Concordia presents special awards to alumni and friends at Homecoming

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SEWARD, NE (09/29/2017) The Concordia Alumni Association at Concordia University, Nebraska, honored individuals and a family as part of its 2017 Homecoming and Alumni Reunion Weekend celebration, Sept. 22-24.

The awards are given each year to recognize the service and accomplishments of Concordia's alumni and friends.

This year's awards and honorees include:

Alumnus of the Year: Rev. John Barton Day '92

Young Alumni of the Year: Brandon McWilliams '13 and Preston Harris '14

Servant Leadership Award: Dr. Micah Parker '91

Lifetime Service Award: Prof. Edmund Martens

Family Heritage Award: Robbins Family

Lifelong Learner Award: Bud Olsson '12

Honorary Bulldog Spirit Award: Rev. Kenneth and Marlene Block

Alumnus of the Year: Rev. John Barton Day '92

Rev. Bart Day serves as President and CEO of the Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF). In his role Day oversees LCEF's investments, loans and ministry support activities, communicates to and with LCEF's partner organizations and assists the LCEF Board of Directors in establishing the overall course and direction of the organization.

Day graduated from Concordia Nebraska in 1992 and went on to graduate from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in 1997. During his time at Concordia, he sang in the A Cappella Choir and states, "Dad Martens was the most influential professor and mentor to me."

Day served as executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission from 2011 till 2017 with primary responsibility in the implementation of the polices of the Board for National Mission which direct the domestic ministries that especially serve congregations and schools through the districts of the Synod. During his time at the International Center Day has also served as interim Chief Mission Officer (2014-15) and interim executive director for the Office of Pastoral Education of the Synod (2014-16).

Rev. Day and his wife Julie have six children. Isobo, Jonah, Seth, Caleb, Jotham, and Lydia.

Young Alumni of the Year: Brandon McWilliams '13 and Preston Harris '14

Brandon McWilliams was raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, and graduated from Lincoln High School in 2006. His opportunity to go to college came from a football scholarship to a state school. After multiple stops and starts, he eventually landed at Concordia. With injuries keeping him off the field, Dr. Nancy Elwell, Angel Hoppe and others challenged him "use his brain instead of his body." His renewed commitment to his education resulted in his graduation with a psychology degree in 2013.

McWilliams, and classmate Preston Harris, started the non-profit organization, Men with Dreams to empower and encourage youth and to give them the tools and knowledge necessary to achieve their goals. McWilliams serves as the organization's executive director. McWilliams is currently writing a book on adoption from a child's point-of-view so that adoptive children have a support system.

Preston Harris is from Lincoln, Nebraska, and came to Concordia on football scholarship. He received a bachelor's degree in education studies with minors in history and psychology in 2014. Harris spent a year and a half at National Resource Corporation where he learned about business, healthcare and how to engage with health professionals.

After graduation, Harris, along with classmate Brandon McWilliams, started the non-profit organization, Men with Dreams, whose purpose was to encourage and empower youth by creating an environment of excellence, personal significance and achievement. Harris believes that everyone has a dream and just needs that extra push to achieve their goals.

He is no longer with Men with Dreams, but owns House of Speed, which trains athletes of all ages to achieve higher levels of speed, agility and performance so they can excel at their chosen sport. They also work with adults to combat obesity and promote healthy lifestyles.

While a student at Concordia, he was able to grow as a student and athlete and developed a strong love of learning. It was the attention and guidance from professors and coaches who challenged him to perform at his very best.

Servant Leadership Award: Dr. Micah Parker '91

Dr. Micah Parker lives in Riverside, California where he is blessed to be the athletic director at California Baptist University. Competing in the NCAA Division II and PacWest Conference, CBU has won the commissioner's cup the last four years as the conference's top athletic department. In 2017 the NCAA's Leirfield Cup ranked CBU as the #2 NCAA Div. II athletic department in the country.

Before moving to Houston, he spent four seasons as the top assistant on the Drake University Women's Basketball staff. While there, he took over as recruiting coordinator. In addition, he coached guards and scouted opponents.

Prior to his time at Drake, Parker was the director of operations for the women's basketball team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for one season. Before that he was assistant professor and head women's basketball coach for four seasons at Concordia University, Nebraska where he led the team to the Sweet-16 in the 2002 NAIA Tournament.

Parker is a published author on peer motivation and leadership in athletics. In 1998, he founded Trustguy Ministries and is a motivational speaker. He has been blessed to speak in 28 different states and Canada to more than 600 groups, ranging from one to 30,000. He has been married to his wife Amy for 19 years and they have three children, Emma, Jonah and Gracie Joy.

