The recipients of this year’s McPherson College Citation of Merit Awards have clearly carried out the values and mission of the college through their life-long commitment to service, scholarship, and participation. Citation of Merit Awards were presented to Gerald ’52 (posthumously) and Lois ’51 Neher; Steven ’76 and Paula ’78 Vincent; and Ron ’77 and Robin ’79 Hovis. The awards were presented at the annual Evening of Recognition dinner on April 26.
The McPherson College Citation of Merit, the college’s highest award, is given to the college’s most distinguished alumni for lifetime accomplishments in service to profession, community, church, and to McPherson College. The recipients are recommended by the Alumni Awards Committee and approved by the College Board of Trustees.
Gerald ‘52 & Lois ‘51 Neher, McPherson, Kansas
With roots that run deep in McPherson College, it is not surprising that Gerald and Lois Neher’s life together is an example of scholarship, service and participation. Shortly after graduation from McPherson College, the couple began working as missionaries for the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. Spending 14 years in Nigeria, they worked primarily as educators and agriculturists. They taught in schools and Gerald served as a school principal and introduced farming with oxen and plow. Along with teaching, Lois also dispensed medicine, hosted travelers and even delivered a baby. The couple wrote three books about their experiences in Nigeria.
After returning to the United States, the couple settled in Illinois where Lois continued her elementary school teaching career, which lasted nearly 25 years. Gerald worked for Farmer’s Home Administration as a loan administrator at both the local and district level for more than 20 years. The couple also operated a family farm and were very active as 4-H leaders and judges at the Union County Fair. They were active in the Union County Cattleman Association and hosted events on their farm for the Illinois Beef Council. They were leaders in the Appaloosa Horse Club and owned a national and world class champion horse.
The couple served their church as teachers, Bible study leaders, communion assistants, and ushers. Gerald also served on the church council, as a lay pastor and church elder. Other volunteer service included working with the Heifer Project International and as a host for 18 international students from all over the world. Lois continues her volunteer work as a desk attendant, and garden attendant at the Cedars in McPherson.
The Neher’s heritage is closely tied to McPherson College. Lois’s grandfather, Edward Frantz, was president of the college from 1902-1910 and other grandfather was a graduate and business manager. The couple’s parents all graduated from McPherson College. All of their children attended the college (three graduated), a granddaughter currently attending is the fifth generation to attend, and next year another granddaughter is planning to attend.
Steven ’76 and Paula ’78 Vincent, Sagle, Idaho
The career and life preparation they received at McPherson College has allowed Steven and Paula Vincent to pursue their personal and professional dreams. The couple met at McPherson College and both established long professional careers after graduation. Steven received a bachelor’s degree in biology from McPherson College and a D.D.S. from the University of Missouri as well as a master’s degree in oral pathology from the University of Iowa. He was a professor and eventually the head of the oral pathology department at the University of Iowa in a career with the institution that spanned 31 years. In July 2015 he received professor emeritus from the university’s College of Dentistry and Carver College of Medicine. During his long career, Dr. Vincent was named Instructor of the Year twice, was published several times, and worked on many research projects.
Paula Vincent received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, special education at McPherson College. She continued her education obtaining a master’s degree in secondary education, special education, and a Ph.D. in planning, policy, and leadership studies from the University of Iowa. During her nearly 40 years in education she worked as a teacher, and executive director, associate superintendent, superintendent, and chief administrator in Iowa school districts and area education agencies. As director of AEA, she served on the Governor’s Commission for Iowa Teacher Leadership, was been recognized as Administrator of the Year by the Iowa Association of School Administrators and was inducted into the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids Corridor Business Journal’s Women of Influence. She is a past board member and chair of the McPherson College Board of Trustees, she is the immediate past chair of the American Red Cross Regional Chapter Board, and was an elder, deacon at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church. The couple moved to Sagle, Idaho when they retired.
Ron ’77 and Robin ’79 Hovis, Katy, Texas
Ron and Robin Hovis have served McPherson College at nearly every level. As a student, Ron Hovis served as president of the student government, as an alumnus he served eight years as a member of the board of trustees, two years as its treasurer, was an associate professor of business and spent six years as the college president from 2003 to 2009. By his side, Robin participated in almost every kind of event at the college and volunteered at many events on campus.
While president at McPherson College, full-time enrollment grew, graduation rate doubled and the college completed a successful reaccreditation with the Higher Learning Commission. He is currently the chair of the family sciences program at Texas Woman’s University in Denton where he has worked since 2012. He also serves as the special assistant to the provost and academic affairs and has held other leadership roles there including dean of the College of Health Science and School of Management, interim executive vice provost, director of the School of Management, department chair of nutrition and food science, and chair of biology.
Robin Hovis is an active community volunteer she currently serves on the yearbook committee at the Aristoi Classical Academy. She has volunteered at CASA as a special advocate for abused and neglected children, and at the Pregnancy Help Center as a mentor for women with unplanned pregnancies. She has also been involved in her church as a Sunday school teacher, VBS teacher and director, youth group volunteer, choir member as well as served on church boards and committees.