Olivet The Magazine | The Flight of a Lifetime

Pilot and Alumnus Ryan Walker Goes Above and Beyond To Bring Students to Olivet
Laura Warfel headshot

LW Warfel

February 22, 2024 Alumni & Friends, Olivet The Magazine

men and women riding on a plane

We believe. You belong here. Many Olivet Nazarene University alumni are putting these truths into action by introducing prospective students to their alma mater. There are many college choices in today’s world. The passion of these alumni in convincing teens that ONU is worth the investment of their time for a visit continues to inspire faculty and staff.

Erinn Proehl ’13, ONU’s executive director of alumni, church and constituent relations, recently experienced the dedication of Ryan Walker ’06 to making sure more students know about all that ONU has to offer. Ryan serves as president of ONU’s Alumni Board and is the vice president of Walker Manufacturing, headquartered in Fort Collins, Colorado.

On a September evening at 10 p.m., Erinn drove an ONU bus to the Greater Kankakee Airport. His mission: Meet Ryan and a group of eight prospective students and parents flying in from Fort Collins for a campus visit.

“Ryan had already told me that these students had agreed to explore a college he had been promoting and that they had interacted at Nazarene Youth Congress this past summer,” Erinn says. “Instead of just telling them about ONU or sending them to visit on their own, Ryan convinced them that Bourbonnais, Illinois, is only a plane ride away. He arranged to use a corporate airplane and fly them in for a campus visit.”

An experienced pilot, Ryan and his wife, Emily (Schmidt) ’06, served as missionaries in Alaska for three years. He flew for SEND North, a regional ministry of SEND International, to help expand the reach of the Gospel in Alaska. Bringing these students to the ONU campus was simply one more mission flight for him.

“I resonate with Ryan’s commitment to telling others about ONU,” Erinn says. “Many years ago, an ONU alumni couple in my hometown called my parents and offered to take my oldest sister on a seven-hour trip to a university we’d never heard about before. Eventually, she, three of my siblings and I graduated from ONU. I met my wife, Kelsey, here. And I’m now on staff here.”

When Erinn greeted Ryan and the students at the airport, he presented each student with an ONU T-shirt. Then he drove them directly to the home of Dr. Brian ’82 and Dr. Lynda Allen ’82/’88 MBA. Brian is ONU’s vice president for institutional advancement, and Lynda is a professor in the McGraw School of Business. The Allens welcomed them with warm cookies and a brief time for conversation.

The whirlwind visit was carefully planned by Luke Franklin ’11, executive director of traditional enrollment, and his staff.four girls posing in the Admissions Main building

“This was an exciting visit for our team,” he says. “A campus visit is so important for students and their parents to become familiar with Olivet. All colleges have a website that gives the basic facts of an institution. A visit to a campus is really the only way to get a feel for everything that’s impossible to gauge through a website, emails or texts. We are grateful Ryan went out of his way to make this experience possible for these students.”

Luke and his staff arranged a personalized visit day schedule for each student. They took a campus tour and a dorm tour; met with an admissions counselor and a financial aid specialist; met with a faculty member for their area of study; and then met with faculty and staff members about extracurricular activities that captured their interest. Ryan and his group were back at the airport Friday afternoon for their return flight to Fort Collins. The students even made it home in time to attend their high school football game that night.

“The word is out now,” Ryan says. “I hope there are going to be more students from the Fort Collins area who want to visit ONU. I’m ready to make this trip again to show potentials Olivet!”

NOTE: At press time for this issue, Ryan executed his second flight of prospective students to Olivet for Purple & Gold Days.

From Olivet The Magazine, On Purpose – Winter 2024. Read the full issue HERE.

Laura Warfel headshot

LW Warfel

Laura Wasson Warfel is a story gatherer, writer, editor, and follower of Jesus Christ. A good listener, she distills details into meaningful communications. Her greatest joy is to bring others along with her on her faith journey. In 2015, she launched More Than A Widow, a ministry to help widows live beyond the label and find their more.

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

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