NCU Magazine Spring 2021 Issue

Page 14


An expanding vision of ministry and mission

Spring 2021 The Magazine of North Central University

NCU Magazine Spring 2021

North Central University



Scott Hagan, Ph.D.

VP, Academic Affairs

Greg Leeper

VP, Spiritual Life and Student Development

Doug Graham ’86, D.Min.


Nancy Cawley Zugschwert, ’19 M.A., Editor

Chloe Eckstein, Lead Designer

Tracey Finck, M.A., Proofreader


Erica Hanson ’13

Rodrigo de Mendoza ’20

Unless noted, photos are by NCU Marketing


Jenny Collins, M.A.

Tabby (Wilson ’89) Finton

Erica Hanson ’13

Judy (Oftedal ’77) Jones

Cory Kukkola ’20

Aimee (Perrin ’97) Robertson

Travis Whipple, M.S.

Contact Office of Marketing and Communications


Alumni Relations




NCU Magazine is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications and distributed free of charge to alumni, donors, and friends of North Central University.

NCU Mission

North Central University is a Christ-centered, Bible-based, Pentecostal school with a commitment to academic excellence that prepares students to fulfill biblical models of leadership and ministry throughout the world.

North Central University All Rights Reserved In this issue News 4 » New AGWM Pennington Family Scholarship 6 » New leaders and leadership positions 7 » Leadership roundtable: Listen, learn, and decide 8 » NCU says farewell to three retirees Athletics 12 » Historic sports seasons Features 14 » Prescription for success: Kim Hanson 16 » Building church from the outside in: Jacob and Maria Valtierra 18 » A CEO’s journey of faith and success: Clifton Ross 20 » Alumnus leads effort to open homeless shelter: David Mowers 22 » Integrating business and ministry for the Kingdom Alumni 23 » Alumni updates 27 » In memory Extra 28 » Celebrating graduates—COVID style 29 » The show goes on—‘Godspell’

Letter from the president

At North Central, there’s an inseparable bond between the classroom and the community of Minneapolis. We view the urban setting as a gift—as an extended learning space. From where we worship and learn on historic Elliot Avenue, both the unsheltered and those bearing the brand Fortune 500 are never more than a few steps away.

Being an effective inner-city university has not been easy. At times, it’s an endurance test. The rationing of human relationships due to COVID-19 and the scattering of our familiar synergies and stakeholders, combined with the unrest and uncertainty of our times, have created a forceful tension unlike at any other time in North Central’s history. Yet, there is tremendous hope rising! Promising new ideas and initiatives are emerging. One of our most essential institutional aspirations is to earn the respect of the communities in which we operate—both the academic and the civic matter greatly to us.

One of the strategic priorities at NCU is to provide a transformative student experience rooted in biblical and missional Pentecostalism. A significant part of that formula is the numerous co-curricular activities that expose NCU students to fresh outlooks on ministry and mission.

Throughout this issue of NCU Magazine, you will read about alumni who have taken their Minneapolis experience to then go and water the earth with the Gospel. Our job at NCU is to keep replicating and multiplying that process.

When it comes to the early spread of Christianity, much of the New Testament looks haphazard—absent of strategy. Yet, in the mystery of the Holy Spirit’s work, the pattern and placement of people were all beautifully orchestrated. That same Spirit is at work today, using NCU students and graduates to continue the mission of Christ domestically and globally.

From my seat as president, I’ve re-learned this year that God uses storms as much as He does gifts and vision to locate and plant us. As president, I serve as campus catalyst and the fundamental gatekeeper for strategic planning, fundraising, and budget management. Along with those assignments, I work with local, state, and federal governing boards, and represent NCU in the community and the Church in a variety of capacities.

My most important role, however, is to serve as a living letter—to be read and known by an entire student body. I want my

narrative to be one of a Spirit-fed and Spirit-led leader. I want to live as courageously as those you will read about in this issue. And though I serve in a traditional and institutional role, I’m humbled to be of that same beautiful orchestration of the Holy Spirit. Not every graduate follows the same path toward fulfilling the Great Commission. Talents and timelines vary—and no one is superior to the other. In actuality, many people doing the most significant work for the Kingdom of God are largely unknown to us.

As you enjoy this issue, I invite you to marvel again at the broad spectrum of ministry and leadership that has been sent forth from this university. It’s truly remarkable to consider the creativity and caliber of these graduates. Your investment as a former student at NCU and your continued interest and investment in this next generation of graduates form a powerful assurance that God’s Kingdom is alive and flourishing.

Let’s honor one another, pray for one another, and rejoice at the unique ways God has situated us in this world. No matter our geography or the form our unique contribution takes, we are all connected and thankful for the role NCU played in getting us there.

New scholarship honors late NCU student, service in missions

At the North Central University Commencement exercises on Dec. 12, 2020, President Scott Hagan, Ph.D., announced that the university’s scholarship for children of Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) missionaries would be

named the AGWM Pennington Family Scholarship, in honor of Micah Pennington, a member of the graduating class who passed away in January 2020.

Micah’s parents Steve and Trina Pennington, who have served as career AGWM missionaries in Africa, were present at the ceremony to receive Micah’s diploma. They were moved to tears at the president’s announcement, grateful that their son’s name would be honored and remembered in this way.

At Micah’s memorial service last January, students and employees stepped up to the microphone to articulate how Micah noticed everyone and helped them feel included. He was well known on campus as a member of the NCU Housekeeping team and beloved by those who knew him across campus—students, faculty, and staff. At the initiative of the Housekeeping team, a work closet in the College Life Center was dedicated and named “Micah’s Housekeeping Lounge” in his honor.

Sustain missionaries, support students

The AGWM scholarship had been implemented three years ago in response to critical needs observed by North Central University President Scott Hagan, Ph.D. “When I heard there were missionaries who were leaving the field because they could not afford to send their kids to college, it broke my heart,” Hagan explained. “We are providing full-tuition scholarships for all qualified dependent children of Assemblies of God World Missionaries.”

The AGWM MK Scholarship Fund was created to alleviate the financial burden of college tuition for children of AGWM missionaries, allowing them to continue the Lord’s work in the field of their calling. The renaming of the scholarship to the Pennington Family Scholarship serves to honor the life of one “missionary kid,” Micah Pennington, his family who has faithfully sacrificed and served in overseas missions, and all who serve to bring the Gospel “so that all may know” the redeeming news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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New leaders and leadership positions

President Scott Hagan, Ph.D., has announced several new assignments for NCU staff members and administrators, effective June 1. In addition to the positions listed below, a search is underway for a Vice President for Business and Operations. This position will oversee Accounting and Finance, Human Resources, Operations, and Food Services.

Senior Leadership Team

Vice President for Academic Affairs Greg Leeper (returning SLT member). Areas of oversight include the four undergraduate colleges, Graduate Education, Online Education and Instructional Design, PSEO and Applied Studies, Academic Partners, Accreditation and Assessment, Registrar, Library, and Instructional Development. Leeper has been at NCU since 2011 and has nearly 20 years of experience in higher education, including student development, academic administration, and teaching. He holds an M.A. in Communication and Culture from Trinity International University and a B.A. in Theology/Theological Studies from Evangel University.

Vice President of Enrollment and Student Development Bethany (Nelson ’11) Harshbarger. Areas of oversight include Admissions, Student Financial Services, Retention, Marketing and Communications, Student Development, Spiritual Life, Multicultural Engagement, and the Student Success Center. Harshbarger has worked at NCU for 10 years, serving in multiple roles in Admissions, including director, and most recently as Executive Director of Enrollment. She is completing her M.A. in Strategic Leadership and holds a B.S. in Youth Ministry from North Central University. She is also a credentialed minister with the Assemblies of God.

