On October 13, 2017, six of Clarks Summit University’s noteworthy alumni were celebrated during Alumni Award Chapel to close out CSU’s annual Alumni Bible Conference. The Clarks Summit University Alumni Association presents these special alumni awards each fall. God has used CSU alumni across the United States and in more than 70 other countries to make a difference for Christ.
About the Awards
The Alumnus of the Year has been presented every year since 1967; the Outstanding Service Awards were first given in 1984, and the Young Alumnus Service Award was first given in 2016. All award winners must have received a degree from CSU, cultivated an evident pursuit of Christ-center thinking and daily lifestyle that honors Him and hold an evident dedication to developing the life of Christ in others. The Alumnus of the Year must also have completed at least 10 years of faithful and profitable service to the Lord and demonstrated loyalty to CSU, its programs and/or its students or graduates.
Nominate noteworthy alumni for the 2018 awards by calling the Alumni Department at 570.585.9361 or emailing alumni@ClarksSummitU.edu. The deadline for nominations is May 31 each year. The Alumni Association Executive Council makes the final award selections.
Read on to meet all six 2017 award winners.
Alumnus of the Year: Mel Walker
Mel Walker is the president and co-founder of Vision For Youth, Inc., an international youth ministry network. He studied youth ministry at CSU and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1976. In addition to graduate work at Iowa State University and Faith Baptist Theological Seminary, he earned his Master of Ministry from CSU in 1996.
At CSU, he’s served as director of Teen Leadership Conference, director of public relations, instructor of youth and family ministries and vice president for alumni, communications and external relations. When he attended CSU, this student athlete’s claim to fame was shooting the first-ever basket in the newly constructed Phelps Student Center.
Walker also served as director of student ministries and youth editor at Regular Baptist Press where he led in their complete revision of the youth Sunday School curriculum. He was chair of the local church ministries department and instructor of youth and family ministries at Faith Baptist Bible College in Iowa, and he held pastoral roles at Calvary Baptist Church in Michigan.
Walker has directed numerous national conferences related to youth ministry and speaks to thousands of students, church leaders and youth workers each year on youth, family, ministry and parenting topics. An author and speaker, the most recent of his seven books is “Inter-Generational Youth Ministry: Why a Balanced View of Connecting the Generations is Essential for The Church.” A member of the Association of Youth Ministry Educators, he has received the Outstanding Faithfulness in Youth Ministry award.
He and his wife Peggy have been married more than 40 years and serve at Heritage Baptist Church. Their three children, all CSU graduates, serve in full-time ministry. They love spending time with their eight grandchildren.
Young Alumnus Service Award: Aaron Hixson
Aaron Lee Hixson is the Henrietta Campus Pastor of the multi-campus Northridge Church in New York. Hixson was born in Sandusky, Ohio, and grew up as the youngest kid in a pastor’s home. There, he had the privilege of seeing ministry modeled in his family.
He placed his faith in Christ at 5 years old through the influence of his parents at a backyard Bible club. A life-threatening accident in high school showed him life should be used to honor God and serve others. It was then that he set his sights on full-time, vocational ministry.
Hixson’s siblings, Charissa and Ben, both graduated from CSU and met their spouses at the university. While at CSU, Hixson traveled with RiSE and the Chamber Singers and met Lauren, who became his wife in 2013. He majored in Worship Ministry, graduating in 2012. He then earned his Master of Arts in 2014 and his Master of Divinity in 2017.
After serving as youth pastor at Northridge Church since 2013, he became campus pastor earlier this year.
He loves riding his motorcycle. He and his wife love watching Red Sox baseball, although he admits Lauren is a bigger fan than he is! They have an infant son named Greyson, whom Hixson describes as “super cute and a riot to hang out with.”
Outstanding Service Award: Michelle Hammaker
Michelle Hammaker is well known at CSU, probably because she’s served as a resident director on campus for more than 20 years. She spent three years as RD in Vibbard Hall. She’s been the one and only RD in Carter Hall since the hall opened more than 17 years ago. She also worked at CSU for 24 years, holding roles in the departments of athletics, admissions, alumni and the Office of Student Development. She now serves as administrative assistant at Heritage Baptist Church in Clarks Summit, where she helps people see where they fit best into the ministry of that local church.
Hammaker was born and raised in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. She placed her faith in Jesus at the age of 7 and was encouraged to attend CSU by her youth pastor and his wife, alumni Chuck and Gloria Cole. She followed their advice and graduated with her bachelor’s degree from CSU in 1988. As a student at CSU, she was a dorm officer, resident assistant and cheerleader. She is among many family members to attend CSU including two brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews.
After graduating, Hammaker spent two years as a missionary in Durban, South Africa, where she served as a church planting assistant involved with children, youth and women’s ministries. She’s served at Heritage in children’s ministries, as a youth leader and leader of women’s Bible studies. She’s also led student missions trips to Ukraine, South Africa and Germany.
She loves to spend time with family, dine with “the breakfast club” at the Sunrise Café, converse over coffee and visit the beach.
Outstanding Service Award: Craig Miller
Born and raised in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, Craig Miller placed his faith in Christ at the age of 8. A Pastoral Studies major, Miller graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 1979 and went on to study at the graduate level at Baptist Bible Seminary and CSU.
He was assistant director of Camp Bayouca, where he now serves on the Board of Directors. He was also learning center supervisor at Grapeville Christian Academy. Now he’s a secondary teacher, athletic director and head of school at Cortland Christian Academy in New York.
His wife Janice (Lyon) Miller graduated from CSU in 1984. They’ve been married 32 years and have four children—Jeffry graduated from CSU in 2010 and now works as math teacher and athletic director in New York; Kristen graduated from CSU in 2016 and works as the academic administrative assistant here at the university.
Outstanding Service Award: Bill and Kathy Brittain
Bill Brittain grew up right here in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania as the youngest of eight children. After his parents’ death, he was raised by his older brothers and sisters. At 21 years old, he came to know Jesus Christ as his Savior through the testimonies of two of his brothers. He then attended Heritage Baptist Church where he was baptized by Pastor Milo Thompson, former president of CSU. Brittain attended CSU, where he noticed a “pretty and talented chapel pianist,” and graduated in 1990.
Music Education major (and chapel pianist) Kathy (Hart) Brittain, was raised in Auburn, New York. She trusted Christ at Second Baptist Church through the influence of several godly Sunday school teachers. She heard about CSU from students at a nearby local church where she attended high school. A visit to campus made the decision easy as she remembers that everything about the school was inviting. She graduated in 1987 and married Bill that summer.
They had a daughter and became houseparents with Baptist Children’s Home in St. Louis, Michigan. Bill Brittain later became houseparent supervisor, director and then vice president of Baptist Children’s Home. Kathy served as an adjunct faculty member, teaching piano at Valparaiso University, and as director of fine arts at their church. They both served at Trinity Baptist Church in Michigan for 14 years in roles like deacon, AWANA workers, Sunday school teachers and in the music ministry before Bill was called to be the pastor. After nearly six years as pastor, Bill was asked to return to Baptist Children’s Home as president. He is now president and chief administrator, and Kathy works in the office. Together they travel almost every weekend, preaching, ministering in music and updating churches on the progress and outreach of the Baptist Children’s Home, which cares for nearly 900 orphaned, needy and disadvantaged children in the USA, India, Liberia, Myanmar and Nepal.
They both love antiques. He enjoys gem collecting, Saabs and the Detroit Lions. She prefers gardening, reading and enjoying the beach of Lake Michigan. They have three children, one grandson and have loved a foster son and a child-in-care, who both attended CSU.