Wheaton magazine

Volume 18 // Issue 3
Wheaton magazine // Autumn 2015

21 Innovators in the 21st Century

Dr. Amy Hughes M.A. '08, Ph.D. '13
Color illustrations by Cajsa Holgersson


Theology from a Female Perspective: Dr. Amy Hughes M.A. '08, Ph.D. '13

As the first female theologian to graduate from Wheaton’s Ph.D. program, Dr. Amy Hughes M.A. ’08, Ph.D. ’13 is one of the few evangelical scholars to focus on women’s contributions to the development of early Christian theology. Her book, Christian Women in the Patristic World: Influence, Authority and Legacy (Baker Academic, 2015), co-authored with Dr. Lynn Cohick, professor of New Testament, will be available later this year. 

“While focusing on women and other minority voices in early Christianity is central to my work, it is also something that I believe is core to the Christian tradition no matter what time period,” Dr. Hughes explains. “A deep reading of ancient sources can yield much-needed theological reflection on current issues of global justice. Making these connections delights me and also fills me with a sense of solemn determination to see Christ at work, both in my scholarship and in the world.” 

Dr. Hughes will commence her teaching career as assistant professor of theology at Gordon College this fall.

Everything Old is New Again: Dr. Mark David Hall '88 and Dr. Joseph Clair '02

As William Penn envisioned the colony of Pennsylvania as the place where Christianity would infuse the social and political life of its members, so Dr. Mark David Hall ’88, Herbert Hoover Distinguished Professor of Politics at George Fox University, wanted to create a “transformational learning community” where small groups of students led by Christian faculty could engage with the great ideas of history and thereby develop intellectual and moral virtues that would shape their lives. Dr. Hall’s desire led to the development of the William Penn Honors Program, an alternative general education track that offers undergraduates the chance to read and discuss nearly 140 great books, from Athens and Jerusalem through the medieval ages into the 20th century. The program launched with 40 students in fall 2014 under the direction of Dr. Joseph Clair ’02, who was recruited by Dr. Hall to oversee the program. 

“I believe that to be truly educated,” explains Dr. Clair, “one must engage in a broad liberal arts education with a Christian vision of the good life, in which human flourishing develops out of a love for God and neighbor.” 

Both Dr. Hall and Dr. Clair credit their Wheaton education as “foundational” to their current work, especially the “notoriously back-breaking” yearlong history of philosophy course with Dr. Art Holmes ’50, where they encountered the great texts of Western philosophy. What might it look like to take this approach with important texts from other disciplines?, they wondered. Students in the new William Penn Honors Program can let you know.

Dr. Beth A. Bauer '94

A Healing Melody: Dr. Beth A. Bauer ’94

Tell Dr. Beth A. Bauer ’94 something can’t be done, then see what happens. An instructor and academic adviser for the pedagogy degree program and music internships at Wheaton’s Conservatory of Music, Beth is also the founder of Beethoven’s Buddies, a unique music program for students with special needs at Wheaton’s Community School of the Arts. Beth’s philosophy is simple: “When somebody told me that you could not successfully teach persons with disabilities, I wanted to prove them wrong. Never take ‘no’ for an answer.” 

Since 2003, nearly 100 students with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy or other disabilities have received private piano lessons or participated in a hand chimes ensemble through this creative program. Several of Beth’s students have competed in music competitions and received perfect scores. Beth’s work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, NBC Nightly News, Indiana University Alumni Magazine, and the Daily Herald, among others.

Public Education Advocate: Ben Cairns ’00

Whether it’s coaching teachers, helping students, or talking with parents and community leaders, Ben Cairns ’00 feels called to live out his faith pursuing social justice through public education. While in Uganda for three years teaching and helping people adapt indigenous peace practices to a schoolhouse setting with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Ben learned about restorative justice, which emphasizes restoration over punishment. Ben chose to enact this vision at North High School in Denver, Colo., where he served as restorative justice coordinator and dean for five years. Ben then served as the assistant principal at Cole Arts and Science Academy for two years before he was drawn to the Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) network for their emphasis on reducing educational inequity. In the fall of 2014, Ben was appointed as school director of Cole High School, which opened with 145 ninth graders and plans to build out a full high school of 500+ students over the next four years. 

