Author Archives: presidentblog

Youth Ministries at IWU

Speaker, Zach Coffin, praying for the FUSION students.

“At the close of chapel, IWU student Olivia Eckart invited the student body to seek the face of Jesus in a new and fresh way. Students responded in mass and the service was extended for another three hours as students prayed with each other, prayed over each other and testified of mountains being moved in their lives.”

I marvel at the number of times people comment on the spiritual atmosphere at Indiana Wesleyan University in conversations with me.  It is often stated in words such as these, “it isn’t just words – this is truly a Christ-centered school – the spiritual atmosphere in this place is truly amazing.”  We know it is true.  We also know this is something we can’t manufacture or for which we can take personal credit.  But we often see the beautiful transformations in student’s lives happening before our eyes.

I have a genuine concern for the young people of today.  This world is perceptively crafty in creating avenues for temptation and peril at every turn.  Our Christian young people need to be incredibly strong to traverse their adolescent years without falling into any of the many available pitfalls along the way.

In the midst of it all, the Word of God rings true:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:1-2

Charlie Alcock, Professor of Youth Ministries

Understanding how vital it is to provide a place where teens can encounter God and be encouraged to walk in His ways, faculty member and Youth Ministry Professor, Charlie Alcock, has led the charge in orchestrating opportunities for young people to come to IWU for fabulous, Christ-centered conferences during their middle school and high school years.  The results are inspiring.  I want to share Charlie’s update about the most recent Fusion event:

On April 6 and 7, the Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) Student Ministries Department held its annual FUSION high school youth conference on the Marion, Indiana, campus. The conference featured Cory Asbury of Bethel Worship, Maddie Ray (artist), Zach Coffin (speaker), Olivia Eckart (worship leader), as well as seminar speakers Amanda Drury, Jim Lo, John Bundick, Kasey DeMicheal, Jacob Murphy and Anthony Cottrell.

Nine hundred seventy (970) youth registered for the weekend conference from 112 different churches. They were joined by IWU students and Marion community members in a Friday night worship service with over 3,200 in attendance.

Cory Asbury and Bethel Worship performing during FUSION.

FUSION 2018 started with the IWU chapel service featuring Cory Asbury of Bethel worship and speaker Zach Coffin. At the close of chapel, IWU student Olivia Eckart invited the student body to seek the face of Jesus in a new and fresh way. Students responded in mass and the service was extended for another three hours as students prayed with each other, prayed over each other and testified of mountains being moved in their lives. Stories of healing, financial miracles and recovery were blended with students seeking forgiveness and confessing publicly. It was an amazing movement that extended into the Friday night worship gathering and into Saturday. Not only were the two main sessions filled with Spirit-led worship and commitments, life changes and new commitments also occurred in the seminars.

Reports surfaced of classes becoming sanctuaries as one Tuesday night class the following week began with a short report about FUSION and ended over two hours later with students praying for one another and testifying of life changes. One class this week saw five students proclaiming Jesus as Lord or rededicating their lives to Him.

What a privilege it is to love these high school students and their leaders. Thank you to all the pastors, youth pastors and volunteer leaders who made the journey, some driving more than 20 hours. You are heroes and hero-makers.”

The first weekend of May, Charlie and his team will welcome over 1,300 middle school students to IWU for the Never2Young conference.  I can only imagine what great things will come from this weekend.  Thank you, Charlie, along with your staff for leading our youth to know and experience our great God!


Embracing Change, Adapting Ministerial Training for Today’s Minister


IWU President, Dr. David Wright and 2017 KERN Graduate, Jake Thurston

Someone once told me, “Sailors don’t complain when the wind changes direction.  They just adjust their sails.”

I’m not a sailor but this rings true for me. Life is full of changes. Sometimes I think about the world my grandparents lived in – how little a house cost, how low gasoline prices were, how direct and simple communication seemed to be.  People talked with one another on the porch rather than texting and sharing life updates in social media posts with photos captured by sophisticated cameras mounted inside expensive hand-held wireless telephones.

