2023 Black & Gold Alumni Awards

Each year at Homecoming we honor alumni who are making an impact in their communities and around the world. These alumni were chosen for their degree of excellence and recognition in their fields; active support of the University; and service to their community, church and God.

College of Allied Health

Travis DeSisso graduated from Harding with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science in 2008 having played professional football in the Arena Football League since 2006. He used his training in exercise science and experience as a personal trainer to grow through several positions with LA Fitness and Equinox Fitness and is vice president of personal training for Equinox Fitness Clubs. Equinox is a premier fitness business with more than 100 clubs across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. DeSisso’s focus is to lead the charge for professionalizing personal training as a career. He and his wife, Lauren Hickman (’04), have two children, Kynian and Lyncoln, and split their time between McRae, Arkansas, and Dallas. 

College of Arts and Sciences

Michelle Goff graduated from Harding in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders and Spanish. She also holds a master’s degree in Spanish linguistics from Louisiana State University. Spending her entire career working for churches, some that began in her living room, Goff has helped start congregations in Colorado, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela. She has written six interactive women’s Bible studies each in English and Spanish, and one was translated into Brazilian and African Portuguese. Goff founded Iron Rose Sister Ministries in 2013 to equip women to connect to God and one another more deeply in bilingual contexts. The organization has served thousands of women in all 19 Spanish-speaking countries, more than half of the United States and Portuguese-speaking Brazil, Angola and Mozambique. 

College of Arts and Sciences

Keith Perry graduated from Harding with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1989 and earned his Master of Business Administration from the University of Houston in 1993. Since 2015 he has served as chief information officer at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, delivering technology strategies for clinical, research and administration teams. Previously he was associate vice president and deputy chief information officer at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. In 2022 Perry received a TennesseeCIO ORBIE award for exceptional leadership, innovation and vision. He also is a 2023 finalist for ORBIE National Healthcare CIO of the Year. He and his wife, Christy Howard (’91), live in Memphis, and have two children, Claire Evetts (’17) and Thomas. 

College of Bible and Ministry

Leonardo Gilbert graduated from Harding with a bachelor’s degree in biology and Bible in 1981 and returned to his home congregation on the southside of Chicago. He has served the Sheldon Heights Church of Christ in various roles for 42 years. During most of that time, he also worked full time for a lab that conducts research on the eye disease retinitis pigmentosa. Since 1985 he has led the National Teachers Workshop, which began as a training event for Bible class teachers at Sheldon Heights, grew to serve the midwest region, and now is a national event. In 2019 Gilbert became director for the Church of Christ National Crusade for Christ which is hosted by predominantly African American congregations in a major U.S. city every other year. He also is a member of the board of trustees at Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas. 

College of Business Administration

Jeff Tennyson graduated from Harding with a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1984 and earned his MBA at Harvard Business School. He is president and CEO of Lima One Capital, where he is responsible for the company’s overall business strategy and day-to-day operations. Having previously served as president of Clayton Holdings and founding CEO and chief operating officer for B2R Finance, Tennyson has more than 30 years of financial services leadership, operating and executive experience. He also is a founding member of the National Private Lenders Association and serves on the executive advisory council. He was named to the 2020 Mortgage Global 100 list. He and his wife, Kathy Jenkins (’84), live in Charlotte, North Carolina, and have two children, Jordon and Kelsey.

College of Education

Dr. Mike Hernandez earned both a master’s and a doctorate in educational leadership from Harding. He is executive director of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators where he provides professional development for administrators across the state. He believes they play an essential role in supporting classroom teachers and strives to equip them to support student outcomes. Previously he served as state superintendent, deputy commissioner and assistant commissioner at the Arkansas Department of Education as well as being superintendent of the Hot Springs and Danville school districts. He and his wife, Susan, live in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and have three children, Sophie, Olivia and Josie. 

College of Nursing

Jordan Yarbrough earned a Bachelor of Science in nursing in 2006 and a master’s degree as a family nurse practitioner in 2021, both from Harding. She has served as a member of the Angola Mission Team based in Huambo since 2011 providing health care, community health education and medical nursing education for Angolan nurses. She and her team are involved in church planting, teaching Bible classes and mentoring students. She enjoys stepping into vulnerable situations with her patients to offer both physical and spiritual care and to bring love and healing. 

College of Pharmacy

Cmdr. Samuel Hubler graduated from Harding with a Doctor of Pharmacy in 2012 and earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Northeastern State University in 2015 and a master’s degree in health care administration from Oklahoma State University in 2016. A commander in the Commissioned Corps. of the U.S. Public Health Service, he serves as director of contract health services for Muscogee (Creek) Nation Department of Health. He received the Oklahoma Area Director’s Peer Recognition Award for Indian Health Service in 2019 as well as U.S. Public Health Service commendation medals in 2020 and 2022. He and his wife, Kristin, live in Jenks, Oklahoma, and have four children, Emma, Anna, Doug and Clark. 

Botham Jean Inspiration Award

Terry Davis graduated with a bachelor’s degree in general studies in 1993 and earned a master’s degree in education in 1997, both from Harding. He teaches Bible at Ouachita Christian School and is a mental health first aid instructor. Davis regularly leads worship and service opportunities for many groups across the country and is well known as a servant leader who brings joy to all he encounters. He and his wife, Kisha, live in Monroe, Louisiana, and have a son, Cameron Cooper.

Distinguished Alumna of the Year 

Sylvia Rose attended Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas, and completed her bachelor’s degree in music at Harding in 1975. She began her career serving as instructor of music and director of the chorus at Southwestern Christian College. She also has taught at the elementary, junior high and high school levels in public, private and charter schools. Rose has lived most of her life in the Detroit metropolitan area teaching, writing, singing and publishing music. She has composed hundreds of songs, including 50 spirituals collected in Songs of Faith; owns two publishing companies, Rose Publishing and Great Heritage Publishing; and has authored two books: A Guide to Effective Choral Singing and Rise Up — A Call to Leadership for African American Women. An ordained minister and former hospital chaplain, Rose founded Great Heritage Ministries in 1997. The nonprofit organization is designed for the uplifting, enrichment and benefit of others and provides various services including senior care and bereavement support. 

Young Alumnus of the Year

Det. Sgt. Jeff Mathes graduated from Harding with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2010.  He serves as detective sergeant of a community field intelligence team with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, supervising covert operations to combat violent crime and narcotics trade. He and his wife, Sara Moon (’08), live in Nashville, Tennessee, and have a son, James. 

Young Alumnus of the Year

Det. Ryan Cagle graduated from Harding with a bachelor’s degree in public administration in 2015. He currently serves as a detective with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.

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