Associate Vice President of Student Life/Dean of Students Jeremy Williamson ’09, M.A. Areas of oversight include Student Life, Residence Life, Housing, Student Conduct, and Student Engagement and Experiential Learning. Williamson has nearly 10 years of NCU work experience, serving previously as Resident Director, Associate Registrar, and Dean of Students. He holds a master’s degree in Leadership in Student Affairs from the University of St. Thomas and a B.S. in Music from North Central University.

Associate Vice President of Spiritual Life/Dean of Multicultural Engagement Joshua Edmon, M.A. Areas of oversight include Spiritual Life/Chapel and Multicultural Engagement, and he serves as co-leader of the Diversity Action Committee. Edmon has been at North Central since August 2020, serving most recently as Dean of Multicultural Engagement. He holds two master’s degrees (Urban Ministry, Theological Studies) from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Trinity International University. In addition to roles in higher education in Illinois, Edmon served on the pastoral staff at Chicago Embassy Church.

Doug Graham ’86, D.Min., is leaving the SLT and moving into a role as Special Advisor to the President/National Liaison to the Assemblies of God. He will also continue his role as Assistant District Superintendent for the AG Minnesota District. Graham has been at North Central since 2014. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in Church Leadership from Bethel University, a Master of Arts in Biblical Literature from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, and a B.S. degree from North Central University.

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Joshua Edmon Doug Graham Bethany Harshbarger Jeremy Williamson Greg Leeper

New dean and executive director

Vincent (Vinnie) Zarletti ’02, D.W.S., has been named the new Dean of the College of Fine Arts. Zarletti has served at North Central University for the past six years, serving recently as Director of the School of Worship Arts and as Associate Professor in the College of Fine Arts. Zarletti holds a doctorate and master’s degrees in Worship Studies from the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies and a B.S. degree from North Central University. Current Dean Larry Bach, M.M., is stepping down from his administrative role and will remain a faculty member through the 2021–22 academic year.

Stacy (Grogan ’98) Sikorski, LICSW, has been named Executive Director of Student Success. She has been serving as the Director of Student Success for the past two years and will continue to provide oversight for the Student Success Center, which serves students through academic support, accessibility services, therapeutic services, and career services. She will also serve on the President’s Council. Sikorski has worked at NCU since 2015, serving previously as PSEO Coordinator and Assistant Director of the Student Success Center. She holds a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Illinois and a B.A. in Urban Ministry from North Central University.

Denton named President of Crown College

North Central congratulates Andrew Denton, Ph.D., formerly Executive Vice President, for his appointment as the next President of Crown College in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota. Denton came to North Central in 2015 as Vice President for University Relations and was later named Executive Vice President. Denton provided leadership over finance, operations, enrollment, advancement, athletics, and communications. He previously served in executive leadership at Bethel University and Evangel University. In a letter to the NCU community about Denton’s appointment, President Scott Hagan, Ph.D., said, “We have witnessed firsthand Andrew’s outstanding spiritual and administrative leadership. The highest compliment an organization can receive is when one of their own is selected for a significant and expanded role in their industry.”

Leadership Roundtable focuses on practical skills and mindset

North Central University and President Scott Hagan, Ph.D., introduced the NCU Leadership Roundtable on March 4. The live Zoom session introduced dynamic skills and a new mindset for problem-solving, understanding your environment, and communicating the future with accuracy.

During the 90-minute session, Hagan presented three short discussions, followed by a Q&A on the talk titled “Listen, Learn, and Decide.” The session drew nearly 100 participants from around the U.S.

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Vincent (Vinnie) Zarletti Andrew Denton Stacy Sikorski

NCU says farewell to three retirees

we “do church”). Articles: Many articles, mainly in the area of textual criticism. Accomplishments: Founded the Center for Ancient Texts and Languages and the Biblical Literacy Project. Personal: Adopted a 16-year-old daughter (who is now 31!). Now I am a grandmother to an 11-yearold grandson, and possibly soon another boy whom my daughter is hoping to adopt.


I like them all for different reasons! The classes that had the biggest impact were New Testament History & Literature and Reading & Interpreting Scripture. Also, my Topics course on Paleography and Textual Criticism, Community of Worship and Prayer, and Reaching Postmodern Culture.


Seeing light bulbs go on. Watching a group of students move from no understanding of Greek to loving the language and deciding to go on and do a major or minor. Challenging talented students to produce outstanding work and helping struggling students succeed. Hearing from graduates how something they learned in one of my classes has helped them in life or ministry.



August 1999, but I worked in the North Central mailroom before that, during the 1983–84 school year.


Professor of Ancient Greek and New Testament; Advisor for Society of Bible and Theology, and Theta Alpha Kappa (student groups); Advisor for the Biblical Studies Society (alumni group); NCU representative and organizer for the 2020 Undergraduate Bible and Theology Conference; Committees: Faculty Affairs, Faculty Development, Promotion Committee; Faculty Marshal.


Books: “The Textual Tradition of the Gospels: Family 1 in Matthew” (a re-working of my dissertation); “When You Come Together: Challenging the Church to an Interactive Relationship with God” (which I hope will change how

Preaching in chapel; a time in chapel when the Holy Spirit took over during prayer and I managed to facilitate it; taking students to Birmingham, England, for the Colloquium; and a semester of biweekly meetings with colleagues on the topic of increasing critical thinking skills in our students.


My students! (In the classroom, in the hall, in my office, at my home.) I will also miss the committee work when we did things that really made a difference.


It doesn’t look like I’m going to have many relaxed days for a while. I hope to spend more time on research (I have already been invited to write a commentary on Timothy/ Titus and a chapter for the Oxford Handbook on Textual Criticism). I’ll be expanding the Biblical Literacy Project, which brings college- level Bible teaching into churches and groups—including a trip to Europe in 2022 to teach student leaders and missionaries. I have begun to write a primer on ancient Greek palaeography and am working on the text of Family 1 in Luke—further development of my dissertation. I also want to spend more time with my grandsons and in my garden.

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Don’t cut corners, either because you feel an urgency to get out there and change the world, or because you don’t see the value of education and just want to move on to a career. What you invest now will bear fruit the rest of your life, and you won’t have a chance to come back to this phase later. Going for excellence now will set the stage for the future. Put away the electronics and spend time with real people and real books and nature. Be truly Pentecostal in your faith life and leadership—in other words, be guided by the Spirit instead of patterns set by others.


Serving as President of the former Northern Athletic Conference and the Chair for our NCCAA region, and also guiding NCU’s move into the NCAA Division III and the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC). Seeing the athletics program grow from four sports to 14 before I moved into a faculty role. Bringing a Coaching Certification program to NCU and writing the initial program of study for the Sports Management major.


Methods of Middle School Social Studies, Methods of Elementary Science, Coaching Certification, Drugs Health Education, American History, World History, Intro to Political Science, and Student Teaching Seminar.


I love teaching and getting students to like a subject they thought they disliked and getting them to think critically and analyze deeply. I love the idea that I am preparing students to enter the classroom as teachers who will impact many students during their careers.


Coaching national championship cross-country teams and All-American runners and track & field competitors. Watching NCU teams win NCCAA regional championships and advance to the national tournaments. Talks in my office about life with so many students, and of course, many great moments in chapel.


I will miss my colleagues and students—the friendships with them that are real, deep, and meaningful.


Greg Hayton, M.S. School of Education


I started at North Central in 1997, first on staff and then joined the faculty in 2009.


I was Athletics Director from 1997 to 2009, and Associate Professor in the School of Education from 2009 until today. Other roles included edTPA Coordinator and NCAA/UMAC Faculty Athletics Representative.

Next up for me is time to travel with my wife! I plan to coach high school track in Osceola, Wisconsin, (my current home) and be a teachers’ assistant in Osceola schools. Of course, I’ll spend time with my grandchildren, and serve in ministry alongside my son in a church plant in Osceola. I’m hoping for lots of trips to the Boundary Waters in Ely, Minnesota, and trips to our new cabin in Minocqua, Wisconsin.


Love God, love people, and work hard, giving your best effort and then really trusting the Lord.

