Distinguished Alumni Award
Don '70 and Sue (fs, '68) Wilson
Don Wilson was born on a farm near Alta Vista, KS, and is the youngest of five children. Sue (Thompson) was born the third of four children in Hugoton, KS, where her father was the owner/operator of the local IGA grocery store. Both grew up in Christian homes where they learned to work hard and love the Lord. They, in turn, passed those biblical principles on to their own family.
They both attended Manhattan Christian College, where they met and fell in love.They married in 1968 and have three grown children and 11 grandchildren. All of their children are involved in full-time ministry.
Don continued his education at Kansas State University and then went on to earn both a master’s and doctorate from California Graduate School of Theology in Church Growth and Administration.
Together, Don and Sue had ministries in Elmdale, Hartford, and Washington, KS. Don also served as the Student Recruiter and Basketball Coach at MCC for four years.
In 1975, Don and Sue moved away from their rural roots to become part of the population explosion in Phoenix, AZ. He held ministries at First Christian Church and Northwest Christian Church before together they started Christ’s Church of the Valley (CCV) in 1982 in their home. Since then, CCV has grown into one of the largest independent Christian churches in the United States on a 100-acre campus with five additional satellite locations and over 25,000 in weekly attendance.
Don has served as the President of the North American Christian Convention, the MCC Board of Trustees, NACC Board of Stewards and the EQUIP Board. Don is a certified leadership trainer with John Maxwell’s company, EQUIP, and has trained more than 5,000 Christian pastors and leaders around the world.
As a ministry-team, Sue supports Don as well as mentors pastors’ wives and other young women seeking to serve God. Together, they have worked to follow God’s call on their lives and to make a difference for his Kingdom.
Alumni Ministry Award
Bill '79 and Marcia (fs, '76) Thornton
Bill was raised in Garnett, KS, by parents, Bill and Lola Thornton, and enrolled at Manhattan Christian College in the fall of 1975. A year earlier, Marcia, a daughter of Dale and Marylyn Rowe, became a student at MCC after growing up in Omaha, NE. As students they met, and later married on August 6, 1977. While at MCC they welcomed the first of their four children, Tami, and served together in two student ministries: First Christian Church, Osage City; and the Church of Christ, Council Grove.
Following graduation in 1979 they moved to Council Bluffs, IA, where Bill served as the Youth Minister of First Christian Church for three years. In addition to being active with the youth ministry, Marcia enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom to Tami, as well as Jenny who was born during this time. She also continued to minister to families by providing daycare to a number of children. During this ministry Bill began work on a Master of Ministry degree at Creighton University in Omaha that was completed in 1984.
In 1982 they moved to Lincoln, NE, to serve the Capitol City Christian Church. Bill held associate roles until 1995 when he was named Senior Pastor. They welcomed two more children, Mark (1984) and Matthew (1991) during this time, and Marcia added teaching in the church’s preschool, to the support she offered to Bill in his ministry. In time four grandsons would join the family, as well as a number of foster grandchildren.
After 30 years with the church their lives took a new course when Bill began teaching as a member of the faculty of Nebraska Christian College in January 2013 and they moved to downtown Lincoln so that they could become more actively engaged in Jacob’s Well. Founded by their son, Mark, Jacob’s Well is a Christian community development ministry that involves the entire family and ministers holistically to the needs of their neighborhood as well as the community of Montrouis, Haiti.
In addition to helping prepare the next generation of church leaders at NC, Bill and Marcia find themselves busy with folks in their neighborhood, particularly the children and the elderly. They help with a weekly children’s program (Kids at the Well), a community garden, a twice monthly food distribution that serves about 1,000 people, and a neighborhood worship service at a nearby church, all of these efforts sponsored by Jacob’s Well. You can go to www.jacobswell-lincoln.com to learn more about what God is doing in the urban core of Lincoln through the ministry of presence.
Alumni Professional Excellence Award
Dr. Leslie E. "Les" Palich '81
When Les Palich reflects back on his time at Manhattan Christian College, he does so with the fondest of memories. “I grew up in so many ways during that time—intellectually and academically, of course, but also spiritually, socially, and in a number of other important respects” he says. “My studies at MCC provided a vital foundation for living the Christian life, including participating in and contributing to the life of the local church.” His preparation there also provided the knowledge, skills, and critical-thinking routines that have made his career as a university educator possible.
Les grew up in Gilbert, AZ, and attended Central Christian Church with his family in nearby Mesa, where he learned from the excellent preaching, teaching, and leadership of MCC alumni, most specifically Charles Cook and Tom Hawks. Because of the impression these men made on Central’s youth, many of them decided to attend MCC, and Les also followed in what came to be a well-traveled path between Mesa and Manhattan.
