Alumni Awards

Alumni Award recipients group picture

Each year Anderson University recognizes alumni and friends who have truly exemplified the call to live a life of faith and service. These awards are aimed at recognizing the accomplishments of alumni and friends and their service to humanity and society. These awards are given every year and each has different selection criteria. Nominations are encouraged by all alumni, parents, and friends of the University. To learn more about Alumni awards, you are invited to contact the Alumni Office at

2021 Alumni Awards Ceremony

Alumni Awards Criteria

The following awards may be presented annually to individuals that best fit the descriptions and criteria for each Distinguished Alumni Award.

You do not need to be an alum of the university to nominate an AU alum for an award.

Anderson University Distinguished Alumni Award

The following criteria are used in selecting the Distinguished Alumni Award recipient:

  1. An alumnus of Anderson University having completed a minimum of 24 semester hours
  2. One who has given distinguished service to humanity through his/her profession and/or personal achievement
  3. One whose contribution reflects well on the University

Anderson University Distinguished Young Alumni Award

The following criteria are used in selecting the Distinguished Young Alumni Award recipient:

  1. An alumnus of Anderson University having completed a minimum of 24 semester hours, and is under the age of 40
  2. One who since attending Anderson University has distinguished him/herself through professional and or personal achievement
  3. One whose contribution reflects well on the University

Anderson University MOSAIC Multicultural Alumni Award

The following criteria are used in selecting a MOSAIC Multicultural Alumni Award recipient who embodies the ideal of “modeling and promoting an environment in which all people feel welcomed and affirmed on the journey toward intercultural humility:”

  1. Intentionally fostering the values of diversity and racial harmony which are so deeply rooted in the history and theology of Anderson University and the Church of God.
  2. Extending hospitality by interacting in meaningful ways with people whose lives have been shaped by cultures different from their own.
  3. Engaging in scholarship or community engagement addresses issues of reconciliation, cross-cultural understanding, and/or racial justice.
  4. Serving as an advocate and change agent for marginalized communities.
  5. Challenging individuals to recognize automatic assumptions, perceptions, and stereotypes about people with different cultural worldviews.

Anderson University Distinguished Service Award

The following criteria are used in selecting the Distinguished Service Award recipient:

  1. Past or present member of Anderson University faculty or staff
  2. One who has given outstanding service to Anderson University
  3. A person who has characterized the values and ideals of Anderson University

John H. Kane Loyalty Award

The following criteria are used in selecting the John H. Kane Loyalty Award recipient:

  1. An alumnus or friend of Anderson University
  2. One who has given distinguished service to Anderson University
Distinguished Alumni

Angela (Lehr) Ellison BA ’94

Angela (Lehr) Ellison BA ’94 has been a police officer with the Fisher’s Police Department since 1996. She is the longest standing female officer and is very proud of that legacy. Angela was recently granted the title of CISM coordinator for the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police Critical Incident/Memorial Team and Wellness Coordinator for the Indiana State FOP.  Through her service at the Fishers Police Department, Angela has been afforded tremendous opportunities to reach outside of the agency to bring awareness of the stresses of police work and most importantly support those officers in need. Angela has been teaching classes to Chiefs and Officers for many years on the importance of self-care, stress management, and suicide prevention.  

Angela grew up in Anderson, Indiana and attended Park Place Church of God with her family. Her grandfather, Dr. Gene Newberry, was the Dean of the School of Theology while she was a young child. Her aunt, Jill Dickerson, was a grad of Anderson College and taught in the English Department. Both her mother, Kay Schlafer, and aunt, Beth Backus, are also alumnae of Anderson College.  

Angela attended AU 1989-1994. She worked as a custodian at Park Place Church during her freshman year and waited tables at Grindstone Charley’s restaurant until she graduated. Angela was blessed to travel on three trips with Tri-S which furthered her love of service and travel.  She majored in Criminal Justice and minored in Sociology and completed two college internships which helped solidify her desire to become a police officer.  

In the Fisher’s Police Department, Angela holds the rank of Sergeant and has spent her entire career in the Patrol Division.  Her passion for serving others began long, long ago, and she has been able to do so daily as a police officer; whether that means serving the men and women she works with each day or the community of Fishers. 

 Angela has held several ancillary titles in her 25 years including: DARE officer, a Field Training Officer and the Domestic Violence Coordinator/liaison to the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office. In the latter half of her career, Angela continues to wear many hats.  She is the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Co-Chairman for Hamilton County, the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Team Coordinator for FPD and a Crisis Negotiator with their Emergency Response Team.  

However, Angela’s greatest accomplishment has been her family.  Her husband of 16 years, Cameron Ellison, recently retired as a Captain at the Fishers Police Department and is currently the Chief of Police for Ascension St Vincent Healthcare System in Indiana. The Ellisons have three sons and have lived in Markleville for the last 5 years with their 3-legged rescue Boxer, Tyson. 

