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Physician/researcher becomes 9th president

On Jan. 16 in the DeSantis Family Chapel a large crowd of faculty, students and staff learned of Dr. Debra A. Schwinn’s appointment as Palm Beach Atlantic’s ninth president and heard her share about her own journey of faith. Chosen after a nationwide search, Schwinn was introduced to the PBA family by Timothy S. Sotos, chairman of the Board of Trustees and chair of the search committee.

“Dr. Schwinn is an exceptional leader with great interpersonal skills,” said Sotos. “She’s creative, energetic and a person with a deep and passionate faith and love for Christ.”

Dr. Debra A. Schwinn joined the PBA family on April 6, and began her role as University president May 4.

Dr. Debra A. Schwinn joined the PBA family on April 6, and began her role as University president May 4.

“It is my firm belief that great Christian liberal arts universities such as Palm Beach Atlantic hold a unique and important place in today’s society,” said Schwinn. “PBA offers students the opportunity to examine and deepen their faith while pursuing a rigorous academic path, arriving at graduation prepared to be servant leaders. I am honored to walk on the journey with our students on the West Palm Beach and Orlando campuses, and around the world.”

Schwinn is an accomplished physician, educator and researcher, and most recently was vice president for medical affairs at the University of Iowa. Previously she served in senior leadership roles at the University of Washington and Duke University, where she was director of cardiovascular genomics in the Center for Genomic Medicine. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the College of Wooster and earned her medical degree from Stanford University School of Medicine. Since 2002 she has been a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

Schwinn assumed the role of president May 4, following the retirement of President William M. B. Fleming Jr. By that time, COVID-19 topped the nation’s headlines, and many in the PBA community took comfort in having such an experienced medical professional to lead the University. They hearkened back to the Book of Esther and the question posed to Queen Esther, “Who knows but that you have come … for such a time as this?”

Schwinn worked with PBA faculty experts in responding to the coronavirus. (See story atop opposite page.) While acknowledging the seriousness of the threat, she concluded: “Ever since God called PBA into existence 52 years ago, innovation has been in our DNA. Hence, I am confident PBA will buffer this storm, and not just to survive, but to thrive.”

An Ohio native, Schwinn is married to Dr. Robert Gerstmyer, a religious scholar and instructor in the Department of Religion at the University of Iowa. They have moved to a home near Palm Beach Atlantic.

Medical professionals lead COVID response

Palm Beach Atlantic has appointed Dr. Pat Heyman, associate dean of the School of Nursing, as the University’s director of COVID-19 response.

It’s one of many measures the University took to ensure a safe semester with the resuming of classes Aug. 17.

Heyman is the central point of contact for prevention, risk reduction and infection mitigation. In his role, he offers both a medical and administrative perspective, providing day-to-day guidance for COVID-19-related decisions.

Prior to joining the School of Nursing in 2003, Heyman worked as a nurse practitioner in a private practice. He earned his Bachelor of Science, Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in nursing from the University of Florida, which awarded him the Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 2011. Heyman earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from PBA in 1994.

The University recently hired Jennifer Fleigelman, a registered nurse with years of progressive experience, to monitor daily health alert responses, oversee daily reports from the University’s telehealth provider and care for students who have COVID-related concerns.

The decision to have students return for in-person instruction was made with discernment, following a University-wide day of prayer. God has uniquely prepared PBA for this time by providing medical experts on the faculty and staff; a renovated, open-concept dining hall that minimizes touch; and a new, eight-story residence that allows other residences to be used for quarantine and isolation as needed, said President Dr. Debra A. Schwinn.

Throughout the campus, signs are posted for COVID-19 cautions, including spacing out student seating in classrooms and chapel. Learning is a combination of in-classroom and virtual experiences.

Schwinn, a Stanford University-educated medical doctor, firmly believes there’s never been a more important time for the transformative education that PBA provides.

“I am confident that with God’s grace, we will be able to excel in creative, new ways,” Schwinn said. “We will even have the deep privilege of seeing students totally surrender to Christ. This is our ‘why’ to opening.”


Laura BishopNew executive VP comes with proven track record

Laura Bishop joined the Palm Beach Atlantic staff July 1, 2020, as executive vice president for Advancement. She will be responsible for planning, organizing and implementing the University’s fundraising, Marketing, Community Service, Planned Giving and Alumni Relations efforts. She reports directly to President Debra A. Schwinn and serves on the President’s Cabinet.

