Judson University Honors Alumni at Homecoming Weekend 2013
(Elgin, IL - October 9, 2013) Judson University welcomed its first class of students to campus in fall 1963. Back then it was called "Judson College" and it was home to just one mansion and a carriage house, situated on 19-and-a-half undeveloped acres, but in 50 years, it has grown into Judson University, home to 1,100 students, 17 different buildings and more than 50 different majors and minors.
Alumni from Judson’s first graduating classes in 1964 and 1965 were interviewed at the “Pioneer Panel” on Friday afternoon, September 27. These pioneer Judson students, now in their late sixties and early seventies, recalled the first days after the Elgin campus opened in September 1963. There were stories of dorms that weren't ready for that first class of students, and the small yet fun gatherings and activities that kept students busy those first few years, and stories of how each student put their faith in the college that hadn't opened yet.
But perhaps most poignant was Carol (Thompson) Hunt's story of being one of the first African American students to attend Judson College when it opened in 1963. Hunt had been one of only a handful of racial minority students at Northern Theological Seminary in Oak Brook, Ill., when Judson College existed as Northern's undergraduate branch, but she chose to move with the school to Elgin.
"It's significant to me that Judson is celebrating its 50th anniversary at the same time that our nation is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement," Hunt said. "There were many challenges racially, but the professors and community really supported me. Judson gave me a foundation for living. It helped me in my life as an African American. Some of my brothers and sisters carry the bitterness of being immersed in severe racial tension when they were young like me, but because of Judson's supportive and loving environment I didn't have to carry that hatred and angst."
Several other alumni from more recent graduating years were also honored at Judson’s homecoming weekend festivities. Alumnus Eric Rojas ’90 was the keynote speaker for the school's fourth annual Network Night on Thursday evening, September 26, where he spoke on the connection between faith in God and career opportunities. Rojas serves as the executive pastor of Christ Community Church of St. Charles, Ill.
During Friday's annual Alumni Homecoming Chapel, Kristy Engel ’92, a pediatric nurse practitioner who works as a healthcare relief resource missionary for Latin America and the Caribbean, shared insights from her career.
Later Friday evening, Judson hosted a 50th anniversary concert, which featured performances from the Judson University Choir, Alumni Choir, and the Judson Civic Orchestra, directed by Judson's Choir Director Warren Anderson. The event also honored two alumni, Aaron Niequist '98 and Dr. Donald Ferrell '68.
Dr. Anderson presented the Distinguished Alumnus award to Aaron Niequist, a 1998 graduate of Judson's music theory and composition program. Niequist is an experienced worship leader that has served evangelical mega-churches such as Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Willow Creek Church of South Barrington, Ill. Niequist currently serves as Willow Creek's worship leader and he's also the creative mind behind A New Liturgy, which is a series of 25 recorded "liturgies,” or worship journeys of music, scripture, prayer, and space.
"It's not just Aaron's talent that has made him a wonderful worship leader, though talent is important," Dr. Anderson explained in his presentation of the award. "It is his humility that sets him apart. Aaron's call to lead for major churches like Mars Hill and Willow Creek have put him the spotlight, but he remains a humble and gifted leader."
The Distinguished Alumnus Award is given to alumni in recognition of outstanding contribution to their profession and community modeling excellence in their vocation.
Following Niequist's honors, Sally Boscaljon '73 presented the Alumnus of the Year Award to Dr. Donald Ferrell '68 in recognition of his significant contributions to the church and society, consistent with the mission of Judson University. Ferrell is a licensed clinical psychologist and earned his Ph.D. in psychology from Illinois Institute of Technology. He and his wife Terrie served as houseparents in Ohio Hall from 1976 to 1982. He also taught in the Human Relations Division at Judson before taking a position at Wheaton College where he served as the Director of the Counseling Center. Today, he serves the Judson community as the director of Counseling Services.
Homecoming Weekend festivities on Saturday included a day full of family-friendly activities, an alumni banquet and a fireworks display. Current Judson students enjoyed formal dance for students in Chicago at The Drake Hotel.