Alumni Awards

Young Alumnus of the Year

Jesse Lear '09

Jesse Lear

As a business student at Cedarville, Jesse Lear dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur directly after graduation. Following graduation, he moved back with his parents and began plans to start a business. When his money ran out before his business took off, he moved to Columbus and sold cable TV service door-to-door. During that time, he and his co-worker and roommate, Travis Smith – also a Cedarville graduate, noticed a need for a trash service that would pick up trash from apartment renters. After investigating the possibilities, Jesse and Travis began V.I.P. Waste, which gathers and disposes of waste and recycling in apartment communities. In 2014, V.I.P. Waste was named one of the Top 30 Startups to Watch.

While continuing in a strategic leadership role at V.I.P. Waste, Jesse has pursued several other business opportunities. He is especially excited about Nellie’s Natural Ice Pops. Jesse founded Nellie’s Natural Ice Pops in honor of his late grandmother, who was a spiritual leader in his family. Nellie’s Natural Ice Pops is a Columbus-based startup that features artisan ice pops with gourmet flavors and wholesome ingredients.

During his time at Cedarville University, Jesse was involved in SIFE (now Enactus.) With SIFE he traveled to the Ukraine, where his team helped high school-aged students work on entrepreneurial projects. The students chose to make popcorn balls and sell them on the beach. He recalls watching them conquer their fear of selling and seeing their faces light up as they realized they could improve their lives. This began his passion for mentoring young entrepreneurs. He said of his role as an entrepreneur, “My goal is to use my experience in entrepreneurship to not only become successful in the business world, but also to increase my influence so I can be a mentor for other young entrepreneurs to help them grow in their business and their faith.”

With the support of his parents, Dale and Rebecca (Dotson) Lear ’80, and two sisters, Lacy ’11 and Lani ’15, Jesse has been awarded the Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2014 by the U.S. Small Business Association, as well as being given an Empact100 award by the United Nations as one of the top 100 companies in the U.S. run by entrepreneurs younger than 35. He has also been mentioned in Time, Success, Entrepreneur, and other publications. He advises others not to miss opportunities looking for God’s will in “a precise ‘dot’,” but rather staying within His broader will for their lives.

Young Alumnus of the Year

Travis Ramone Smith '09

Travis Smith

When Young Alumnus of the Year Travis Ramone Smith recalls his time at Cedarville University, he remembers the relationships that God used to change him. He also remembers how during his senior year indoor track season he entered the national meet ranked No. 1. He recalls being filled with pride and confident that he would receive a top 3 ranking for All-American status. Travis admits to being unconcerned with practice, thinking he was talented enough to slack off in training, and undisciplined in his diet. The indoor meet did not go well for Travis, who ended up ranking No. 6. This was a devastating blow for him. He remembers crying on the phone with his mom, wanting to drop out of school and thinking that he had lost any chance he had at being a great athlete.

This was what Travis recalls as the lowest point of his life. But he now believes that it was the best thing that ever happened to him. It humbled him and taught him three lessons that he continues to benefit from today: 1. Visualize what you want. 2. Talent is never enough. 3. Pride is your enemy. After that experience, he began sharing his experience with his classmate Jesse Lear. Jesse told him about how he placed goals for himself to work toward, keeping pictures of the things he wanted. Travis began doing the same thing and praying for God’s provision for those things. He also started taking his classes and training seriously. During the outdoor track season, he worked to prepare himself physically and mentally. It was in that season that he was the lead runner of the relay team that broke the school’s record in the 4x100-meter dash, won a national championship, and received All-Conference and All-American awards. That experience taught him that Proverbs 29:23 is true: Pride does indeed bring down men but humility builds him up.

Since graduating from Cedarville University, Travis started V.I.P. Waste with Jesse Lear ’09 when they realized the hassle that apartment renters experienced when taking trash to the dumpster in Ohio winters. V.I.P. Waste now employs more than 30 people in three states and four cities by providing doorstep trash and recycling pickup service in more than 30,000 apartments and households each week.

