Alumna of the Year
Jennifer (Matthews) Anderson '86
On December 30, 2009, Jennifer (Matthews) Anderson was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. She and six other CIA operatives were waiting for a Jordanian doctor, who they believed had infiltrated al-Qaeda's upper ranks. As he exited the car, he detonated a vest laden with explosives and all seven CIA operatives were killed. She was the chief of the base in Afghanistan at the time of the attack and was considered a leading expert on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
A friend and CIA colleague gave a eulogy at her memorial service saying, "Jennifer's contribution to the war on terror cannot be overstated. Jennifer was a pioneer in counter-terrorist targeting, which means she identified terrorists, located them, and then devised operations to disrupt them before they could attack."
After graduating from Cedarville in 1986, Jennifer obtained an M.S. from Miami University in political science and international relations. Jen and Gary Anderson were married shortly thereafter in May 1987 and moved to Geneva, Switzerland, in the fall of 1993 where she obtained another master's degree in international relations from the Graduate Institute, Geneva. They returned to the U.S. in 1995, and Jen began to work for a small group studying Islamic Terrorists at the Agency under Mike Scheuer in the Counter Terrorism Center. This group helped to understand and identify Islamic terrorists, such as bin Laden, who was unknown at the time. The group was active but small prior to 9/11. Her workload increased in the days following 9/11 as the CTC expanded.
At the start of 2005, Jen took an assignment as the CTC Operations Chief at the U.S. Embassy in London. By this time, Jen and Gary had three children, and the family was able to live in London with her. They enjoyed life in the U.K., though the time was not always easy. In the summer of 2009, the family left the U.K. and returned to Virginia where Jen trained for her new job as the base chief in Khost, Afghanistan. She left in September 2009, and she probably enjoyed this job more than any other, according to Gary, even though she was far away from her family.
Gary's favorite memory of Jennifer happened before they were dating. From his car, he spotted her in downtown Cedarville during frigid weather filming with a VHS camera for a class assignment. He was impressed even more so later when he learned she was there at least an hour after he saw her. That tenacity, sparked by her determination and perseverance, became a trademark he admired for the years they had together. Gary believes that both he and Jen experienced learning at Cedarville that prepared them for life. They believed that Cedarville taught them to impact the world for Christ by striving to make society better by working effectively, wisely, and confronting evil wherever God placed them.
Young Alumna of the Year
Erin (Knowles) Wirsing '02
When the Salvation Army decided to start an initiative against human trafficking in Chicago, they looked to Erin (Knowles) Wirsing for leadership. As a social worker with community planning expertise, Erin has been a key player in developing and implementing the Salvation Army's STOP-IT program in Chicago. This past April in San Diego, Erin was one of the speakers for the 2012 International Conference on Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, and Stalking.
But Erin remembers when social work was not even on her radar. She came to Cedarville not really knowing what God might have for her and was an "undeclared" major for quite awhile. She is grateful that Cedarville assigned her a caring adviser who listened and helped her figure out direction in her life. "He spent time with me each semester," she recalls, "and we talked about things that I liked and things I was passionate about." At one point he suggested that she consider social work and she quickly realized it was a place where she felt she belonged.
After graduation from Cedarville, Erin moved to Chicago where she was able to pursue her Master in Social Work at the University of Illinois while working in child welfare, specifically in foster care. In time, she moved to her current job where she has often worked with abused children and those who have been through traumatic experiences. Between her job, her involvement as a youth leader and mentor at her church, and ongoing contact with a social work professor at Cedarville, Erin has learned how to think outside the box and be creative in finding ways to help people by networking with law enforcement, mental health and medical professionals, and other social workers. But beyond providing help, Erin has learned how to come alongside people and treat them with respect and dignity, honoring and encouraging them in their own strengths and talents.
Erin married Michael Wirsing in April 2011 after several years of dating. When she thinks of her time at Cedarville, Erin always thinks of people — professors, fellow students, and her church family at Grace Community Church in Washington Court House.
