53 years ago, Clarks Summit University awarded its first Alumnus of the Year. Since then, the Outstanding Service Award and Young Alumnus of the Year Award were added. Nominations are made every year by CSU alumni. The winners are voted on by the Alumni Association Council.
Paul Golden, executive director of alumni and development said, “When we look at who should get these awards, we are looking for men and women who have been faithful to Christ – faithful to serve Him in whatever their calling is.”
Alumnus of the Year Award
Winners need to have a degree from CSU and at least 10 years of faithful service. The Alumni Council looks for Christ-centered nominees who have demonstrated loyalty to their alma mater and dedication to pointing others to Christ.
The winner of the 2020 Alumnus of the Year Award is Barb Peil (’85).
Barb Peil (’85)
Following her graduation from CSU in 1985, Peil earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education in 1987, becoming one of Dallas Theological Seminary’s first female graduates.
Over the next 30 years, Peil used her Bible training to serve God capably and confidently in what she calls “ministry investments.” Initially, she taught students how to communicate and write—both in high school and then as adjunct faculty at Biola University and The Master’s College. For 11 years, she served the Lord at “Insight for Living,” the radio ministry of Chuck Swindoll, and then later for seven years at “Walk in the Word.” Peil also came alongside communicators and pastors, helping to take their message from spoken word to the page.
“Writing has never been the objective for me—it’s how to best get out the message,” admits Peil.
A gifted communicator, educator and writer, Peil has written for prominent pastors and has been a go-to editor for several Christian publishers, like Zondervan, Moody, LifeWay, Worthy Media and Thomas Nelson. Just last year, the YouVersion app invited her to write several devotional plans, which have since been downloaded more than 100,000 times.
Peil has also served the Lord with ELIC, traveling to more than five countries helping teachers get placed in spiritually dark areas of the world. With an eye toward global ministry, she also helped Prison Fellowship International with communication strategies. Today, Peil serves as vice president of communications at Thru the Bible, the radio ministry of Dr. J. Vernon McGee. She recently began condensing the content of 1,300 studies, which have aired on Christian radio for over 50 years, and making them accessible as written summaries. “I couldn’t do this without my training from CSU and DTS,” said Peil. “We’re taking God’s whole Word to the whole world—same message, new mediums.”
The CSU 2020 Alumnus of the Year Award was presented to Barb Peil in recognition of her faithful service to the Lord and loyal support of Clarks Summit University.
“In these years of ministry, I’ve left my heart all over the globe—mostly by sharing God’s Word through Christian radio and publishing with people I’ll meet around the table in heaven someday,” said Peil. “In my freshman year, I filled out Jesse Eaton’s commitment card: ‘Yes, I am willing to go into overseas missions.’ The answer has always been ‘yes,’ but the path has been unexpected…The secret, I am learning, is being willing to take the next step with Jesus, day by day. And let His Word—with applied Principles of Bible Study methods—build your confidence in what you hope for, in things you are certain of, but cannot see. Follow every thread, and you’ll find Jesus. Follow Jesus, and you’ll find life.”
Outstanding Service Awards
Each year, the CSU Alumni Association Council awards four Outstanding Service Awards. These awards are given to individuals who have received a degree from CSU, maintained a quality association with the school for at least 10 years, shown a dedication to pointing others to Christ and cultivated an evident pursuit of Christ-centered thinking and daily lifestyle that honors Him. This year’s winners of the Outstanding Service Award are:
Gina Ruby (’86)
God led Ruby to Clarks Summit University from Kalispell Montana in 1982. Gifted musically, Ruby chose CSU because of their outstanding bible teaching and music program. She was a member of Chamber Singers for all four years and traveled on a gospel team. She graduated in 1986 with a Bachelor of Science in Bible, Music and Elementary Education.
After graduation, Ruby moved to San Diego, California, where she served two years on staff at Christian Heritage College. She married a pastor, and they were involved in youth ministry from 1988 to 2002.
In 2002, life took an abrupt turn. Her marriage ended unexpectedly. It was during these darkest days, God gave Ruby the verse Nehemiah 1:8, and she adopted “choose joy” as her mission to get through life’s tough storms. During that time, Ruby did volunteer missions work in Uganda, Brazil, Bolivia, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. She sang, took up ballroom dancing and focused on creating her dream of a health and wellness career.
“Even if we have a day job in the secular workplace, we are still called by God to do missions,” Ruby said. “As I live my life, my work has become my mission field. Our community is our mission field. The secular workplace can be a forgotten mission field, and sometimes we truly are the only Bible some people will ever read.”
In 2006 Ruby married Andy. Ruby has been a certified health coach for the past 16 years and loves opportunities to integrate spiritual things into her coaching.
