“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
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
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