SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The annual Homecoming festivities for Evangel University were cancelled this year, due to the Covid Pandemic. However, five graduates received alumni awards virtually by the Alumni Board of Directors as part of the annual celebration.
The honorees are all local this year. They are being recognized via social media, e-blast newsletters and web spotlights in the form of alumni blogs and podcasts (details below).*
The Distinguished Alumni awards are presented by the alumni association annually to honor those Evangel and CBC grads who have made significant contributions to their chosen field, church, community, state, nation or to the university.
The Outstanding Young Alumni awards recognize that many young alumni have enjoyed significant achievements in the few years since their graduation, although they may not yet have reached the height of their accomplishments.
The AGTS Graduate of the Year is presented each year to a distinguished graduate of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary of Evangel.
THE 2020 ALUMNI AWARDS
• EU Distinguished Alumna — Dr. Rebecca (Horn) Donaldson 1982 & 200
Dr. Rebecca Donaldson currently serves as principal of Weller Elementary School in Springfield, one block from the EU campus. Evangel partners with Weller to mentor students, assist teachers and raise funds that provide opportunities the children could never afford. “At Weller, over 90% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, an indicator of the economic level of the families we serve,” she said. “There are students from five continents at Weller, speaking many different languages. Our team is filled with passionate educators who love children and learning.”
Rebecca first graduated from Evangel in 1982 with a degree in elementary education. It was there that she met her husband, Steve, while they were working together on the student ministry board. She earned her Master of Education in Literacy from Evangel in 2004, an M.E. in Educational Administration from Missouri State University in 2011, and her Doctor of Education from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2012.
Her list of certifications and professional honors attest to her dedication to her students, all of which led to her being recognized in 2016 as a “Most Influential Woman” by the Springfield Business Journal. In summary, Rebecca has spent her life in service to the underserved, even outside of the classroom with her husband, as he and his brothers Hal and Dave are the co-founders of Convoy of Hope.
• EU Outstanding Young Alumna — Kelsey (Hinkle) Bardwell 2003
Kelsey Bardwell is an attorney in general practice in Northern Arkansas, and currently serves as the managing partner of the Sprott, Golden, & Bardwell law firm in Harrison. She is active in her community where she volunteers with the Task Force on Race Relations and was recently appointed to the Arkansas Historic Preservation State Review Committee. In 2018, Kelsey was chosen as Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Rising Star.
Kelsey met her husband, Michael, on a summer service trip to Croatia with other Evangel, AGTS and CBC students. After graduation, they returned to her home state, where she earned her M.B.A. from the University of Arkansas in 2008, and her Juris Doctorate at the University of Arkansas School of Law (Fayetteville) in 2012.
“Evangel placed me in an environment where I was able to thrive academically, but also spiritually,” she said. “I learned the importance of having a mentor and serving others, while also working hard.”
• AGTS Alumnus of the Year — Dr. John Easter 2011
Dr. John Easter serves as the executive director of Africa’s Hope, where he leads the office overseeing the Assemblies of God’s educational teams and training initiatives in 46 out of 54 African countries. He is also the vice chancellor of Pan-Africa Theological Seminary and the executive director of the Association for Pentecostal Theological Education in Africa, a multidenominational association providing schools with accreditation service, faculty enrichment and scholarly publication. He also serves as an associate professor of intercultural studies at Evangel University and AGTS.
John graduated from AGTS in 2011 with his doctorate in international studies. He began his studies at CBC and earned a bachelor’s degree in Bible in 1995. He also holds a master’s from Reformed Theological Seminary. John and his wife, Cheryl, have served 10 years in pastoral ministry and 20 as Assemblies of God missionaries.
Speaking of his experience at AGTS, John said, “Because my knowledge grew and my skills were sharpened, I was able to make a more meaningful contribution to our organization, which has been personally and professionally rewarding.”
• CBC Distinguished Alumnus — Dr. Steve Pulis 1990
Dr. Steve Pulis has served as the Convoy of Hope Community Events Senior Director since 2014. “I advocate for compassion by turning the heart of the church towards the poor to deliver hope,” he explained. “I lead our team as we organize compassion outreach events connecting churches, organizations, and government agencies to serve the impoverished, suffering, and marginalized in the US.”
Steve graduated from CBC in 1990 with a double-major in missions and Bible, as well as an A.A. in music. While there, he did an internship at Central Assembly in Springfield. Upon graduation, Steve was hired as the youngest youth pastor in Central’s history. His career includes church planting and 16 years in national leadership with Youth Alive and AG Youth Ministries. During those years, he earned a master’s degree from AGTS in 2006 and a Ph.D. in intercultural ministries from AGTS in 2014.
Interestingly, since 2019, Steve has again served as youth and associate pastor at Central Assembly in Springfield, making him the youngest AND oldest youth pastor in that church’s history. He is married to Melissa Pulis, who serves Evangel as program and logistics coordinator for EU’s Center for Compassion — a partnership program with Convoy of Hope.
• CBC Outstanding Young Alumnus — Rev. Saehee (Hwang) Duran 2013
Rev. Saehee Duran is the lead pastor of Life360 Intercultural Church in Springfield, Missouri, and the national training director at the Assemblies of God Network of Women Ministers. She engages with the community as a volunteer chaplain with the Springfield Police Department. Her leadership skills are also put to use as a member of the Evangel Alumni Board, the Assemblies of God U.S. Missions Board, and as vice president of the Assemblies of God Korean-English Fellowship. She was recently recognized as one of “20 Most Influential Women” by the Springfield Business Journal.
Saehee had two years of community college when her husband, Damon, took a job at CBC as a residence hall director. She finished there and graduated valedictorian in 2013 with a bachelor’s in Bible/theology. She was also the commencement speaker. Next, she enrolled at AGTS and again graduated valedictorian in 2016, with a master’s in leadership in Christian ministries. And again, she was the commencement speaker. Her academic success has led her to serving as an adjunct Bible professor at Evangel University.
Saehee is a firm proponent of being a life-long learner — “The moment you stop learning is the moment you start decaying as a leader,” she says — and thus, she completed 12 hours in her doctoral program at AGTS, and is now finishing the D.Min. program at Southeastern University.
About Evangel University
Evangel University, with the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS), is a comprehensive Christian university committed to excellence in educating and equipping students to serve the church and society globally. Evangel and AGTS serve more than 2,300 students from all 50 states and numerous foreign countries, offering 70 undergraduate majors and 19 master’s and doctoral degrees.
An interesting set of Alumni Awards spotlight blogs are hot linked honoree’s name above, and they are also here:
Podcast Release Schedule
Use this link to the webpage for the Alumni Awards podcasts for 2020: https://evangel.simplecast.com/ Interested persons will be able to listen here on the podcast player, or find it wherever they listen to podcasts.
11/30: Rev. Saehee Duran
12/07: Dr. Rebecca Donaldson
12/14: Dr. Kelsey Bardwell
12/21: Dr. Steve Pulis
12/28: Dr. John Easter