“Trying each day to help lead a school that is truly transformative in a community is a small step in the direction of participating in the world God intends for all of us,” Ben says.

Dr. Will Norton Jr. '63
Line illustrations by Metaleap Creative

Professor of the Written Word: Dr. Will Norton Jr. '63

He has been a visiting lecturer at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia and at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa. He has served as president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communications. In a professional career spanning nearly 40 years, he has earned a reputation for hiring out-standing professionals from elite media, recruiting exceptionally talented students, and attracting private donations for the universities fortunate enough to have him on faculty.

Yet Dr. Will Norton Jr. ’63, currently serving as the founding dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, is a remarkably humble man.

“As Dr. Clyde Kilby HON often said, God surprises all the time,” Dr. Norton Jr. says. “Indeed, I am surprised and in awe that He cares for me and has worked through me. When students and faculty come to me with challenges, I may say a few words, but many, many times, the other person hears more than I say. The Spirit of God communicates the way—both the truth and the life."


Brian Blackburn M.A. '06

If By Sea: Brian Blackburn M.A. ’06

1989 was a revolutionary time in the life of Brian Blackburn M.A. ’06. That year Brian went to Jamaica on a mission trip with Mercy Ships, a Christian nonprofit that provides free healthcare for people where medical care is nearly nonexistent. 

“It was my first time out of the United States, and we were doing hurricane relief. I saw poverty like never before. When I returned home, I knew that I had a responsibility to use what God had given me—skills, stuff, money, time—in a way that would honor and glorify him,” Brian explains. 

After college, Brian returned to Mercy Ships, where he taught in the hospital ship’s elementary school for eight years and then served as the principal for two. In 2006, Brian accepted a position as the Chief Administrator of Mercy Ships Academy. Brian’s enthusiasm for following God is contagious: “Get out there and serve God wherever that may take you. Don’t let money be something that holds you back! I have not had a ‘paying’ job in the last 20 years and God has supplied all my needs much better than I could have ever done. Get out there and follow Christ!”

The Rev. Anders Litzell ’03

Transformative Community: The Rev. Anders Litzell ’03

Though Fr. Anders Litzell ’03 tends to draw on ancient Christian traditions to describe his vocation, his current role as Prior of the Community of St. Anselm at Lambeth Palace is one that involves “creating something from scratch at breakneck pace.” Ordained in the Church of England since 2012 and appointed Prior by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in November 2014, Fr. Litzell is developing a year of formation through prayer, study, shared life, and service to the poor for the Community set to launch in September. The Community will be composed of people ages 20 to 35 from all over the world, and any Christian church, who want intentionally to pursue likeness of Christ. Embedded in the twenty-first century but drawing on the inheritance of the monastic innovators Ss. Benedict, Francis and Ignatius, the Community’s goal, Fr. Anders says, is “to live transformative lives in all spheres of human activity.”

Pursuing Shalom in Greece: Dr. Myrto Theocharous M.A. ’07

Dr. Myrto Theocharous M.A. ’07

In the land where Paul once traveled, Dr. Myrto Theocharous M.A. ’07, professor of theology and biblical studies at Greek Bible College in Athens, educates future Christian leaders at the only accredited evangelical institution in Greece. Yet Dr. Theocharous does not confine her work to biblical education. She has also worked to rescue women subjected to sex trafficking or prostitution with New Life Ministries and recently produced a documentary on human trafficking in Greece. 

“A fundamental aspect of the Old Testament is its profound respect for human life and its forward vision toward a world of shalom,” Dr. Theocharous says. “This animates all kinds of thought and action in anyone who is grafted into this vision, and it is the driving force behind my involvement with anti-trafficking work.”


Justin Nanfelt ’09

The Marketing Strategist: Justin Nanfelt ’09

Justin Nanfelt ’09 was named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list in 2015 for his work as a marketing insights strategist for PMK•BNC, a strategic marketing and communications firm specializing in popular culture and entertainment that helps clients stay on the cutting edge of a quickly evolving marketplace. Justin’s own contributions toward this end have included projects like the Genworth R70 age simulation suit, designed to help Fortune 500 client Genworth Financial raise awareness about the need for long-term care planning through simulating the ailments of aging. 