Bishop comes to PBA from Oral Roberts University (ORU) in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is an ORU graduate. She served with distinction for the past six years as vice president of Development and Alumni Relations, and then in an expanded role as vice president of Advancement. She led ORU’s recent 50th anniversary celebration and capital campaign, which exceeded its goal. She was instrumental in raising money to build several new buildings and helped launch ORU’s newest capital campaign.

Prior to joining ORU, Bishop served as executive director of the National Christian Foundation and Lifework Leadership in Fort Lauderdale. She was director of Development and Communications for Habitat for Humanity of Broward County and Westminster Academy.

“Laura’s proven track record in all areas of fund development, coupled with her background and leadership in communications, make her especially qualified to be part of our leadership team as we seek to fulfill God’s ambition for Palm Beach Atlantic,” said President Schwinn.

Dr. Paul M. Gould

Christian apologist to head new master’s program

Well-known author and Christian apologist Dr. Paul M. Gould joined the faculty of Palm Beach Atlantic in August to lead the University’s new philosophy of religion program.

Gould has been a visiting scholar at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s Henry Center, where he worked on the intersection of science and faith. He is a widely sought-after speaker in apologetics and philosophy, and the author or editor of 10 scholarly and popular-level books.

He will be associate professor of philosophy of religion and director of the Master of Arts, Philosophy of Religion, housed in the School of Ministry Graduate Program. The Master of Arts program will open in the fall of 2021, pending approval by the Association of Theological Schools. This fall Gould will travel a great deal, recruiting students for the new program. He’ll also teach the existing PBA course Evangelism and Apologetics.

PBA’s new Master of Arts in the Philosophy of Religion will prepare students to serve more effectively in the church, in higher education and in the wider culture, said Dr. Jonathan Grenz, dean of the School of Ministry. The new effort is the fruit of a dream and discussions between Grenz and Dr. Paul Copan, the Pledger Family Chair and professor of Philosophy and Ethics.

Copan led in fundraising for the effort, and will teach in the program, as will Gould.

Four more grads win Fulbright awards

Three recent Palm Beach Atlantic University graduates have won highly-competitive Fulbright awards to teach English overseas, and a fourth alumnus has won a Fulbright appointment to conduct scholarly research.

“The Fulbright is one of the most prestigious awards an American undergraduate or recent graduate can win,” said Dr. Carl Miller, director of PBA’s Prestigious National Scholarship Program. “The goal for the Fulbright program is to send the best recent graduates of American institutions abroad for a program of cultural ambassadorship and intellectual exchange and service work.”

Isabella Lindh Sarah Selden Chanel Nassir Gregory Perreault
Isabella Lindh Sarah Selden Chanel Nassir Gregory Perreault


Isabella Lindh, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, will serve in Bulgaria; Sarah Selden, from Littleton, Colorado, will serve in Spain; and Chanel Nassir, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, will serve in Burma. They will begin their Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships (ETA) in January, their appointments delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

PBA has produced six Fulbright ETA winners in the last three years. Additionally, Dr. Gregory P. Perreault has won a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award to Austria. He will research and teach at University of Vienna as part of a project to study digital journalism practices in the United States and Austria.

A 2006 PBA graduate, Perreault earned his master’s degree from Georgetown University and his doctorate from Missouri School of Journalism. He is assistant professor of journalism at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.

Timothy Sotos

Trustees elect chairman, welcome new members

Palm Beach Atlantic University’s Board of Trustees elected Timothy S. Sotos as its new chair effective Jan. 1, 2020. A Palm Beach resident, he previously served as vice chair. He is a retired business executive with more than 30 years of experience in the health care industry, serving in various positions as chair, president and CEO or director of several privately held companies.

Michael J. Stevens of Jupiter was elected vice chairman, and Timothy D. Leuliette of West Palm Beach was elected board treasurer. R. Marshall Jones of Palm Beach Gardens is board secretary.

Three new members were appointed to the board: Mark H. Campbell, J. Michael Cook and Karl H. Watson Jr. Campbell and Watson are alumni of the Rinker School of Business, Watson having graduated in 1987 and Campbell in 2000.

Dr. Phyllis King

Nursing, business deans appointed

Dr. Phyllis King was named dean of the School of Nursing in February. A member of the nursing faculty since 2011, she has enjoyed a long career in faith-based academia and in acute and community nursing practice.

King earned her doctorate in nursing from the University of Tennessee, and is a trained educator for the Robert Wood Johnson End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium. Her nursing practice and research have resulted in presentations at conferences such as Sigma Theta Tau, the International Nursing Honor Society, the Southern Nursing Research Society, Rutgers University Continuing Education and the Mayo Clinic.