The winds of life change.  Whether we like it or not, we have to adjust our sails.

Ministry is no different.  At IWU we are blessed to prepare hundreds of women and men for ministry.  The pastors of our day live in the same complex and expensive world while following a passion to serve the Lord with all of their lives.  Many struggle to acquire the education they need without burying themselves in debt.

We are thankful for people who understand this reality and are determined to make a difference.  Mr. Robert Kern, who made his fortune as an engineer, has used his resources to be a catalyst for change in the pastoral education model at IWU.  Mr. Kern was young when his father, a pastor, sought further ministerial education.  He witnessed how challenging it was for his father to go back to school while juggling the pastorate and a family.

Mr. Kern and the Kern Family Foundation put together funding and asked three institutions to find a way to meet a goal: increase the educational training of future pastors and ministry leaders in less time and for less money.  IWU was one of those three initial institutions that took Mr. Kern’s challenge launching the KERN Program in 2012.

2017 KERN graduate and newly appointed Connections Pastor of Ransom Church in South Dakota, Jake Thurston expressed his admiration for the KERN program this way, “There are so many things I could say about the KERN program!  It was a life-changing, intense program that pushed me to think deep and to write at a deeper level than I could have imagined would be possible when I entered the program as a freshman.”

KERN students study together for five years, and in the process, they form relationships that are truly incredible to witness.  Jake describes studying together, worshipping together, going to conferences together, struggling through incredibly challenging courses together and through it all becoming a family.  “The bonds are truly amazing.  We have group texts, we share ideas, we pray for one another, we ask each other questions.  I have a community that is still with me today, even though I have finished my degree.”

Additionally, Jake praises the residency experience, “The beauty of the program is that it moves online in the last year allowing students to do a 12-month residency.  KERN understands that you cannot teach everything about the pastorate in the classroom.  When you finish this program, you will not find yourself saying ‘seminary didn’t teach me that’ because of that one full year of training in a teaching church.  That is where you learn so many practical ministry lessons.”  He adds, “At the same time that you are doing your residency, you are still part of your cohort, you still take classes and you are still being mentored by your professors.  I have bypassed 5-7 years of experience in my 2-year residency.  I know that I have avoided many rookie mistakes by being a part of KERN.”

The KERN program’s weekly mentor and shepherd, Dr. Eddy Shigley is also amazed by the power of this style of learning.  “When this program was designed, we knew it would be challenging.  We knew it would prepare pastors well educationally.  But, we did not fully realize that by doing education this way students would be uniquely prepared for ministry in other ways.  Because of the rigor of the KERN program, they have to pick up the pace, juggle many things well, handle pressure and they come out refined by the fire.”   He also speaks about the bond that forms within the cohorts saying, “these men and women are going to plant churches together, go on the mission field together – they are going to be in one another’s lives personally and professionally for years to come.”

He also explains the importance of mentorship is within the KERN program.  The students are shepherded spiritually to practice working hard while also shepherding their own soul in the midst of ministry.  They are building habits that will make them effective ministers that have strength and longevity.

It was a joy to hear Jake talk about his favorite years being those that were the hardest academically.  He describes year four as being a year when ‘the bar was raised.’  He was required to do a project for his hermeneutics class which later launched into his capstone project which led to a philosophy of ministry that will likely lead to his planting a church one day. He has plans to write a book that incorporates all of his ideas.  Through the program, Jake says, “I discovered how God had gifted and wired me for ministry.”  And he stated over and over again, “I am so grateful for KERN.”

Because of the generous financial contribution of the Kern Family Foundation, these graduates are paying less for their two degrees (a Bachelor of Science in Christian Ministries and a Master of Practical Theology) than they would for one undergraduate degree.

We are delighted with the success first and foremost of these students, as well as this program.  The first graduating KERN class in 2017 was 18 students.  From that first cohort, six have full-time employment at mega churches in the USA. The majority of them are full-time pastors, one is an adjunct professor and another has started their own ministry, which is truly thriving.

