By Amy Robertson
riercrest College and Seminary honoured two alumni for their lives of service at the schools’ annual missions conference on the weekend.
Dr. Dwayne Uglem, Briercrest’s president, recognized Dr. Jean Barsness, a former missionary and professor, and Donald Gingras, an author and director of a mission organization in Quebec, onstage in the Hildebrand Chapel in front of conference attendees October 2.
Briercrest will honour several dozen more alumni over the next 12 months in celebration of its 75th anniversary this year.
“We decided that the best way to tell the Briercrest story would be to tell it through our students,” Uglem said before presenting Barsness and Gingras with letters of recognition.
Uglem spoke briefly about both alumni.
He said that he frequently met people whom Barsness had affected in some way, calling her a teacher, mentor, role model, missionary, the wife of a martyr, and an advocate for missions.
As a missionary in Panama, Barsness was widowed when rebels murdered her husband in 1974. She came to Briercrest shortly afterward, where she taught in the college for 26 years.
Uglem also spoke well of Gingras, who travels widely throughout Canada advocating reconciliation between French and English Canadians. Gingras, a native Quebecois, has published a book on the subject called Window of Hope and Reconciliation.
He has “embraced reconciliation to God, his wife, and his country,” Uglem said.
Both Barsness and Gingras were surprised and delighted at the recognition.
“I was totally shocked, actually,” Barsness said. “I didn’t hear anything Dwayne said to me. “
“I was very humbled.”
She was grateful for the privilege of teaching college for so many years, she said, noting that many of her students—some of which she taught more than 30 years ago—still contact her.
Gingras, whose first language is French, said he didn’t know what to expect when Uglem called his name—he thought perhaps he’d be asked to give an update on his work.
“To my surprise I heard him speaking and honouring me this way,” Gingras wrote in an email.
Gingras said the recognition reminded him of his graduation in 1991, during which he received an award that affirmed his abilities in spiritual coaching.
“I felt this was almost more precious to be affirmed by the body of Christ than my academic success,” Gingras wrote.
“I just felt honoured. This is a very special privilege to be part of Briercrest’s spiritual journey.”