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Bonnie Strauss and Vernia Calhoun recognized at ETBU Good Samaritan Luncheon

March 4, 2022

East Texas Baptist University held its annual Good Samaritan Luncheon on Wednesday, March 2. Inspired by the parable in Luke 10:25-37, Bonnie Strauss and Vernia Calhoun were selected and recognized with the Good Samaritan Award for their display of servant leadership in Marshall. In honor of the Christian principle of being a Good Samaritan, the award acknowledges those that embody the greatest commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself.

“Today we recognize these individuals, who I believe demonstrate what it means to be good in degree in their roles, but they also display what it means to be good and virtuous and righteous,” ETBU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Thomas Sanders said. “That's the thing we should aspire to be as Christians, that in our roles, no matter what they may be, that we are virtuous and righteous in every role we serve. That's what Christ has called us to be.”

Bonnie Strauss embodies the Good Samaritan spirit with a willingness to serve. Her legacy of service in Marshall is exemplary and includes volunteering her time at many organizations throughout Harrison County that benefit our fellow residents, including Martha’s Kitchen at Trinity Episcopal Church, where Bonnie has been a faithful church member for over two decades. Mrs. Strauss dutifully and sacrificially served as the Education Director at the Michelson Museum of Art for 24 years. Bonnie was instrumental in connecting ETBU students to fine arts classes at the Michelson. Still today, about 100 Tigers are introduced to and instructed in art through the Michelson each semester. Her investment in Marshall is expansive with her service on the All-American City team, Marshall Regional Arts Council, Harrison County Literacy Council, Marshall Public Library, and Belle Maison Society. Mrs. Strauss is a founding member of the Marshall Symphony League and was selected by The Greater Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce as the 2019 Citizen of the Year. With her husband Frank’s service as a member of the Board of Trustees at Wiley College, Bonnie gives her time to advance the Wiley mission and to support the students of Marshall’s treasured historically black college, as well as supporting ETBU’s music and theatre programs.

“So often the spirit of the Good Samaritan comes in teamwork,” Strauss said. “All the blessings of living in Marshall, all the blessings of living among this community, they come from the Lord because we know nothing of real, lasting value can be accomplished unless He's in it. And when the Lord is in it, He sends others to help you knowing you can't do it by yourself. So I give him the glory and the honor for all of you, and what has been accomplished together in Marshall.”

Ms. Calhoun is a true public servant, having been first elected as City Commissioner for District 5 in May 2014. Ms. Calhoun’s heart has always been for Marshall. She was born and raised in Marshall, and through her upbringing, God planted in her a passion for making her Marshall good, better, and great for all citizens of our beloved community. Vernia is a distinguished graduate of H.B. Pemberton High School and the Draughn Business College. She is a dedicated member of Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Marshall. After a successful career with General Motors Acceptance Corporation in Dallas, Ms. Calhoun moved back to her hometown. She transitioned careers to the Marshall Independent School District to invest in the lives of children and youth as a teacher and remains an avid supporter of Marshall Maverick athletics. She gives her heart, her soul, and her hands in service to the people around her, her neighbors, and her fellow citizens. She has served on the Harrison County Children’s Service Board and as a Court Appointed Service Advocate. She has served with the New Town Neighborhood Association and was a member of the Marshall Independent School District Bond Advisory Committee. She has also served on the City of Marshall Planning and Zoning Commission, and as a member of the N.A.A.C.P. and Junior Achievement volunteer.

“First of all, I’d like to give praise to God almighty for allowing me to receive the Good Samaritan Award,” Calhoun said. “I feel deeply honored to receive this award. Dr. Blackburn and I have in common many attempts to make Marshall a better place to live, work, and visit. I wanted to thank my family, friends, and associates for your support during my eight years on the city council. I also want to thank the other honoree Mrs. Bonnie Strauss for being a community advocate and volunteer. Each of you are appreciated. To be considered a Good Samaritan is a great honor and a privilege, so thank you. I’ll never be able to let you know how much I appreciate you.”

Nominations for the award were submitted by ETBU faculty and staff and reviewed by University leadership. The recipients were selected for their humble service to the community. 

“As Dr. Sanders shared the parable of the Good Samaritan, for which ETBU has named this special honor for servant leaders, who humbly and faithfully model spiritual leadership and service for us in our community, we are reminded of the biblical foundation which God calls us to love and serve,” ETBU President Dr. J Blair Blackburn said. “Each generation is confronted with the trumpet’s call for spiritual leadership. Praise God that Vernia Calhoun and Bonnie Strauss have answered the call and stepped forward to serve the Lord and others. God has generously gifted our two honorees, and in turn, they have generously given of themselves to our community.”