Three members of the United Brethren missions family will receive honorary doctorates from Huntington University during the May 17 Commencement exercises.
Rev. Russ and Nellie Birdsall will be recognized for their service in missions, education, and other ministries. Russ will receive a Doctor of Divinity and Nellie a Doctor of Humane Letters.
Rev. Owen Gordon, president of Jamaica Bible College, will also receive a Doctor of Divinity.
Russ and Nellie Birdsall (right) graduated from Huntington College in 1953, both with Bachelor of Science degrees in education. Nellie taught school for three years in Huntington while Russ completed seminary. Then, in 1957, they headed to Sierra Leone as missionaries. Russ served as education secretary and business manager, while Nellie became the mission house hostess and was involved in women’s and children’s ministries.
The Birdsalls concluded their missionary service in 1968, when Russ became Dean of Students at Huntington College and, later, Director of Church Services and Alumni. Meanwhile, Nellie resumed teaching elementary students in the Huntington public school system. She also taught GED courses at the Huntington County Jail.
In 1979, Russ became pastor of New Hope United Brethren Church in Huntington, and then fulltime superintendent of Central Conference. In 1994, the Birdsalls began volunteer mission service for the United Brethren in Christ. They have served in Macau seven times and in Jamaica four times, always going at their own expense.
The Birdsalls live in Huntington and have one daughter, Sharon Cherry, plus five grandchildren and one great-grandson.
Rev. Owen C. Gordon (right) 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 also pastors the Salem United Brethren church in New Green, Manchester, Jamaica, and has done so since 2002. He previously pastored the Whitney Turn (Porus), Carpenter’s Memorial (Golden Spring), and Fleming Memorial (Mandeville) churches in Jamaica, in addition to First UB church in the Bronx, New York.
Owen, a member of the Huntington University Board of Trustees, lives in Mandeville, Jamaica, with his wife of 35 years, Frances.
A fourth honorary degree, a Doctor of Humane Letters, will be awarded to Commencement speaker Jerry B. Jenkins, author of the best-selling “Left Behind” books.
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.