The Rev. Dr. Colleen Derr ’13 was honored at commencement as the 2018 Alumnus of the Year. The School of Education graduate serves as president of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana. Derr said she was “shocked” to be named alumnus of the year.
“I’m just doing what the Lord calls me to do and walking through the open doors,” she told Impact shortly before commencement. “It doesn’t feel spectacular. It just feels like what I’m supposed to be doing. So, when the call came, it was quite surprising.”
Derr and her husband Wayne have been married for 37 years. They have four children and two grandchildren. “They’re quite impressed that their mom is the president of a seminary,” she quipped. But, when it comes to partnering with and equipping local church leaders, Derr takes that very seriously. “Children and family ministry is my real passion,” she insisted. “I want to raise up the next generation of people who are going to serve the Church.”
Prior to the commencement ceremony, Derr said she intended to deliver a charge to the Class of 2018 that invites graduates to embrace Regent’s impact: “They are a new person today than they were when they showed up. You can’t be here and be a part of this community without it changing you. There is incredible formation that happens here when you’re not looking. You come pursuing a degree, and you get so much more.”
She continued, “Hopefully, they walk away looking back and saying, ‘I really am thankful for this place.’ Looking inward and saying, ‘I really have changed.’ And then, looking forward and saying, ‘OK, Lord. What do You have next?’”
Derr earned her doctorate in Christian Education Leadership at Regent by taking online courses and attending weeklong, on-campus residencies during the summer. “A graduate of the School of Business & Leadership said to me, ‘You need to look at Regent,’” Derr explained. “It literally was one phone call with a faculty member that convinced me this is the place that I needed to be.”
The Alumnus of the Year award was established in 2004 by the Regent University Office of Alumni Relations to recognize individuals who have gained elite distinction by their accomplishments and have brought positive change to the world. After receiving her award, Derr addressed the graduates, encouraging them to enjoy and celebrate the moment.
“The Holy Spirit has used this place and these people to change your life,” she said. “The truth is you are more fully the person God created and ordained you to be today than you were that day when you first stepped on this campus. Embrace who you have become.”
In closing, Derr added, “When the opportunity comes to do something really, truly outstanding … be willing to take the leap. It will scare you to death, but it is those moments where we let go of what we can do and jump into the things that the Lord is calling us to do that we truly experience His presence and His power in our lives. And we can say blessed be the name of the Lord!”