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Alumni Awards

The Spring Arbor University Alumni Association 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 in a larger sense, to emphasize the high ideals of Spring Arbor University, which these individuals personify. The purpose is to challenge each alumnus to greater effectiveness in life and service to Christ. To nominate someone for 2021 you may use our online alumni award nomination ballot, email the alumni office at, or call 517.750.6687.

Alumnus of the Year Award

2020 Alumnus of the Year Award Recipient – Anthony Luttrell ’77

Retired – President of Luttrell Consulting Group, LLC.

Anthony Luttrell has 40 years of experience in the pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, and medical device industries. Luttrell has held numerous positions of increasing responsibility, from the laboratory bench to executive management. He has been responsible for several successful operational turn-arounds and specialized in helping operations mature and build scalable systems and organizations. Luttrell is also a member of the SAU Athletics Hall of Fame for Track & Field and Cross Country.

“Tony has modeled the SAU concept in both his private and professional life. He models Christ in his everyday walk displaying a high level of integrity and professionalism while on the job. Tony has great compassion for those around him seeking to help them according to their need.” – Brad (’77) and Laurie (’76) Buter

Awardee(s) are 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 2021 alumni awards.

Professional Excellence Award

2020 Professional Excellence Award Recipient – Kari Shimmel ’03

Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) at Campbell Ewald

Kari is the Chief Strategy Officer for Campbell Ewald. She leads the integrated strategy team (brand, content, social, digital and CRM strategists), consumer experience practice, business development and communications across their three offices (NYC, Detroit and LA). Kari was named to the Crain’s Detroit Business “40 Under 40” List, won 7 Emmy Awards, 2 D-Show Awards, 12 Healthcare Marketing Awards, 3 Aster Awards, 1 Global Award, and 1 Caddy Award.

“In her presentation to the SAU community in 2016, Kari fully articulated the benefits of her Spring Arbor University education stating that the liberal arts with a Christ-centered focus and critical participation in the contemporary world are foundations she uses every day in her career. As she works at the highest levels for one of the oldest marketing communications agencies in the world, she explained that she is very aware that she is helping to shape values in her audiences. Kari said that she sees it as a responsibility to impact culture for the better. Kari works hard to be faithful as an ambassador of Christ in her workplace.” – Brian Shaw (’90)

The purpose of the 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 2021 alumni awards.

Faithful Servant Award

2020 Faithful Servant Award Recipient – Ken Mills ’78

Executive Director at Southwest Michigan Youth for Christ

Ken first realized his need to accept Jesus as his personal Savior at age 16 while speaking with a band member traveling with Youth for Christ.  His passion for leading other people to Christ started that very day, and he called over several friends to hear how to be saved.  He later traveled a year with a similar YFC band, and volunteered with a club in Jackson, MI.   After college he came on staff with YFC Northeast Indiana , where he worked as a club director for six years, until transitioning up to Southwest MI  in 1984.  With God’s leading & great community support he was able to start the current YFC chapter in St. Joseph & Branch Counties.

“Ken has devoted his entire adult life to the service of God through the ministry of Youth for Christ (YFC).  In 2008 he received the Campus Life National Leadership Award and in 2016, he received a 40 year award by YFC. Counting his time in college until now, he has been in active and productive ministry for forty-five plus years.  Ken has had an incalculable effect on many lives.” – Anthony Luttrell (’77)

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 2021 alumni awards.

LeRoy M. Lowell Award

2020 LeRoy M. Lowell Award Recipient – Dr. Caleb Chan

SAU Professor of Business, Dean of the Gainey School of Business

Dr. Chan has been a part of the SAU community since 1993. As professor and Dean of the Gainey School of Business, Dr. Chan has impacted the lives of many alumni and has helped make the School of Business what it is today. Click here, to read more about his publications and honors.

“Dr. Chan emulates how to live out the Christian mission in the rapidly evolving business world. He constantly pursues every student in the way that he communicates, cares, and mentors. His leadership models a humble servant to every student who had the opportunity to sit in his office or classroom.” – Hannah Gilliam (’20)

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 2021 alumni awards.

Young Leader Award

2020 Young Leader Award Recipient – Dr. Jacob Atem ’08

Co-Founder & CEO at Southern Sudan Healthcare Organization

At the age of six, Dr. Jacob Atem traveled over 2,000 miles to escape a brutal civil war in South Sudan that claimed his family. For nearly a decade, he lived in an overcrowded Kenyan refugee camp where hunger and disease were daily struggles. Jacob is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Jacob received his bachelor’s in Biology from Spring Arbor University (SAU), Master of Public Health from Michigan State (MSU), and Doctorate in Environmental & Global Health from the University of Florida (UF).  After completing his PhD, Jacob was offered a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health. Currently, Dr. Atem is the CEO & Co-founder of the Southern Sudan Healthcare Organization (SSHCO), and adjunct lecturer for the School of Nursing at SAU.

“Jacob has impacted the lives of so many in his home country of South Sudan through his work, while also being an inspiration and model for Christ-like humility and excellence to the many people around the world who have had the privilege of meeting him and hearing his story.” – Brian Knapp (’10)

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 2021 alumni awards.

Concept in Action Award

2020 Concept in Action Award Recipient – Jonah Engle ’20

Director of EveryHeart Ministries

“Jonah has exemplified what it means to go out and serve the Lord as a critical participant in the contemporary world. He helped to start EveryHeart Ministries which tours around the US spreading the name of Jesus to people. In addition to this, Jonah was a vibrant participant of our campus community through serving as a student ambassador and an enrollment intern. He was also involved in athletics on the tennis team. I have known Jonah since we was a freshman and his passion for Jesus is so evident in his daily life. The way he lives out his faith really does demonstrate living out the SAU concept.” – Cecilia Said (’18)

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.