Alumni Impact Award
Thomas Reed Bockman '94
Since his graduation from Cedarville in 1994, Tom Bockman's journey has taken him not only from New Jersey to Wisconsin and back, but from business to seminary to youth ministry to construction, back to ministry, and now to business and ministry. He writes, "As confusing as my career path seems to be, it has become clear why God has built into my life such a seemingly strange combination of business, construction, and ministry experience. It was not the path I had envisioned when I asked God to lead me as a broken student at the 'Ville, but it was His path nonetheless."
It was Dr. Bruce Wilkinson, a memorable chapel speaker, who set up three chairs on the platform and challenged the students to keep their faith vibrant. Dr. Wilkinson illustrated with the chairs that our grandparents' faith and our parents' faith can get stale as each generation moves on. Tom returned to his dorm room realizing that his personal walk with Christ could not belong to his parents — it had to be owned by him. In an intimate moment with his Savior, Tom asked Christ to lead him down whatever path he desired.
Tom is currently a Team Leader for Capstone Property Services, a small Christian-owned construction company in South Jersey. It is Capstone's desire to pursue "business as mission" in order to reach the people of the over 40 countries where traditional missionaries cannot enter with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Business is the door that opens up the opportunities to proclaim the Good News in these countries.
The Alumni Impact Award is one of two that must be nominated by current students. According to the student who nominated Tom, "He is part of the reason I am here today. I want to thank him for that. He was the one that God showed His love to me through. Tom had a Christ-focused mind and heart, and he was able to display that to me in my time of sorrow. I always knew that he was praying for me. I know he still is too."
Tom remembers Cedarville's motto from Revelation chapter one and realizes that the words, "for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ" became ingrained on his heart during those years. "Our legacy on this planet," Tom writes, "will be the people to whom we have passed on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is our business. This is our mission. We will be evaluated by our Lord on our understanding and dedication to the mission of disciple-making."
Tom and Tiffany (Beheler) Bockmann '95 have been married for 17 years and have three children, Benjamin, Bevan June, and Joseph.
Distinguished Service Award
Stephen Brown '67
While at Cedarville, Steve was involved in nursing home and rescue mission ministries and served as the assistant editor of Cedars his junior year and editor of Miracle his senior year. His freshman year he played in the marching band — yes, Cedarville had a marching band that year! He writes, "Although I did not realize it at the time, the Bible minor and daily chapels were a vital influence on my life." He remembers many significant chapel speakers from the time he was a student through the years he spent on faculty from 1968–1996, serving on the library staff.
In 1996, Steve moved to Marion, Indiana, to serve on the library staff at Indiana Wesleyan University where he is currently the Technical Services Librarian. He is the Associate Editor for the Christian Periodical Index and served as treasurer for the Association of Christian Librarians from 1975–1996. In 1999, he received the Emily Russel Award from the Association of Christian Librarians.
He has served as a Sunday school superintendent, college-age and adult Sunday school teacher, member of the church building committee, and has driven a van to pick up college students.
Steve is a scholarship donor and started the Christian Service and Academic Excellence Award in 2006. His scholarship is given annually to two sophomore, junior, or senior students who have a cumulative GPA of 3.3 or above and demonstrate exceptional service in Christian ministries and adherence to biblical principles. He is also building an endowment so that this scholarship will be available for many years to come.
One of the reasons Steve was chosen for the Distinguished Service Award was because of his continued service to Cedarville in volunteering time each summer to catalogue books. Lynn Brock, Dean of Library Services, says that Steve is very good at the intricacies of cataloging rare books. Steve is the proud father of one son and three grandchildren and is also an avid Yellow Jackets fan!
One Another Mindset Award
Jeff Cook '81
Jeff Cook was married and in the Army when he accepted Christ as his personal Savior. He had no idea about anything biblical until he came to Cedarville University as a married, 25-year-old freshman. He writes, "Cedarville steeped me in the serious study of the Scriptures." While at Cedarville he became involved in youth ministry and rest home preaching. After graduating from Cedarville and then seminary, he and his wife spent 15 years as missionaries, first in Europe where he planted and pastored two American military churches and then in a German church for three years. When they returned to the States, he taught in Kansas City, Missouri, at an inner-city Bible college and served on the pastoral staff of an African-American, inner-city church. For several summers he also taught Arab pastors as an adjunct professor in Cairo, Egypt, and Beirut, Lebanon.