God has blessed me with an amazing life and career. He didn’t ask me to be the best; He simply asked me to give my best effort, then with His multiplication, good things have happened.

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I started at North Central in 1981, first on staff and then joined the full-time faculty in 1994.


Secretary/Administrative Assistant in the Development Office (1981–84); adjunct faculty teaching early childhood education courses (1987 and 1994); full-time faculty in Elementary Education (1994–2015); part-time Director of Instructional Development (2015–present).


Methods of Social Studies, Introduction to Education, and General Teaching Methods.


I enjoyed my role as clinical and student-teaching supervisor, and I especially liked advising students.


In my Methods of Social Studies class, field trips to the History Museum were always a highlight. Using current

affairs in class provided meaningful teaching opportunities, such as the deaths of Mother Teresa and Princess Diana in the same week in 1997.


It sounds cliché to say “the people,” but I know that for me, it is the truth. We have had so many people of excellence come through the NCU doors these last 40 years, and I already miss many of those who are gone. The present group of new faculty has amazed me with their passion and expertise in their fields. Although I will miss the connection with them, I look forward to hearing about their accomplishments.


My husband, Larry (Dean of the College of Fine Arts), and I hope to travel some, and I will probably do some mentoring and writing as I head into retirement and wait for Larry's retirement next year. However, four months ago I had the opportunity to start a very rewarding job. My friends told me that I’d like it, but it is even more fulfilling than I had anticipated. Since I am new on the job, I am still working on the position’s skill set but I am confident that I will get the hang of being grandmother to Louis (Louie) Bach. He will, without a doubt, get the primary attention of this next phase.


Your lives are drastically different from those of your parents and grandparents. The often-quoted verse, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8) can lose some applicability when read alone. However, when read in the context of the entire chapter, it may help when you are confused by our culture’s ever-changing speculations about what is the truth, the Church, and what is relevant to today’s society.

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10 | NCU Magazine
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$1,000 or more annually to support the NCU Fund. Vern & Judy Anderson Kevin & Song Anfinson Kwame Anku Don & Pat Argue Larry & Jerilyn Bach Dennis & Beverly Batty Tom & Robin Bergum James & Heather Biffert Ron & Dorene Bontrager Terrance & Julie Boynton George & Alexandra Carr Martin Chorzempa Austin & Jennifer Colby David & Linda Collins Erik & Mandy Cooper Mark & Eliza Corbin Irene Cramer Reggie & Michelle Dabbs John & Diane Davis Mark & Barb Dean Andrew & Linda Denton Jeff & Martha Deyo Walter & Peggy Dunston Salvatore & Elizabeth Farina Steven & Tabetha Finton Brady Forseth Paul & Kim Freitag Todd & Mary Furry Rob & Susan Gales Donald & Diane Gifford Doug & Victoria Graham Greg & Marty Grandits Larry & Coleen Griswold Gary & Bonnie Grogan Madison & Marlene Groves Patrick & Joette Guire Scott & Karen Hagan Erica Hanson Victor & Janet Hedman Jim & Jennell Henderson Eric & Liz Hoffman John Hollen Ruthie Huisinga-Meyering Paul & Candace Hurckman Tom & Lori Jacobs Elissa Johnson Beverly Johnston Barry & Tami Jorris Rick & Katherine Ketterling Rob & Becca Ketterling Ryan & Andrea Kingsriter Michael & Mallory Knipe Jeffrey & Maxine LaFavre Roger & Ann Lane Greg & Hillary Leeper Rich & Diane Lemberg Lance & Desiree Libengood Jeff & Crystal Liechty Jon & Elsie Liechty Si & Martha Liechty Gordy & Carol Lund Micah & Stephanie MacDonald Elise Manouelian Quodavis Marshall Todd & Brenda Marshall Nicholas Martin Wayne & Peggy Matthews Randy & Susan McPherson Don Meyering Lowell & Lynn Nystrom Jac & Bonnie Perrin Miles & Mary Peterson Scott & Whitney Peterson Carmon Proctor Trent & Melinda Redmann Evan Regenstreif R Brad & Beth Riley Jordan & Aimee Robertson Sandra Robertson Nate & Jodi Ruch Larry & Nancy Russell Shawn & Kerry Sauve Miller Schafer Stephen & Rachel Schaible Suzanne Schillmoeller Phillip & Renee Schneider Michael & MonaRe Shields Adam & Stacy Sikorski Jon & Carolyn Silvester Ryan & Rachel Skoog Karen Stone Dick & Kristi Strassburg William & Rosemary Svoboda Steve & Denise Tebbs D Allen & Rhonda Tennison Winston & Candyce Titus Bradley & Rhonda Trask Thomas & Shirley Trask Marty & Sheryl Turner Justin & Jessica Vanman Richard & Judy Vanman Kent & Trudy Wells Bruce Wheeler Rich & Robyn Wilkerson Jeremy & Brianna Williamson Robert & Connie Wine Christopher Woelfle Kate Yurko Jim & Nancy Zugschwert Join us for Homecoming! Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021

One for the record books— historic winter sports season

Women’s basketball

NCU women’s basketball officially closed out 2020-21 as regular-season UMAC Champions with an overall record of 18-3 and 7-1 in the UMAC. This past season was historic for NCU women's basketball for both the team as a whole and for a number of individual players. Making a profound impact in her freshman season was Joelle Talso (Ramsey, MN, Spring Lake Park High School), while several key

returners to the Rams’ rotation, including Kadija Conteh, Emily DiGiorgio, Naomi Hagstrom, and Jocelyn Talso, all put up career-highs in at least one individual category. The program saw history being made in several ways, including total wins with 18, winning percentage with .818, conference winning percentage with .875, being awarded as UMAC regular-season champions, and notching the first two UMAC postseason tournament wins ever while hosting the conference tournament.


Men’s basketball

In a season of constant change and uncertainty for the men in blue and gold, a lot can be said about the North Central men’s basketball team and the way they competed in the 2020–21 season. Several key returners made their way back into head coach Dan DeWitt’s rotation this year, while multiple newcomers also made immediate impacts in their first collegiate seasons. In just his second year of taking the reins of the NCU men’s basketball program, DeWitt increased the Rams’ UMAC standing from 7th in 2019–20 to 3rd in 2020–21. This also included a 9-9 (5-3 UMAC) record and hosting the first-ever men’s basketball conference tournament game in Clark-Danielson Gymnasium. Looking ahead to next year, the program will say goodbye to lone senior Jalen Dunlap, who was instrumental in leading the Rams to a historic season that unfolded this year. The future is bright with a young group returning!

Indoor track & field

With a distance of 9.87 meters on her final jump, Elizabeth Lofstad has brought home the triple jump UMAC title from the conference championships. The freshman had recorded a jump of 9.66 meters a meet earlier in the programs’ indoor season, which was good enough to take first place. This time around, she managed to outperform her previous firstplace jump to take top of the standings in the field event, which produced 10 points for the team. In addition to her results in the field, Lofstad recorded a successful day on the track by posting a personal-best by 13 seconds in the mile with a time of 5:47. This placed her third in the conference and produced 6 points for the team. Lastly, the freshman phenom managed a personal-best in the 800-meter with a time of 2:36. This placed her fifth in the conference and tallied an additional two points for the program. Several other personal-best times and performances were achieved by members of the indoor track and field team as well.

Learn more about all NCU sports at

Photos: NCU Athletics

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Elizabeth Lofstad and Tea Davis

Prescription for success

LearningRx CEO Kim Hanson leads with faith and purpose

Is there a perfect blend of education and experience that lets a person know they’re ready to be a company CEO?

Kim (Gibson ’91) Hanson, CEO of LearningRx, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, would say there’s no such thing.

“I don’t know that you’re ever ready,” Hanson said. "But the key is, are you willing?”

When she was asked in 2017 to take the reins of the company her dad, Dr. Ken Gibson, had founded 30 years earlier, Hanson was more than willing. She was passionate about its mission and is motivated by the belief that people need their products and services for a better life.

