, he brought professionalism to Evangel.”

Thurman Vanzant

Dr. Thurman Vanzant served in many capacities at Evangel during his 36 years of service, including undergraduate professor, graduate studies professor, director of student life and dean of students.

Evangel archivist Shirley Shedd was a student of Vanzant. She went on to teach communication at Evangel, serving as the department chair from 1987 to 2006. She remembers him as an instructor, a colleague and a mentor.

“My memories of Dr. Vanzant span 54 years,” Shedd said. “As a student, I remember Dr. Vanzant as an awesome (but hard) teacher.  He was also the adviser for several groups on campus during my four years here.  He was noted for kind, wise counsel, and he was loved for his gentle, fun-loving personality.

“When I think of Dr. Vanzant, I think of his smile—and I smile.  He was so student-oriented and accessible that we knew he cared about us as individuals.  He definitely deserves the Trees of Honor recognition,” Shedd said.

Emmett Davis

Emmett Davis, former head of Evangel’s physical plant, will be honored posthumously. Davis was responsible for leading EU’s first physical plant staff to prepare the campus for students before its opening in 1955. As a former plant maintenance employee of O’Reilly Army Hospital, Davis already had extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the property, a factor that majorly influenced the government’s overview of the Assemblies of God’s application for the property.

Immediately prior to the opening of the university, Davis personally led Evangel’s first physical plant team in an eight-month renovation project that turned old army barracks into dormitories, administrative offices, a chapel, a cafeteria and campus apartments.

“I believe Emmett’s most significant contribution to Evangel was getting the old Army base out of mothballs and operational again,” said Tom Keltner, Evangel’s current physical plant head. “I saw Emmett pay for supplies out of his pocket to keep things running.

Emmett Davis (left) with Dr. J. Robert Ashcroft, Evangel’s second president, reviewing plans for the Ashcroft Center.

“I learned from Emmett that you can be the boss and still have compassion for everyone,” Keltner said. “I’m convinced that he felt he was called by God to Evangel.”

Jim Williams, vice president for institutional advancement, worked for Davis in the physical plant when he was a student at Evangel in the 1960s. “I worked for Emmett in several jobs as a student. I remember how mild-mannered and easy-going he was. I was in student government, and I would often ask, ‘Can we borrow the truck to build a float,’ or ‘can we work in the building over the weekend,’ etc. I never remember him saying no.

“Emmett was a real gentleman. He was in control of the whole campus—systems, etc.—but not in a bossy way. Everyone respected him and loved to work for him,” Williams said.

Davis served as  maintenance supervisor for the O’Reilly and Evangel properties for more than 20 years before retiring in 1972.

Dr. June Kean

Dr. Kean, professor of music at Evangel University, will be honored posthumously. Kean started her Evangel career in 1955, Evangel’s first year of operation. Between 1955 and 1998, Kean spent a total of 35 years teaching music at Evangel.

In addition, Kean was a professional organist who traveled extensively across the U.S. and throughout several foreign countries, performing concerts and serving as an adjudicator.

Dr. June Kean plays the magnificent Schantz pipe organ in the Chapel.

Dr. June Kean plays the magnificent Schantz pipe organ in the Chapel.

She performed with the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Beijing in China, performed a series of recitals in Argentina (sponsored by the University of Buenos Aires), and attended the famous International Orgelconcours in Haarlem, The Netherlands, among many other international engagements.

After spending decades teaching and traveling, Kean passed away in 1998.

“Her level of musicianship and commitment attracted an outstanding studio of young collegians who wanted to study with someone of her stature,” recalls John Shows, professor emeritus at EU. “No one was more loyal to Evangel and its students.”

“The love that she had for the students and EU was the driving force for everything that she did professionally,” said Dr. Michael Kolstad, chair of the music department.

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