2022 Outstanding Alumni Honored
The annual Alumni Awards recognize graduates for their courage, achievement, and commitment to the vision and mission of Oklahoma Wesleyan.
Alumnus of the Year: This award recognizes an alumnus who advances the Kingdom of God through noteworthy, long-term accomplishments in professional endeavors, significant service to the church, and a positive impact in the lives of others.
Young Alumnus Award: This award is given to an individual under 40 who displays distinguished leadership in his or her field and shows promise of future growth professionally and personally.
Hall of Faith Award: This honor is awarded to an alumnus who is currently or has been in full-time, long-term Christian ministry and has demonstrated faithful, consistent service throughout that time.
One Another Award: This honor recognizes an alumnus who has actively served others in some capacity for at least five years, advancing Christ’s Kingdom through compassion and exemplary commitment of time, talent, and treasure.
Alumnus of the Year
The family business that Yorton Clark (BWC ’84) grew up in was ministry. His father and both grandparents served as lifelong pastors within The Wesleyan Church, and the impulse to serve was strong. And it’s true that Clark’s life has been one lived in service—it just turns out that his calling was a little different.
Through adolescence and young adulthood, Clark maintained an openness to accepting a full-time call to ministry from God—and still remains open, for that matter. But during his senior year of high school, before he’d moved to Bartlesville, he felt God tugging on his heart in a very specific way.
“The one thing that I was called to, I believe by God, is that He said, I want you to be involved fully in ministry, but I want you to close the gap between the congregation and the pulpit. ‘I want you to be a representation and a model and encourage others to engage in ministry,’” Clark said. “To proclaim that it’s not just a pastor’s job, but all our jobs together.”
Since that pivotal moment, Clark has done all he could to answer the call, infusing his professional career and his personal life with his desire to live for Christ. Throughout his marriage, he and his wife, Janean, have been involved in every aspect of church ministry they could be, and they’ve also maintained a commitment to the foster care system, nurturing a number of children through the decades.
“I feel a passion for people that haven’t had the privilege of a loving, sheltered home like I had,” he said. “I want to do something to help those people.”
After jobs in the oil industry and healthcare administration, Clark began teaching management classes at MidAmerica Nazarene University. The experience energized him, and he’s been in education ever since, receiving his doctorate in higher education administration. Today, he serves as dean for MidAmerica’s School of Professional and Graduate Studies and as the program director for graduate studies in management.
Two and a half decades in, Clark remains passionate about the opportunity to speak into lives at a formative time. “I have the opportunity to speak into the hearts, minds, and souls of those individuals, to give them meaning, purpose, and hopefully direction. To transform their lives for eternity… it’s the transformation part that stokes me, every day,” he said.
Young Alumnus Award
Jermaine Watkins (‘08), 2022’s Young Alumnus Awardee, has lived life on a school schedule for almost his entire life, and he’s just fine with that. Now, he’s working each day to engage with youth at Monroe Demonstration Academy, North Tulsa’s only junior high school. There have been twists and turns, confusions and frustrations along Watkins’ pathway to Monroe, but God’s hand has been evident at each step of the process.
From an early age, sports was an important focus. “I always tell people that I knew early on that I wanted to be a coach and a teacher,” he said. “I grew up in a neighborhood with probably 20 to 30-plus kids, and we were always playing sports in my backyard. I would find myself naturally coaching kids, teaching kids how to do [certain] things.”
He pursued baseball all the way to college, but after a few years playing at the junior college level and then at a small Division I school in Texas, Watkins was ready for a change. An old roommate had the solution: why not transfer to a small Christian school in Bartlesville? It was the right call, and the OKWU experience proved vital. “Spiritually, it got me refocused. I had made some decisions, done some things that were uncharacteristic to me, having grown up in the church. I had kind of lost sight. I was able to refocus when I transferred in,” he said.
After graduating, Watkins spent 13 years teaching elementary P.E., experiencing consolidations and closures in various schools in Tulsa. When the position of Dean of Climate and Culture at Monroe became available, Watkins felt like the fit was right. “[It] has a lot to offer. We have over 800 kids, a lot of programming, and a really good administration,” he said.
