The Alumni Relations Office celebrates the accomplishments and dedication of individuals who embody the mission of the university. The annual alumni, staff and faculty awards of Cornerstone University and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary recognize outstanding members of our community who have achieved success in their personal and professional lives and who have distinguished themselves through service to the university, their communities and throughout the world.
GRTS Alumnus of the Year
Dr. Christopher Brauns (M.Div. ’93) completed his Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from Central University of Iowa in 1985. He then went on to complete his Master of Business Administration from the University of Northern Iowa in 1991 and his Masters of Divinity from GRTS in 1993. He received his Doctorate in Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 2006.
Christopher is the lead pastor at Red Brick Church in Stillman Valley, Ill. His role allows him to come alongside others and walk through life with them, speaking the Word into them at any given moment.
He also works as a photographer at high school sporting events. This provides a great opportunity for him to connect with members of the community and build even stronger relationships with others. He also enjoys biking and reading in his free time.
During his time at GRTS, Christopher received the President's Award, which is given annually to the outstanding seminarian of the year. He also received the Strauss Expository Preaching Award, which was given in memory of Elsie Strauss to the senior seminarian chosen for excellence in expository preaching. In addition to these awards, Christopher has also authored and published three books.
Traditional Undergraduate Alumnus of the Year
Matt Taylor (B.S. ’01, M.S. ’03) currently serves as the vice president of marketing at Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan. His role includes the overall leadership of communicating and connecting their agencies with their employees to provide sound insurance planning for communities.
He completed his Bachelor of Science in Management and Ministry Leadership from Cornerstone in 2001, and then went on to receive his Master of Science in Management from Cornerstone in 2003.
When Matt began at Cornerstone, his desire was to be the pastor of a local church. But, through the years, he began to realize that his gifts were more aligned with the business world. He recognized that some of the greatest opportunities to use his gifts were outside the four walls of the church.
Through his work, Matt is privileged with the opportunity to bring the kingdom of God to families, businesses and communities by restoring others through some of their most difficult times. Through leading small business owners and franchise owners to be the best version of themselves, Matt is able to incorporate discipleship.
PGS Alumna of the Year
Carolyn Koole (B.S. ’99) is the executive director of Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center in Fallbrook, Calif. In her role, she casts vision in her community to reach young women and men who face the decision of life for their preborn children. She also challenges donors to step into the work to make abortion unthinkable.
After two years at Cornerstone, Carolyn faithfully stayed at home with her five children for 20 years. Following this, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 1999. In 2003, she completed her Master of Science in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management and Leadership. After receiving this education, Carolyn began serving at various nonprofits including Women at Risk, International and Alpha Women's Center as well as starting her own business, A Shared Hope, which writes grants to support families with special needs children requiring funds for respite and individualized education.
Carolyn embraces the importance of living into her purpose to glorify God through her work ethic, work manner and her purpose at work. She recognizes the importance of letting our faith define all areas of her life. While not always through words, Carolyn constantly shows care for those she works for and with.
Faculty Hall of Honor Award Winner
Bill Riter worked at Cornerstone for 34 years. He started at Cornerstone as an associate professor of business and held the position as chair of the Business Division. He now serves as the ACBSP Business Program Accreditation Coordinator.
He received his Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Cedarville University and his Master of Science in Accounting from the University of Illinois-Urbana. During his time at Cornerstone, he was honored with the Faculty Excellence Award in 2015 and the Distinguished IT Education Service Award from the Midwest Collegiate Computing Conference in 2018.
While at Cornerstone, he has sought to continually be a servant to his students and coworkers.
Staff Hall of Honor Award Winner
Carol Carpenter is the director of Student Financial Services and has been a CU employee for 22 years. As the director of Student Financial Services, she is responsible for supporting her team as they serve the students and families of our university. This includes leading her team in carrying out their mission "to serve our students by assisting them in overcoming financial barriers so they can pursue their educational and professional goals and excel as influencers in our world for Christ."
She received her Bachelor of Science in Metallurgical Engineering from Michigan Technological University in 1985. Before becoming the director of Student Financial Services, she served as the assistant director of financial aid for the PGS program where she assisted the students with filing for financial aid, informing them of their awards and answering their questions. She also served as the associate director, which added responsibilities with policies and compliance. In 2003, she received the CU Outstanding Service Award for her work in the Financial Aid Office.
During her time at Cornerstone, she recalls one defining moment in her career. To Carol, her most meaningful achievement was accepting the position as director of Student Financial Services. This new role meant learning a lot about working with traditional programs, students and families. Carol stated that her goal is to model Christlikeness to those around her and to respect and care for people in her interactions. Additionally, Carol stated that "as a child of God I know that I am cared for and protected by Him, and I choose joy every day regardless of the challenges I face."