Travis is also a member of the Cedarville University School of Business Advisory Board, Co-Chairman of the Columbus Apartment Association, Council Member of the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Apartment Association Associate Council, Council Member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (Central Ohio Branch) Summer Camp Advisory Council, and a volunteer in the children’s ministry at Rock City Church of Columbus, Ohio. Travis references Philippians 3:13 and advises students that “many times what you perceive as a great weakness is actually a great strength. Only when you know your weaknesses can you mitigate them, so be honest with yourself enough to know them and always strive to find ways to use them to your advantage.”

Distinguished Service Award

W. David Warren '64

David Warren

Dr. W. David Warren currently serves as the State Representative for the Ohio Association of Regular Baptist Churches, while also serving on the Cedarville University Board of Trustees. While a student at Cedarville University, David was involved in the OS&SO Sunday school ministry along with the College Choir. His junior year he was the class President, and he served as the Student Body President during his senior year. At graduation, he received the President’s Award.

After graduating from Cedarville University with a B.A. in Bible, he studied Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary. He went on to pastor Champion Baptist Church in Warren, Ohio, after which he began teaching at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa. He then returned to Cedarville University to teach Bible. He has served as the interim pastor at many different churches while teaching. After serving in both educational and pastoral positions, Dr. Warren moved into the role of State Representative for the Ohio Association of Regular Baptist Churches.

Reminiscing on his time as a student at Cedarville University, Dr. Warren recalls the role that Dr. Robert G. Gromacki played in his life. Watching him as a professor, young husband, and class adviser gave practical impact and advice to Dr. Warren’s life. He said of Dr. Gromacki, “He was always supportive of me as a person and later as a fellow instructor on his ‘team’ in the Bible department.” He recalls that the solid Bible education and theological training, as well as the role models at Cedarville, prepared him for his current ministry. Dr. Warren encourages fellow believers in their faith through 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, inasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

Dr. Warren and his wife of 52 years, Pat (Schonscheck) Warren ’63, have four children: Janice (Warren) Supplee ’86, Cheryl (Warren) Brugel ’90, David Warren ’93, and Mark Warren ’98, who are involved in ministry and raising their families. They are also proud grandparents of 13 grandchildren.

Distinguished Educator Award

James Ronald Phipps ‘68

Jim Phipps

Dr. James Ronald Phipps has had a long and distinguished career teaching communications at Cedarville University. During that time, he served as the Chair of the communication department from 1970–2002. He has also served on the NAIA International Student Committee, the Chair of the NAIA Home School Eligibility, the President of the Speech Communication Association of Ohio, as well as serving on many other committees and councils.

After receiving his B.A. in speech and English at Cedarville University, he received his M.A. in broadcasting and a Ph.D. in communication from The Ohio State University. He has also been active in serving his community. Dr. Phipps served as Mayor of the Village of Cedarville from 1996–2012. Prior to that, he served on the Village Council and was its President from 1988–1996.

While a student at Cedarville University, Dr. Phipps served as the President of Alpha Chi, Program Director for WCDR, a sportscaster for WCDR, along with several class offices. One of the memories that made a significant impact on his life was when Dr. James T. Jeremiah told him to be careful to always keep issues and people separate, so that he could deal fairly with each without injuring relationships with the persons with whom you work. Dr. Phipps councils other to “never take ourselves too seriously.” The verse that has had great impact on his life, which he attempts to live, is Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Dr. Phipps has been supported in his career by his wife, Patricia (Bonzo) Phipps ’70. She retired from Greeneview High School where she was a Media Specialist. Their children, two daughters and a son, all graduated from Cedarville University. James and Patricia are the proud grandparents of six grandchildren.