Interestingly enough, our School of Theology & Ministry hosted a residency fair earlier this month.  Churches who want to recruit our KERN students were here making connections with IWU ministry students.  Eight of the pastors present for the ministry fair were IWU KERN graduates!

Thank you to the faculty of the School of Theology & Ministry for taking the Kern challenge and developing a program that adapts to the needs of the world today, but more importantly fulfills our mission of changing the world by developing students in character, scholarship and leadership.  Well done!

To learn more about the KERN program, visit

A Story Full of Hope: Marion Design Co.

“And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7

A fascinating story has been unfolding over the last few years – a story full of hope.  I have asked my communications assistant, Jill Pederson, to capture this story so that I could share it with you….

“It began four years ago when our Art + Design Division combined design, interior design, art and social impact into a new degree called Design for Social Impact – an idea originally birthed by Professor Wendy Puffer.

Professor Herb Vincent Peterson and Teaching Fellow Luke Anspach joined the ranks of faculty at IWU – each adding key talents, knowledge and passion to the list of instructors guiding the Design for Social Impact students.

In 2015, one IWU design student who enrolled in a typography class with Peterson also took a journalism class to fulfill a needed English credit.  An assignment for this journalism class connected her to the Mayor of Marion where she learned of the city’s desire to re-brand itself.  However, the city had a significant challenge in that they had virtually zero resources.  This student carried the message of the city’s need back to Peterson, who knew that IWU could help.

Word spread about the “re-brand Marion” project.  Perhaps the most amazing of all was a group of 17 IWU students who refused to go home during the summer of 2016.  They felt called.  They wanted to use their talents to make a difference in this community.

Wendy Puffer, Marion Design Co. Co-Founder

Puffer explains, “We had a meeting in my living room.  We explained to them that we could not pay them.  We told them that we understood the importance of making money during the summer months.  We prayed as a group about what the Lord would have us do; not one student backed out.”

Peterson began searching for studio space where their sizeable team could land for the summer to do their branding work.  Their number one desire was to be in the heart of Marion.  Through a series of remarkable circumstances, less than one week after his first inquiry, Peterson was holding a freshly cut key to the vacant bank building across from the courthouse – a space they were given to use at zero cost for the summer.

The space was perfect.  It had the exact number of tables and chairs needed for every member of their team.  The county (current owner of the building) took care of utilities and maintenance needs.  The students and faculty worked for free.

“This became a hub for an incredible, immersive learning experience for 17 students and 4 faculty.  We became a ‘thing’ that needed a name.  Someone mentioned the name ‘Marion Design Co.’ and that was that,” explains Peterson. “Marion Design Co. was a project grown by faith.  God was at work because things that are not humanly possible were happening every day.  We finished each day that summer saying, ‘What a day!’  We were living it together.  Our faith was stretched.  Our students’ faith was stretched.  We were learning alongside one another.”

They describe difficult days in the bank.  Their branding research was not easy.  They held design thinking sessions where people came in with heavy burdens, heavy concerns for Marion.  People had stories they needed to tell.  Stories of racism, poverty and unemployment that spanned generations.  They also learned encouraging things and discovered strengths of this community. When things got especially challenging, they took retreat in the huge bank vault to read scripture and pray.

The bank became a sacred space, a neutral ground.  In time, as they listened to people, talked to people, the students and faculty who made up Marion Design Co. became representatives of the city of Marion.

The result was something none of them could have imagined – work for a lifetime.  The Marion Design Co. has become marketing agents for the city of Marion seeking to change the visual vernacular of this city.  They are helping to revive, empower and propel Marion to a brighter future.

Like an army of ants, the people of Marion Design Co. are marching out to serve on boards, committees and work on projects on a scale of which I am incapable of fully explaining in one blog.  They are re-branding storefronts, re-branding businesses and schools, producing radio spots, volunteering time, creating spaces for conversations and infusing hope into every place they go. They are slowly, but surely changing perceptions.

