Baylor University Announces Recipients of 2024 Baylor Alumni Awards
Baylor will celebrate the University's Alumni Award recipients on campus Feb. 23, 2024
WACO, Texas (Nov. 30, 2023) – Baylor University today announced the recipients of the 2024 Baylor Alumni Awards, which honor individuals who embody the distinctive mission of the University and their remarkable achievements. A celebration honoring this year’s recipients will be held on campus Feb. 23, 2024.
“Baylor alumni serve in unique ways through their professions and in their communities. The 2024 Baylor Alumni Award honorees stand as examples of how our mission, to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service, is lived out among our alumni every day. As a Christian research university committed to providing a transformational education rooted in faith, Baylor continues to invest in the lives of our students, helping them find and follow their callings,” President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., said. “It is our honor to showcase this remarkable group of Baylor Alumni Award recipients and to tell their stories of impact and contributions to Baylor and society.”
This year’s Baylor Alumni Awards recipients are:
Alumnus of the Year
The Alumnus of the Year honor is awarded to a graduate who has achieved distinction through exceptional contributions to our international, national, state or community welfare. This year’s Baylor Alumnus of the Year is David Wills, B.B.A. ’85, J.D. ’88, of Waco, co-founder of Generous Giving and TrustBridge Global Foundation and president emeritus of the National Christian Foundation.
Wills joined the National Christian Foundation (NCF), which now works alongside TrustBridge Global Foundation, in 1998 as its first president and today serves as president emeritus. NCF is the world’s largest Christian grant-making foundation and endeavors to help people give more strategically and with greater purpose to causes they love – granting over $18 billion in the last 25 years. Wills currently serves on the boards of Generous Giving, Barnhart Crane & Rigging, IF:Gathering, Impact Foundation, among others.
Today, Wills and his wife, Chris, live in the Waco area. They have nine children, which includes two daughters-in-law, and one grandchild. Wills serves on Baylor’s Student Foundation Leadership Council and is a member of the Bear Foundation.
Young Alumna of the Year
The Young Alumna of the Year honor is awarded to a graduate under age 40 who has achieved distinction
through exceptional contributions to our international, national, state or community welfare. This year’s Baylor Young Alumna of the Year is Jessica Beachum, B.A. ’11, of Phoenix, Arizona, co-founder of the Beachum Charitable Fund and co-curator of the Jessica and Kelvin Beachum Collection.
In 2015, Jessica and Kelvin Beachum established the Beachum Charitable Fund. As a family of strong faith, the Beachums are devoted to glorifying God in everything they do and use their time and influence to encourage and advocate for others. The Beachum Charitable Fund focuses on efforts to end hunger, provide global clean water access, provide opportunities for minority students within the STEAM disciplines, and address inequities within education, specifically the digital divide.
In 2023, Baylor University’s Martin Museum of Art hosted an exhibit titled Narrative as Reality: Constructing an Identity, featuring selections from the Jessica and Kelvin Beachum Family Collection. By sharing their collection, Beachum hopes to provide opportunities for viewers to engage with ideas and themes that spark meaningful dialogue.
Pro Ecclesia Medal of Service
The Pro Ecclesia Medal of Service is awarded to individuals whose broad contributions to Christian ministry have made an immeasurable impact. This year’s Medal of Service is awarded to Jimmy, B.A. ’72, M.A. ’93, and Janet Dorrell, B.S. ’80, M.S. ’02, of Waco, co-founders of Mission Waco: Mission World, an organization that strives to address poverty through hands-on compassion, with work in the United States, South Asia, Haiti, Mexico and Colombia.
Jimmy is president emeritus of Mission Waco: Mission World and serves as pastor of Church Under the Bridge, a ministry the Dorrells began after they connected with homeless individuals in the area who requested they start a Bible study. Jimmy also serves as an adjunct faculty member with Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, where he teaches Helping Challenged Neighborhoods and Community Development Ministry.
Janet, who is director at Mission World, serves families through women’s and children’s empowerment, focusing on training, tutoring, computer and sewing laboratories and microcredit. She connects and empowers universities and hospitals for community service among the marginalized in the U.S. and around the world.
Pro Texana Medal of Service
The Pro Texana Medal of Service recognizes an individual or individuals whose contributions in furthering the mission of Baylor have made an immeasurable impact in the public or nonprofit sector. This year’s recipient is Gabrielle “Gabe” Madison, B.B.A. ’00, of Dallas, president of Bonton Farms.
After 22 years in corporate life, including over a decade at Thomson Reuters, and numerous placements on “most powerful business leaders” lists, Madison left the corporate sphere in 2022 to lead Bonton Farms, a nonprofit that aims to redefine South Dallas. In her current role, Madison is leading the nonprofit to transform the Dallas community by creating jobs and volunteer opportunities while offering healthy, organic food options for the underserved Bonton neighborhood.
The organization that started as a garden in a small lot has grown to two fully functioning farms, farmer’s market, café and coffee house. Madison continues to oversee growth of Bonton Farms as the organization explores additional ways to transform the community from within.
Distinguished Achievement Award
The Distinguished Achievement Award is bestowed on individuals who have made a distinct contribution to their particular profession, business or vocation and in doing so have brought honor to Baylor. Baylor University is proud to honor the late Gil Stricklin, B.A. ’57, of Dallas, with this year’s award.
Stricklin graduated from Baylor with a degree in business and a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. After completing seminary, Stricklin joined the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and worked alongside Graham for six years. In 1970, he took a post with the Baptist General Convention of Texas where he pioneered the Super Summer Youth Evangelism program. He continued his military service as a military chaplain in the reserves and retired as a colonel in the U.S. Army after serving his country 37 years – 15 years in the Air Force and 22 years in the Army.
In 1984, Stricklin founded Marketplace Ministries/Marketplace Chaplains, an organization that offers chaplaincy care to employees in the workplace. The ministry has grown nationally and internationally, now serving more than 1,000 companies with the care of more than 2,200 chaplains.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions