MHU Presents Awards for Community Engagement

Mars Hill University handed out awards to four members of the campus and local community, acknowledging the important work they do to make the community a better place. The presentation came during the university’s annual Convocation and Celebration of Community Engagement, held Tuesday, April 17, 2018, in Broyhill Chapel.

Andrea Garber received the G. McLeod Bryan Caring Award for students, in recognition of her service work while a Mars Hill student, particularly to communities both in the U.S. and internationally which are facing economic and social hardship. “When you take the time to learn about others, you learn more about them than just their economic status, and they become people–they become real,” Garber said in her acceptance remarks. “It’s possible to be economically poor but be rich in community and love.” Garber said her experiences thus far in service work have led her to connect with people and see how similar and familiar they can be, even in areas widely separated by geography. “I believe that our focus needs to shift when we’re talking about other people, in order to gain more understanding,” she said. “Making these connections enables you to understand what a community needs more thoroughly, and therefore to be able to serve in a more effective way.”

Education Professor Deb Morris received the award for faculty and staff. In presenting the award, social work Professor Beth Vogler described Morris’s commitment to social justice as beginning in the classroom and extending to service fields abroad. “Students, this is your time,” Morris said. “This is your time to change the world…declaring ourselves as global citizens and realizing that what happens in Syria happens to us; what happens in Madison County happens to us.”

The Bryan Caring Awards are given annually in honor of the late Dr. G. McLeod (“Mac”) Bryan, a member of the Mars Hill class of 1939, and a professor at Wake Forest University. Bryan worked tirelessly for the cause of peace and justice, and influenced countless others to do the same. The Bryan Caring Awards recognize members of the college community who make significant contributions to a better community and a better world. The campus community recognizes one student and one faculty or staff member each year who has made a positive impact on the community, whose involvement in the community is ongoing, whose action in the community is directed at serious social challenges, and who works to connect the campus and wider community.

Mars Hill University student Storm Cash received the Michael Emory Award for Outstanding Christian Servant Leadership from psychology professor Ann Peiffer. The Michael Emory Award is presented annually to an individual who demonstrates Christ-like compassion, loyalty, and service to the economically, socially, or emotionally oppressed and diligent pursuit of truth and justice, even when such pursuit may be unpopular. Cash was recognized for her work helping marginalized students on campus, including leadership of the PRISM student organization, which has as its mission “to provide diversity education and resources to LGBTQ+ students in an attempt to further the value and sacred worth of every individual on the Mars Hill University campus.” The award is given in honor of “Big Mike” Emory, Mars Hill College class of 1985, whose life exemplified the criteria of the award. “Big Mike” was in seminary preparing for a life of ministry when a tragic accident led to his untimely death.

Mars Hill University President Dan Lunsford presented the I. Ruth Martin Award for Christian Service to Mars Hill resident Larry Burda. The award was established by I. Ruth Martin, a member of the Mars Hill College class of 1938, to be given to a Christian individual who has served faithfully without any spotlight recognition. Lunsford cited Burda’s long history of serving the Mars Hill community, including service on the board of directors of the Hot Springs Health Program, numerous roles in the Rotary Club of Madison County, volunteer construction work for the university and the Madison County Visitors Center, and service to the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit.

The Community Engagement Awards Committee also presented a special award to Lunsford, who is retiring at the end of the academic year. The award recognizes his “deep commitment to the Mars Hill University mission of character development, service, and responsible citizenship.”