They have completed two notable projects:  the re-branding of the City of Marion and a complete re-design of the City of Marion website.  If you have not visited the new website, here is a link: Anyone who visits this website will see Marion through the eyes of people who care about their community.

“It is truly remarkable.  I just had a student tell me that he wanted to apply for a summer internship position with Marion Design Co. for this coming summer,” explains Anspach. “Just two years ago, all of this was just an idea.”  Anspach describes his joy in being a part of marrying design with passionate, creative college students and putting them to work in a community where they are genuinely making a difference.  As he explains, “To me, this is what it means to embody the gospel.”

The county has given Marion Design Co. permission to stay in the bank building until they have a buyer for this building.  I have a hunch that one day, Marion Design Co. will be forced to vacate so that a flourishing, successful business that sees an incredible opportunity in Marion can move in.

Our students and faculty have big, beautiful ideas for Marion, Indiana.  Do you?”

“Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things.” Vernor Vinge

Glad You Stopped By

My parents gave their lives to missionary ministry.  One of the lessons they taught by word and example was the joy of Christian hospitality.  Growing up, our home was always open to visitors from other countries.

One day I asked, “Dad, why do you always invite the visitors to our house?”  His answer has stuck with me for 50 years.  “We’ve been visitors in their countries and needed their hospitality.  It’s our place to show hospitality when they visit our country.”

It turns out that this was great preparation for our work here at IWU.  It is our joy to welcome many, many guests to campus each year.  Every visitor is important to us.  We want each guest to FEEL welcome on this campus.  Watching this short video illustrates just how important campus visits are – both to our students and to IWU.

Nicole Ignasiak, one of our student tour guides who also happens to be a stand-out IWU women’s basketball player, shares about one visitor in particular,

I gave a tour to a pretty shy boy and his mother. They seemed like they did not have a lot of experience with the college process. They were so appreciative of all the advice I gave them and love I showed them. When I prayed for them at the end of the tour like I normally do, the mother started crying. I could really tell I impacted this family in just 55 minutes and it was so rewarding. She couldn’t stop thanking me! I love talking about a school I love to students that need a home in the future.”

I am truly grateful for people gifted in hospitality, like Nicole.  Our admissions staff along with all of the IWU students who provide campus tours and/or host a prospective student overnight are invaluable to IWU.  They provide loads of pertinent information, share their passion for IWU, answer a wide variety of questions and open their hearts in hopes of helping each student they encounter find their calling for college.

To give you an idea of just how busy they are, IWU has hosted 2,206 prospective students since August 1, 2017.  Those visitors represent 26 states and 3 other countries.  October 2017 was a new record for our team – 866 visits in just one month.

Imagine having 2,206 opportunities in just five short months to love a stranger, which is the true meaning of the word hospitality.  Jesus modeled this in many ways.  The New Testament writers remind us often of the joy of welcoming visitors.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2) 

 “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:13) 

 We are honored to have such a tangible way to practice hospitality.  With that in mind, it would be our delight to welcome you as well.  Come by anytime!  Or, sign up for a day when our amazing admissions team has arranged these specific visit days:

Spotlight on Life Calling – January 19

Spotlight on Nursing – February 2

Spotlight on Art – February 9

Spotlight on Music – February 19

General Visit Day – January 19

General Visit Day – February 19

General Visit Day – February 24 (Includes optional Transfer Track)

General Visit Day – March 23

General Visit Day – April 6

General Visit Day and Spotlight on Juniors and Sophomores – April 13


I hope to see you soon!

The Blind Boys of Alabama to Perform at IWU


You will not want to miss a very special event taking place this coming Friday in Marion on the campus of IWU.

The Office of Multicultural Enrichment and Employee Development, The Multicultural Enrichment Council and The MLK Planning Committee have planned a community-wide celebration to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Friday, January 12, 2018.

