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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 nominate someone for 2022 you may use our online alumni award nomination ballot, email the alumni office at, or call 517.750.6673.

Alumnus of the Year Award

2021 Alumnus of the Year Award Recipient – Dr. John Taylor ’50

Retired – Surgeon

Dr. John Taylor is a retired surgeon of 30+ years, who has had an unwavering faith and commitment to his family. In his career, Dr. Taylor served on numerous medical associations and committees and performed one of the first liver transplants in the state of Ohio. Dr. Taylor also served as a faculty member at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine as a professor of surgery. Dr. Taylor is the great-grandson of Hudson Taylor, a founding missionary to China.

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 2022 alumni awards.

Professional Excellence Award

2021 Professional Excellence Award Recipient – Guy-Uriel Charles ’92

Charles Ogletree, Jr. Professor of Law – Harvard Law School

Guy-Uriel Charles, an expert in constitutional law, election law, campaign finance, redistricting, politics and race, joined the Harvard Law faculty as the inaugural Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. Professor of Law. He also serves as faculty director of HLS’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice. Professor Charles will continue, at Harvard, the important programmatic work he and many others do building mentoring networks and resources for prospective and new law professors from underrepresented groups.

Before joining the Harvard Law School, Charles held the Edward and Ellen Schwarzman Professorship of Law at Duke Law School, where he co-founded the Center on Law, Race and Politics. A leading authority on the role of law in mediating political power, Charles holds an endowed chair named in honor of HLS Professor Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. ’78. Ogletree, who dedicated his career to racial equality and social justice, taught at HLS for more than three decades.

Prior to Duke, from 2000 to 2009, Charles taught at the University of Minnesota Law School, where he served as the Russell M. and Elizabeth M. Bennett Professor of Law and as the interim co-dean from 2006 to 2008. At Minnesota, he was named the Stanley V. Kinyon Teacher of the Year for 2002–2003.

At Harvard Law School, he teaches Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Election Law, and Race and the Law and other courses and seminars in those areas.

Charles is currently working on a book with Luis Fuentes-Rohwer, a professor at Indiana University, Bloomington, on the past and future of voting rights. He is also co-editing, with Northeastern University Law Professor Aziza Ahmed, a forthcoming handbook titled “Race, Racism, and the Law,” which surveys the current state of research on race and the law in the United States.

Charles is a frequent public commentator on constitutional law, election law, and race, and he has published more than 30 articles in journals, including the Harvard Law ReviewConstitutional Commentary, the Cornell Law Review, the Michigan Law Review, the Michigan Journal of Race and Law, the Georgetown Law JournalThe Journal of Politics, the California Law Review, the North Carolina Law Review, and others.

Charles received his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and clerked for the Hon. Damon J. Keith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. While at the University of Michigan, he was among a group of students who founded the Michigan Journal of Race & Law and he served as the journal’s first editor-in-chief. From 1995-2000, he was a graduate student in political science at the University of Michigan. He earned a B.A. in political science from Spring Arbor University in 1992.

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 2022 alumni awards.

Faithful Servant Award

2021 Faithful Servant Award Recipient – Amber McKee ’93, ’97

Sr Director of IT Performance Excellence & People Technology Services at Dawn Foods Global

Amber received her BFA from Eastern Michigan University and then completed her BA in Human Resources and her MBA from Spring Arbor University. She has spent 32 years in the Jackson business community, 18 years working for CertainTeed primarily in Human Resources and the last 14 years at Dawn Foods. She is currently the Sr. Director of IT Performance Excellence and HR Technology Solutions at Dawn.

Amber has been an advocate for justice locally and globally. She has been active with the Set Free Movement working on the awareness, education and prevention of Human Trafficking for over eight years. She served on the Board for Aware Inc. for six years. Most recently, she worked with other local community members to start a new non-profit in Jackson called MyPlace. MyPlace provides rental living space for youth ages 16 to 21 who are at risk for exploitation. She is currently serving as the Board Chair.

Amber is a member of The Arbor Church, a wife and the mother of two adult sons. She enjoys reading, exercise, her dogs, the Falling Water Trail and anything creative.

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 2022 alumni awards.

