Southern Wesleyan recognizes outstanding alumni
Southern Wesleyan University alumni were recognized April 14 for their outstanding efforts in ministry and business during an annual awards luncheon on the university’s campus in Central.
The Alumni of the Year Award was presented to Rev. James Wiggins, who received a bachelor of arts degree in religion in 1958. Wiggins currently serves as vice president of development at Southern Wesleyan and plans to retire in June. Prior to that, he served on Southern Wesleyan’s board of trustees. Wiggins has spent more than 50 years in Christian ministry for The Wesleyan Church, half of which was spent pastoring in three Upstate churches. He has served also on the denominational level as district superintendent for The Wesleyan Church in Georgia and as assistant superintendent of the South Carolina District. Wiggins served The Wesleyan Church nine consecutive times as a delegate to the General Conference and served as director of world missions for South Carolina and was the missionary coordinator for more than four years in West Africa.
A Young Leader Award was presented posthumously to Travis Eiler, who received a bachelor of arts degree in recreation and leisure services in 2010. Accepting the award were his parents, Eric and Danelle Eiler. Eiler died while serving in the mission field in Central Asia. He transferred to Southern Wesleyan from Spartanburg Methodist College, where he was actively involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, going on several missions trips, including a summer-long trip to Central Asia. At Southern Wesleyan, Eiler started and led several Bible study groups on campus and was a member of the cross country team. Eiler returned to Central Asia, where he taught English at a university. He was in his second year of service when on Dec. 2, 2011, he was found dead in his apartment. An investigation into his death is ongoing. During the presentation, Dave Tolan, missionary in residence at Southern Wesleyan, held up a pair of Eiler’s sneakers, offering a challenge to others to fill his shoes and serve on the mission field.
Also receiving a Young Leader Award was Jessica Hubbard, a 2009 honors graduate who received a bachelor’s degree in special education. Hubbard went on to earn her master of education degree in special education from the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University. While at Vanderbilt, Hubbard surveyed health educators in Tennessee high schools, exploring disparities in health education courses offered to general high school students versus special education students. She also taught English at Georgetown International Academy in Guyana. While on the staff at Georgetown International, she participated in the development and writing of a standards-based curriculum for the school. Hubbard is currently pursuing a position as a special education teacher at a juvenile detention center in Tennessee. She also plans to earn her doctoral degree in International Education with the goal of developing education programs in Third-World countries.
The Professional Excellence Award – School of Education was presented to Dr. Jonathan Watts, who earned a bachelor of arts degree in theology in 1974. Watts started his career as a Pastor at Mr. Calvary Wesleyan Church in Easley in 1972-74. He went on to become an Associate Minister at First Wesleyan Church in Talladega, Ala., for two years. During his lifetime, he has served as a social worker, a minister of music, an insurance salesman and a minister in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church. Watts currently serves on the faculty at Snead State Community College, Boaz, Ala. He is an Oxford Foundation Fellow and has authored many books and articles, including “The Battle Lines of Worship: Finding a Place of Truce and Trust,” and “Gospel Telling to a Digital Culture: The Forensic Reconstruction of a Good Story.”
The Professional Excellence Award – School of Business was presented to Janelle Beamer, who earned a master of science in management degree in 2003. Beamer served Southern Wesleyan for eight years as director of public relations and is currently the director of advancement and development at John de la Howe School in McCormick. While at Southern Wesleyan, Beamer actively promoted the university, winning awards and national recognition for Focus magazine. She has served on numerous boards and councils, which included the Easley Chamber of Commerce, Clemson Area Chamber of Commerce, Central Area Business Council, Women and Children Succeeding, Pickens County Heritage Corridor and the Greenville chapter of Women in Communications. She was also selected to participate in Leadership South Carolina and Leadership Pickens County. Beamer was also the first person to be awarded the David J. Spittal Community Award, named for the university’s former president.
The Professional Excellence Award – College of Arts and Sciences was presented to Dr. Bill Jenkins, recognizing his contributions to community leadership and the field of optometry. Jenkins graduated from Southern Wesleyan with a biology degree in 1966. He is also a former member of the university’s board of trustees and has served on several boards and community organizations, including the Walhalla Chamber of Commerce and the Walhalla Lions Club. He is a recipient of the TLC Silver Award for Excellence in Eye Care. Jenkins also served the South Carolina Commission for the Blind as a low vision consultant for 10 years. In 1994, he expanded his practice, which became known as Carolina Multispecialty Associates. In 1997, Jenkins founded MediVision P.A. He has been actively involved at Welcome Wesleyan Church, singing in the choir, teaching Sunday School and leading church efforts to help the needy.