The Blind Boys of Alabama will be the featured guests at our student chapel (10 a.m.) and during the MLK Celebration Concert, “Living the Dream” at 7:00 p.m. in the Phillippe Performing Arts Center.

The Blind Boys of Alabama are hailed as “gospel titans” by Rolling Stone and praised by the Washington Post for their “soul-stirring harmonies” and “range of cross-genre collaborations”. Rising to fame in the segregated south, group member Jimmy Carter reveals their goal has always been to “get out there and sing gospel music”.

Recognized worldwide as living legends of gospel music, The Blind Boys of Alabama have a 70-year recording career marked by 5 GRAMMY Awards (plus one for Lifetime Achievement), collaborations with greats such as Stevie Wonder, Prince, Lou Reed and Peter Gabriel, as well as television appearances and performances on some of the world’s most renowned stages. Indiana Wesleyan University is honored to have The Blind Boys join our community as we celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

For tickets to this free concert, visit

We look forward to seeing you at our 2018 MLK Celebration!

Proposed Tax Reform Negatively Impacts Private Higher Education

Those who keep abreast of political news may be following the tax reform legislation under construction currently.  We are monitoring the situation closely because of the current legislation in Congress (the Senate’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and H.R. 1 in the House of Representatives).  Both bills have serious implications for higher education institutions.

At this writing, both bills have passed in their respective chambers.  It may be possible to change the final version of the law during the Conference process when the House and Senate versions are reconciled with each other.

Here are proposed changes to tax law that could have serious negative consequences for higher education institutions:
  • Student Loan Interest – The current $2,500 student loan interest deduction would be eliminated. Result:  Student loans become more difficult to repay.
  • Charitable Giving – The standard deduction would effectively be doubled, significantly reducing the value of the charitable deduction. This change would result in a dramatic drop in the amount of charitable giving in the U.S. due to an estimated 32 million fewer people eligible to claim the deduction.
  • Endowments – Private institutions would pay a 1.4% excise tax on net investment income above a certain threshold based on the ratio of enrollment to endowment size. Result: This would reduce the amount of endowment proceeds available for operations and student scholarships for institutions that reach the threshold.
  • Tax Exempt Bond Financing – Private institutions would no longer have access to tax-exempt bonds. Result: Cost of capital for construction and improvements would increase.
  • Qualified Tuition Benefit Reduction – Tuition waivers for employees, spouses and dependents would become taxable. Result: IWU would immediate pay over $360,000 in new FICA taxes, and IWU employees would be liable for $1.4M in newly taxable benefits.
  • Lifetime Learning Credit – The current $2,000 per year tax credit for part-time, nontraditional students would be eliminated. Result: An incentive for adults to pursue degrees would be removed.

These changes directly impact the accessibility and affordability of private higher education at a time when these institutions are already vulnerable.  The Council for Christian College and Universities has been proactive in presenting our case against many of these measures. They seem to unfairly and inappropriately target private higher education.

Last month, Trustee David Dimmich and I participated with about 40 CCCU presidents, trustees, and administrators in an intensive day of visits to our Congressional delegates in Washington, DC, to make them aware of our concerns.  We were well received by our Indiana legislators including Senator Todd Young, Representative Susan Brooks, Representative Todd Rokita, Representative Jim Banks, and Representative Jackie Walorski.

We have reason to believe that at least some of these issues will be removed from the final version of the new tax code.

IWU Hoops Mission Impacts the World

Last week I was able to share lunch with senior business student, and IWU basketball player, Jacob Johnson. If you have spent any time around the men on our basketball team or their coach, Mr. Greg Tonagel, you might be familiar with the “I Am Third” philosophy that permeates this group of men. I left my lunch with Jacob encouraged to see yet another fabulous example of the fruit of the “I Am Third” mission.

During lunch, Jacob humbly shared what an impact IWU, and specifically IWU basketball has had upon his life. He was a believer prior to coming to IWU, but it became clear as I listened to Jacob share his story, that it has been here, as a student at IWU and a member of this team that his relationship with the Lord has been transformed from head knowledge of what it means to follow Christ to a heart experience. Jacob talked about struggling to adjust to the drastically different mindset of IWU basketball where he explains that, “his coaches truly care more about me as a person than what I can accomplish on the court.” After two years of watching and listening, Jacob explained that he finally “bought in” and fully embraced a new way of living life. He decided to go “all in” and make the commitment encouraged of him by his coaches – to do everything for the Lord and others first.

Coach Tonagel preaches “I Am Third” which means – God first, others second, and I am third. They measure success by their teammates growth. They play for each other. Greg describes his goal for his team as this: “We want to develop men who will leave our program to be “I Am Third” men in their homes as husbands and dads, in their communities, in their churches, and in their work places.”

Jacob caught the vision, and put it into practice in his life as a college student, and as an entrepreneur. During his freshman year, his best friend from back home called asking if he’d like to build a drone together. Jacob loved the idea and within months the two formed a partnership that has turned into a thriving business called ALPS (Aerial Logistics and Production Services). These young men recognized a business opportunity in drone inspection services. Companies in service industries now use drones for inspection work, but they do not always want to be in the drone business (purchasing, certifying, licensing, piloting, etc.). Jacob and his partner have been there to meet this growing need.

They have four pilots and they are in the early stages of spreading their network nationally. While Jacob is licensed to pilot drones, his partner does most of the flying while he maintains his focus on sales, networking, business development, accounting and so forth. In the beginning, they did deeply discounted work in order to get new business, gain credibility and generate referrals. He explains that the business has exploded in the last six months and he is excited to graduate and make ALPS his full-time work. Check out their website to learn what these innovative and highly motivated young men are doing:

As I listened to Jacob talk about ALPS, I was amazed by the tone of his conversation. He exuded praise for his professors who have mentored him both practically and spiritually as he has walked the road of learning how to grow a new business. He spoke about the amazing business growth that has taken place during the busiest season of his life. He explained that when he decided to go “all in” with the Lord, the things in life that should have been impossible came to fruition and the things in life that should have overwhelmed him did not. He says, “We see that God’s hand is in it [this business]. He gets the glory. We pray over all of it and trust God.”

I asked Jacob if he had any advice for other college students. He did not hesitate—take risks while you are young, fail early and often learning from your mistakes, find mentors who can walk beside you, and don’t be afraid to put in the work. Persistence is important. He quoted Colossians 3:23 ‘Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men’ and proceeded to explain how choosing to focus on this verse has changed everything he does, “I’m doing this for the Lord. We want it all to point back to God.”

To say that I came away from lunch encouraged is an understatement. Jacob has learned an invaluable life lesson – how to practically put God first in all things. He has practiced that while he has been a student at IWU and I know he will continue doing so when he leaves this institution. I was also encouraged because Jacob is speaking truth that is good for ME to hear. Putting God first in all things. I am third.

To read Jacob’s blog on the site, visit:

David Wright and Jill Pederson

Spiritual Life on Campus – Chapel

If you utilize social media sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter) or visit national news sites, you will most likely agree that we are living in a rapidly changing and politically super-charged day.

Our residential students are also engaged in social media and, for most, their days at IWU are the first where they find themselves interacting with the world from outside the umbrella of parental oversight.

Knowing how pivotal college is for young adults, we at IWU are very intentional about our time together – both in the classroom, as well as every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning when our Marion IWU community meets together for chapel. It is our time to worship, encourage, nurture, as well as stretch our student’s hearts and minds towards a deeper life in Christ.

I’ve known our Dean of Chapel, the Rev. Dr. John Bray, for many years. Before coming to serve as Dean of the Chapel he was the senior pastor of Heritage Church in the Quad Cities (Indiana/Illinois) – a position he held for 41 years. John and his wife Patty are passionate about inspiring our young people to think about their lives and the world around them in light of the truths of God’s word.

