Skip to main content

Alumni Awards

The Spring Arbor University Alumni Awards are given to celebrate character traits, values and accomplishments that exemplify the discovery, development and realization of individual potential, as found in Christ.

These awards are not given simply to bring attention to the recipients, but to emphasize the high ideals of Spring Arbor University, which these individuals personify. The purpose is to challenge our alumni to greater effectiveness in life and service to Christ. To to learn more about our alumni awards and to nominate an alum, click here.

Alumnus of the Year Award

2022 Recipient – Don Walker ’78

Retired Consultant & Administrator – Global | Eli Lilly, Partner | Spring Arbor Group, Former Spring Arbor University Trustee, Current Spring Arbor Foundation Board Member

Don has forty-plus years of experience in manufacturing and logistics management. He specialized in finance early in his career and then moved to operations management while working at five different locations for Rockwell International’s Automotive Operations. With that combination of skill-sets, Don moved into management consulting mostly in the areas of transportation management and supply chain network planning. During his consulting career at Coopers & Lybrand, PricewaterhouseCoopers and ultimately IBM he had a very diverse set of clients including Walt Disney, Technicolor, Waste Management, Sara Lee Foods and Halliburton to name a few among 30+ projects. A dream consulting opportunity to help Eli Lilly plan and implement US and European logistics networks for a radioactive Alzheimer’s diagnostic kept being extended and turned into an opportunity to work directly for Lilly. Don concluded his paid work career in 2019 after being at Lilly for seven years.

Don’s volunteer career also spans over 30 years, joining the Spring Arbor College Board of Trustees in 1989 and retiring this past May. He remains on the SAU Foundation Board. Additional board appointments include Oklahoma Wesleyan for 20 years and Don is currently on the foundation boards at Olivet Nazarene and Northwest Nazarene University. You might say he has a passion for Christian higher education. He has also served as a consultant for other Christian colleges. He currently resides near Boise, Idaho with his wife Coleen, close to three of their six children and all four of their grandkids.

The alumnus of the year is selected on the basis of the broadest aspects of Christian service to humanity and achievement in the recipient’s chosen vocation, community service, or service to Spring Arbor University, and whose life exemplifies Christian principles. Nominate an alumna/alumnus for our 2023 alumni awards.

Professional Excellence Award

2022 Recipient – Joshua Willard ’08

Owner & CEO | Josh’s Frogs

Joshua Willard earned a BA in Youth Ministry from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana and then served as a youth pastor for seven years before completing his master’s in
counseling from Spring Arbor University. In 2022, Joshua and Julie Willard celebrated their 19th wedding
anniversary. They live in Byron, MI with their five kids.

Joshua is the CEO and founder of Josh’s Frogs. Josh’s Frogs is an online pet store specializing in exotic pets (frogs, lizards, and tarantulas), the insects they eat, and the plants/supplies they need to thrive in captivity. Josh’s Frogs has been recognized as one of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies for the past five years.

Joshua is very active at Fowlerville United Brethren Church where he has served on the finance team, as an elder and even preaches every now and then. He also serves at the United Brethren denominational
level on the Lane Holme board managing a fund to supply retired pastors with a quarterly monetary gift.

The purpose of the professional excellence award is to recognize alumni who have made outstanding contributions to their profession and community, and achieved honor and distinction for Spring Arbor University. The recipient must have been established professionally for at least five years and must hold membership in at least one professional organization. The recipient’s accomplishments, achievements, or contributions must have been previously recognized by their profession. Nominate an alumna/alumnus for our 2023 alumni awards.

Faithful Servant Award

2022 Recipient – Kathy ’72 and Jim Cole

Retired Educator and Manufacturer

In the fall of 1968, Jim was serving in the US Army in Germany when Kathy, a freshman, headed to Spring Arbor College from their hometown of Midland, MI. Little did they know that Spring Arbor would become their home for 53 years and counting!

Jim and Kathy married on September 6, 1969. They honeymooned in the thumb area of Michigan for two nights before making their way to their new home in Spring Arbor because Kathy started her sophomore year the next Tuesday. Within a week, Jim had a job at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, and he worked tirelessly to put Kathy through school.

Having grown up in families with parents that were “faithful servants,” Jim and Kathy quickly immersed themselves in The Arbor Church and shared their time and talents by teaching Sunday School
and singing in the choir. And so began a long tradition of service that followed many tracks.

Most satisfying to the Coles was sharing their home and using their vehicles to encourage people and support various ministries. When their first big passenger van died, they thought they could not afford another. But after driving their four boys with the Bible Quiz team to Chicago and back in an eight-passenger station wagon, they realized they could NOT afford to be without a large passenger van.
With the purchase, came the commitment to make it the Lord’s van, and it serviced Him well by transporting teens to Colorado for the International Youth Conference (IYC), carrying men to retreats at
Camp Barakel, moving sound equipment, providing storage for the four Cole boys and their friends to attend family camps at Somerset Beach, and many other uses.

After the two oldest Cole boys had flown the nest, multiple SAU students lived with the family for the summer, a semester or two, or long-term. One was Marcy, a cousin’s daughter, who was with them
for four years. She was joined by Hiie, an Estonian student, who lived with the Coles for three years to complete her undergraduate degree and then continued to call Burr Oak St. her American home while in
graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis, MO.