After graduating with an A.B. degree in Bible-Christian Ministries in 1981, Les served in various capacities at Broadway Christian Church in Mesa, AZ, and Christ’s Church of the Valley in Phoenix, AZ. He also became the Director of Student Recruitment at MCC from 1983-1984. It was from this experience that he became more interested in the management of organizations and decided to pursue an MBA at Arizona State University, a degree which he completed in 1986. Sometime later, having passed through a series of doors that God clearly opened, he continued his studies at ASU, earning a PhD in Strategic Management in 1992. This led to his joining the faculty of the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University in Waco, TX, where he lives with his wife, Dianna, and their two children, Ben and Abbey, and where he currently serves as the W.A. Mays Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management.
When asked why he decided to pursue a career in academia, Les is quick to explain that having the opportunity to be a part of the process of helping to shape the lives of college students was the pivotal consideration in his choice. Though much of his time is taken up with academic research and writing, which he enjoys, his greatest delight comes from being with his students in the classroom or in the study abroad setting, where he can really get to know those who take his classes. These settings provide “do unto others” opportunities through which he is able to help his students gain their footing in life, thereby following in the footsteps of his own professors at MCC who always took the time to help him and his peers grow and develop into well prepared followers of Jesus Christ. Les maintains that his professional endeavors will be more than worth the effort if they bear even half as much fruit as has been borne in the hearts and minds of those who have had the extraordinary privilege of attending Manhattan Christian College.
Distinguished Alumni Award
Dr. Vernon Rodgers '52
After becoming a Christian in April 1948, Vernon Rodgers had a plan: He would major in pre-medicine at Southwest Baptist University and become a doctor. By October 1948, his freshman year in college, Vernon was headed west from Missouri to Manhattan, KS. Vernon’s preacher, Maurice Strater had convinced him that he needed to attend Manhattan Bible College instead!
While at MBC, Vernon met his future wife, Jodie (Klarquist ’51). They married in 1949 and spent time ministering in two northeast KS churches throughout college; Soldier and Circleville.
Vernon graduated in 1952 and continued ministering, this time on a full time basis. From 1952-1968 Vernon and Jodie ministered in Ash Grove, MO, Harper, KS, and Draper Park Christian Church in Oklahoma City, OK. 1968 was a big year, as Vernon helped start the Asia Pacific Christian Mission in Indonesia, was called to Hillcrest Christian Church in Granada Hills, CA. where he was allowed to attend graduate school to earn a Ph.D., and began serving on the greater Los Angeles Sunday School Board, where he served for 25 years.
Following graduate school, Vernon worked as a marketing VP, and what started as an interim ministry with Cornerstone Christian Church in Tarzana, CA became a 24 year ministry. In 1974, Vernon was asked to be Chairman of the Southern CA Sunday School Convention, which was a successful endeavor.
In 1999 Vernon and Jodie moved to Prescott, AZ to serve at Prescott Christian Church. Even today Vernon continues to minister by preaching, teaching, counseling, and calling on the sick and bereaved. He continues to serve on the Asia Pacific Christian Mission Board, and has traveled to Indonesia three times to teach and preach. In Vernon’s own words: “Retire….perhaps one day.”
Alumni Ministry Award
Steve '78 and Debbie '78 Palich
Steve and Debbie first met one another at Manhattan Christian College, as they were both on the same gospel team and in “Celebration Singers”. Steve played soccer and basketball, traveled for a year with “Triumphant Sound”, and enjoyed being a supervisor at Sanderson Hall. Debbie was also a part of “Triumphant Sound” for three years.
After graduating from MCC (Debbie was also a dual-degree major in elementary education with KSU), Steve began an eleven year ministry with Central Christian Church in Mesa, AZ. While there, he was blessed to be mentored by Charles Cook (former MCC professor), John Hendee, and Dr. Roy Lawson. He completed his MA in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary during this time, while serving as the Youth Pastor for six years, and then as the Pastor of Adult Education. Debbie served first as the curriculum consultant at a Christian bookstore, and then as a teacher in Central Christian’s elementary school before becoming a stay at home mom for their three children.
In 1987 Steve and Debbie became missionaries with Christian Missionary Fellowship (CMF International). From 1990-2002 they worked as church-planting missionaries in Mexico City. From 1996-2002 Steve was also Latin America Coordinator for CMF, supervising church-planting ministries in Brazil, Chile and Mexico. In 2000, Steve established and served for 10 years on the steering committee for “Globalscope”, a partnership of Christian Campus Fellowship, GA Tech, and CMF that establishes international campus ministries.