In 2018, Ruby was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Through that experience, she found her firm foundation in God and trusted in His faithfulness and omnipotence as she clung to her “choose joy” philosophy. She used cancer as a platform to talk about the Lord with others, because as she said, “No one is going to tell a cancer patient to be quiet.” God chose to heal Ruby, and she is grateful for every day she gets with her husband Andy, enjoying life in California with her bonus daughter, son-in-law and grandson.
“’Choosing Joy’ has been my life buoy and anchor when yucky stuff happens,” Ruby said. “I especially needed that in 2019 when my brother Brandon was diagnosed with cancer and the Lord called him home.”
Ruby’s positive testimony through good and bad times, faithful witness for Jesus Christ and her loyal support of CSU has inspired many.
“The training at CSU is biblical and foundational training that carries students through the rest of their lives,” said Ruby. “All those great classes that I took built a foundation. They taught me about the Word of God. They showed me who I am and who Jesus is. That foundation carried me through the years. It gave me a love for vocational ministry. The foundation I got then set the whole trajectory of my life.”
Dr. Norman Peart (’83)
Saved without the context of the local church, Peart remembers having communion by himself, following instructions he saw on television. God led him to Evangel Baptist Church in Queens where he was discipled and grew. Encouraged to attend CSU by his pastor, John Mlynar, Peart planned to pursue missions. “Early on I realized that Christians were saved to serve, and it changed my whole focus,” Peart said.
At a Mission Conference, Peart heard Rev. Starlon Washington. Washington pointed out that countries who sent missionaries were not always leading vibrant ministries at home. It was there that Peart felt called to be a pastor and serve God in the local church. “You would think, at a missions’ conference, people would be called to go into missions. I, at a missions conference, felt called to go into the pastorate,” Peart said.
While at CSU, Peart served as president of the Pastoral Interest Fellowship, a member of the Student Leadership Council and a resident assistant in Christen Hall. He received the Preacher of the Year Award and was named Who’s Who Among American College and University Students.
Peart graduated in 1983, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Religious Education. He went on to earn Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He also earned a Doctor of Philosophy in sociology and urban studies from Michigan State University. During his years in Michigan he served on the pastoral staff of Community Bible Baptist Church in Grand Rapids.
Peart met his wife Carolyn at a wedding in Pennsylvania. They communicated long distance and still have their love letters that they sent each other over their courtship. They married in 1990 and have four sons.
With a burden to start a multi-cultural church, Peart began to pursue church planting. “It’s amazing the way God put together the tapestry of my life in preparation for ministry,” he said.
In 1995, the Pearts planted Grace Bible Fellowship in Cary, North Carolina. The church grew under Peart’s leadership, and he currently serves as lead pastor. Peart has worked as a post-doc researcher and adjunct lecturer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is currently adjunct professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological College and Seminary and a volunteer chaplain with the Cary Police Department.
In 2015, Peart founded Building Bridges, a group that enhances community unity. He is the author of “Separate No More: Understanding and Developing Racial Reconciliation in Your Church.”
“I know now why my pastor pointed me in the direction of CSU. It was their strong, foundational teaching,” said Peart. “I got a heavy grounding in Bible. The Bible was real, and I saw it in the lives of people around me. It wasn’t just the Word, it was the Word communicated. I was influenced by great men like Dr. Emert and Dr. Carter. I learned to value history and the Bible. I learned to love the Church and that the Church not only has a history but a future, and I was going to get to be a part of it.”
Doug (’85) and Sharon Martin (’85, ’10)
“Our favorite memories include playing on the men’s and women’s basketball teams and dorm life in Ridley and Fletcher,” said Sharon.
The Lord used a summer mission’s trip to Brazil with ABWE missionaries to call Doug and Sharon to missions. They graduated in 1985 and were married at Heritage Baptist Church by Rev. Milo Thompson.
Early in their marriage, Doug was a youth pastor, and Sharon was a Christian schoolteacher. The Martins moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Doug completed his Master of Divinity degree in 1992. He served as an associate pastor at North Park Baptist Church, and Sharon taught at Bethel Christian School. They served together as resident directors at Grand Rapids Baptist College, now Cornerstone University. They welcomed three daughters during their time there.
In 1994 the Martins were commissioned by ABWE as career missionaries. They spent seven years church planting in Romania. Doug initiated the launch of the team’s translation ministry, camping ministry and the Church Ministries Institute for Lay Leader Training. Sharon led women’s ministries, discipled teen girls and taught at Bucharest Christian Academy.
