2018 Alumni Award Recipients
| by Carol Best firstname.lastname@example.org
Alumnus of the Year:
Blair Spindle (’92) grew up in Olathe and earned his degree in history education. As a student, he played football and baseball at MNU and was a member of Heritage Choir.
In 1996, Blair earned a Master of Religious Education degree from Nazarene Theological Seminary. Later, he earned an EdD from Nova Southeastern University.
For 20 years, Blair served as a youth pastor in Oklahoma, Florida and Colorado. He has been a District Nazarene Youth International (NYI) president and the South-Central Region NYI president. Blair has also authored three books and numerous articles.
Since 2012, Blair has served as campus pastor and dean of the chapel at Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma City, where he is on the president’s leadership team. Leading weekly chapel services, he also oversees small groups, participates in summer mission trips and team teaches a Sunday School class for young adults.
Blair and his wife Tollya, have three daughters: Bethany, Bailey and Brooklyn.
The Alumnus of the Year was awarded in recognition of Blair’s service to the church and his impact on young lives.
Alumna of the Year:
Rita Powers Gunsalus-Jack (’72) has the unique distinction of being the first applicant to apply for admission to MidAmerica Nazarene College. After graduating with a degree in secondary education, Rita earned a master’s degree in speech communications curriculum from the University of Kansas. She completed certification as a school counselor at the University of Central Oklahoma and in 2003, earned a PhD in instructional leadership and academics from the University of Oklahoma.
During her 42-year career, Rita taught in Kansas City’s urban core, was a public school administrator in Oklahoma and a professor at Oklahoma City Community College.
Rita has become known for investing in her family, in the lives of her students, in her church and community. Now retired, Rita and her husband, William, reside in Fresno, California, where she is a counselor, is involved in her local church, and spends time with her two married sons and two grandchildren.
The Alumna of the Year was awarded for Rita’s accomplishments and dedicated service in the field of education and counseling.
Young Alumni Award:
Genna Wissing, RN, BSN, (’15) started her career as a progressive care nurse on the Heart/Neuro/Vascular unit at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, later transitioning to Olathe Medical Center’s emergency department. She also serves as an ophthalmology nurse at the top retina specialty clinic in the Midwest.
In 2016, Genna was diagnosed with stage 4 classical Hodgkin lymphoma. After eight months of intensive treatment, two different chemotherapy regimens, a stem cell transplant and then a relapse, she began a new immunotherapy treatment. With this new treatment she immediately asked to return to work.
Since then Genna has been back at work caring for patients while undergoing blood cancer treatments herself. She also tutors nursing students in MNU’s Academic Success Center and attends the University of Missouri-Kansas City in to become a family nurse practitioner.
The Young Alumni award was given in recognition of Genna’s dedicated service to her patients and her unrelenting drive in the face of obstacles.
Carry the Torch Award:
Todd Walker (’88) has worked for Weyerhaeuser Company in various capacities for the past 30 years. He and his wife Stacy have two adult sons, Caleb and Jerod. Todd is actively involved at Nall Avenue Church of the Nazarene, where he has taught Sunday School and served on the church board.
Last April during a routine work trip, Todd became the center of one of social media’s top viral moments of 2018 when he came to the rescue of a young mother struggling on a flight with her 4-month-old son and 3-year-old daughter. As they boarded the flight from Kansas City to North Carolina, the infant began to wail and 3-year-old Caroline lost her nerve and began to kick and scream. Afraid they would be removed from the flight, the mother desperately struggled to calm her children.
Seated next to them, Todd, offered a helping hand. Engaging young Caroline by coloring and watching a movie with her, he diverted her attention. By the end of the flight, Todd and Caroline were best friends.
Discovering they had the same connecting flight for the next leg of the trip, Todd helped the family to the next gate. If that wasn’t enough, he changed his seat on the second flight to sit with them, so he could continue to help.
In a Facebook post that went viral, the children’s mother, Jessica, wrote “This guy, Todd, showed me kindness and compassion that I’ve never known from another person. I am blown away by God’s hand in this because we could have been placed next to anyone, but we were seated next to one of the nicest men I have ever met in my life.”
The Carry The Torch award was given in recognition of Todd’s Christlike service to others.