In 2002, the Paliches returned to the US to continue with CMF through their headquarters in Indianapolis, IN. Steve started as Dir. of Church Mobilization, and in 2012 began a new role as Dir. of Ministry Center Development – establishing holistic ministries among the urban poor in Latin America. This work takes him to Mexica, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil.
Debbie continues to work with CMF in the area of mobilization of CMF missionaries and serves the needsof partner churches.
The Paliches enjoy spending time with their children and grandchildren who all live in the greater Indianapolis area.
Alumni Professional Excellence Award
Dr. Edgar J "Eddie" Elliston '66
According to Eddie Elliston, “MCC broadened my concept of ministry and provided a base for my commitment to missions.” And what a commitment it has been!
Eddie grew up in the small community of Palco, KS and attended Stockton Christian Church. During a high school church camp in Colorado, Eddie met his future wife, Donna (Odom). He graduated high school and through the impact of an MCC Gospel Team visit, turned down a full ride scholarship to Texas Christian University to attend MCC in the fall of 1961. Donna later came to school at MCC as well, and Eddie and Donna were married in 1964. Eddie graduated from MCC in 1966, and went on to earn his Masters from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1971 and Ph.D. from Michigan State University in 1981.
From 1968-1986, the Ellistons served with Christian Missionary Fellowship (CMF). From 1968-1977 they ministered in Ethiopia. While there, they were involved in planting 60 church congregations, helping administer 12 elementary schools and a full service health clinic, and Eddie designed an Oromo literacy program. He also designed leadership training and preached in Amharic. After political strife, the Ellistons were sent to Kenya with CMF, where they worked extensively among the Turkana, Maasai, Pokot, Giriama, and Samburu peoples. He administered relief programs, taught at Daystar International University, and he and Donna were deeply involved in the Maasai Bible translation project.
In 1985 the Ellistons moved to CA where Eddie embarked on his formal teaching career, eventually directing masters and doctoral programs. He designed and taught online courses at Fuller Seminary, and in 1998, moved to Hope International University to serve as Provost and VP for Academic Affairs.
In the recent past, Eddie has continued to work in higher education programs at Indiana Wesleyan University and William Jessup University. He has published articles and is a publishing reviewer. The Ellistons currently live in Missouri.
Distinguished Alumni Award
Harland Cary ('40)
In 1937 before Harland Cary attended Bible College, he was ordained to the ministry. He married Hazel Frances Johnson on June 4, 1938 and that same fall he transferred to Manhattan Bible College.
He earned a Certificate of Biblical Literature in June 1940 and stated serving the Christian Church in South Hutchinson, KS. In September 1942, Harland went to Cincinnati, OH, to attend Cincinnati Christian Seminary where he graduated in May 1943.
For the next three years he hitchhiked all over the United States to raise missionary support for what he felt God was calling him to do. In August 1945 Harland moved his family to Texas with the intent of starting a Spanish Bible College.
Colegio Biblico was established in 1945 in Eagle Pass, TX, to prepare workers for Christian ministry among the 350 million Spanish-speaking peoples of the world. It was the first institution of higher education to minister to the Hispanic people in the United States. Today, 90% of the Hispanic preachers in the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ in the U.S. are graduates of Colegio Biblico.
From 1949 to 2012, there have been 484 graduates of Colegio Biblico. These committed men and women are spreading the Good News in the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, Spain, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras, Brazil, and Argentina; with 75% serving in Mexico, 20% in U.S. Hispanic communities, and 5% in Latin American countries and Spain.
Colegio Biblico offers academic programs to prepare students for preaching and teaching the Bible. Students pay only a $60 registration fee per semester. In exchange for 20 hours of work on campus each week, the students get their education, room, and board. As part of the academic program these students are involved in local ministries in 30 churches in Texas and Mexico as well as sharing the Gospel through preaching, music, and drama at camps and youth conventions.
Harland was the founder and president of Colegio Biblico for more than 30 years. It was his lifetime mission work and the Administration Building on the Eagle Pass Campus is named after him. The cafeteria is named after his wife, Frances.
Over the years, Colegio Biblico has grown to become two campuses; one in the United States and one in Mexico.
Crusader Ministry Award
Harlan "Sandy" ('75) and Barbara ('71) Sandell
Married for 46 years, Sandy and Barbara Sandell have served together on the mission field for 39 years. The Lord sent them first to Europe, then to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, and then on to Thailand and Laos. Together they have continually sacrificed their comfort by living in difficult situations, sleeping in primitive villages on split bamboo floors and eating barely edible things such as a soup of leaves boiled in salt water. They have learned how to live with the local villagers as well as be accepted by them so that those same villagers would listen to the gospel message that they were sharing.