After a national search, Dr. Brian Strow has been appointed the next dean of the Marshall E. Rinker Sr. School of Business. Strow comes from Western Kentucky University, where he served as the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism and director of the WKU Center for the Study of Capitalism.

He earned his doctorate and Master of Arts degrees in economics from Vanderbilt University and his undergraduate degree in economics and political science from Wheaton College. This fall, Strow will serve as consulting dean while he finishes his responsibilities at WKU. He will be on campus in January, taking the place of Dr. Leslie D. Turner, who has retired from the dean’s post.


Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair interacts with students in the President’s Lyceum.

Among the special guests sharing with the PBA family were Tony Blair , former British prime minister, sponsored by the LeMieux Center for Public Policy

University of Oxford scholar Dr. Michael Ward (left), delivering the President’s Distinguished Scholar Lecture

University of Oxford scholar Dr. Michael Ward, delivered the President’s Distinguished Scholar Lecture.

Dr. George Marsden, emeritus professor of history at the University of Notre Dame

  Dr. George Marsden , emeritus professor of history at the University of Notre Dame, visted with honors students.

Research fellowship renamed, honoring donors

The LeMieux Center for Public Policy at Palm Beach Atlantic University selected two PBA juniors to be Freidheim Fellows: Benjamin DeHaan, a business management major from Michigan; and Maria Landron, a public relations major from Royal Palm Beach. The research fellowship program, previously known as LeMieux Fellows, supports two students who pursue an independent study of current or emerging public policy issues concerning individual freedoms, values, rights, religious liberties and institutions in the United States.

DeHaan’s research topic is “NATO Revisited: Analysis of U.S. Foreign Policy.” He will be mentored by Dr. James Todd, assistant professor of politics and chair of the politics department at Palm Beach Atlantic. Landron will be mentored by Dr. Francisco Plaza, professor of politics. Her topic is “Beyond the Wall: Mexico and Central America.”

The fellows receive a stipend to cover the cost of an independent study course as well as expenses, such as travel, incurred during the course up to $2,500. Additionally, they receive ongoing guidance for their research project from former U.S. Senator George LeMieux.

The fellows program is named for donors Marguerite “Mitzi” Freidheim and her husband of 56 years, Cyrus. Mitzi Freidheim serves as a member of the LeMieux Center advisory board and is a volunteer for numerous charitable organizations, with a focus on education and helping disadvantaged children. Cyrus Freidheim is the former vice chair of Booz Allen Hamilton, CEO of Chiquita Brands International and CEO and publisher of the Sun Times Media Group. He has been actively involved on more than 30 commercial and not-for-profit boards. The Freidheims are residents of North Palm Beach.

First Lady honored as Woman of Distinction

In February First Lady Melania Trump received the 2020 Women of Distinction award in honor of her Be Best initiative promoting children’s physical, social and emotional well-being. The award was presented at an annual luncheon benefiting a scholarship fund for female students.

First Lady Melania Trump with then University President William M. B. Fleming, Jr. at The Breakers Palm Beach.

First Lady Melania Trump with then University President William M. B. Fleming, Jr.

at The Breakers Palm Beach.

Be Best is designed to promote values such as encouragement, kindness and respect in children. The initiative is concentrated around well-being, online safety and opioid abuse.

“When we teach our children to cherish our values and care for each other, they are better prepared to carry on America’s legacy of compassion, service and patriotism,” Mrs. Trump told the luncheon audience. “It is our duty as adults and parents to ensure they have the best opportunities to lead fulfilling, healthy and successful lives.”

PBA President William M. B. Fleming, Jr. introduced the First Lady. Her mother and father joined her at the luncheon, held at The Breakers Palm Beach.

Students Jessica Lykins and Chanel Nassir are the 2020 Women of Distinction scholarship recipients. Lykins, of Groveland, Florida, is a senior studying communication. Nassir, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is a senior majoring in international business. Both are students in the University’s Frederick M. Supper Honors Program.

Eileen Burns and Frances Fisher are co-chairs of Women of Distinction, which recognizes women for their charitable leadership of organizations that support the arts, education, health care and other community initiatives. Cresset is an event sponsor.

Teacher prep program earns top marks

The University’s teacher preparation program is among the best in Florida and top among private colleges and universities in the state, according to new ratings.

The Washington, D.C.-based National Council on Teacher Quality gave PBA an “A” for instructing future educators in scientifically-based methods for teaching reading.