LearningRx ( identifies itself as a brain training company. “There are two parts to smart,” Hanson explains, “the academic, or information part, which is what the school’s job is, and then there’s how you process information. LearningRx is on the ‘how you process’ side and works to help people learn faster, easier, and better.”

Hanson noted that the company started a research foundation that has done more than 20 studies, and they have been in 14 peer-reviewed journals.

Experience leads to readiness

Hanson’s training for the education industry started at North Central University. After graduating with her degree in Elementary Education, she taught fifth grade at a school for behaviorally challenged kids. “It was kind of a disaster,” she said, noting that the school couldn’t keep a substitute teacher in that class past noon. Although it was hard, she learned a lot and still values the experience she gained.

When Kim and her husband, Wayne Hanson ’92, moved to Nashville, she continued to teach in inner-city schools until they moved to Colorado, where they both worked for Fellowship Church. Wayne was a youth pastor, and Kim started a drama department and later ran a kids’ church program that grew from 35 kids to more than 300. During that time, her dad also hired her to do projects for his company. When the company moved to a new franchising model in 2004, Kim went to work with LearningRx full time.

Her new job was overseeing the support department, working to ensure franchisee success. She obtained credentials as a Certified Franchise Executive and a designation as a cognitive specialist.

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Kim Hanson (third from left) and team members celebrate the opening of a new LearningRx location in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Kim Hanson has learned that all experience contributes to readiness. Yet, while there is no formula for CEO preparation, there are definite attributes required of her, including thinking strategically, casting vision, solving problems, and influencing culture.

True measure of success

Ultimately, Hanson doesn’t measure success in numbers and return-on-investment figures but in lives changed. Shortly after she stepped into the CEO office, LearningRx hit a milestone of having helped more than 100,000 people since its founding. Hanson pictures that as an Ohio-Statesized stadium filled with people whose lives are better because of their company. “My vision is to triple that,” she explained. “I would love to have three football stadiums full of people we have helped; my job is to keep our teams focused on the important things and to help them strategically work toward goals.”

As far as culture goes, Hanson is committed to maintaining the company’s historically faith-based ethos. “We have devotions every Wednesday, and we pray before meetings,” Hanson noted. The company lives out its values in the organizations it supports philanthropically and has trained missionaries and staff at orphanages to do basic cognitive training with the children they serve.

Hanson said the faith culture includes a core belief that the company wants to leave everyone they work with—inside and outside the company—feeling better about themselves and “just leaving a little bit of Jesus with them” in every interaction.

But integrating her faith and her work as CEO goes much deeper than company culture. “Every single day, I ask God for wisdom,” Hanson said of her leadership ethos. “Honestly, it’s God’s company. I ask Him for wisdom because I’m not always sure what to do, but God always comes through for me!”

company-wide in July 2020. “Last March, when the world shut down, we were able to get our centers up and running within weeks to transition to remote training,” she said, still amazed that God led them so beautifully.

Higher purpose

Hanson’s passion for her work is evident, and she has many stories to illustrate the impact when they teach someone new ways to learn. She shared one report from a 20-yearold student who went through the LearningRx program, paraphrasing what the woman had told her:

“I didn’t know this, but I was going through life behind what felt like a dirty window. As I was going through the LearningRx training, I felt as if all of a sudden, my window became clean. And as I continued to train, I realized I no longer had a window standing between me and the world! Now I could walk out into the world—and I’m part of it!”

Hanson said she had seen many similar breakthroughs for people, noting that helping people understand and then overcome their cognitive weaknesses helps them have confidence that goes far beyond the classroom.

She points to the COVID-19 crisis as an example of a time God gave the company wisdom—before they even knew they needed it. “Two years before the pandemic, we piloted a program exploring how to do our unique training over Zoom,” she said.

“Our curriculum is not just like a workbook—there are a lot of complicated procedures that use manipulatives, cards, or different tools [that don’t convert easily to a virtual environment],” she explained. After piloting the training with 10 centers, the company was planning to roll it out

The higher purpose—doing work that honors God and transforms people’s lives—keeps Hanson going when her role gets tough. When faced with a big problem that requires clear thinking, Hanson practices the discipline of writing down what she knows about the hurdles in front of her. “And then I’ll just ask God to guide me,” she said. Her focus is always on the people she serves. “Even when I know it isn’t going to be easy,” she said, “I just think, ‘the kids in this world who are struggling need me to step out and do it.’”

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Kim (Gibson ’91) Hanson Submitted
Honestly, it’s God’s company. I ask Him for wisdom because I’m not always sure what to do, but God always comes through for me! “

Building church from the outside in

Church plant ministers to Native Americans in Milwaukee

In September of 2020, when many churches still had closed doors, The Gathering Place opened theirs for the first time.

“We decided that, pandemic or not, we need to set a date and go for it. That’s why we came here,” explained Jacob Valtierra ’11, ’17 M.A., founding co-pastor of The Gathering Place, currently the only church focused on reaching the Native American community in the Milwaukee metro area. The other reason they knew it was time to launch? Momentum. “We baptized 10 people before we ever even had a church service.”

Jacob, who is Ojibwe, Mexican, and White, and his wife Maria Valtierra ’12, who is also Mexican, moved their family from Minneapolis to Milwaukee in 2018—10 days before their third child was born.

Native Americans are one of the most marginalized ethnic groups. Jacob explained they can be hard to reach because of what happened between the Church and the Native people over the centuries.

“There is a lot of historical trauma that Native people carry to this day,” he said. “It’s a bad taste in their mouth when they hear the name Jesus, the word “church” or anything about Christianity. In a lot of ways, they can’t accept it because of what happened in the past. We know what happened was not what we know as Christianity, so I feel like we’re here to repair the relationship. We’re a bridge between the truth of who Jesus is and the Native community. And we introduce the true Jesus.”

Jacob said since Native people believe in a Creator, prayer, and spiritual gifts, there’s one thing he always tells traditional Native people: “The Creator has a name, and his name is Yahweh. And Creator has a son, and we know him as Jesus, but his tribal name was Yeshua. He was very much a tribal person—he comes from the tribe of Judah. He’s very much like an Indian.”

Right away, he sees a shift in them after they hear this. “They’ve never heard that. They associated Jesus with the white man’s God, a white man’s religion. [They believed] this isn’t for us. And nothing could be further from the truth.”

Building on prayer, relationships outside the four walls

Moving and starting a church, however, wasn’t even on their radar four years ago.

In 2017, Jacob simply felt God’s call to visit all 12 of the Native American reservations in Wisconsin, to pray specific scriptures (including Exodus 15, Psalm 24) over the land and the communities. He and another pastor took a threeday weekend to visit each place.

“We prayed that God would heal the land, that through the healing of the land the people would begin to be healed.”

During that weekend, Lonnie Johnson, a pastor in the Oneida community, mentioned that the Milwaukee area had a large Native population and asked Jacob if he would consider starting a church there. “I had never been to Milwaukee,” Jacob said. But when he mentioned the opportunity to Maria, she said she immediately felt peace about the idea.

One year later, they left their church, teaching, and traveling ministry roles in Minneapolis, and moved their family to Milwaukee. Their first goal was to build life-giving relationships within the Native community.

For them, that meant “getting outside the four walls of the church and actually going into the education system, the healthcare system, nonprofits, and community


organizations already doing Kingdom work without the Kingdom label. They’re very compassion-oriented. And through the relationships, conversations happen.”

A prodigal story

Jacob also openly shared his own story with them.

“I’m a prodigal,” he said. “Ever since I was a little boy, I wanted to be like my dad. But I got kind of lost.”

Jacob’s father, Thomas Valtierra of the Red Lake Nation in Minnesota, was the first Native American ordained by the Assemblies of God. An evangelist, church planter, and pastor, Thomas traveled to reservations and tribal communities all over the U.S.

