For Paul and Marianne Wheeler, the decision to invest in students through Trinity International University was founded on several reasons: a close relationship with Trinity staff during a difficult season, a desire to help relieve the financial burden of higher education, a passion for spreading the Word of God across the earth, and ultimately an obedience to God’s calling on their lives.
The Wheelers’ closest connection to Trinity began through their church, CrossLife Evangelical Free Church of Libertyville. They had been members of the church for many years and had met many Trinity students and staff during their involvement in the church. Paul and Marianne express gratitude for the role that TIU students and staff have played there.
“We were always appreciative of the many ways that Trinity professors and their spouses—as well as Trinity students—actively participate in the life of our church,” the Wheelers said. “They use their expertise to teach, sometimes preach, work in the children’s and music programs, and are mentors.”
Late in 2001, the Wheelers found themselves connecting more deeply with the Trinity community when Marianne was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Within hours of Marianne’s diagnosis, a couple from CrossLife sought out Paul and Marianne and counseled them through this difficult process. That couple was Don and Joy Carson. Don Carson—better known as D.A. Carson—is a research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and he and Joy play an active role both in the Trinity community and at CrossLife.
The Wheelers were both thrilled and humbled that the Carsons were so attentive and loving in their assistance during Marianne’s treatment and recovery.
“The Carsons immediately reached out to us and mentored us through a very difficult year,” Marianne said. “Their counsel was instrumental in helping us meet all the mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges we faced.”
Upon Marianne’s recovery, the Wheelers felt that God was calling them to honor the Carsons for their assistance. They could think of no better way than to fund a scholarship in their name. Thus, in 2004, the Wheelers established the Don and Joy Carson Endowed Scholarship—the first PhD scholarship in the history of TEDS.
“We felt that the scholarship enabled us to show tangibly our appreciation both to Trinity, its faculty and students, and especially to the Carsons,” Marianne said.
Since its endowment, the scholarship has allowed the Wheelers to grow even closer to the Trinity community and see firsthand the impact their gift has had on its recipients.
“Since the scholarship was established, we have had increased communication and interaction with the university and have seen the Christian worldwide impact that the faculty, students and former students have made,” the Wheelers said. “We also have had the opportunity of meeting several recipients and have focused prayer for them.”
The Wheelers add to this that for them, one of the biggest blessings of their decision to endow this scholarship is to see how these students are impacting the world for the kingdom of God. Many of the recipients of the scholarship are international, and the Wheelers have had the pleasure of seeing these students return to their home countries and use their education to share the Word of God.
“The ultimate reward is knowing that we are contributing to the spread of the gospel, both here and abroad.”
Ultimately, Paul and Marianne are thankful that they heeded God’s calling to honor the Carsons. Their investment in Trinity students is something that will last for many years to come.
“The endowment was established in perpetuity—long after we’re gone—and that’s a great thing to think about,” Paul said. “The more students who can benefit from things like this, the better off the world will be.”
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