The ACU alumni association announced the recipients for their annual alumni of the year awards at Homecoming.
The 2015 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year was bestowed upon Elise (Smith) Mitchell, a 1983 graduate, for successes in public relations and mass communications. This award is the highest honor the university can give to a graduate.
The second highest honor went to Homecoming’s keynote speakers, Dr. Kent and Amber (Carroll) Brantly. Their work in the medical mission field as well as Kent’s remarkable recovery from Ebola earned them the 2015 Young Alumni of the Year award.
“These alumni live out everyday the Christ-centered servant-leadership ACU strives to instill in every student,” said Craig Fisher, director of alumni relations, in a released statement. “Elise, Kent and Amber are not only credits to their alma mater, they are helping to transform the world for generations to come.”
While the Brantly’s story is well-documented, Mitchell’s name is not unfamiliar when it comes to alumni association awards. In 2011, she was a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Citation, an award given to graduates who have risen above others in their work and their service.
Mitchell’s career took off in 1995 when she started her own public relations agency, Mitchell Communications, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. There her agency thrived as it picked up big name clients like Walmart and Hilton Hotels and Resorts.
“ACU gave me not just the education and skills necessary to thrive in my field, but the direction and Christian values to excel in life,” Mitchell said. “I cannot begin to pay ACU back, but I can pay it forward.”
Still, Mitchell’s legacy at ACU is not the success in her professional field but rather the donation she gave to start Morris and Mitchell, the university’s student-run advertising and public relations firm.
“She has given of her time, her talent and her treasure to ACU,” said Jama Cadle, assistant director of alumni relations. “She exemplifies both the personal service and professional success that this award honors.”
Kent (’03) and Amber (’06) had a far less traditional route to winning their alumni of the year award.
As a doctor in Liberia, Kent fought on the frontlines in the war against Ebola. However, his fight against the disease became one of life or death when he contracted the illness in July.
Brantly went on to survive the event and returned to the States. His recovery and the awareness of Ebola that his story raised more than qualified him for this award, Cadle said.
“Everyone has a career, but I think what distinguishes myself and the Brantly’s is that we combined our careers with our passions, and that’s when it becomes a divine calling,” Mitchell said. “For the Brantlys, it was moving to West Africa. For me, it was starting my own firm.”
Both Mitchell and the Brantly family will return to ACU for Sing Song weekend in February to be honored at ACU’s Alumni Day luncheon.