“I was struggling with my identity through my teen and young adult years and didn’t really know who I was, even though I was raised in the Church,” shared Jacob.

Addicted to drugs and alcohol by his mid-20s, Jacob said he “felt really lost and broken, very hopeless and depressed. I knew Jesus was the way out, but I just didn’t know what that would look like.”

In 2006 he visited North Central University and experienced chapel—“like heaven come down to earth,” he described, having never seen so many young people worshipping God together.

One year later, he enrolled as a non-traditional student— older than most first-year students by eight years. “That presented challenges because I didn’t really feel like I fit in, but I was there to pursue God’s call on my life.”

Though Maria and Jacob knew each other from playing basketball and connecting over their shared Mexican heritage, it was in a Global Perspectives class their second year at NCU that the spark between them first started. They married during the final semester of their senior year.

“We feel like we’re like an anomaly,” said Jacob, describing the diversity in their own family. “We have a diverse ethnic background. We’re from different generations—I’m older and borderline Generation X, but Maria is a Millennial.” He’s a self-proclaimed visionary while she keeps them grounded.

“And we have a blended family,” added Jacob, who has a 21-year-old daughter. (Together, he and Maria have four children, age six and under.) “There’s a lot of messiness. I even hold up the Bible sometimes when I’m preaching and say, ‘you know, there are no perfect families in this book; this is full of messy families.’”

Gathering with many tribes

When COVID-19 arrived, the Valtierras moved the prayer meetings they’d started onto Zoom, with around 30 people participating. Once they set September 12, 2020, as their official church launch day, they and their handful of

volunteers hosted three outdoor pre-launch events during the summer.

Today, their Saturday night gatherings have grown to around 70 people live, with more tuning in from hundreds of miles away on their livestream. Jacob also hosts a weekly Facebook Live prayer time, greeting viewers with Boozhoo! (welcome in Ojibwe) or Yahswatayaht! (welcome in Oneida) and inviting participants to say hello in their own indigenous language or language of origin.

“Every time I preach, I wear my moccasins,” said Jacob, who is also doing a two-year native language program through the University of Wisconsin, to better learn his language and connect with his heritage.

Because The Gathering Place is an intertribal church, they welcome indigenous expressions and tribal dress, hosting a “Regalia Day” one Saturday a month, inviting people to wear their ribbon shirts, vests, skirts, jewelry, or moccasins. “We also have people attending the church who don’t have a Native American background, but we always tell them, you don’t have to be Native to come, but we want you to develop a heart for the Native people.”

About one-third of the church is children, many of whom have never been to church, said Maria, who runs their growing children’s program.

Show them love

“These kids are just little evangelists. They’re bringing their friends from the neighborhood around the block. They’re begging their cousins if they can come. They want their friends to know about Jesus. It’s really encouraging.”

Maria said the most significant thing non-Native people can do is to embrace them. “You don’t have to demonize their culture. You don’t have to let them know that some of their practices don’t line up with the Word of God—that’s the job of the Holy Spirit,” she explained.

“If you show them love and if you show them that you value them, it speaks so much more. Because we ultimately, as Christians, know our identity isn’t solely in our culture. We know that we are citizens of heaven.”

Learn more: or

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These kids are just little evangelists. They’re bringing their friends from the neighborhood. They want their friends to know about Jesus. “

Letting God run his life and business

In 1992, Clifton Ross had two “almost miraculous” experiences. The first was that a kid from the South Side of Chicago, who grew up seeing his hard-working single mom only a few hours a day, graduated from high school. The second was that he was accepted into college. He didn’t graduate from college, but Ross sees his time at North Central as a turning point for the rest of his life.

“I barely graduated high school, so it was really almost miraculous. After high school, a friend of mine got shot. He had a full-ride scholarship and everything, and then he got shot.” Ross didn’t have college—or anything—planned at that point but knew he had to get out of Chicago.

“I wrote to colleges—I had graduated in June and this was July and August—and was getting laughed at, with a 1.3 GPA and school starting about two weeks.”

Ross received the basic response, “We don’t think college is for you.” But then North Central Bible College let him in.

“I think that’s really remarkable,” Ross reflected, “that someone in admissions … looked at this kid from the South Side of Chicago, inner-city kid, 1.3 GPA, obviously not college material and [must have thought] ‘He’s trying to get out.’ And they admitted me. That person really changed my life and put my life on the course that it’s on today.”

Not your typical student

Today, Clifton Ross is President and CEO of Guardian Resources, a Minneapolis-based retirement planning company. While North Central was pivotal in changing his life trajectory, it was not through the typical four-year process most go through.

Upon arrival just a couple of weeks after being accepted, Ross made a big discovery: “Apparently, they still want you to study and do homework and all the same stuff I did in high school. My grades were not impressive.”

But he was learning that he had the heart of an entrepreneur and believed God was calling him to build businesses. However, at that time, North Central Bible College did not have the robust programs in business and technology that NCU has today.

Ross loved everything about North Central, especially the spiritual and social aspects. He was even elected Freshman Class President. Even so, he left after one year.

He went back to Chicago briefly but returned to Minneapolis to stay with friends and hang out with North Central students. When his roommates asked him to pay rent and he couldn’t, they asked him to leave.

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Submitted Clifton Ross

Five words that saved his life

Ross knew he needed to find a place to stay quickly. “I called my grandma, the secret weapon,” he recalled. “Without fail, your grandmother will never let you fall, or so I thought. I called her and said, ‘Grandma, it’s not working out; they’re not letting me stay here,’” anticipating an invitation to stay with her.

Instead, his grandmother said five words that changed everything: “Have you called any shelters?”

“Those five words saved my life,” Ross said, “because I realized, this is it. There is no home. There is no going back. There’s just me and now, period.

me the opportunity to buy the company.

“I had no money, but I believed I could create revenue with the business model. I drew up a business plan and secured enough investors to generate the capital needed to buy the company within one week. Amazingly, I became a business owner!”

Timing is everything, however, and in this instance the timing was not on Ross’s side. “Along came 2008,” he explained. “My business suffered the same fate as many businesses—especially mortgage companies—in the Great Recession. Not only did I lose the business, but I lost my job, my income, and many of my possessions. It looked like the lights were out for good.”

Listening in the dark

In the darkness of that season, God spoke to Ross’s heart. “He reassured me that he would use this dry season to work on my character,” Ross said. “In due time, I became confident He would restore me. And that, He did.”

A plea and a prayer

“Faced with that and no more exit routes, I did the only thing I knew to do. I hit my knees and I said, ‘God, I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I’m doing, but you created me. And if you created me, you must’ve had a purpose. Whatever you created me for, obviously I don’t know it. So I’m just going to give my life to you, and you do it.”

Suddenly, things seemed to fall into place. “Within 12 days of hitting my knees,” Ross recalled, “I went from being 19 years old and homeless to having an apartment and a roommate and being asked to be a supervisor at two different jobs.” It was a turning point in his faith and his life. “I said, ‘God, you did more in my life in 12 days than I have done in 19 years; you can keep it. I’m good.’ And so that’s what really set my trajectory up for faith, business, and discipline.”

“Looking back,” Ross reflected, “North Central got me here and it gave me an environment that I could be comfortable and be confident in. My grandma telling me to call a shelter woke me up and caused me to hit my knees, and then God put me on a path of leadership and business.”

When business is your ministry

Acknowledging God’s role in his success has continued as a norm in Ross’s life. When he lost a job in accounting, it cleared the path to an open door as an entrepreneur. “Finding myself unemployed, I tried to imagine where I would look first for my next job,” Ross said, “but I felt perplexed and had difficulty visualizing what that job would be. I helped a friend organize the financials for a mortgage company he managed. Soon after, I became a loan officer there. When that manager eventually left, the owner offered

The same financial meltdown that ended Ross’s business became his next opportunity. “A friend who’s an attorney invited me to find financial solutions for his retired clients hurting due to the financial collapse,” Ross recounted. “This led me to start the financial advisory firm where I now serve as President and CEO. I assembled a team of attorneys, accountants, advisors, and a host of other professionals who help clients navigate the retirement landscape while managing their investment accounts.”