Alumni of the Year Award

Georgia Ellen (Hickman) Purdom '94

Georgia Purdom

Georgia Ellen Purdom combines her passion for God’s Word and truth and her scientific education to educate individuals about science and creation as the Ministry Content Administrator and a speaker/writer for Answers in Genesis. Georgia’s journey to Answers in Genesis began when she was a biology and premed major at Cedarville University. In recalling her time at Cedarville, she remembers a professor advising her that the thing that mattered in life would not be the degrees achieved, but rather service to Christ and others. She remembers this advice today when she is tempted by the pride of what she has achieved.

Her education at Cedarville prepared Georgia both academically and spiritually. While a student at Cedarville, Georgia was very involved in ministry and community. She served with a Bible club for local kids through Cedar Kids, a ministry to mentally and developmentally disabled adults through Muller Residential Services, and a spring break team ministering with Habitat for Humanity in Mexico City as a member of Chi Theta Pi. Since graduating from Cedarville, she has been highly involved in ministry, from VBS Coordinator to serving with inner-city ministries. She says about her time at Cedarville, “In my chosen field of study, academics are very important, and I was better prepared than most of my peers entering graduate school. But it was the spiritual growth and maturity that I gained at Cedarville that really helped me wade the secular waters of graduate school and the secular world beyond as well.”

After graduating from Cedarville in 1994 with a B.A., Georgia received her Ph.D. in molecular genetics at The Ohio State University. While in graduate school, she met her husband, Chris, at church. After completing her doctorate, Georgia spent six years as a biology professor at Mount Vernon Nazarene University. While there, she felt the Lord prompting her to be more active in educating about creationism. She eventually received her dreamed-of position at Answers in Genesis, where she is able to share God’s truth about Creation with others.

Georgia’s husband, Chris, also works for Answers in Genesis. They have been married for 18 years and have a daughter, Elizabeth, whom they adopted from China. They enjoy life in the country where they care for a dog and a few sheep while homeschooling Elizabeth. In her life Georgia has actively pursued 1 Peter 3:15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” It is a reminder in her life of why she defends the Word of God.

Honorary Alumnus of the Year

Wayne L. Dickason, M.D.

Wayne Dickason

Wayne L. Dickason, M.D., practiced plastic and reconstructive surgery for more than 30 years in Olympia, Washington. He started his career as a general surgeon for the United States Army, serving in Vietnam and Fort Ord, California, where he performed combat surgery. While serving in Vietnam, Wayne worked with local missionaries to provide medical relief and skills that would otherwise not have been available to locals in need. During his medical career, he took many medical missions trips to provide reconstructive surgery and medical relief.

He recalls that his interest in missions and international travel began in his childhood. His mother was the Missionary Chairman of their church, which brought many furloughed missionaries to their home. His first experience practicing surgical missions was during his residency when he was taken by Dr. Dean Smith to the Dominican Republic. He recalls a particularly harrowing surgery during this trip that highlighted to him the significant need for surgical missions. It was during this trip that he decided to ensure that his children were exposed to the needs of others through medical missions once they reached their teens.

Wayne was able to take his family on trips to the Dominican Republic and Mexico, which opened their eyes to the abundance that they had. During more than 130 international medical mission trips during his career and since his retirement, Dr. Dickason has had the opportunity to provide a wide range of medical relief. His experiences ranged from working in a dental clinic in South America, to surgery in primitive conditions, to educating plastic and reconstructive surgeons in Russia after the Cold War.

Dr. Dickason attended Cedarville for a year before moving to Flint, Michigan, and attending Flint Junior College as a premed major. He later transferred to the University of Michigan, where he was selected for advanced entry into its medical school. He recalls that of all the students he interacted with during his 13 years of education, the Cedarville students he met his freshman year still stand out. He and his wife, Teri, have four children and five grandchildren, who are serving the Lord and involved in missions.

He says of his life and experience in missions, “The rewards come from seeing the happy faces, the gratefulness of the patients as well as their families, and the appreciation of the administrative people of the hospitals, towns, or government officials.”