Joe arrived at UCA as a freshman. His mother had just lost a long battle with cancer, and he and his siblings had been parceled out to whoever would have them. It was a rough school year—Joe struggled with grades, appropriate behavior, and relationships. He quickly became the centerpiece of many faculty prayer sessions.
Joe received a grant from FoundationOne, funding from other sources, and faithfully worked off as much of his school bill as possible. Without backing from home, however, his bill began to mount. By late in his sophomore year he was facing a financial crisis. The UCA faculty and staff prayed and told their friends about Joe’s need. Miracle dollars began to pour in—enough to cover not only his bill, but also the bills of 12 other students who also were in financial crisis!
His junior year Joe decided he wanted to go on the mission trip, but, of course, he didn’t have the money. This time HE prayed, day after day. Would God answer HIS prayer? Days turned into weeks and he was tempted to give up. Finally, just before the deadline to purchase tickets, a donation came in. Joe was ecstatic—not only could he go, but God had honored HIS prayer!
Joe admired his dean of men, John Willis. One evening Joe cornered him, “Hey Dean. . . how do you become a leader around here?” Dean sat down with Joe and they talked late into the night—about how to become a Christian gentleman, a caring friend, an involved church member, a responsible leader.
Joe followed Dean Willis’ advice and became a Resident Assistant and got involved with the Student Association and campus ministries. “The UCA staff mentored me in leadership,” he says, “and it was such a great year!”
Joe’s experience on the UCA gymnastic team pointed him toward a career goal. Following graduation Joe spent some time in Puerto Rico where he served as an assistant coach for a gymnastics team. He says, “I found myself drawn to those who got injured. Watching them struggle to maintain hope while working hard to get well reminded me of my own journey. It just felt good to help them and encourage them. Thus I have decided to become a Physical Therapist. It is where I belong.”
Joe has taken some classwork toward a Physical Therapy major. However, he is taking it slowly, working as a PT Aid and taking classwork as he is able. “I don’t mind,” he says. “At UCA I learned that hard work gets you places.”
Joe hopes one day to get married, have a family, and go on mission trips. Short term or long term—it doesn’t matter—Joe is open to however God may lead. He says, “I love going on mission trips because I sometimes lose perspective and think everyone has more than I have. Then I go on a mission and I find people with less, contented and praising God. It puts me in my place! I also like missions because many people have helped me along the way and through missions I get to pay some of that forward.”
Joe is eager to acknowledge some of the people who mentored him: “When I was tempted to give up, Mr. Soule would say, ‘Man up, Joe.’ Mrs. Turner would give me some motherly love. Pastor Fred would pray with me. And Mrs. Wickward would give me some motherly advice. I will never, ever forget those wonderful people. They had a profound influence on my life.”
Joe hopes to live his life so that his children and grandchildren will remember him as someone who always noticed and responded to people in need—emotional, physical, financial—whatever the need, Joe would always help.
Joe says “So much of what I do every day is what I learned at UCA. I would not be where I am without those wonderful people. They prayed for me, shared their wisdom with me, taught me how to work, and modeled how to live. Their guidance put me on a positive course, and there are no words to express my gratitude. Of course, I also owe a debt of gratitude to the UCA Foundation and the many people—some of them I don’t even know—who helped to fund my UCA education.”