Keeping God at the center

Still holding tight to the belief that God could run his life— and his business—better than he could, Ross has continued to keep Him at the center of all he does personally and professionally. His weekly meetings with key team members always start with prayer—something they have done for eight years without fail. He has had opportunities to pray with more than a few clients about the issues of life, even some on their deathbeds. “Nothing has given me more joy and honor to lead a client to Christ,” Ross said.

Ross's goal is to simply live out his Christian values dayto-day. He has had the joy of seeing employees come into the company disconnected from faith of any kind and later having Scriptures taped on their office wall, or discovering employees have developed a personal relationship with Christ and with other believers in the company.

“My vision is to make more so that I can give more,” Ross said. “We want to grow our company to attract more people so we can change more lives and families—from the inside out.”

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Those five words saved my life ... because I realized, this is it. There is no home. There is no going back. There’s just me and now, period. “

Effort to open homeless shelter brings community together

Dave Mowers ’07 knows a thing or two about different denominations because he’s personally journeyed through several of them. He was born into a United Methodist family, attended a Pentecostal church in high school, graduated from North Central, an Assemblies of God University, attended an Episcopal Church his senior year of college, and went to a seminary with Baptist roots. Mowers eventually found his call and his “home” as Rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

His theologically eclectic journey taught Mowers to be a bridge-builder; in the past three years, he has played an instrumental role in building bridges in the community of Baraboo to open a new homeless shelter.

Understanding God’s love for the poor

As a deep-thinking college student, Mowers felt at home and concurrently out of place as he wrestled with theology. “The seeds for everything I’m doing now were planted at North Central,” Mowers said. “A lot of that had to do with the faculty there.” He was drawn to contemplate the “worldly implications of what it means to follow Jesus and what it means to be a disciple … and what that means particularly for the poor.”

When he studied the minor prophets, Mowers realized that “the God of Israel and the God we meet in Jesus Christ is concerned for the material conditions of the poor—not simply their spiritual condition or their relationship to God.” Seeing how deeply God cares for the poor, Mowers is compelled to do the same.

Closed doors, opened eyes

In 2016, Mowers moved to Baraboo with his wife, Elizabeth, and their children. In 2018, a homeless shelter run by an independent church closed abruptly. Mowers discovered the closure when he saw a “for sale” sign in front of the church.

Alarmed at the impact this would have on homeless people in their community, he reached out to local pastors to see if they knew the story. They learned the couple that ran the church had relocated for health reasons.

The group of pastors agreed they should see if there were some way they could provide for the 30 people who had regularly used the facility, but neither Mowers’ nor others’ congregations could provide a solution standing on their own.

20 | NCU Magazine
David Mowers ’07

Mowers said, “It became clear we needed to incorporate and have a separate, independent not-for-profit corporation; it needed to be a community organization.”

Mowers found himself at an intersection where his heartpreparation for the needs of the poor met his skills as a connector and administrator. The group incorporated the Baraboo Area Homeless Shelter organization in November 2018 and Mowers was named president. However, having a formal organization and a leader didn’t mean they had a place for anyone to stay.

The first hurdle they met was finding a location for the shelter. It wasn’t feasible to buy the church building that had previously housed a shelter. As they pursued other options, they encountered a series of closed doors and even a contentious battle with residents of an adjacent village who did not welcome the idea of a homeless shelter in their community.

Deep discouragement

“We had been at it for six months,” Mowers recalled, “and we had no buildings and seemingly nowhere else to go. It was really discouraging.”

But they kept working to figure it out. Finally, in September 2019, a local business owner offered to rent them a former memory care center. They signed the lease in September, this time sailing through the approval process for permits and zoning with the City of Baraboo. Things started to click, and donations and offers of help came from people throughout the community.

Persevering through the pandemic

The work slowed down dramatically with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 but did not stop. Even throughout the polarized political cycle of 2020, Mowers saw people of all political persuasions and all faiths (or no faith) step forward to help make the shelter a reality.

“We opened the Pathway Shelter in January [2021],” Mowers said, “and have had about 30 clients come through so far.” They hired a full-time social worker as the director and are doing more than just providing meals---working with clients to address the problems that underscore homelessness and guide them toward permanent employment and housing.

Mowers’ work to bring a shelter to Baraboo was even recognized by the Governor of Wisconsin. “It was a oncein-a-lifetime kind of experience,” Mowers said. He admitted the recognition felt odd because it was a team effort that required the support of the whole community, but he also realized it was a situation of “the right gifts, right time, right passions, right place.” His journey had prepared him “for such a time as this.”

Spring 2021 | 21
David Mowers, standing, right, listens intently at a community meeting discussing opening a homeless shelter in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
We had been at it for six months, and we had no buildings and seemingly nowhere to go. It was really discouraging. “ Submitted

Integrating business and ministry for the Kingdom

skills. Through the IIE, North Central students provide support and administration, in areas such as accounting and operations, for BAM initiatives that will open doors and bring businesses to communities in hard-to-reach countries.

In 2019, Stewart took an exploratory trip to a closed country. The IIE is working with business owners in that country on enterprises offering co-working spaces and an English language school. As travel opportunities resume post-pandemic, the hope is to send students to consult with the in-country entrepreneurs to strengthen their businesses.

“Another example of work the IIE is doing is its work with missionaries,” Stewart said. “They send items native to their country to us, and we then will sell their products on sites like Amazon and Etsy. The goal is to empower our missionaries to create more self-sustaining streams of revenue while also providing NCU students the experience in marketing, sourcing, inventory management and accounting skills.”

Innovation is a crucial word in business and often marks the difference between a business just existing and truly thriving. In the realm of work for the Kingdom of God, innovation is foundational to success, whether through traditional ministry and missions or through integrating evangelism and discipleship into business, education, communications, and more. North Central University is increasingly an incubator where amazing ideas and innovation are making an impact.

Business as mission

The Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) is equipping students, alumni, and global partners with innovative business strategies, generating growth and foundational knowledge for “regular business” and Business as Mission (BAM). According to IIE Director Brian Stewart, DBA, “IIE is focused on bridging the gap between knowing and doing. We provide students real-life opportunities to grow their skill sets.”

Erik Cooper, an NCU board member and President of The Stone Table (, works with IIE on BAM endeavors. “Business as mission is the intentional integration of business and ministry to create a sustainable missional presence of the Kingdom of God in a particular community,” Cooper said. “It’s the ability to honor God and love our neighbor through the work of our hands.” The Stone Table is a strategic partner with the IIE.

IIE also partners with Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) and River Valley Church in Minnesota to equip current and future missionaries with business

On the NCU campus, IIE also provides leadership and management opportunities for students participating in a unique model for running the NCU Campus Store and Copying and Mailing Services. The skills they develop will benefit BAM initiatives and organizations the students will serve in the U.S. after graduation.

The Knowledge Box

The Knowledge Box provides computing devices to schools, orphanages, churches, and social programs in developing countries. The Knowledge Box is a program supported by Global Horizons, Inc. (; NCU faculty members Nan Muhovich, Ph.D. (Global Studies), and Colin Miller, M.A.R., M.Div. (School of Technology), serve on the GHI board.

With a goal to make technology accessible to areas that lack the resources or infrastructure for online educational materials, particularly in areas where electricity and internet are not available or reliable, the main product of The Knowledge Box is a low-cost computer device loaded with software—educational materials, videos, books, and games.

For his senior project this year, one of Miller’s students built a complete computer tower and donated ir to The Knowledge Box project. Miller encourages his students to apply their technology skills for furthering the Gospel and serving others.

