Doctor of Public Service, honoris causa
One of the nation’s premier economists known for Christian commitment, Dr. Kenneth G. Elzinga is the Robert C. Taylor Professor of Economics at the University of Virginia.
In over 50 years of teaching, Elzinga has inspired both scholars entering the field of economics and seasoned professionals with his embodiment of the highest ideals of Christian education. Each fall his introductory economics course attracts over 1,000 students, making it the largest class offered at the University of Virginia. An expert in antitrust economics, Elzinga has testified in several precedent-setting antitrust cases, including three Supreme Court decisions.
Elzinga has authored over 70 academic publications and received numerous awards, including the highest honor awarded to faculty at the University of Virginia, the Thomas Jefferson Award. He has a B.A. and an honorary doctorate from Kalamazoo College, and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University.
Beyond academia, Elzinga exercises a heart for service with his involvement in campus ministry and international missions, including serving on the Board of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Elzinga was a lifelong friend of former Gordon professor John Mason and, in honor of their friendship, delivered the John Mason Lecture at Gordon in 2016. The College is grateful to celebrate its decades-long relationship with and generous support from him and his wife, Terry.
Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa
As the longest-serving president of World Vision, Richard Stearns is a prophetic voice to the American church on caring for the global poor. Over the past 20 years, Stearns has traveled to 65 countries to better understand the issues faced by vulnerable people in the toughest places in our world.
The son of working-class parents, Stearns worked his way through six years of higher education, earning a B.A from Cornell University and an M.B.A. at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania—and then built a successful career at Fortune 500 companies, including posts at the Gillette Company and as CEO of Parker Brothers Games and Lenox, the fine tableware company.
In 1998, following a call from God, he left behind his corporate success to enter a life of service as World Vision’s U.S. president. Bringing corporate best practices to the nonprofit sector, Stearns built a strong leadership team and saw donations triple during his first decade as president, making World Vision U.S. a billion-dollar organization.
Stearns is the author of the award-winning, best-selling book The Hole in Our Gospel as well as Unfinished: Filling the Hole in Our Gospel. He appears regularly as a commentator in outlets such as Christianity Today and the Huffington Post, and speaks in churches and at other gatherings, including the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit and Q Conference.
Stearns served on the Board of Trustees at Gordon College from 1984 to 1990, and more recently served on the advisory board for the Women in Leadership National Study. He and his wife, Reneé, live in Bellevue, Washington. They have five grown children and five grandchildren.
Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa
As an accomplished pianist, organist, teacher and strong supporter of positive Christian-Jewish relations on the North Shore and Greater Boston area, Pauline Berfield Wilson ’57, known affectionately as Polly, has had a profound impact on Gordon’s community, culture and legacy.
Wilson’s childhood began in Revere, MA, where she discovered her love and talent for music. In high school, she was the church organist and pianist. She was also pianist for Boston Youth for Christ, where she played for more than 1,000 attendees each week at Park Street Church.
In 1953, Wilson started her first year as a student at Gordon. Hers was one of the first classes to make the move from Fenway to the “campus of a thousand acres” when the College moved from Boston to Wenham in 1955. Two years later, she graduated with a B.S. in Education and went on to teach fourth and fifth grade for a number of years in the Hamilton and Reading school districts.
For the last 55 years, Wilson has worked in building bridges of understanding and respect between Jewish and Christian communities alongside her husband, Marv, Harold John Ockenga Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Gordon. From attending interfaith conferences to assisting with Gordon’s pilgrimage program to the land of Israel and befriending Holocaust survivors, Wilson has been a compassionate and truthful force in Gordon’s efforts to build friendships with the Jewish community. As an accompanist in Marv’s Modern Jewish Culture class, she helps teach Gordon students traditional Jewish folk songs and joins them on their class field trips to local synagogues—cultivating a learning environment that is nurturing and personal.
Today, Wilson shares the Gordon story wherever she goes. She and Marv live in Hamilton and will celebrate 61 years of marriage in June.