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Evangel graduates receive 2023 Anne Spence Award for character and service

Published on May 8, 2023 by Erin Hedlun

SPRINGFIELD, Missouri – Evangel University graduates Lai Mawi and Ashlee Shipley are the recipients of the 2023 Anne Spence Award for Meritorious Christian Character and Service. The awards were presented during the university’s annual traditional undergraduate baccalaureate ceremony on May 4.

Each year, faculty and staff members nominate deserving seniors for the award. Two students are selected by a committee of faculty, staff, and student leaders.

“The purpose of this award is to recognize students who demonstrate outstanding and meritorious acts of Christian service or displays of Christian character that reflect the highest ideals of the university and the Church,” said Gina Rentschler, associate dean of students. “It provides a venue for rewarding and affirming students for reasons other than solely academic or athletic accomplishment.”

Anne Spence award winner Lai Mawi

Lai Mawi

“Lai is one of the sharpest and most kind-hearted students I have had the privilege of teaching here at Evangel,” said Dr. Eveline Lewis, chair of Evangel’s Business Department. “She has a great attitude toward leadership and is a Christlike leader herself.”

Mawi is an Accounting major who has a service-centered heart and a sharp business mind. She was drawn to EU because she knew the university would allow her to hone both of these qualities.

“I chose Evangel because I believed it would be a place that would grow me in academic excellence and prepare me to become a Spirit-empowered servant,” said Mawi.

Mawi, who came to the United States from Yangon, Myanmar, is passionate about the international Church, and alongside her husband, she serves as a pastor and mentor to immigrants in the U.S.

“Lai is the voice of young women in the Burmese-American community, serving them not only spiritually, but also physically, all while being a full-time student and mother of three children,” said Lewis. “She has helped many younger students pursue their education by assisting them in their applications and other means.”

On campus, Mawi was involved in the Business Department’s student investment group, a student-led club that manages a portfolio with over $1 million in investment assets. She cites EU’s faculty as one of her favorite parts of her college experience.

“I loved the mentorship I received from my professors,” said Mawi. “They were interested in not only my academic performance but also in the wellbeing of my mind, body, and spiritual life.”

After graduation, Mawi plans to take her CPA exam and work as an accountant while continuing to work with the international Christian community in Springfield.

“Receiving the Anne Spence Award is a great honor, and I receive it as an affirmation from the Lord,” said Mawi. “It gives me strength to continue to reflect Christlike character in everything I do.”

Anne Spence award winner Ashlee Shipley

Ashlee Shipley

Ashlee Shipley, a Strategic Communications major and native of Shannon, NC, has been around Evangel since she was a kid. Her family often traveled to Springfield on business, and on every trip, they stopped by the EU campus.

“Evangel is the community my heart has always longed for,” said Shipley. “The relationships and experiences I’ve had here have shaped my life in a profound way.”

Shipley maintained active involvement in many activities throughout her time at EU. She served as promotions manager for Excalibur, EU’s yearbook; on the call team for the Office of Admissions, where she frequently gave tours of the campus; and as a work study in the Communications Department.

“Ashlee’s servant heart and generosity overflow from her being,” said Nancy Pace-Miller, assistant professor of communication. “She has the gift of affirmation and she approaches her work with gratitude.”

In the middle of her senior year, Shipley stepped in as president of 417 Hall, Evangel’s commuter student organization. Working without the usual assistance of a hall senator, Shipley single-handedly planned several events, wrote and presented a bill to the Evangel Student Government Association Senate, and designed inclusive activities for commuters.

“Ashley recognizes and excels at the more difficult parts of leading. Without her, commuters would not have enjoyed such an excellent offering of activities,” said McKenzie Harbaugh, Evangel’s commuter coordinator.

Following graduation, Shipley and her husband plan to move to Republic, Missouri, where she will pursue a career in the communications field. She also looks forward to actively serving in children’s ministry.

“The Anne Spence Award is both an honor and a testament to the Lord’s faithfulness in my life,” said Shipley.

Anne Spence

The Anne Spence Award

The late Anne Spence served as vice president of the Evangel University Advocates (then EU Auxiliary) throughout the 40 years her husband, the late Dr. Robert H. Spence, was EU’s president. She helped raise millions of dollars for campus projects and scholarships, and she was often referred to as Evangel’s greatest student recruiter.

In addition to an engraved plaque and a monetary gift, awardees also received a certificate, white cord, and medallion to wear at the baccalaureate and commencement ceremonies.

Previously called the Silver Shield Award, the honor was renamed the Anne Spence Award by Evangel’s board of directors in 2013 to honor her 40 years of service to the Evangel community.

Anne Spence passed away in March of this year.



About Evangel University

Evangel University, with its embedded Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS), is a comprehensive Spirit-led Christian university located in Springfield, Missouri. It is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Under the leadership of Dr. Mike Rakes, EU is committed to excellence in educating and equipping students to serve the Church and society globally and becoming compassionate innovators in their chosen vocations. EU offers more than 70 degree programs, including cutting-edge majors, pre-professional programs, and affordable and flexible online degree options.

EU is highly regarded and has been ranked:

  • US News & World Report Best Colleges Top Performer in Social Mobility
  • Colleges of Distinction Best Christian University
  • Top 10 Best Universities by
  • Third Most Beautiful Campus in the Midwest by Christian Colleges & Universities
  • Top 10 Best Colleges in Missouri by

With additional accreditations in business, counseling, music, social work, and theology and certification as an Excellence in Giving university, EU is focused on providing students with hands-on experience and real-world training for today’s professional careers. Learn more about the university at