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Class of 2020 Selects Outstanding Educator and Mentor of the Year Recipients

The Walsh University Class of 2020 has named Assistant Professor of Theology Dr. Chad Gerber and Director of Campus Ministry Ben Walther as this year’s Outstanding Educator and Mentor of the Year. These most distinguished honors bestowed upon faculty and staff, are selected annually by the graduating class.

Joseph Ezzie Outstanding Educator of the Year Award: Dr. Chad Gerber, Assistant Professor of Theology 

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View Dr. Gerber's acceptance speech here. 

Given by the graduating class, the Outstanding Educator of the Year Award honors the Walsh University faculty member who has provided students with positive inspiration and offered them academic standards of the highest order. Recipients of this distinguished award are a tribute to excellence in higher education. 

Dr. Gerber joined Walsh University in 2008 after completing a doctorate in ancient theology and philosophy at Oxford University. His courses at Walsh cover the history of Catholicism and emphasize the recovery of once-traditional spiritual practices and communal ways of life for the renewal of the Church in the 21st century. Gerber is the author of several scholarly articles on the early Church and a book on the theology of Saint Augustine. 

Outside of the classroom, Dr. Gerber’s activities at Walsh include overseeing Theology on Tap and guiding backpacking excursions for students. Having previously worked in campus ministry and trained for pastoral ministry in seminary, he particularly enjoys building lasting relationships with students and mentoring them in their faith. 

Dr. Gerber is married to his high school sweetheart Jennifer. They have seven children and live on a hobby farm in nearby ‘Amish country’. The Gerber family regularly hosts Walsh students for bonfires, barn dances, horseback riding, and relaxing weekends in their guesthouse. 

What Walsh Students Say: 

“I have never seen anyone suffer so beautifully and humbly in my entire life. He has constant crosses that God asks him to bear and he never refuses to pick one up. I have learned a lot from him about looking at the bright side of each situation. Dr. Gerber cares a lot about his students. No matter how busy he is, he always is more than willing to listen to what you have going on and offer sound advice.” 

“Dr. Gerber has taught me many things, including the importance of prayer, the necessity of seeking truth, and the value of education. He has mentored me and helped me to understand what manhood is all about. In the midst of great trials in my life and here at Walsh, he has walked by my side and persistently been there to pray, encourage, and support.” 

“I will never forget what Gerber taught me in the classroom--how he treated us, what he said, and how he said it. He made topics like history and theology come alive and helped me to realize their importance.  I will use what he has taught me in the classroom, but I will also remember what he taught me in his office, as we discussed problems of life, theology, philosophy, and culture." 

This award was established in 1985, when students of the University’s yearbook and student government wished to officially recognize a faculty member “who has been the most challenging, who has had the most positive influence, and who has made the class mature the most.” In 2018, this award was renamed the Joseph Ezzie Outstanding Educator of the Year Award, in honor of retiring DeVille School of Business Professor Joseph Ezzie and his 49 years of dedication to Walsh University students. 

Terrance Portis Mentor of the Year Award: Ben Walther, Director of Campus Ministry 

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The recipient of the Mentor of the Year award is nominated by the Walsh senior class for their outstanding guidance, education outside the classroom and significant contributions to their college experience.  

View Ben Walther's acceptance speech here. 

In 2012, Walsh University dedicated the Mentor of the Year Award in Memory of Recipient Terrance Portis. A 2008 Walsh graduate, Portis passed away on January 25, 2012 at age 27. He had served as the manager of Walsh's Academic Resource Center and as one of the advisors for the Black Student Union. 

With nearly 20 years of professional experience in ministry leadership, Ben Walther joined the Walsh University community as Director of Campus Ministry in 2017. His ministry experience includes ten years of ministry within the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and worship leader for St. Thomas More Catholic Church and Adore Ministries in Houston, TX. He has served at Steubenville Youth conferences and Life Teen events, including training conferences, summer camps and day-long workshops for people in ministry. Using modern illustrations of the Gospel, Ben hopes to engage the hearts and minds of young people, inviting them into deeper Christian discipleship. 

Ben is also nationally known as a professional Catholic singer and songwriter. After spending years in full-time ministry, Walther began co-writing with Christian music greats like Matt Maher and Robbie Seay. He released Everything Can Change in 2008. After joining the Oregon Catholic Press publishing group in 2012, he released his first album, Make Your Home in Me, in 2013. It debuted at #12 on the iTunes Christian and Gospel charts. His second release with Oregon Catholic Press publishing group was Ablaze in 2016. 

Ben is working on his master's degree in Theology from Walsh University and has enjoyed bringing his ministry experience to Walsh campus ministry. In addition to full-time ministry within the Walsh University community, Ben still travels regularly around the country with the message of the Gospel, which is always perennial and relevant. Ben and his family live in the North Canton. 

What Walsh Students Say: 

“Ben Walther, though he has only been a part of the Walsh community for a short time, has from day one completely committed himself to the wellbeing of every single student on campus. His faith inspires so many people through his joy and charismatic, yet traditional approach to the spread of the Gospel. He is not merely an employee of Walsh; he embodies what all professional staff ought to strive to be. He opens his heart in a way that inspires students to do the same. He offers calm, yet steady strength to anyone who needs him, always doing so in a way that directs that person not to himself, but to Christ.” 

“The most important thing I have learned from Ben is to meet people where they are at--to get down on their level and show them the passion and love of Jesus Christ. He has modeled what it means to be present to others and to make people more important than things.”