On Friday, May 10, 2019, The King’s College held its third annual awards ceremony to recognize outstanding students of the Class of 2019, and to recognize faculty and staff who have made significant contributions to the King’s Community. The event was held in the City Room of The King’s College, and was attended by the award nominees and winners as well as their families.
Dr. Mark Hijleh, Provost, opened the ceremony in prayer. President Tim Gibson welcomed the audience, saying “It speaks volumes about this community that we have so many who have exhibited stellar commitment to the King’s community, whether they be students, staff, or faculty.” He introduced Onassis Puente (PPE ’19), senior speaker, humorously adding that Puente claims Dr. Kreeft called him the best chess player at King’s.
Onassis Puente was selected by the Class of 2019 to deliver the senior address. During his four years at King’s, Puente was the vice president of Mock Trial and research coordinator for the King’s Debate Society. He was an associate for the House of Lewis, mission and values director of the Table, and played athletics for three seasons. After King’s, he will work at Nigel Frank International. His plan is to then attend law school.
In his senior address, Puente described memories from the last four years, calling King’s “our own slice of crazy.” He encouraged his classmates to “chase your entrepreneurial spirit, that love of art, film, law, whatever it may be. Aim high, and know if you fail, you have 113 friends who are rooting for you as you get back up and keep fighting.” He concluded his speech with The Lord’s Prayer.
Rachel Cline (HUM ’19) presented the senior class gift, a community fund for members of the King’s community experiencing hardship or loss. She has experienced the generosity of the King’s community firsthand: after being robbed of all her belongings while traveling, King’s students pooled together almost $1,000 to help her replace everything. She also told of the effort organized by Aizess Jones to support former King’s professor Bearden Coleman after his house in Texas was damaged in Hurricane Harvey. Cline said, “Our hope is that this fund will become a tradition for the school. We hope that each senior class after us will take ownership of us, and will decide that their last act of giving to this school is one of service.”
Brandon Smith (PPE ’19), student body president, then took the stage to present the King’s Council Awards. Professor of Business Kimberly Reeve was awarded the Outstanding Service to the House System Award for finding consistent and creative ways to encourage her House. The audience applauded Kylie Willis for receiving the Staff of the Year Award. Smith expressed personal gratitude for Politics Professor Matthew Parks for “somehow managing to make me a good student,” saying he “goes the extra mile to make sure students understand, communicates well, and makes his class engaging.” Parks received the Faculty of the Year Award. John McOrmond (PPE ’19) received the Student Service Award for taking care of other students and stepping up, even when he did not necessarily have to.
Tom Harman, assistant athletic director, presented the athletic awards. Benjamin “Luke” Borchelt (MCA ’19) was chosen for the Scholar Athlete Award, earning a 3.92 GPA while playing both basketball and soccer for two years. He was named to the United States College Athletic Association National All Academic Team and to the Hudson Valley All Academic Conference Team, twice for soccer and twice for basketball. Bryan Finley, athletic director, presented Megan LeBlanc (MCA ’19) with the Athlete of the Year Award, for representing the College well both on and off the field. LeBlanc played basketball and soccer for four years, serving as captain on both teams. She will be working at Mercy Chefs after graduation.
Provost Mark Hijleh returned to the stage to present the faculty awards. He recognized science and philosophy professor Dr. Joshua Hershey with the Faculty Teaching Award. Hershey was chosen by his peers for “exceptional effectiveness in pedagogy.” Hijleh said Hershey “has incredible connections with his students and works tirelessly for their good.” Both economics professor Dr. Paul Mueller and communications professor Dr. Stephen Salyers received the Faculty Service award. Mueller was honored for attracting grants and bringing speakers to King’s, for speaking on panels and for leading two student reading groups. Hijleh said, “the most notable thing about Dr. Salyers is that he shows up. He shows up for events for students, for faculty, and for the college.”
Dr. Henry Bleattler recognized two MCA graduates on behalf of the faculty of the Media, Culture, and the Arts program, the program Bleattler humorously claimed has “the most content and joyous graduates.” The Capstone Award of Excellence was presented to J.P. Presley (MCA ’19) for writing at least three feature length screenplays and interning for “Guy Walks Into a Bar” production company, known for the recent film Sully. Michalah Bell (MCA ’19), recognized for her GPA, attitude, and curiosity, received the MCA Academic Excellence Award.
On behalf of the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics program, Dr. David Innes, professor of politics, delivered the Academic Excellence Award to Elle Rogers (PHL ’19). Rogers was recognized for accomplishing difficult tasks with ease, for her breadth and depth of knowledge, and for leaving “Professor Tubbs breathless with her Constitutional Law essay.” Rogers is also the Class of 2019 Valedictorian.
Journalism professor Paul Glader awarded the Roberta Green Ahmanson Journalism Award to Wesley Parnell (PPE ’19). Parnell has won national awards for his photojournalism, has been featured on Forbes.com and Religion Unplugged, and now works as a contract journalist for New York Daily News. Glader honored Parnell for his “courage and talent for photos and eye for a good story,” saying “we selected him because he’s helped raise the profile of journalism at King’s with his talent.”
Professor Brian Brenberg, Chair of the Business and Finance Program, delivered heartfelt praise to his long-time faculty assistant Natalie Hustek for the Joe T. Ford Award in business. Brenberg quoted faculty members who said of Hustek, “She’s always one to finish well,” and “when she gives a presentation, you know you are witnessing world-class talent.”
Lastly, Dean of Students David Leedy presented the final three awards. Matthew Meyer (FIN ’19) was awarded the William R. Bright Award, in honor of the co-founder and former president of Campus Crusade for Christ, for embodying a passion for furthering the GGospel through missions, evangelism, and discipleship. Leedy told of how Meyer invested time and energy into the disadvantaged youth of New York City, sometimes traveling great lengths to pick up kids and bring them to King’s for the tutoring program he led. Leedy presented the William Wilberforce Award, for students who emulate William Wilberforce’s commitment to transforming society, to Elle Rogers. “Since her arrival at King’s, this student has been a clarion voice for the ideals that make for a flourishing society,” Leedy said. This fall, Rogers will be interning in Washington, D.C., for Senator Ben Sasse.
Angel Boyd (MCA ’19) was awarded the Harriet Tubman Award, an award in honor of Harriet Tubman, who, after escaping slavery, risked her life to rescue others and to be a voice for equality and human dignity. Boyd served as the president of the Table, helped raise awareness of racial issues facing the King’s community, and served on the Diversity Statement Task Force to help craft a biblical vision for ethnic diversity at The King’s College. “She is kind yet fierce, quiet yet powerful, and when she speaks, I’ve learned that I need to listen, because she is a woman of wisdom and grace,” Leedy said.
Leedy closed the ceremony with an invitation to the parents’ reception in the lobby and student union, and with a prayer, saying, “Father, we pause at the end of this four-year journey to thank you.”