Justin’s creativity also finds expression in the graffiti art side business, 214 Graffiti, that he started with his former roommate. He has sold over 150 paintings, including commissions by ABC Family, Verizon Wireless, and Warner Bros. Records Inc. Justin’s means of making a living aren’t the only things that make him unique, however. 

“I strive to live with integrity in the workplace,” he says. “The entertainment industry is extremely fastpaced and competitive, so it sets you apart.”

Necessity and Invention: Jon Alexander ’95

When Jon Alexander ’95 decided to take a new job involving a downtown commute, his four-year-old daughter Kalley was not pleased. So she designed a machine that could help her dad stay home. “While building the machine Kalley drew was a no-go for several reasons—as you might imagine—we loved the heart behind her drawing,” Jon says. “We decided it could make a great interactive story that we could build together and sell as an app.”

Toby Meisenheimer ’96

In 2014, Jon and his family launched an app development company called RocketWagon and released “Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats” as an iPad app available in the Apple App Store. Jon’s other daughter, Corbett, created the cats. 

“RocketWagon is about making the stories we need to hear and the games we need to play,” Jon says. “It’s also a response to things God is showing us about family and discipleship.”

Graham Smith '12

A Creative Mender: Toby Meisenheimer ’96

When Toby Meisenheimer ’96 first imagined Tru-Colour Bandages, he simply wanted to solve a problem. An adoptive father of children of color, he noticed there was no such thing as skin-tone bandages for non-Caucasians. “If we were all created differently, why do all bandage companies think we’re the same?” Toby asked. Thus, TruColourBandages.com was born, a company that creates bandages to match a variety of skin tones. 

“Embedded in our message is the idea of a Creator who took the time to make us all in his image and made us very diverse,” Toby says.

The Reverse Tither: Graham Smith '12

For Graham Smith ’12, challenging the status quo when it comes to money management is a way of life. A private banking analyst for Credit Suisse Latin America, Graham’s job involves helping the multinational company develop equity and foreign currency strategies. But perhaps more interesting is what he chooses to do with his own finances: reverse tithing, or, giving away 90 percent of his paycheck every month. 

“I was deeply impacted by a Wheaton alumni venture capitalist who demonstrated that investing in people is what lasts forever,” Graham says.

In pursuit of this goal, Graham and his wife, April, choose to live below their means. They also host discussions with coworkers on generosity and plan to start a nonprofit restaurant that will employ formerly imprisoned or homeless people and fund social enterprises.


Dr. William Wood ’62, Dr. Bruce MacFadyen ’64, and Dr. Steve Weber ’83

PAACS Men: Dr. Bruce MacFadyen ’64, Dr. Steve Weber ’83, and Dr. William Wood ’62

The Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS) was founded in 1997 as a commission of the Christian Medical and Dental Association. It is supported by a fleet of physicians—including three Wheaton alumni—committed to providing top-notch surgical training and Christian discipleship for indigenous physicians in Africa. Dr. Bruce MacFadyen ’64, who served as a professor of surgery at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston for 30 years and has been involved in medical missions since 1976, has been on PAACS’s board since its inception. 

“Our goal is to train 100 residents by 2020, and we are on target to do so,” Dr. MacFadyen says, “but we need a lot of physicians from all areas to come teach.” 

One physician who responded to PAACS’s call is Dr. Steve Weber ’83, a general surgeon in Decatur, Ill., who has traveled regularly to Africa over the last seven years to teach PAACS residents. 

“In Africa, there are very limited options if you want to be a surgeon,” Dr. Weber says. “PAACS offers a five-year, fully funded residency to doctors who likely otherwise couldn’t afford such training.” 

Dr. William Wood ’62 also found himself compelled by PAACS’s strategic approach, and after an illustrious career as the chief of surgical oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital and chair of the Department of Surgery at Emory, he accepted a position as the first academic dean of the PAACS program in August 2011. 

“In evaluating and raising the academic level of the program, my role is a rather minor one,” Dr. Wood says. “All the labor and hard work is done by the mission doctors committed to teaching the residents.”

Dr. Neftali Serrano Psy.D. ’98

Pioneering Mental Health Care Delivery: Dr. Neftali Serrano Psy.D. ’98

A quiet revolution is happening in the way people obtain mental health care, and Dr. Neftali Serrano Psy.D. ’98 is one of the pioneers behind it. Dr. Neftali practices what is known as the Behavioral Health Consultant (BHC) model, an integrated approach that creates access to mental health services for a much larger set of the population, especially those in underserved communities. 