In 2000, the Martins served in Hungary as part of ABWE’s Vision Team serving Central and Eastern Europe. Doug was the regional coordinator and also organized the Global Missions Forum to help pastors and churches in Central and Eastern Europe become missionary senders. Doug taught as adjunct professor at the College of Theology and Education in Chisinau, Moldova. Sharon served as an educator and later elementary school principal at the International Christian School of Budapest. Sharon was able to complete her Master of Arts in Education from CSU in 2010.
“As an educator, the value and importance of a biblical worldview cannot be overstated,” said Sharon. “It is the basis for everything we do. We need to think biblically in order to teach biblically.”
The Martins returned to the US in 2010 and settled in York, Pennsylvania, where they currently serve at ABWE International Headquarters. Doug is executive director for ABWE North America, which has evolved to become EveryEthne. Doug formulates vision and direction for the ministry, builds the leadership team and creates systems and tools to advance the Church in North America. Sharon serves in the president’s office as the executive administrator for board and legal operations.
“CSU prepared us well for ministry and gave us practical experience,” said Sharon.
Young Alumnus Award
“We want to recognize CSU alumni that are hitting the ground running after they cross the commencement stage and go right out and make a difference,” said Golden. “I hope it’s an encouragement to our young alumni. We see you. We value what you’re doing.”
The CSU Young Alumnus of the Year is awarded to someone who has graduated from CSU in the last five years, pursues Christ and His call for his or her life, shows dedication to Christian service, has a faithful Christian walk and seeks to develop Christ-likeness in others.
This year’s winner for the Young Alumnus of the Year is Nathan Miller (’15).
Nathan Miller (’15)
A Communications-Writing major, Miller played for the men’s soccer team, worked on campus and served as a resident assistant in Bancroft Hall. He rose as a leader on and off campus. During his time at CSU he became involved in Mission Scranton, a local outreach ministry then led by BBS Dean, Dr. Mike Stallard.
In the October 2019 issue of “Summit Magazine,” Miller was quoted as saying, “A lot of my discipleship came from simply watching a man who is one of the top biblical scholars in the community bring the gospel to an often neglected and hurting community. Coming into the ministry, I was in a spot where I never saw myself being in a leadership role. He [Stallard] helped me identify how God gifted me and immediately pushed me to serve.”
As he worked with Mission Scranton, Miller became burdened for the children and youth in the inner city of Scranton. God grew his passion for local missions. By the time he graduated from CSU in 2015, Miller had decided to make Scranton his home and be a bi-vocational missionary. Working full time at the CSU Mail Center and Marketing Department, Miller assumed leadership of the Mission Scranton ministry after graduating.
Mission Scranton serves youth and families in low-income neighborhoods by providing opportunities for holistic development and life change. The non-profit organization began in 1994 and has continued to be a light in the city. Mission Scranton has a focus of empowering children and youth and equipping them to navigate the challenges of life while addressing both physical and spiritual needs.
In the past five years, Miller has continued to work with Mission Scranton where he currently serves as the executive director. Miller also works as the marketing services coordinator at CSU and has supervised employment teams on campus and developed Mission Scranton ministry teams every year.
Miller said, “God has blessed me with wonderful opportunities to do life with college and inner-city students and point them back to the hope I have in Jesus Christ. Back in college, I did not imagine God using a simple, insecure, small-town guy like me to be part of his work.”
Leading initiatives to start new programs and developing ministry teams with Mission Scranton, Miller hit the ground running after his graduation from CSU. His goal is to work towards full time local missions to reach the inner-city of Scranton for Christ.
Current students of CSU are tomorrow’s alumni. Already serving God in various ways on and off campus, CSU students receive training not only for their future ministries and professions but for today. “I see great potential in our current student body,” said Golden. “Our trust is that they get fully saturated in the Christ-centered and career-ready education that they have here. Our alumni were once 19- and 20-year-olds and probably wondering what in the world they were going to do with their lives. It’s neat to fast forward, two, three, four decades and see how God used them.”
2020 Alumni Award Presentation
This year, the alumni awards were presented via Zoom ceremonies by CSU’s president Dr. Jim Lytle and Golden. Friends and family joined the live presentation. What developed was a special, intimate time for the award winners. The highlights of those presentations have been compiled into a video and will be premiered on the CSU main Facebook page and the CSU Alumni Facebook page the week of October 20–24, 2020.
“It’s exciting to see people that went ahead of me or after me and what they are doing for the Lord today,” said Golden. “I believe we have grown to 17,000 alumni since the school opened. We have alumni serving in over 70 different countries. These awards remind us of the breadth and diversity of service within our CSU alumni family…By recognizing a few each year, it reminds us of the sweet heritage we have as a school and an encouragement to us to live a life of significance wherever God has placed us.”
For more information on the CSU Alumni Association or how to nominate alumni for 2021, visit CSU’s alumni page.
By Julie Jeffery Manwarren