(L-R): Joshua Wallace, Erin Bennett Banks, President Shirley A. Mullen, Efrain Rivera, and Wes Dunham. Not pictured: Michael Ballman
(L-R): Joshua Wallace, Erin Bennett Banks, President Shirley A. Mullen, Efrain Rivera, and Wes Dunham. Not pictured: Michael Ballman
Author: Michelle [Shelly] Hillman
Date: October 19, 2017
Categories: Alumni

Houghton College recently honored five outstanding alumni, as well as four students, as part of the college’s Homecoming and Family Weekend 2017 festivities.

Efrain Rivera, chief financial officer and senior vice president at Paychex Inc. and a 1978 graduate of Houghton, was named Alumnus of the Year. This award honors an alum who has made significant contributions through his or her service, employment field, civic, cultural, and church participation. Rivera held several senior management roles at Bausch and Lomb for 21 years, including as chief financial officer and overseeing a $600 million investment portfolio. In 2009 he returned to his alma mater as vice president of finance and administration for two years. Since the conclusion of his work at Houghton, Rivera has served at Paychex, one of the country’s foremost payroll processing and financial services companies. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Houghton, a Juris Doctor degree from the New York University School of Law, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Rochester’s William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration, and a Doctor of Management degree from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.

Joshua Wallace, a 2011 Houghton graduate and a current student of intellectual property law at the University at Buffalo School of Law, was named the 2017 Young Alumnus of the Year. Wallace has demonstrated outstanding accomplishment in his field of study, impacting the community around him by bridging the gap between environmental law makers and the general public. Guided by a desire to help educate communities about the complex world of environmental policy and law, Wallace’s goal is to provide the scientific proof and data needed for communities to push for environmental law changes. In 2016 he made Buffalo headlines when he interpreted New York State’s air monitoring test results from a fire at the old Bethlehem Steel site in Lackawanna. Wallace is currently leading an intercommunity soil study in the Grand Island, Kenmore, and North and South Tonawanda areas of Buffalo, assessing the extent of legacy pollution from historic production of smelting materials. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Houghton College and a doctorate from the University at Buffalo.

Erin Bennett Banks, a 2000 graduate of Houghton, was given a Distinguished Achievement award, which honors individuals who have achieved excellence in the areas of career, service, and volunteerism. Banks is the creative director at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina, as well as a recognized illustrator and graphic designer. Her books and stories often address the realities of difficult topics such as slavery, the Holocaust, and religious persecution. Banks’ illustrations have appeared in Harvard Business Review, Highlights for Children, The Weekly Reader, and other publications. She has earned recognition and praise from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Parents Magazine, Scholastic Books, the Society of School Librarians International, and the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights for her five children’s books. Banks holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Houghton and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Wesley Dunham, a graduate of the class of 1987, was also honored with a Distinguished Achievement award. Dunham is the proprietor of Woodstock Stables, an equestrian dressage facility in the Hudson Valley of New York, and a Para-Olympic trainer. Inspired by England’s high regard for para-athletes with physical limitations, Dunham has made it his mission to train talented athletes who can help shift our cultural perceptions about athletes with physical disabilities here in the United States. He began training para-equestrian riders in 2010, and since that time has overseen two Para-Olympic riders – one in the 2012 London games and the other in the 2016 Rio competitions. Dunham is known by friends, classmates, and former professors for his compassionate, thoughtful, and inclusive approach to his work, using his gifts and talents for acts of service for special needs and at-risk youth. Dunham holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Houghton.

Mullen and Ballman

Michael Ballman, a 1992 graduate, was presented with the Christian Service Award, which honors alumni who hold to the ideals of the Christian faith and have a significant impact in service on the church, community, profession, or Houghton College. Throughout his two decades of pastoral ministry, Ballman has intentionally sought out the brokenhearted and dispossessed, demonstrating Christian love wherever he goes. He is deeply invested in the city of Utica, NY, serving as pastor of both Cornerstone Community Church and Plymouth Bethesda Church. His ministry extends beyond those pastoral duties into his work as founder and director of the Oneida Square Project, an independent, nonprofit program that seeks to improve Utica through social enterprises. Ballman is also an instructor for Houghton College Utica, the college’s newest extension site that offers courses leading to an associate degree and is aimed at students with barriers to higher education. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Houghton studies and a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

In addition to the alumni awards, four current Houghton students were presented with Barnabas Servant Leadership Awards, which recognize juniors and seniors who have demonstrated leadership in community and ministry service. Amy Brennfleck, a current junior from Howell, Michigan, has been a resident assistant for the past two years, is involved in leadership for the Allegany County Outreach program, and has spearheaded women’s ministry opportunities. Junior Andrew Bub of Westerlo, NY, serves as the chaplain of the lacrosse team, leads by example in residence life as an assistant residence director and former resident assistant, and volunteers with a local teen youth group. Raheel Dhingra, a current junior from India, has dedicated herself to rolls with the Student Government Association, as a resident assistant, running the International Student Association, and as a volunteer at Houghton Wesleyan Church. Junior Stephanie McMahon of Elmira, NY, has helped organize several Student Athletic Advisory Council events – including the Special Olympics, Breast Cancer Awareness Games, and more – in addition to involvement with local children’s ministry outreaches, and basketball clinics throughout the year and camps during the summer.