Previous Award Recipients

2020 Jeff Howard BA ’08
2019 Tom Hamer BA ’75
2018 Lloyd Larson BA ’76
2017 Beth Tharp AS ’80, MBA ’05
2016 Kristian Andersen BA ’96
2015 Tim Hobbs BA ’73
2014 Lawrence Brownlee BA ’96
2013 Rudolph “Rudy” Reginald Pyle III BA ’92
2012 Dr. Peter Beckman BA ’85
Distinguished Young Alumni

Jacob and Mia (Klaes) McCall BA ’16 and ’17

Jacob and Mia (Klaes) McCall are 2016 and 2017 graduates from Anderson University and are currently serving as missionaries in the Dominican Republic teaching English and developing English as a Second Language curriculum for the children they teach.  

During their time as students at AU, Jacob, an education major, and Mia, a nursing major, were highly involved in their academic programs and in numerous campus activities including student leadership Star Mentors and Big Buddies, Little Buddies, AU’s Prison Ministries Avanti Boosters social club, CAB scooters, Gospel Choir, and Swing Dance Club and The Christian Center homeless shelter ministry.

Jacob and Mia met at AU through mutual friends in the fall of 2013 and were engaged by the fall of 2015. The couple got married in July 2016 after Mia’s mother, Cathy Jo, had lost her battle to cancer just 6 weeks before. During their first year of marriage, Mia and Jacob’s professors went above and beyond to help the couple through a transition year that was harder than expected. Education professors advised and mentored Jacob, and Mia’s faculty were also compassionate and caring throughout her final year of nursing. 

While living and working in Columbus, Indiana, Mia and Jacob began serving in the church’s youth ministry. In 2018, a small team from the youth group took a trip to the Dominican Republic to help a Christian school for underprivileged Dominican and Haitian children. Jacob and Mia accompanied this trip as co-leaders and greatly enjoyed the opportunity to serve. Jacob and Mia returned to the Dominican Republic in 2019 as leaders for their youth’s annual service trip. It was during this visit to the DR that Jacob and Mia felt called to return as missionaries. “It felt like we were coming home,” they recall about their second trip to Freedom. There was an undeniable calling from the Lord placed on each of their hearts.Jacob and Mia moved to the DR on January 3rd, 2020.

While teaching the missionary kids in a homeschool co-op format in the early part of 2020, Jacob, very unexpectedly, had a large seizure. In the follow up testing to discover the cause, it was discovered that Jacob had a brain tumor and would need to go to the states to have surgery for its removal. The same day they received this news, Mia discovered that she was expecting the couple’s first child.

After a successful survey and recovery in the US, the couple returned to the Dominican Republic. Now a year past surgery, Jacob, Mia, and their baby girl, Zion Jo, are all happy and healthy! Jacob continues to teach English to some of the missionary kids, as well as an ESL class to the 6th grade Dominican Students. He has been working with the English team to recreate the ESL (English as a Second Language) curriculum for all upper-level classes. Mia is working on translating various curriculums from English to Spanish to be able to be taught in the students’ native language.

The McCalls will continue to serve at Freedom International Ministries for as long as the Lord calls them to be there.

Previous Award Recipients

2020 LaNesha Tabb BA ’06
2019 Chance Benbow BA ’10, Cassandra Rigsbee Spracklen BA ’09
2018 Philip Peters, BA ’02
2017 Kyle Schroeder, BA ’10
2016 Kara Carlisle, BA ’99
2015 Travis Taflinger, BA ’04, Casey Cline, BA ’03
2014 Paul Mumaw, BA ’97
2013 Ryan Daniel, BA ’07
2012 Amanda Scott, BA ’07
Distinguished Service

Rev. Jimmy O. Terry BA ’93

AU’s mission Called to Soar embodies a life of service to Christ and no one does that more or better than Pastor Jimmy O. Terry. Before his time at AU, he was dedicated to the mission work of Christ and has never stopped. There are places many people would be afraid to go, but Pastor Terry, with a huge smile and open arms walks into everyone’s life to greet them in the name of Jesus and they leave better. He is constantly doing disciples’ work, feeding the hungry, clothing those that are naked, visiting the sick, and providing the necessary tools to build up leaders. 

Jimmy is not only a seed sower, but a waterer so that God’s garden is well tended. 

Rev. Jimmy O. Terry is a New York/Long Island native having received undergrad and master’s degrees from Anderson University (BSW) and Full Sail University (MS) respectively. He served in Admissions at Anderson University from 2000-2004 traveling in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan to recruit. 

An ordained Minister, Rev. Terry has the opportunity to preach and teach in New York and across the country. He and his wife, Rev. Joyce A. Terry, from Indiana, have partnered for over 20 years in serving others through music, missions, and ministry to congregations, children, youth, and young adults both nationally and internationally.

Rev. Terry serves as Director of T.R.U.S.T. Ministries, a 501-3C non-profit organization that resources other nonprofits and faith-based organizations through consultation, leadership development, and on-site training.

