Alumni Profiles     


James (’51) and Gwen (Burris, ’52) Pruyne
     Outstanding Service Award, 2002

     “It was originally my intention to nominate one of the Pruynes for this award but the more I thought about it, the more I knew it would be impossible to honor one without the other. To divide the world they have built together would be like separating earth and sky in an attempt to paint an entire landscape. Jim and Gwen are a team, working supportively together but they also work on their individual projects. When the work is primarily Gwen’s, she knows her first resource and support is Jim and, when the work is Jim’s, he reaches out his hand and there is Gwen to help him.” So begins the nomination of James (’51) and Gwen (Burris ’52) Pruyne for the Outstanding Service Award written by Dorothy Harper Watson, ’52.
        The Pruynes reside in Normal, Illinois, where Jim was campus minister at Illinois State University for 41 years. During his tenure he founded and was the first director of the United Campus Christian Foundation, a ministry of the Presbyterian Church, USA, the United Church of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples), and the Church of the Brethren. He also served as Assistant Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Normal. Gwen has taught English, speech and drama at Illinois State University, and for forty years she was the editor and business manager of two research centers at ISU.
        Gwen and Jim started their higher education at Park University. They went on to complete masters degrees. Jim earned his masters in divinity from McCormick Theological Seminary. Gwen received a masters degree from Illinois State University. Both attended the Ecumenical Institute of the World Council of Churches.
        The Pruynes are now “retired” but continue to work within the community and their church. As a volunteer, Jim is the executive secretary of the Illinois United Ministries in Higher Education, which coordinates the jointly-sponsored ministry programs at seven public universities in Illinois. Their contributions to their church and community are extensive and include roles as teaching instructors, committee leaders, choir members, elder, YWCA board member, and founding members of New Covenant Community.
        The Pruynes have had a lifelong commitment to racial equality that began back in the forties, when they were both in high school. Jim and Gwen were instrumental in the early stages of  integration at Park. They have established mentoring programs, organized desegregation efforts, and opened their home to students, faculty, and civil rights leaders. Jim received the 1986 Martin Luther King, Jr., Human Relations Award which recognized his “cutting edge projects for racial reconciliation.”  
        Gwen is a lifelong supporter of the League of Women Voters, serving as president of the local chapter and board member and secretary/treasurer of the State of Illinois League. Jim has supported her efforts as a member for over 40 years. Their work in public service has been recognized by several awards including “Citizen of the Year.”
        Gwen and Jim are family oriented and are life partners in all they do. Jim says that it is from Gwen that he has learned the meaning of unconditional love and has come to understand and experience the meaning of grace. They have a son and daughter and three grandchildren.

        Jim and Gwen Pruyne were chosen to receive Park University’s 2002 Outstanding Service Award because they have made a difference in the world. They have dedicated their lives to making it a better place. Park first recognized Gwen for excellence when she was designated as the Class of 1952 Outstanding Parkite. Now fifty years later, there is no doubt about it, these are two Park graduates who make their alma mater proud.