LeRoy M. Lowell Award

2021 LeRoy M. Lowell Award Recipient – Dr. Terry Darling ’78

SAU Professor of Psychology, Dean, School of Social Sciences

Dr. Terry Darling grew up in Spring Arbor and graduated from Spring Arbor College in 1978. He has worked at Spring Arbor College/University since 1980, first as a half-time instructor and half-time Director of Counseling and since 1991 as a full-time faculty member. For the past 25 years Dr. Darling has been the Psychology Department Chair and is currently the Dean of the School of Social Sciences. In addition, he has co-led 19 SAU cross-cultural trips and has been the head men’s tennis coach at SAU since 1980.

Dr. Darling has received several awards at SAU, including the Teaching Excellence Award, Faculty Merit Award, Harold Darling Keeper of the Concept Award and most recently he was inducted into the SAU Athletic Hall of Fame.

Dr. Darling is married to Mary (Albert, class of ‘78), who also teaches at Spring Arbor University in the Communication Department and is herself a prior recipient of the LeRoy Lowell Award. The Darlings have two sons who also graduated from SAU, David (BA 2013/MBA 2021) and Michael (2015). David is married to Jenna (Bart) (BA 2014/MAC 2020) and they have two sons, Liam and Sutton. David currently serves as the Director of Tennis and Head Women’s tennis coach at Spring Arbor University. Michael is married to Ashley (Ganton) (BA 2016) and they have two daughters, Norah and Ramona, and a son due this month. Michael is currently employed at Skadden Arps, a law firm in Washington, DC.

Outside of his commitment to SAU, Dr. Darling finds great joy in being a grandfather, and continues his love of not only coaching, but regularly playing tennis. He is also busy trying to train a foster dog they adopted a year ago. You can ask him how that is going.

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 2022 alumni awards.

Young Leader Award

2021 Young Leader Award Recipient – Jason Atkins ’06

Missionary in Guinea-Bissau, Africa

Jason and his wonderful wife Emily left Spring Arbor in 2006 for his independent cross-cultural study: helping build a computer school in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. The trip was originally slated to be three months, but grew into a pair of 8-month trips and then a career. They have been working together in Guinea-Bissau for 15 years now, raising their three energetic kids in the beautiful, hot climate of sub-Saharan Africa and marveling at the work God has done.

Jason and Emily have been involved in ESL and computer training through Youth For Christ, and more recently vocational training, metal fabrication, machining, and construction to help support the efforts of church, non-profit, and government projects—especially those working in the areas of health, agriculture, and education.

They are currently in the middle of building a beautiful three-acre site in the town where they live, Canchungo, to become a permanent home for their family, shop, and ministry.

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 2022 alumni awards.

Concept in Action Award

2021 Concept in Action Award Recipient – Josephine Woods ’21

SAU – Student Teacher

Josephine Woods graduated with a Spanish and Elementary Education major at Spring Arbor University. Throughout her time at SAU she has had the opportunity to participate in many campus activities like Gospel choir, our black women empowerment group: GLOW. She had the opportunity to be an RA two years, and studied abroad in Guatemala. These were experiences that helped her grow spiritually and academically. She is thankful for all the professors, RD’s, classmates, members of student development, and friends that encouraged her along this journey. Josephine is incredibly honored and humbled to receive this award. Upon completing student teaching she hopes to be an Elementary teacher or a middle school Spanish teacher.

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.

David P. Rawson Award

2021 David P. Rawson Award Recipient – Dr. David Rawson

Retired – University Professor and U.S. Ambassador (Deceased)

Dr. David Rawson taught as a humanities professor at Spring Arbor University for 19 years, leaving a legacy of respect and profound impact. Before teaching at SAU, Rawson served as a U.S. ambassador to the Republics of Rwanda and Mali, most notably during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Rawson was born in 1941 as the son of medical missionaries from Addison, Michigan. He grew up in Burundi, Africa, and attended the Rift Valley Academy in Kenya. Rawson returned to the U.S. in 1958 and earned his bachelor’s degree from Malone College and his master’s degree and doctorate from American University. Before beginning his career with the U.S. Department of State, Rawson taught at Malone for six years. After serving as an ambassador, Rawson spent the remainder of his career teaching
full-time at SAU and part-time at Hillsdale College. In 2018, he moved to Oregon to be closer to family. In his final two years, he served as a Scholar in Residence at George Fox University.

The David P. Rawson Award is a new Spring Arbor University award created to honor the life of Dr. David Rawson and his years of service at Spring Arbor University. This award will be presented to an alum, current employee, or former employee who has made a global impact on society. This award highlights the recipient’s career and achievements while celebrating their unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ. The first recipient of this award is Dr. David Rawson.

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