The University was one of only 16 traditional undergraduate and graduate programs in Florida to earn an “A” rating in the think tank’s 2020 Teacher Prep Review. PBA was one of only three schools from the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) to receive the designation.

At the state level, the Florida Department of Education reported that 78 percent of PBA students passed the Florida Teacher Certification Examinations K-6 social science subtest on their first attempt — the highest percentage of all private colleges and universities in the state.

Dr. Chelly Templeton, dean of the School of Education and Behavioral Studies, credits the success to preparation and one-on-one mentoring. Faculty are frequently in their offices with their doors open. Their students know they care, she said.

“Our professors are very hands-on,” Templeton said. “They know our students, and they work with our students.”

Faculty are purposeful about preparing students for the standards against which they’ll be measured, Templeton said. Plus, they’re passionate about what they teach. “We like our subject areas, and we’re excited about sharing that with our students,” she said.

Award highlights PBA’s many efforts for student success

Pharos Resources recognized PBA as its 2019 Lighthouse Award - Institution of the Year winner for the University’s commitment to student success.

Pharos 360 powers the University’s Waypoint Early Alert System, which allows faculty, staff or friends to identify students who are having difficulties emotionally, academically or physically so that they can connect with professional assistance and resources for success. Waypoint has helped the University focus on these students and increase retention.

Pharos credited the University for student support such as Student Orientation, Advising and Registration (SOAR) days, the Bridges Scholar Program, the Impact Leadership Team and discipleship assistants. These efforts help identify highest risk students and provide relationships and interventions.

University saw a 206 percent increase in total referrals in 2018-19 from the previous school year. That includes a 124 percent increase in referrals from faculty and staff. Also, 182 students referred their peers, up from zero student referrals the previous year.

New series brings prominent guest preachers, thanks to family of Madeline McElveen

The University hosted accomplished leaders as part of the inaugural Madeline McElveen Distinguished Preaching Series in the spring semester.

Sponsored by the Center for Biblical Leadership, the series was made possible by the children of the late Mrs. McElveen: Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, Dr. John McElveen and Tweed McElveen-Bogache. Some years ago they began bringing guest preachers to the Royal Poinciana Chapel as a celebration of the good news of the gospel and a way of remembering their mother. As that tradition continued, this year the guest preachers spoke during the Royal Poinciana Chapel’s Sunday morning services and then at PBA on Monday mornings.

On Jan. 13 the University welcomed the Rev. Tom Tewell. For 40 years he pastored congregations including the 5,100-member Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas, and the 3,500-member Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City.

Dr. Eric Motley spoke on Feb. 10. He is an executive vice president of The Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit, nonpartisan forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas.

The Rev. Russell J. Levenson Jr., an Episcopalian rector who gave the homily at former President George H.W. Bush’s memorial, also was scheduled to speak, but that session was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michele Kang

Free Enterprise Medalist 

Entrepreneur Y. Michele Kang received the University’s American Free Enterprise Day Medal in a flag-filled ceremony Nov. 14.

Kang emigrated from Korea as a single woman, attended college in the United States, worked her way up to an executive role in a Fortune 500 company and then built Cognosante, her own health information technology firm. Speaking to the crowd in the packed Rubin Arena, she explained that opportunities for young women in Korea were profoundly limited when she was growing up.

“The problem is that I’ve never been very good about accepting what I can or cannot do,” Kang said to applause and cheers. “My hope today is that by hearing my story, you create your own.”

In addition to Kang, the University honored four companion medalists: Robert W. “Chip” Lafferty, CEO of Hill York Air Conditioning Services & Energy Solutions; Beth Neuhoff, CEO of Neuhoff Communications; Geoff Seiber, president and CEO of FranFund; and Carlos Vidueira, president of the Rybovich SuperYacht Marina & Service Center.

Ministry prof wins Corts Award

In August Dr. Karelynne Ayayo, professor of biblical and theological studies, received the Charles & Hazel Corts Award for Outstanding Teaching. In nominating Ayayo for the honor, one of her faculty colleagues said, “She invests so much in her students, working hard on every detail of course design, policy and more to serve the student’s learning.”

Ayayo has taught at PBA since 2004. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from The College of Wooster; two Master of Arts degrees from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; and a Doctor of Theology from Boston University. She teaches courses in Bible, New Testament, hermeneutics and missions. In addition to formal teaching, she embraces opportunities to enter into deeper mentoring relationships with female students.

Former PBA President Dr. Paul R. Corts and his wife, Diane, established an endowment to provide the annual award in honor of his parents and in recognition of their commitment to higher education.



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