Distinguished Alum Awards

Distinguished Alums 2019

Jeffrey S. Nelson

Master of Divinity, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, 2004

Portrait of Garrett-Evangelical 2019 Distinguished Alum Rev. Jeffrey S. Nelson
Rev. Jeffrey S. Nelson

Rev. Jeffrey S. Nelson has made his home in Michigan as a pastor and leader in the community. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire and received his master of divinity from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 2004.

Nelson is a strong advocate for human rights and racial justice, and habitually works with his congregations to create ministries centered on these principles. Under his guidance, his churches have promoted fundraising initiatives for HIV/AIDS, started projects distributing vital necessities to underserved populations, and organized relief support for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

He managed the successful merger of two congregations while increasing church membership and encouraging community outreach. In 2014, the Detroit Conference awarded Nelson with the Harry Denman Evangelism Award in recognition of his ministry’s vitality. After the merger, Nelson led an initiative to provide community worship services and activities to the citizens of Brightmoor, a population struggling with poverty and drug use. He facilitated the collaboration of several groups to create a nonprofit to attend to various community needs, including blight clean-up, pre-school reading programs, a book mobile, and a thriving youth program. Today, thanks to Nelson and many others, the Redford Aldersgate/Brightmoor United Methodist Church is a successful multi-site ministry in the Detroit Renaissance District.

In July 2016, Nelson was appointed senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Royal Oak, Michigan, where he rebuilt the staff team and helped the congregation rediscover its love of mission and service.

Nelson has been married to Bridget for almost 23 years and they have two sons, Casey and Sam.

Gene Matthews

Master of Divinity, Garrett Biblical Institute, 1962

Portrait of Garrett-Evangelical 2019 Distinguished Alum Rev. Gene Matthews
Gene Matthews

Rev. Gene Matthews served more than 35 years as a minister, missionary, and ecumenical leader in South Korea. He received his bachelor of arts in rural sociology from Iowa State University in 1956 and his master of divinity from Garrett Biblical Institute in 1962.

An active life-long United Methodist, Matthews began his career in ministry through a three-year missionary program at Union Christian Service Center in Taejŏn, South Korea. The center provided agricultural training to young farmers, rehabilitated amputee sufferers, and ran an orphanage and rest home for tuberculosis patients, among other initiatives. During that time Matthews also spent two years teaching English to middle and high school students. During his three-year term, Matthews met his wife, Insook Moon, who served as his partner in ministry for many years.

After training at the Korean Language Institute at Yonsei University, Matthews went on to become associate general secretary of the Board of Christian Education in Seoul, South Korea. With his team, he established seven youth centers, a traveling evangelistic singing group, and was frequently asked to assist other boards of the Korean Methodist Church in English correspondence and translation.

In the early 1970’s, Matthews became the field representative for the General Board of Global Ministries in Korea. He fostered strong ecumenical relationships with the Korean National Council of Churches and the Korean Student Federation while overseeing all property and personnel matters for the agency. Matthews also joined Catholic and Protestant missionary colleagues in actively supporting the human rights struggle and democratic revolution that swept the country.

After retiring, Matthews moved back to Iowa in 1997, where he is involved in St. Marks United Methodist Church in Iowa City.