Lifetime Service Award: Prof. Edmund Martens

Edmund Martens graduated from Concordia in 1949. He received a call to teach at Immanuel Lutheran School in Columbus, Nebraska, where he also served as principal, organist and choir director. He subsequently taught elementary grades at St. John's Lutheran Church in Orange, California, and served as minister of music of that large congregation.

He received a call to return to Concordia in 1966 where he taught music theory and education. In 1976 he was appointed director of the A Cappella Choir, serving in that capacity for 22 years.

The highlight of his time at Concordia centered around the students taking them on eight tours to Europe, with many concerts in Germany and Austria.

He retired from full-time teaching in 1993. During his retirement he has worked extensively with English as a Second Language (ESL) programs having developed 20 students from many countries. From his work, three adults have been confirmed and four children, all from Cameroon have been baptized by the power of the Holy Spirit at Redeemer Lutheran in Lincoln, Nebraska.

He and his late wife, Ruth, have five children, eleven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Family Heritage Award: Robbins Family

The Robbins family are the epitome of what Concordia Heritage means. The arrival of freshman Kara Stark this fall, marks three generations of the Robbins family to attend Concordia.

Ken and Sue (Rettig) met at Concordia when they were freshmen in 1965. Following graduation, they took their elementary education degrees to the Peace Corps where they served in the Marshall Islands. There, they developed a love for the Micronesian culture. After two years in the Peace Corps, the Robbins taught in Florida and Michigan before returning to Concordia where Ken served as track coach. They were later called to California and eventually Houston where they have been since 1980. Their years in Houston have been spent teaching and coaching in Lutheran elementary and high schools until they recently retired. Ken and Susan have four children, all of whom attended Concordia and all met their spouses here.

Kimberly, '96 and Paul Stark, '96 live and teach in Frisco, Texas. Their daughter Kara enrolled in Concordia this fall. Kelley, '00 and Ben, '99 Limback live in Seward and Ben serves as Concordia's head men's basketball coach. Nathan, '01 and Laura (Stratman), '00 live and teach in Houston, Texas. Stephen, '04 and Rachelle (Birkel), '02 live and teach in Parker, Colorado.

Something unique about this family is the impact they've had on education. Each member of the family has received a teaching degree, taught school and or coached. Their influence on educating future generations is to be commended.

Lifelong Learner Award: Bud Olsson '12

Donald "Bud" Olsson is graduated in 2012 with a master's degree in business administration, finance and financial management services. He was the first student to complete an MBA class in Concordia's program. He earned a bachelor of science in forestry from the University of Washington in 1973.

Olsson served as president of Great Western Bank and was in several other positions within the bank from 2011 until his retirement in 2016. Besides learning, he enjoys fishing, hunting, archery and walking his dog. He served on the Board of Trustees for Junior Achievement and has been a member of the Chamber of Commerce and the Lincoln Independent Business Association (LIBA) for a number of years. He and his wife, Janeese, own and operate Calico House quilt Shop.

Honorary Bulldog Spirit Award: Rev. Kenneth and Marlene Block

For 20 years, Ken served as associate professor of theology and director of the pre-seminary program. Marlene taught at St. John and then worked in Concordia's marketing department.

Ken graduated from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and received two master's degrees from the University of Michigan. Marlene graduated from the University of Michigan and earned a colloquy from Concordia in 1991. Teaching positions for Ken were in Concordia Ann Arbor; Concordia Senior College, Ft. Wayne; and St. John College in Winfield, Kansas (where he coached track). For seven years he served as pastor at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Cheney, Kansas.

In retirement the couple worked extensively with Laborers for Christ, a group that builds churches and schools around the United States. Ken remains active in Kiwanis International, Habitat for Humanity, and Meals on Wheels. Currently he is co-chair of Concordia's Reformation 500 event planning. Marlene volunteers at the Seward Public Library and with Lutheran Blind Missions, and works as copy editor for "Issues in Christian Education." She is active in Stephen Ministry and Lutheran Women's Missionary League.

Ken and Marlene have four sons (one already in heaven) and eight grandchildren.

Concordia University, Nebraska, founded in 1894, is a fully accredited, coeducational university located in Seward, Nebraska, that currently serves more than 2,700 students. Concordia offers more than 100 undergraduate, graduate and professional programs in an excellent academic and Christ-centered community that equips men and women for lives of learning, service and leadership in the church and world. For more information, visit