The Wheaton College Alumni Association recognized Dr. S. Douglas Birdsall as Alumnus of the Year for Distinguished Service to Society on Friday, May 10.
Birdsall, a 1975 graduate of Wheaton College, was recently appointed to serve as the 27th president of the American Bible Society. He has devoted his 33-year career to strengthening churches and uniting Christian leaders for the cause of world evangelization. Birdsall is respected around the globe for his capacity to network, mobilize, and inspire leaders to collaboratively engage with the key theological and missiological challenges of our time.
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Wheaton College President Dr. Philip Ryken '88 said that Birdsall's life has been marked by "kingdom relationships that facilitate kingdom work."
Noting that as a student Birdsall hoped to serve in parish ministry, Ryken reflected that God had greatly expanded Birdsall's youthful vision. "God has given you the world as your parish," Ryken said.
Wheaton College Alumni Association President Chris Jahns '82 called Birdsall "a builder of bridges and a catalyst of collaboration among believers worldwide."
Following his graduation from Wheaton College with a B.A. in biblical and theological studies, Birdsall married classmate Jeanine Rowell Birdsall '75. After the completion of his M.Div. at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in 1979, the Birdsalls moved to Japan, where they served with Asian Access for the next 20 years, expanding the ministry from its base in Japan to establish leadership training centers in 12 countries across Asia. He holds a Th.M. from Harvard University, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Oxford Centre for Mission Studies. The Birdsalls have three children: Stacia, Judson '04 M.A. '06, and Jessamin.
As chairman of the Lausanne Movement, Birdsall convened the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa in 2010. This Congress, which brought together 4,200 evangelical leaders from 198 nations, was described by Christianity Today magazine as "the most representative gathering of Christian leaders in church history."
"For me and literally thousands of others, Lausanne as shaped and led by Doug has been a powerful force for good," Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies Emerita Dr. Evvy Hay Campbell '68 said during her tribute to Birdsall.
In an acceptance speech rich with his favorite Scriptures, Birdsall dedicated the award to his wife Jeanie and told the story of their shared ministry.
"We have journeyed together," Birdsall said. "Without her partnership, love, faith, prayer and encouragement, our ministry simply would not have been possible."
He thanked God for the opportunity to have lives shaped by faculty and staff who "modeled the integration of Christian faith with every discipline of life."
"When I think about Wheaton College, I think about the introduction to great people, great ideas, great vision, and great hymns--hymns that later catechized our children, that taught us to trust God in all circumstances."
"Throughout the years since I've graduated I've been so proud to be a part of the alumni network, which is unparalleled in the global church," Birdsall said.
"We thank God for what Wheaton College has meant to us, and to the world."