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Evangel University names 2024 outstanding faculty award recipients

Published on May 8, 2024 by Erin Hedlun

SPRINGFIELD, Missouri – Evangel University honored two professors for excellence in service to students and the university on Thursday, May 2 during the 66th annual commencement ceremony. Debbie Bicket was honored with the annual Clark Award, and Preston Kness was honored with the Mills Young Faculty Award. Both Bicket and Kness are faculty members in the Behavioral and Social Sciences Department.

Debbie Bicket, EU assistant professor of psychology

Clark Award

Professor Debbie Bicket, assistant professor of psychology, was awarded Evangel’s highest honor for academic excellence — the E.M. & Estella Clark Award for Excellence in Teaching, Scholarship and Service.

The award was established in 1991 by Dan and Elaine Johnson in recognition of Elaine’s parents’ work on behalf of higher education in the Assemblies of God, as well as the Johnson’s special affection for EU. Students, faculty, and staff submit nominations, and a committee makes the final decision.

“I am both humbled and honored to be named the 2024 recipient of the E.M. and Estella Clark Award,” said Bicket. “I so enjoy being a part of the growth and development of students who are trained at Evangel and then pursue professional careers across the country.”

Bicket grew up on Evangel’s campus. During her third grade year, her father, Dr. Zenas Bicket, became EU’s academic dean, and the family moved into a faculty residence area located in one of the campus’ military barracks.

In 1978, Bicket earned her B.S. in Education at Evangel. After graduating, she began teaching for Springfield Public Schools, working primarily with elementary and middle school students. She went on to earn a Master of Science in Guidance and Counseling at Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University).

After many years working in the Springfield Public School district, Bicket was invited to teach a school counseling class as an adjunct professor at Evangel in 2002, which led to a full-time position as she developed EU’s fledgling school counseling graduate program, now a robust CACREP-accredited degree offering.

Through this position, Bicket discovered that she loved working with graduate and undergraduate students as much as she enjoyed working with elementary and secondary students students.

Bicket is a member of the the Missouri School Counselors Association and a Counselor Educator.

Preston Kness, EU assistant professor of history & coordinator of Valor Scholars Academy

Mills Award

Preston Kness, assistant professor of history in the Behavioral and Social Sciences Department, was awarded the Orville & Jewel Mills Young Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, Scholarship and Service.

The award was established in 2006 by Orville and Jewel Mills to recognize the academic work of outstanding young professors. Orville Mills is a retired comptroller of Exxon-Mobil and serves EU as a trustee emeritus. The couple’s three daughters are graduates of Evangel.

“I am deeply honored by this award and grateful for the friendship and support that my colleagues have shown in my time at Evangel,” said Kness. “I love working here and look forward to what God has in store for the university.”

Kness, a 2007 Evangel alumnus, teaches history, geography, and social science research classes. He also serves as the coordinator of the Valor Scholars Academy, an Evangel honors program dedicated to the development of student character, knowledge, and leadership through academic rigor and Christian community. In this role, Kness also oversees the interview process for the Valor Scholars Award, Evangel’s most prestigious scholarship.

In addition to his Bachelor of Arts in History from Evangel, Kness holds a Master of Arts in History from Missouri State University. He is a film enthusiast, a fan of Nebraska football, and a lover of professional tennis.


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:

  • #1 Best College in Springfield & #2 Best Christian College in Missouri by Niche
  • 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