Previous Award Recipients

2020 Lisa Ragsdale BA ’83
2019 Joe Royer BA ’96
2018 Janet Brewer BA ’77
2017 Chris Williams BA ’92, MBA ’00
2016 Dr. Merle Strege BA ’69, MDiv ’72
2015 Greg Heberling
2014 Tom Bruce BA ’71
2013 Dr. William Farmen BA ’58
2012 Dr. Stanley Stephens BA ’65
John H. Kane Loyalty

Zach Gray BA ’10

Zach Gray BA ’10 is co-founder and managing partner of Zinc Partners, a Salesforce consulting firm.  His business partner, Nick Vandergrift BA ’08, is also an Anderson University alumnus. Currently, Zach lives in Zionsville with his wife, Jessica, and 2 children, Hudson (7) and Quinn (4).  They are expecting their third child in March.  Zach and Jessica just celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary this summer.  As a family, they enjoy playing games, camping, movie nights, traveling, and dressing up for Halloween.  Zach also enjoys staying active through basketball, volleyball, and golf. 

During his initial college visit, Zach was drawn to Anderson University because of its small, welcoming environment.  He played basketball at AU all four years and built many long-lasting relationships with many teammates including business partner Nick.  Zach also served on the student government for two years.  He enjoyed campus intramural sports, playing frisbee golf in the Valley and serving up pancakes and eggs on Saturday mornings- a business he began with another entrepreneur in the dorm.  Zach was initially an Accounting major but had the opportunity to take several computer science classes and quickly became enthralled with software development.  

Zach graduated in 2010 with honors with a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science and minors in Accounting and Entrepreneurship. He is currently an adjunct professor at Anderson University, teaching classes on Salesforce applications and solutions

Prior to founding Zinc, Zach was Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of MS Companies. In this role, he was named the Indianapolis Business Journal’s CTO of the Year in 2017.  He also worked for Interactive Intelligence after graduation from 2010 to 2012.  Here, Zach received the Rookie of the Year award his first year for his hard work and positive attitude.

Over the past three years, Zach has offered his time and expertise to make virtual Salesforce-based internship classes available to approximately 20 computer science students at Anderson University. Besides the benefit that the internships have provided students, the classes he teaches make the computer science program at AU unique and distinctively different from other programs – something that is very helpful in recruiting new students.

In addition to the semester-long virtual internships, Zinc Partners has hired summer interns for the past three years and have also hired five AU computer science graduates for full-time employment.

As a student at Anderson University and as an alumnus, Zach has and continues to make Anderson University a better place. 

Previous Award Recipients

2020 Jim Ostrognai BA ’99
2019 Paul Saltzmann BA ’57
2018 Reverend Dr. James Earl Massey
2017 Richard Jason Lenz, BA ‘86
2016 Rev. Dr. Diana Swoope, Master of Religious Education ’81
2015 Deanna Edwards, BA ’65
2014 Dr. David Sebastian, MA ’77
2013 Dr. Fred Shively, BA ’61
2012 Connie Graham, BA ’75
MOSAIC Multicultural Alumni

Rev. Elsa Johnson Bass BA ’72

Rev. Elsa Johnson Bass is an associate pastor at the Christ Center Church of God in Philadelphia and has a seasoned career as a pastor, educator, and the founder of theaters and theatrical programs. In 2014, Elsa retired after 40 years as an educator-with a plan. In 2016, she founded the Cross Culture Christian Theater whose mission is to engage, entertain, and empower people while sharing the transformative power of the gospel.

Elsa Johnson Bass BA ’72 grew up in Erie, PA and planned to be an elementary school teacher, but her love of theater changed her path. Starring in a leading role ignited her desire to one day study theater in New York City.

In addition to her courses at Anderson University, Elsa was active on campus in several organizations which included Alpha Psi Omega, Debate Team, Inspirational Singers, Onyx Society, and in 1971, she became the first African American president of Camarada. Elsa performed in and directed many student theatre productions.

After graduating in 1972, Elsa realized her dream of studying in New York City.  She attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and was mentored by Lloyd Richards, the first African American director on Broadway. While in New York City, Elsa became a schoolteacher in East Harlem while pursuing her theatrical goals. One such goal was to create a Christian theater company. She founded the first Image Theater Ensemble in 1974 which performed in New York City for several years. The second company of the same name started when she married and moved to Philadelphia in the late 1970’s. 

Elsa taught at the prestigious Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), and for 21 years, she directed and produced classical and contemporary plays, musicals, Hispanic and African American History shows and children’s theater. She created the CAPA Caravan Theater which took high school students to elementary schools where their performances inspired children to Read to Succeed. CAPA Caravan impacted thousands of children, and Elsa was awarded the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2008 for her work. 

She became an ordained minister in 1996 and serves on the Board of Directors for the Christian Women Connection in addition to being an associate pastor at the Christ Center Church of God in Philadelphia. 

Elsa’s greatest treasure is her family. The unconditional love and support of her late parents, siblings and extended family keeps her strong. She is the proud mother of CEO/Principal, Aaron (Jessica) and Attorney, Jared (Chloe) and the delighted “Nana” of Gabriel, Erin, Josiah, and Caleb. 

Previous Award Recipients

2020 Rev. Dr. Kevin Earley, Class of 2008
2019 Ben Orcutt BA ’11, Emily Wasonga BA ’09
2018 Lerone A. Martin, BA ’02
2017 Aleza Beverly, BA ’83