Huntington announces 2008 honorary degree recipients

Huntington, Ind.—Huntington University will award four honorary degrees at its 2008 commencement exercises on May 17. The ceremony will begin at 3 p.m. in the Field House of the Merillat Complex for Physical Education and Recreation.

A Doctor of Humane Letters degree will be awarded to Dr. Jerry B. Jenkins, best-selling author of the “Left Behind” books and “The Jesus Chronicles.” The Rev. Russell H. Birdsall and Mrs. Nellie S. Birdsall will receive a Doctor of Divinity and a Doctor of Humane Letters, respectively. The Birdsalls were missionaries from the United Brethren in Christ Church to Sierra Leone, West Africa, from 1957-1968. The Doctor of Divinity degree will be awarded to the Rev. Owen C. Gordon, president of Jamaica Bible College and Community Institute in Mandeville, Jamaica.

Dr. Jerry B. Jenkins
Dr. Jerry B. Jenkins will be honored for his immense talents, his success as an author and his deep Christian commitment. Jenkins, former vice president for publishing and currently writer-at-large for the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, is the author of more than 170 books, including the 65,000,000-best-selling “Left Behind” series.

Also the former editor of Moody Magazine, Jenkins’ writing has appeared in Time, Reader’s Digest, Parade, Guideposts, and dozens of Christian periodicals. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye were profiled in a May 24, 2004, cover story in Newsweek magazine titled “The New Prophets of Revelation.”

Jenkins’ non-fiction books include as-told-to biographies with Hank Aaron, Brett Butler, Bill Gaither, Orel Hershiser, Luis Palau, Walter Payton, Nolan Ryan and Sammy Tippit, among many others. The Hershiser and Ryan books reached the New York Times best-seller list. Jenkins also assisted Dr. Billy Graham with his memoirs, “Just As I Am,” also a New York Times bestseller. Beginning in 1993, Jenkins spent 13 months assisting Graham with his autobiography.

Jenkins owns Jenkins Entertainment, a filmmaking company in Los Angeles, which produced the critically-acclaimed movie “Hometown Legend,” based on his book of the same name. “Hometown Legend” was listed as one of the top 10 family films of 2002 by Good News Communication’s MOVIEGUIDE®.

Jenkins also owns the Christian Writers Guild, which aims to train tomorrow’s professional Christian writers and has nearly 2,000 members worldwide. The centerpiece of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild is a brand-new, e-mail correspondence course. Students are personally mentored by a seasoned professional writer or editor via e-mail throughout the two-year program. Coursework is also available for young writers, ages eight to 12, as well as a program for teens.

As a marriage and family author and speaker, Jenkins has been a frequent guest on Dr. James Dobson’s “Focus On the Family” radio program.

Jenkins wrote the nationally syndicated sports story comic strip, “Gil Thorp,” from 1996-2004.

He has been awarded honorary doctorates from Bethel College in Indiana, Trinity International University in Illinois and Colorado Christian University.

Jenkins and his wife Dianna have three grown sons and four grandchildren and live in Colorado.

The Rev. Russell H. Birdsall and Mrs. Nellie S. Birdsall
The Rev. Russell H. Birdsall and Mrs. Nellie S. Birdsall will be honored for their work in missions, other ministries and education. The Birdsalls graduated from Huntington College in 1953, both with Bachelor of Science degrees in education.

Mrs. Birdsall taught in the Huntington County Community School Corporation for three years while Rev. Birdsall completed a Bachelor of Theology degree from Huntington College Seminary. In 1957, the Birdsalls became missionaries for the United Brethren in Christ Church to Sierra Leone, West Africa. There, Mrs. Birdsall became a mission house hostess and was involved in women and children’s ministries, and Rev. Birdsall served as education secretary and business manager.

In 1968, the Birdsalls returned from Africa, and Rev. Birdsall became the dean of students at Huntington College and later served as the director of church services and alumni. Mrs. Birdsall returned to education and earned a Master of Education degree. She taught at Lincoln Elementary School in Huntington and then served as an elementary counselor at Northwest Elementary School at Huntington. She also taught GED courses at the Huntington County Jail.

In addition to his service as a missionary, Rev. Birdsall pastored New Hope United Brethren in Christ Church in Huntington and served as the Central Conference superintendent for the United Brethren in Christ Church. The Birdsalls also have served at College Park Church.

Rev. and Mrs. Birdsall began volunteer mission service for the United Brethren in Christ Church in 1994, and since then, they have traveled to Macau, China, seven times and to Jamaica four times. In addition, they are active in Huntington University’s Prayer Ministry Team.

In 2003, the Birdsalls were honored with the Distinguished Alumni Citation from Huntington College.

The couple resides in Huntington and has one daughter, five grandchildren and one great-grandson.

The Rev. Owen C. Gordon
The Rev. Owen C. Gordon will be honored for his work with the United Brethren in Christ Church, his ministry and his community outreach efforts. In addition to his role as president of Jamaica Bible College and Community Institute, Gordon has served as general superintendent, executive secretary and conference chairman for the Jamaica Council of the United Brethren in Christ Church. Prior to becoming president of Jamaica Bible College, he was a lecturer and the dean of men for the institution.

Gordon pastors the Salem United Brethren in Christ Church in New Green, Manchester, Jamaica, and has done so since 2002. He also pastored at the Whitney Turn United Brethren in Christ Church in Porus, Manchester, Jamaica; the First United Brethren in Christ Church in Bronx, New York; the Carpenter’s Memorial United Brethren in Christ Church in Golden Spring, St. Andrew, Jamaica; and Fleming Memorial United Brethren in Christ Church in Mandeville, Jamaica.

He has been honored with the Governor General’s Achievement Award for the parish of Manchester, the St. Jago High School Distinguished Service to Christian Ministry Award and Education Award as well as the United Brethren in Christ Church Long Service Award and Outstanding Contribution to the Development of the Church Award.

Gordon is a member of the Huntington University Board of Trustees, the Mandeville Keswick Council, the Mandeville Ministers’ Fraternal and the Conference Council of Administration for the United Brethren in Christ Church.

He resides in Mandeville, Jamaica, with his wife of 35 years, Frances.

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Huntington University is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 70 academic concentrations. U.S.News & World Report ranks Huntington among the best colleges in the Midwest. Founded in 1897 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Huntington University is located on a contemporary, lakeside campus in northeast Indiana. The University is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).  


Heather Barkley
Director of Communications
Joanne Green
Sports Information Director