The job can be a grind; the students he works with often come in with challenging situations. Still, his passion is contagious, and he’s grateful for the work. “It’s a God-given grace. I never consider this a job; it’s the work that God has called me to do. I’m just walking in that.”
Watkins relishes the challenge, and he’s not planning on changing careers any time soon. “I’m content with where I am, because I know this is where I’m supposed to be. This is where God has called me to be,” he said.
Hall of Faith
It is often the case that spiritual impact cannot be accurately measured during the brief time humans spend on earth—that it is only in heaven that the true extent of a life lived in service to Christ can be seen. This is certainly true with Eleanor Hunsinger (MWC ‘62), this year’s Hall of Faith Awardee.
Hunsinger spent 22 years as a missionary nurse in Zambia. When she retired to America in 1992, she left behind a vast legacy that can only be fully known on the other side of eternity.
Throughout her life, Hunsinger had an interest in missions work due to the missionaries who would visit her church growing up, as well as the ministry biographies her parents kept around the house. When she arrived at Miltonvale Wesleyan College, she chose theology as her major.
“I thought I was going to be a missionary, so I should take theology,” she said. “I think there were six or seven fellows in theology class, and I was the only girl.”
After she left Miltonvale, Hunsinger spent time continuing her education with a nursing degree, a bachelor’s degree from Goshen College, and a master’s degree from Wayne State University. Afterwards, she was chosen to go to Zambia for what was originally a four-year term. “I had to get out an atlas to find out where Zambia even was,” she remembered. “I don’t think I’d ever heard of it before.”
Over the course of her terms, the work took many different forms. She provided care from a stationary clinic, mostly, although teams would occasionally travel into rural areas to administer vaccines. Sometimes, there were LPNs to help, but many times it was only Hunsinger herself working to address varied medical needs.
After returning to America in 1992, Hunsinger took a number of home health jobs in the Kansas City area before finally retiring to the Wesleyan Retirement Village in Florida. During this time she cultivated a passion for writing, joining a Christian writer’s group and attending conferences. She recently published a novel about Jonathan, Saul’s son, and she’s working to add more titles to her name—currently, a novel about the woman at the well.
It’s a fitting end to a worthy life, as Eleanor Hunsinger has spent decades in service of the story of the Kingdom. It just so happens that now, she’s writing that story on paper.
One Another Award
In many ways, Blake Carlson (’85)—the 2022 winner of OKWU’s One Another Award—has been on a lifelong search for excitement. That search has taken him all over the world and put him in some tight spots, but the biggest lesson he’s learned through it all has been counterintuitive: real excitement comes from being a part of God’s movement.
“I used to think that God’s kingdom was a boring thing to be a part of—that if I really wanted excitement, I’d be working for the government or being a cop or something,” he said. “But now I see that God’s kingdom is where the real excitement is.”
That’s not to say that Carlson hasn’t experienced his fair share of intrigue. Over a career in law enforcement spanning decades, he’s seen it all: drug raids, undercover operations, top-secret government work, and more. It all started with a directionless teenager arriving at OKWU’s campus in 1980, choosing ministry but not feeling passionately called.
“I just knew that I had an overpowering sense that I needed to get a degree, and I would be able to work with whatever degree I got,” he said. “My life would go on, no matter what I chose.”
A number of jobs followed graduation—youth pastor, English teacher in Japan, pilot-in-training. It wasn’t until Blake and his wife, Michelle, were living in Phoenix that a chance conversation with a neighbor set him down his path: Have you thought about being a cop?
During his ensuing career with the Phoenix Police Department, Carlson has accrued vast experience—he’s worked as patrolman, instructor, on various white-collar crime task forces, and even as an undercover cop. Six years ago, he began with Phoenix’s Homeland Defense Bureau, spending part of the year with the federal government in Washington. He’s also brought his expertise to bear on behalf of Wesleyan churches, writing a manual in 2018 on church security for small to mid-size churches.
Carlson recently retired from his posting, but he sees his time there as a culmination. “As I look back, this is exactly what I wanted to be doing, my whole life,” he said. It’s a testament not only to his planning or skillset, but to God’s guidance. That, more than anything, is the lesson: God is in control.
“The Lord puts us where we’re good at what we do,” he said. “I have great confidence in God’s ability to lead in our lives, even though we can’t see into the future.”