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Photo: fauxels from Pexels

Alumni Updates


Doris (Erickson ’51) Sturtz lived in Anchorage, AK, over a period of 64 years (with an interlude of 10 years back in Iowa owning a concrete company) until moving to Chandler, AZ, in 2012 to be near family. At 90, she lives in a senior community and plans to be there “until the rapture or if the loving Savior calls me home.”

Leonard (Len) Ventling ’52 is a retired insurance agent. Over the years also served as Montana Men’s Director for the AG and did Light for the Lost (LFTL), including serving as LFTL National Vice President. His wife, Anita (Hanson ’55) Ventling, worked for the Montana District Office for 27 years and as a church secretary for another 12 years after her retirement. Now in their 90s, they are both “taking it easy.”


and President of Angels for Christ Ministries. He is a singer and recording artist with Impact Records.


Ken ’72 and Trudy (Groot ’71) Moeckl retired as AGWM missionaries after Ken experienced two strokes in 2019. While serving with AGWM, Trudy helped develop curriculum for Bible schools in many countries around the world. Ken recalls the joy of representing the American churches as their “sent ones” to assist national churches and believers in various ministries through the years.

Rosanne (Wilcox ’74) Shea and her husband live in Princeton, MN, and work in their local church, helping where they can. They have been on many mission trips around the world with MAPS.

Debbie (Brandt ’75) Parker retired in June after 30+ years in the medical field. Her husband, Paul ’76 (a.k.a. “Elmo”) has taught school for 30+ years and is currently teaching at a public school in South Carolina.

Marvin Smith ’75 and his wife, Betty, retired in 2018 and moved from the Philadelphia area to live near family in Princeton, MN. Marvin has been teaching adult Bible classes and

Candace (Simon ’76) Ourlin lived and worked in Belgium and France with Teen Challenge and as a pastor’s wife for 25 years. In 2001, she moved to Quebec, Canada, for her husband’s work. They are now retired.

Bryan Redford ’76 lives in the mountains of British Columbia and is retired after almost 40 years in health care administration. Roles in various management positions included vice president and CEO.


Joel Copple ’80 has lived and served in six countries in SE Asia since 1985. Ordained with the AG Minnesota District, he worked 14 years with World Relief and 17 years with Partners International and other organizations, involved in the

Connection Matters!

Bruce Talso ’62 continues to pastor the Wyanett Evangelical Free Church in Princeton, MN, (13 years) and also serves as a chaplain at the Homestead at Anoka. He serves as State Director of the Minnesota AG Seniors Ministry.

Marcia Gerard ’67 is retired from her career in hospital administration from CHI Health in Omaha, NE. She had previously been a Speech and Language Therapist.

Donald Waisanen ’67 lives in Florida and is the former Senior Pastor of Solid Rock Restoration Church

Don’t risk missing out on important North Central news and invitations or the monthly Alumni News!

Visit or call 612.343.4400 to share:

» Current contact information

» Wedding, birth, and adoption announcements

» Significant accomplishments and updates

» Prayer requests (not published, but prayed for)

Updates submitted to Alumni Relations are considered for publication in NCU Magazine based on available space. Submissions may be edited for style, brevity, and clarity. Publication does not indicate an endorsement of any individual or organization.

Spring 2021 | 23
Candace Ourlin
writing a blog about theological issues.
Bruce Talso

administration of holistic ministries in refugee camps and among the poor in a war zone and in natural disasters. Now retired, he is staying in Phnom Penh to serve and advise.

Gary Pickens ’80 pastored at Christ’s Church in Minneapolis under Paul Sundell and Fred Chilton; pioneered Covenant Assembly of God in South Charleston, WV; served as faculty at Southeastern University, SUM Bible College and Bridges Christian College. Enjoys writing articles for the Pentecostal Journal.

Randal Ackland ’81 is Lead Pastor at Crossroads International Church in South Attleboro, MA. His Ph.D. thesis was recently reworked and published, entitled, “Toward A Pentecostal Theology of Glossolalia” (available on Amazon).

Richard Gruber ’81 has served as Children’s Pastor, Children’s Ministry Consultant for the AG National Sunday School Department, and Professor of Children and Family Studies at the University of Valley Forge. He moved to Waverly, IA, in December 2019, and currently serves as a Children’s Pastor.

of Science in Community and Human Services in 2020.

Steve Moser ’88 will be retiring from the U.S. Army Chaplaincy after seven years in the Reserves and 22 on Active Duty. He and his wife plan to return to Minnesota to help raise grandchildren, take care of family members, and stay active in a local church.

Daniel ’88 and Terri (Clay ’88) Thompson have moved from Minneapolis to Alabama to be near family. Daniel has recently been ordained as a Vocational Deacon in the Anglican Church in North America and they attend Church of the Apostles in Fairhope, AL. He also directs their family foundation.


Kristi (Johnson ’92) Jalmasco lives in Rochester, MN, and serves as Director for Classical Conversations homeschool curriculum and as an on-call restaurant manager. She enjoys inspiring students and parents to love learning through the vehicle of classical, Christian education.

Ben De Boef ’95 is serving as Senior Pastor of Thousand Hills Church in Corinth, TX.

Tim Sorbo ’96 has lived in Green Bay, WI, for 21 years, where he teaches chemistry, biology, general science, and anatomy/physiology at a local Christian academy. He also blogs at

abandoned children in Nairobi.

Daryl Amrozowicz ’99 recently retired from full-time employment as a hospice chaplain, and now serves as fire chief for his local fire department.

Wayne Nestor ’84 has been appointed by the Governor of Nebraska as the ServeNebraska Commissioner, directing the state’s AmeriCorps Program and encouraging volunteerism and community development.

Carole (Costanza ’87) Forsmith earned an associate’s degree at NCU and returned to college in 2019, graduating magna cum laude from SUNY Empire College with a Bachelor

Kelly (Knecht ’97) Kimani married Paul Kimani in April 2020. She has been working in Kenya since 2014 and in 2018 helped to open a school for

Cristi (Strong ’99) Schroeder empowers a sisterhood of Christian leaders to reach their fullest potential through an online membership community. She and her husband, Nathan, live in Stevens Point, WI.


Stephen Crawford ’00, earned his doctorate from Bethel University in 2015 and is working in leadership development. He’s trained thousands of people over the past 20 years to improve their leadership skills. As a consultant, he assists businesses and non-profit organizations through executive coaching, leadership training, and staff development. He and his wife, Tiffany, live in Blaine, MN.

Christopher Bahl ’01 has lived in seven states working as an American Sign Language Interpreter. He has opportunities to do specialty work in sports with the Final Four and Super Bowls, among others. He married Krista Hargan on February 8, 2020.

24 | NCU Magazine
Wayne Nestor Kelly Kimani Cristi Schroeder

Corey Burres ’01 is Vice President of Marketing & Communications for the George Center for Opportunity.

Beth (Langlois ’01) Roberts was a global worker in northwest Argentina from 2010–2019. After a home stay in 2019, COVID-19 changed her family’s plans to go to a new ministry in Uruguay. While waiting for the Uruguay borders to open up, God has given them ministry to do while they trust God’s timing for traveling again.

Kevin Lamminen ’02 is Administrative Coordinator for Accra Management Group. He continues to sponsor children in Mexico and co-leads mission teams to support missionaries working in and around Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Jonathan and Rachel (Klas ’06) Yorkowitz live in Gainesville, FL, where Jonathan recently accepted a job at the University of Florida as an Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Office of the Dean of Students. He’s also finishing his Ph.D. from Indiana State University. Rachel is at home with their kids, and they’re expecting their third child in August.

Abigail (Moore ’03) Evans married Steve Evans on Oct. 10, 2020. She works as Benefits Administrator for M.J. Electric, in Iron Mountain, MI.

Sandra (Pasche ’04) Hannah lives in Shawnee, KS, and leads a team that works with foster care and adoptive families in Kansas City, KS.

Paul St. Martin ’06 started a new job with MN Adult and Teen Challenge as the Alumni Services Director. His role is to ensure that anyone who attends a treatment program has access to ongoing support and resources to promote their ongoing sobriety.