“The Lord calls us to go to exotic places to spread the good news of His love, and then waits for us to answer His call,” Barbara says. “When we answer His call, He equips us with the unique gifts and abilities that we need to do the job He has set out for us to do. It is our greatest honor and blessing to have been chosen the Lord to do His bidding, His calling, His work.”
After Barbara graduated from MCC in 1971 with a degree in Bible/Christian Education, she went on to study social work at KSU. She then worked a total of 7 years in the local hospital and the county social and rehabilitation services.
Before coming to MCC, Sandy served in the U.S. Army for four years. As a student, he continued to serve in the special force reserves. He graduated from MCC in 1975 with a degree in Bible/Missions. He was a decorated military soldier throughout his career receiving 15 medals and accommodations by the US government and 2 by the South Vietnam government. It was while Sandy was in the military that he received some medical, dental, and pharmaceutical training that he would later use in China, Burma, Laos, and Thailand.
Since 1985, the Sandells have lived and worked among the Lahu and Karen tribal groups of Northern Thailand. Sandy has served as a medical/dental worker and Barbara known as MamaLow (the big, important missionary lady) has been by his side and an integral part of the overall work. In addition to leading Bible studies, evangelizing, baptizing, and helping the locals make a better life for themselves, together the Sandells have raised three daughters and one adopted son from the Lahu tribal group of Northern Thailand on the mission field. Now they also have 4 grandchildren.
As a family they have taken care of the sick, smuggled thousands of Bibles across the borders, trapped a cobra in the house, taught Bible studies and preached at large conventions through an interpreter, prayed for the sick and watched them be healed, prayed for the demon possessed and witnessed them being released from the oppression, and watched the miracle of people turning their lives around. To God be the glory!
Crusader Professional Excellence Award
Ron Grover ('64)
After graduating from MCC in 1964 with a degree in Christian Education, Ron and his wife, Linda (the president’s daughter), headed out to serve the Lord in whatever role He had in store. The next 9 years (plus student ministries while at MCC) took them to Belvedere, NE; Greenleaf, KS; Garden City, KS; and Lincoln, IL.
God used the activities of Ron’s large Christian Education ministry at Lincoln Christian Church and his leading of many activities at Lincoln Christian College the opportunity to develop his gift of administration. He went on to serve as the administrator of Christian Homes, Inc.; the nursing home administrator at Pleasant Meadows Christian Village in Chrisman, IL, the Lewis Memorial Christian Village in Springfield, IL, and then as Vice President of Development at Manhattan Christian College.
In January 1982, Ron was called to serve as the Administrative Pastor at Central Christian Church in Wichita, KS, a church that at the time was teetering on the brink of financial disaster. When Ron’s ministry began the church’s weekly debt obligation was $17,000 (interest only). By 1988, the church had sold all non-essential items, reduced the staff size, exercised their option on 20 acres adjacent to the existing property, and refinanced so that the debt obligation went to under $10,000/week (interest and principle).
Other exciting developments during his 16 years at Central included writing the bylaws for Central Christian Academy, Central’s counseling center, and Joyful Noise Preschool. At the same time, church attendance grew from 450 to 2,500, the giving increased from $800,000 to $3.5 million/year and the staff grew from 8 to 50.
Ron left Central in 1997 to serve as Director of the adult degree program (LAMP) at Johnson Bible College and manage the college bookstore. In 2001, Ron and Linda moved to New Orleans to be a part of a church plant with their children, Rick and Ronda and their families. He served as Pastor of Administration, once again setting up bylaws, budgets, and assisting with fundraising, etc. The church also established a non-profit center to help the underserved called Building Better Communities. After Hurricane Katrina, Ron acted as “donation manager” and led volunteers in organizing the receipt and storage of 17 semi truckloads full of donations for Katrina victims.
In 2005, Ron returned to Central Christian Church in Wichita, KS, as the Pastor of Benevolence Administration for His Helping Hands. For the next 6 years his role included the completion of a new warehouse, establishing policies and procedures for receiving and distributing donation to the underserved, seeing private donations increase from $37,500 to $250,000/year and helping establish a Spanish-speaking congregation called Casa de Luz.
Officially retiring in 2011, Ron now keeps busy “coaching “people one-on-one in managing their finances. He and his wife Linda enjoy traveling and spending time with their children and grandchildren.
2013 Alumni Award Winners
Denise Wren, Ken Cable, and Larry Sullivan (not pictured: Dan Mitchell)