“For a very long time mental health service delivery has been thought of as occurring in 50-minute visits with a psychotherapist or psychiatrist over a predetermined period of time,” Dr. Neftali says. “What I started doing 14 years ago was experimenting with working alongside primary care providers and seeing their patients in their exam rooms. I am a part of the first generation of mental health professionals working in primary care, and as such, most people don’t know much about us, but I suspect that they soon will.” 

Dr. Neftali currently serves as the Chief Behavioral Health Officer at the Access Community Health Centers, Madison, Wisconsin, and has recently published an e-book entitled The Implementer’s Guide To Primary Care Behavioral Health, available on iTunes.


Behind the Line of Duty: Dr. Stephen Tate M.A. ’00, Psy.D. ’02

Regularly witnessing the worst of humanity can exact a significant psychological toll. As the head of psychological services for the Houston Police Department (HPD), Dr. Stephen Tate M.A. ’00, Psy.D. ’02 and his staff are modeling a way to care for officers struggling to maintain mental health.

In 2005, Dr. Tate was hired as a staff psychologist to provide mental health counseling for HPD cadets, officers, and their families. Ten years later, he now oversees the division and remains committed to providing a level of care—at no charge to the police, civilians, or their families—usually reserved for private practice.

Raymond Joseph ’60
Photo by Greg Halvorsen Schreck

“I have the opportunity to work with people who are facing some of the most dire situations of their lives,” Dr. Tate says. “Not everyone is cut out for this, but God doesn’t call us to a cookie-cutter life.”

Growing a Great Society: Raymond Joseph ’60

Whether it’s against human rights abuses or destruction of the land, Haitian-born Raymond Joseph ’60 is a fighter. A few years after dictator Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier came to power in Haiti, Joseph led the opposition against him among the Haitian diaspora in New York City. Aware of the power of the media, he started a radio broadcast to expose Duvalier’s brutality and also founded a newspaper, the Haiti Observateur, with his brother. After a successful career at the Wall Street Journal and then as a diplomat and ambassador, Joseph decided to run for president in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, a story chronicled in Joseph’s new book, For Whom the Dogs Spy: Haiti: From the Duvalier Dictatorships to the Earthquake, Four Presidents, and Beyond (Arcade Publishing, 2015). As founder of the nonprofit A Dollar A Tree For Haiti, Inc., Joseph is now working on the vital issue of reforestation.


Megan McClain Kwacz ’00

Love Out Loud: Megan McClain Kwacz ’00

At the heart of Megan McClain Kwacz ’00’s engagement with Peace of the City (POTC), an inner-city ministry to at-risk youth in Buffalo, New York, is an understanding of “incarnational ministry” that means being fully available and present in the lives of the youth she works with—whether that entails waiting with them in an AIDS clinic or bringing groceries to the homes of children raised by parents battling addiction. 

“Creator God creates us all in love, to be love to each other,” Megan says. 

Sarah Pulliam Bailey ’08

After 14 years at POTC, Megan says she’s done just about every job in the organization. Currently serving as program director and creative arts director, Megan’s involvement includes everything from fundraising and strategic planning to teaching yoga and jewelry design. A graduate of Wheaton’s Workout theater ensemble, Megan also helped initiate “Shakespeare comes to (716),” one of POTC’s best-loved programs.

The Social-Savvy Journalist: Sarah Pulliam Bailey ’08

Sarah Pulliam Bailey ’08 wants to refresh news media in compelling ways during her career as a religion reporter and editor. The seed for Sarah’s journalistic career was planted at Wheaton, and she cites her time at The Wheaton Record as “the best thing that ever happened to me.” Besides launching her career in journalism, The Wheaton Record is also where Sarah met her husband, Jason Bailey ’07, who now works for ESPN. After graduation, she served at Christianity Today and Religion News Service before taking her current position as editor of the “Acts of Faith” section at the Washington Post

“I try to practice the ‘Golden Rule’ in every story I do, so I try to report on every faith the way I would want my own faith to be reported on,” she notes.

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