’08 published his first book, “Shoes Off: Life on Holy Ground.” Details are at


Amber (Atkinson

and her husband have five children. Amber worked for an adult day program for those with special needs from 2015–2018. She now serves an investigator for the county mental health department, and is Lead Pastor of The Well, in Mt. Clemens, MI. She enjoys her bi-vocational role, working within the church and the marketplace.

Spring 2021 | 25
Paul St. Martin Amber Sultes Ruth DiRose Zack and Jenni Kahmeyer Dave Mann Abigail Evans Jenni (Busse) Kahmeyer ’08 received her Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) and works as an Outpatient Therapist for Nystrom and Associates. Ltd. Zack ’10 works at Bright Health Plan in Minneapolis. Justin and Ruth (Velo ’08) DiRose welcomed Edan James in November 2019. He joined two siblings. Mann Corey Burres ’09) Sultes

Elisha (DeGrave ’09)Robertson and her husband, Daniel, became AG US Missionaries with MAPS, serving Indiana and Ohio churches with facility renovations and church health.


Sam ’11 and Jaclyn (Trieb ’11) Luthi, have ventured from their deep roots in Minnesota and North Dakota to serve as pastors at Bryan First Assembly in Bryan, Ohio. They have three daughters, ages 6, 4, and 1 1/2.

Spencer Wentland ’13 is currently serving as a missionary in southern Japan, teaching English and working in congregational mission and leadership.

Bob Price ’16 works in inside sales for a building supply company. He and his wife, Pam, moved to Anchorage, AK, in October 2019.

Tim Brown ’17 taught at Maranatha Christian Academy for two years. In 2019 he went to China for a month on an English-teaching trip and was called to the global work field. He started a term as a global worker and was assigned to Eurasia in September.

Josiah Williams ’17 left the Army Reserves after 10 years as a Religious Affairs Specialist and took a job in health care while working on his Master of Divinity. Getting into the health care field just before the pandemic, Josiah has worked in six hospitals this year in different roles, but is grateful for the opportunity to minister in a difficult season in the medical world.

Rebecca Glader ’17 is working as Activities Director at Bel Rae Senior Living in Mounds View, MN.

Heather (Craig ’12) Perez works remotely as a resource specialist in a child care assistance program, as well as homeschooling their children (preschool and kindergarten).

Austin ’15 and Jessi (Short ’15) Hall moved to Michigan as Austin started a new career in mortgage underwriting, doing financial coaching on the side. Jessi is a Regional Volunteer Coordinator with a hospice agency.

Tania (Rosener ’16) Castillo married Nathaniel Castillo in August 2020. They live in Sioux City, IA, where she works at the church she grew up in as an Early Childhood Pastor.


Mélika Boutin ’20 works as an Associate Enrollment Counselor at Capella University.

Abigail (Nielsen ’20) Liberator has started a business as a private teacher for piano, voice, ukulele, and acting.

Camden McAfee ’13 and his wife, Kaylin, welcomed Elliot James in February. Camden also began a new job with BibleProject, working remotely to help publish resources that help people see and experience the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus.

Ashley (Reed ’16) Morrison married Reverend Phillip Andrew Morrison on Valentine’s Day 2020. They are expecting their first child in June.

Roza Ayalew ’20 is glad she took the risk to come to the United States and pursue her dreams. She has found multiple work/business/education opportunities and enjoys traveling with her husband and mom.

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Roza Ayalew Camden McAfee Heather Perez Ashley Morrison Spencer Wentland Austin and Jessi Hall

Nicky Peters ’20 works as a freelance ASL interpreter for two agencies and works full time at Four Seasons A+ Elementary as a preschool sign language para professional/interpreter.

Taylor De Boef ’20 became a licensed minister through the Assemblies of God Fellowship and has accepted a position at Thousand Hills Church in Corinth, TX, as the Young Adults Director.

Sable Heimer ’20 is working on her Master of Applied Psychology degree at Adler University, with a dual focus on Community Health and Wellness and Child and Adolescent Development. She works as Campus Care Coordinator at NCU.

In Memory

North Central University extends condolences to the families of these NCU community members who have passed away.

Thomas Doyne Jennings ’53, of Springfield, MO, on Dec. 21, 2020

Gladness Marvel (Beard ’53) Jennings, of Springfield, MO, on Dec. 27, 2020

Alton Bovee ’71, of Inver Grove Heights, MN, on Dec. 23, 2020

Dan Milbrath ’82, of Deer Park, TX, on Sept. 7, 2013

Jessica Eberhardt ’20 lives in St. Cloud, MN, doing freelance (ASL) interpreting work and working with Sorenson Video Relay Interpreting. She has passed the NIC Written Exam—one step closer to NIC certification.

Ryan Forte, ’20 M.A. is serving as Assistant Gym Manager for TAGS Gymnastics and as the Youth Director for South Suburban Evangelical Free Church.

Mylick Elliot-Dargan

Mylick Eliott-Dargan ’20 lives in Charlotte, NC, with his wife, Angela. He is a Lead Teacher at Justice Kids Academy and also coaches basketball.

The number after an individual’s name (e.g., ’86) indicates the last year an alumnus/a attended North Central. An "M.A." preceding the year indicates an earned master’s degree. Alumni status is granted for those who leave North Central with at least 12 course credits.

Paul Brandon Sr. ’89 of Stillwater, MN, on April 10, 2021

Susette (Spear) Brandon ’89 of Stillwater, MN, on Jan. 4, 2021

Brandon Zacek ’13, of Odell, IL, on Dec. 20, 2020

Dr. John Davenport, former faculty member, of Roseville, MN, on Feb. 25, 2021

Rev. William Green, Sr., former staff member, of Minneapolis, MN, on April 13, 2021

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Sable Heimer Jessica Eberhardt


Celebrating graduates— COVID style

North Central University’s Commencement Ceremony for the Class of 2020, originally slated for May 1, was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. At that time, President Scott Hagan, Ph.D., announced that the class would be celebrated on Dec. 12 of the same year, never anticipating that even that would be too soon to host a full traditional ceremony. In an unprecedented season, the graduates gathered in the Lindquist Sanctuary masked and socially distant, while family and friends joined from around the world via livestream.

Restrictions on gatherings persisted into spring. While the Class of 2021 was able to graduate “on time,” their celebration at Cedar Valley Church on April 30 included only graduates, faculty, and ceremony participants. Family members watched via livestream.

Chaplain (Major General) Thomas Solhjem ’82, M.Div., Chief of Chaplains for the United States Army, gave the commencement address.

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“ ”
There are two voices in life: there’s the critic and there’s the champion. Let Christ be the voice you hear; let Him be your champion.
Major General Thomas Solhjem ’82, U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains
Photo Credit: Amanda Whitcomb


The show goes on—

NCU Theatre adapts for spring production of ‘Godspell’

NCU Theatre presented “Godspell” March 29April 1 in performances during NCU chapel services. It was the first live theatre with an audience the theatre students had been able to do this year, due to COVID-19 health protocols. Performances were also recorded and streamed online April 9 and 10 to allow audiences outside of NCU to see the production.

Throughout the year, theatre students have been adapting to college life under a variety of COVIDrelated protocols. “Earlier in the school year we presented a series of sketches that explored dating and love during the pandemic,” Assistant Professor Wayne Matthews ’03, M.A., (Fine Arts) explained. “We began with a humorous look at the challenges of dating—with masks and on the internet— and moved toward the fact that God’s love never lets us down.”

“Theatre, as well as many of the performing arts, have been challenged during the pandemic,” Matthews reflected. “Theatre doesn’t feel the same when it is not live. However, our students have found ways to still express the craft. Some students have met the challenges of this time by watching recorded performances, doing scenes online, writing, and discussing scripts virtually to keep the creative juices flowing.”

Photo: Sam Joson ’20, playing Jesus in “Godspell.”
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