Jim and Kathy thought they were done with hosting students when they retired and moved to the Arborwood Condos. BUT then they heard about Nathalie, from Brazil, who needed a place to stay while attending SAU. So, they welcomed their second international daughter into their home and lives for four years of study.

Kathy’s first foreign mission trip was a teen trip to Mexico. When she started teaching in the public schools, she regularly participated in summer mission trips to Kenya, Romania, Costa Rica, and Portugal. Eventually Jim got a passport and joined her for trips to Burundi, Hungary, and Costa Rica. Their Facebook pages are full of friends from around the world.

Jim’s unwavering passion has been volunteering with sound and technology needs primarily at The Arbor Church and other events since the early 1980s. He is a FILO man, “First In, Last Out.” Kathy has mainly served in teaching, leading, and helping ministries. They’ve discovered that being a faithful servant is simply being available and using what you have to meet the needs of others.

The purpose of the Faithful Servant award is to recognize alumni of SAU for faithful service to church, family, community or others with the purpose of furthering God’s kingdom. The alumni also serves in ways that are frequently overlooked and they go above and beyond what is expected over an appreciable amount of time. The service is not in the capacity of their profession and without regard for reward (either financial or personal). Nominate an alumna/alumnus for our 2023 alumni awards.

LeRoy M. Lowell Award

2022 Recipient – Kim Hayworth, Ph.D. ’90, ’97

Vice Chancellor for Student Access and Success | Montana State University Billings

Kim Hayworth became the Vice Chancellor for Student Access and Success at Montana State University Billings (MSUB) in June 2019. Previously, Kim served as the Spring Arbor University Vice President for Student Development and Success from 2006 – 2019. Prior to 2006, Kim held various roles at SAU in student development and admissions. Some of her favorite roles include teaching Core 100 for 13 years, heading up the Core 100 Peer Advisor program as well as leading nine spring break mission trips to NYC with her husband, Scott (’96).

Kim is passionate about higher education and the impact it has on all graduates but especially the trajectory of first generation and underrepresented students. SAU and MSUB are a perfect fit for those passions as both institutions enroll a high percentage of students classified as “at-risk” students. Kim finds joy in mentoring young women as they navigate finding, fulfilling, and thriving in their calling to be lovers of God and leaders in the world.

Kim received a B.A. and M.B.A. from SAU and in 2014 earned Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University. Kim and her husband moved their “farmily” of six horses, three dogs and four outdoor cats to Montana in 2019 after spending a dozen years exploring Montana and Wyoming on
vacations. Regardless of the season, their goal is to get out hiking every weekend in the mountains. Kim currently serves on the Board of Directors for United Way of Yellowstone County

The purpose of the LeRoy M. Lowell Award is to recognize excellence in employee service (past or present) characterized by consistency and outstanding contribution to the educational ministry of Spring Arbor University. The recipient need not be an alumnus of Spring Arbor University. Nominate an alumna/alumnus for our 2023 alumni awards.

Young Leader Award

2022 Recipient – Amanda Parrish ’09

Partner & Chief Operating Officer | Fawley Bryant Architecture

Amanda Parrish joined Fawley Bryant Architecture (FBA) in 2016, serving as the
director of marketing and business before assuming her role as partner and COO. With an unwavering belief in teamwork, Amanda looks for ways to cultivate the unique skills and talents of those around her and puts a premium on company culture, which has resulted in increased employee retention and significant new projects for the firm.

Amanda recently completed her tenure as board chair of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance and continues to serve as a member of the executive committee. She is a member of the Business Observer’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2019 and a graduate of the Greater Sarasota Chamber’s Leadership program.

Growing up in Shelby Township, Michigan, Amanda accepted a basketball scholarship to Spring Arbor University, where she earned her degree in Advertising and Public Relations with a minor in Professional Writing. In December of 2018, Amanda published her first children’s book, and in 2020 she graduated with a master’s in Organizational Leadership from Jacksonville University. Amanda currently lives in Bradenton with her husband and two daughters.

The purpose of the Young Leader award is to recognize superior achievement of alumni whose lives exemplify Christian principles and who are outstanding leaders in their profession and community, and who demonstrate promise of further distinction. The recipient must be between 25 and 40 years of age. Nominate an alumna/alumnus for our 2023 alumni awards.

Concept in Action Award

2022 Recipient – Elizabeth Stewart ’22

Facilitator | The Nantucket Project

As a student, Elizabeth pursued God’s calling on her life by loving and serving her fellow students and seeking to be a critical participant while attending SAU. During her junior year, she was part of the first nationally recognized Bridging the Gap program. Elizabeth also had the opportunity to participate in the American Neighbor project where several college students and social justice leaders traveled down the Mississippi River stopping at cities along the way to have courageous conversations about race. A mini docuseries was filmed and produced by The Nantucket Project. Elizabeth now works for The Nantucket Project in Los Angeles, CA as an influencer and facilitator.

The purpose of the Concept in Action Award is to recognize a graduating senior who most closely embodies the values and goals of the Spring Arbor University Concept. The recipient must demonstrate academic excellence, leadership qualities, exceptional commitment to service opportunities, and a life dedicated to Christian principles. Faculty, staff and administration of the University will recommend candidates for this award.

Share your congratulations with our award recipients below. Tell us who you are, and specify the recipient within the body of the note.