For this academic school year, John has arranged some fascinating chapel themes and guests speakers. I want to share a few with you, to provide a glimpse of the ‘chapel part of life’ for our residential students.

Chapel at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, IN.

Chapel at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, IN.

Our theme for this fall is “Choices Matter”. Every Monday, faculty from our School of Theology and Ministry are preaching through the book of Philippians. Paul, the writer of this book, consistently chose joy! What an powerful message for our students.



We launched Hispanic Awareness month by welcoming Gabriel Salguero, pastor of Lamb’s Church of the Nazarene in New York City, and founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) which offers an important leadership voice for the close to 8 million Latino evangelical people in our country.

Did you know that 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation? Dr. Bray has enlisted faculty emeritus, Dr. Bud Bence, to dramatically portray Martin Luther.

To commemorate Global Awareness Week, we look forward to hosting Maryam & Marziyeh, Iranian women who were imprisoned for 256 days because of following the teachings of Jesus. In an Iranian court, they were ordered to denounce their faith verbally and in writing, but they stood firm replying, “We love Jesus. We will not deny our faith.”

Feel free to listen in by visiting our website’s chapel podcast archive:

(David Wright and Jill Pederson)

Success or Significance? Stories of Alumni

Success. The desire for it drives us.

Yet one single, absolute definition of success eludes us as there are so many lenses with which to view success. Still, somehow, it seems easy to recognize when success is achieved.

Would you agree with those statements?

Even the conversation about success is subject to a person’s viewpoint. Is success measured by a position in life, accomplishments, wealth, outcomes achieved, a sense of inner peace, the ability to aide our fellow human beings, obeying the Lord’s will no matter the cost?

We at Indiana Wesleyan University think about success quite often because we want our students to succeed in the classroom and in life. We want our alumni to succeed professionally. We want them to be well prepared for the journey God has laid out before them.

But there is something we want for our students to achieve even more than success. That is significance.

Recently I heard someone say that success is what dies with you. Significance is what outlives you.

I ask you, if it is so very challenging to define success in one absolute way, what does it mean for our lives to have true significance?

Significance, in my viewpoint, is when an individual uses his or her God-given gifts and abilities to impact the world for Jesus Christ, wherever that may be. It could be in a classroom, an office, a lab, a tent or a concert hall. The light in their eyes, the joy in their hearts is obvious when they are using their God-given gifts to the fullest for His glory.

A favorite part of my role as President is celebrating our alumni. The stories are endless, they are wide-ranging in variety, and truly inspiring.

Perhaps it is because of my background as a missionary kid, that I cannot help but feel drawn to the stories of alumni who go to regions of the world where they are a light for the Lord in a place that does not yet know Him. I often think of simple truths found in God’s word such as “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3) or “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Both are true! Alumni who take the truth of God’s word seriously and live their lives to please Him –wherever it is that God leads them after IWU – achieve significance in ways that make me exceedingly proud.

With that in mind, I close with two alumni stories which I have shared with our Board of Trustees recently. If you enjoy these stories and want to read more, visit the IWU Alumni website at and look for the Alumni Blog. Also, be sure to visit the IWU Adult & Online Facebook page where posts regularly provide updates of National & Global alumni accomplishing great things within our world.



Marie Beechy – graduated in 2017 with a Master of Science in Nursing Education. Marie is the Director of Projects for One Refugee Child, an organization which raises funds to improve the day-to-day lives of refugee children. They have raised over $100,000 in funds for refugee children, delivered winter wear and blankets, handed out hundreds of strollers along with infant care items, provided school supplies for schools and distributed hygiene kits to newborns in refugee camps.


Ruth Olson (middle) – graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. For Ruth’s first year out of college, she has been serving in Iraq meeting the medical needs of refugees with Samaritan’s Purse. She has returned home to Tennessee. Not only is she an awesome nurse, but she is a Christ follower who is choosing to use her gifts to help others and spread God’s love around the world.