Jeff came to teach at Cedarville in 1998. He is currently an Associate Professor of Bible and Urban Studies. He has worked to educate himself, his children, and our students in the importance of recognizing and celebrating diversity within the body of Christ. He has integrated this philosophy into every aspect of his teaching and personal ministry here at Cedarville. He talks the talk and walks the walk. He has opened the eyes of both majority and minority students to the importance of the one-another mindset in developing a Christ-centered worldview.
Jeff often uses Proverbs 20:4 with his students as well as with his children: "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge." He believes it is not enough to simply be "excited about Jesus" or "excited about serving God" if it is uninformed and divorced from a clear knowledge of what God has said about Himself and reality. In fact, it can be destructive to have such zeal without biblical knowledge. He says, "Our knowledge, however, cannot be just scriptural, it must also be cultural. Like two wings on an airplane, we must have scriptural as well as cultural competency if we are to effectively represent God in an increasingly multicultural world."
Elizabeth (Ross) Shearer '70
When Libby was a child, she was quickly identified as a "tomboy." Her parents believed that physical activity was essential to a healthy life, so they facilitated her training in swimming and gymnastics. Even though she was terrified to compete in the Junior Olympics, her coach promised that the disciplined practices would pay off, and he was right. As a student at Cedarville, Dr. Don Callan noticed Libby’s passion for both gymnastics and swimming. Later, when her husband started working as the Pastor of Christian Education at Grace Baptist Church in Cedarville, Dr. Callan asked if she would be interested in teaching those classes. So, in 1979, Libby was hired as an adjunct professor.
Libby met her husband, Byron, at Cedarville and while he served as Christian Education Pastor, she was involved in a variety of church ministries — traveling on mission trips with high school students, developing various children’s ministries, leading Bible studies, and providing leadership to the Women’s Missionary Fellowship. She has mentored college students, cared for foster children and unwed mothers through the Baptist Children’s Home, taught physical education at Xenia Christian School, and worked as a lifeguard and Aquatic Director at the YMCA.
In 1995, the Lord took Byron and Libby and two of their four children to Russia for a year to investigate what became a new ministry of modular theological education in Eurasia that continues to today. When they returned to the States to live, they hosted two foreign exchange students from Russia and have made numerous trips back to that region of the world.
One of Libby's students said, "She encouraged my pursuit to understand Who God really is. She shows so much passion in her relationship, need, and trust in God and brings that excitement to the classroom."
Libby says, "Cedarville reinforced my biblical foundation and showed me that spiritual development should be integrated with every aspect of my being." Many years ago, Libby chose 2 Corinthians 3:18 as her life verse and wrote in the margin of her Bible, "giving God’s invisible character a glimpse of visibility." Her goal in life has been to be empty of self and filled with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Honorary Alumnus of the Year
Chuck McKinney's college education at Mount Vernon Nazarene University was interrupted in 1971 when he was drafted and served in the U.S. Army for three years. When he returned to Mt. Vernon, he met his wife, Cindy, in 1974, and they were married in 1976. He finished his B.A. in 1977 in church music with a minor in Christian education.
The McKinneys moved to Cedarville in July of 1980 when Chuck became the Director of Food Service, and they have never left! Throughout his years of faithful service to Cedarville University, Chuck has periodically sung in chapel and has seen all three of his children attend the University. And when alumni come back to visit campus, they walk into the cafeteria and immediately say "Chuck has not changed a bit!"
Chuck has always loved the 91st Psalm and draws strength from the words, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty."
Chuck plans to retire at the end of 2012, and the Cedarville University Alumni Association has chosen to honor his over 30 years of faithful service. It is entirely possible that Chuck knows more alumni than anyone!