Young Life Alumni Awards

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Dave and Stacey Alpern

2017 Distinguished Young Life Alumnus Award
By Jonathan Schultz

Dave Alpern says his early years with Young Life “literally altered the entire course of my life — who I married, where I went to college, where I went to work, all of my life-friends. My entire wedding party were Campaigners brothers, and one of my high school leaders, Rick Beckwith, helped officiate.”

A man of abiding faith in Christ and deep roots with Young Life, Dave is the president of Joe Gibbs Racing, with over 600 employees under his leadership. It was in the home of his Young Life leader, John Colston, where Dave began following Jesus. Soon, he became involved in Campaigners, and helped build a club of 300 students a week in Fairfax, Virginia.

Dave attended nearby George Mason University so he could be a volunteer leader. With friend and now Young Life committee trainer, Moose Valliere, he built a solid ministry. Upon graduation, Dave moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, to help another high school buddy, J.D. Gibbs, and his dad, Joe, start the NASCAR team Joe Gibbs Racing. Dave began as an unpaid intern, and over two decades ascended through almost every front-office role possible. He’s a respected figure in his industry, and a regular guest speaker and college lecturer.

Before moving to Charlotte, Dave made a 10-year commitment to continue as a Young Life leader wherever God would take him. After fulfilling this pledge, Dave not only joined the local committee but quickly became the chair. Dave also gladly joined the Carolina Regional Committee.

Stacey has been the consummate support in all these roles. She, too, served as a volunteer leader and is engaged on the local committee. Their two eldest (twin) boys are Young Life College leaders at UNC – Chapel Hill, and their youngest son is a high school senior and very active in Young Life.

When asked how the mission has influenced him, Dave responded, “As a boss, I feel like a Young Life leader at work. I find myself doing contact work every day; meeting employees where they are at, caring about them both in and outside of work. Our company events all have Young Life-inspired skits and humor. As a husband, Scripture provides a blueprint for marriage, and that was introduced to me through Young Life as well as the examples of godly men I met through Young Life. As a dad, I’d like to think I’m like a lifelong leader to my boys — with lots of cabin times and camp trips.”

Though the purpose of the “Distinguished Young Life Alumnus Award” is to honor and appreciate the Alperns, Dave was quick to convey a message of encouragement to all Young Life volunteers and staff. “I have a great deal of admiration for all of you — so much respect for what you do and for answering the call! I know how hard it is and also how much joy it brings, but it can be thankless at times. Never forget, your work is of eternal value.”

18-Spring-YL-Alumni-Awards-Cromartie.jpgMichael Cromartie​

2017 Young Life Posthumous Alumni Achievement Award
By Jonathan Schultz

In a September 1, 2017, New York Times obituary article, Carl M. Cannon, the Washington bureau chief for the website RealClearPolitics wrote, “Mike Cromartie did more to ensure that American political journalism is imbued with religious tolerance, biblical literacy, historical insight and an ecumenical spirit than any person alive.”

Cromartie’s accomplishments are too numerous to list, and his influence on American media too far-reaching to sum up here. His influence was overwhelming; he was a research assistant for Chuck Colson’s Prison Ministries, the editor of more than a dozen books and an appointee to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, where he was twice elected chairman. He was a beloved husband and father, and held degrees from both Covenant College (Lookout Mountain, Georgia) and American University. Michael Cromartie was also a Young Life alumnus.

In 1967, Mal McSwain walked into the Dykes High School gym in Atlanta to find a young Michael Cromartie shooting hoops alone. Cromartie asked McSwain, “How long are you going to be here?” Thinking he meant at the school that day, McSwain responded, “Until after football practice.” In reality, Cromartie was wondering if McSwain would be there the entire school year and if this was an adult he could trust. The two became friends and eventually Cromartie began coming to Young Life club.

Cromartie would eventually serve as a volunteer leader at Lovett High School in Atlanta after graduating from college. McSwain and Cromartie had a lifelong friendship — a friendship that included spouses and children. About Cromartie, McSwain said, “It was amazing to have a front-row seat to see him blossom and grow. He was one of those guys that you could see his life have an impact on others. He had a God-given gift of being able to ask questions and was amazing at bringing people together.” Though his volunteer involvement with Young Life decreased as career demands increased, he was never very far away from the mission.

We are pleased to recognize Michael Cromartie as our very first Young Life “Posthumous Alumni Achievement Award” recipient.

18-Spring-YL-Alumni-Awards-Lehman.jpgDuane Lehman

2017 Alumni Service to Young Life Award
By Shannon Harrell

In 1953, Duane Lehman was attending Wheaton College and rooming with three other college guys. These young men all met Jesus through Young Life during high school, and Duane was intrigued. He started attending Young Life leadership training on Sunday evenings led by George Sheffer. Shortly after, Duane was sold on this ministry and began pursuing high school students as a volunteer leader.

After earning his Ph.D. in chemistry, Duane and his wife, Bonnie, moved to Midland, Michigan, and were approached by Ruth and Dennis Gibbson about starting Young Life in Midland. This ignited their passion, and from 1960-1961, they tirelessly pursued the dream of reaching the kids of Midland. Soon, they formed a local committee and became the first committee chairs. By the fall of 1962, Midland had regular clubs and was the first Young Life area in Michigan. The couple hosted Campaigners, built relationships with students and encouraged leaders. Over the next three years, attendance grew weekly as high school students poured into club. Midland also saw an increasing number of students going to Young Life summer camp. In order to help the young area grow, Duane and Bonnie stepped into what they believed to be short-term leadership roles.

Duane was still faithfully leading 14 years later as a volunteer area director. He then served on the area and regional committees, trained volunteer leaders, hosted countless banquet tables and was Midland Young Life’s greatest advocate in the community. His love for Jesus and kids is contagious!

Duane has been faithfully serving Young Life for 57 years. He has a deep, unwavering passion for sharing the gospel with kids and making Jesus known. At age 85, Duane is still engaged in a variety of Young Life ministries. In his words, “serving through Young Life was an enormously rewarding experience, and it still is!” With tears of joy, he recounts the ways God has used Young Life in Midland. “Working with these kids brought such hope to my heart. The whole point is inviting people into a relationship with Jesus Christ, and it never ends.” Young Life is deeply grateful to Duane for his faith that led to the birth of an area and countless kids meeting Jesus.
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