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Two ETBU seniors recognized for Christian servant leadership

October 4, 2021

East Texas Baptist University junior Leah Akridge from Lufkin, Texas, and senior Christian Phillips from Murphy, Texas, were honored on October 4 with the Bob and Gayle Riley Servant Leadership Award for consistently displaying Christian servant leadership on campus and in the community. ETBU President Emeritus Dr. Bob Riley and his wife, Gayle, took part in the ceremony and presented the honorees with a miniature replication of the “Divine Servant” statue, created by Max Greiner, which can also be found on campus at the entrance to the Rogers Spiritual Life Center.  

“I always appreciate the warm welcome we receive when we come back to campus after all these years,” Dr. Riley said. “Today, we gather to recognize two students who are receiving servant leadership awards for this year. The Bible has a lot to say about servant leadership, Philippians 2:7 says Jesus took the very nature of a servant becoming a servant in his demeanor, personality, and nature. Mark 10:45 says that the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve. Gayle and I were blessed to be able to provide the Max Greiner sculpture, ‘The Divine Servant,’ which sits outside this chapel, as a reminder of the importance of serving those around us and those around the world.”

Annually, two students are selected for the Bob and Gayle Riley Servant Leadership Award based on their embodiment of being a Christian servant leader in their daily lives. Fellow students, professors, and other members of the ETBU campus community submit nominations recognizing their dedication to pursuing a Christ-like practice of servanthood. During his presidential tenure, Dr. Riley founded the award to foster the mind and spirit of Christ portrayed by students through service and leadership at East Texas Baptist University.

“Under Dr. Blackburn’s leadership, ETBU continues to raise up men and women as servant leaders who will make a difference as they serve God as leaders in their organizations,” Dr. Riley added. “It is a pleasure to present these awards to these two outstanding students today.”

Christian Phillips, a rehabilitative science major, was announced as the 2021 male Servant Leader Award recipient. He has served in numerous organizations during his time at ETBU including service as a Tiger Camp Leader, a Thrive Mentor, Resident Assistant, BSM Leadership team, and Leadership Fellows. Christian has been an active volunteer in the community through service at Mobberly Marshall.

“Christian’s greatest qualities are his desire to serve others and his ability to build relationships,” ETBU Residence Director Desirae Bradley said. “It is evident through his interactions with students, faculty, and staff on campus that Christian intentionally puts others above himself to show the love of Jesus Christ.”

Leah Akridge, an English secondary education major, was recognized this year as the 2021 female Servant Leader Award recipient. She is a member of the ETBU Softball team and has served in numerous organizations during her time at ETBU including service as a Tiger Camp Leader, Thrive Mentor, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Student Athlete Leadership Team, and Titus Women’s Ministry member. Leah has been an active volunteer in the community through service with the ETBU Softball team and with the Immanuel Baptist Church College ministry.

“Every part of what Leah does and who she is makes her a Christian Servant leader,” ETBU Head Softball Coach Janae Shirley said. “There are so many times within our program when she makes decisions that are selfless and always in the best interest of the team in order to help and nurture those around her. She leads by example, in how she plays, in how she interacts with others, and in how she shares her love for Christ.”

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