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Central Baptist College Hosts 2021 Scholarship Gala Announces $707,500 raised for student scholarships

June 7, 2021

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Central Baptist College hosted its second annual Scholarship Gala on June 5. The black-tie optional event featured keynote speaker, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Brian Birdwell, and was held at the Conway Expo Center. The proceeds from the event benefitted student scholarships, and Central Baptist College President Terry Kimbrow announced $707,500 had been raised through event sponsorships and private donations. The theme of the event was A Celebration of Faith and Patriotism and the program focused on the mission and ministry of Central Baptist College which is the integration of Christian faith and academic excellence in a Christ-centered environment. 

The emcee for the night was Yalanda Merrell, Health Professions Recruiter for UAMS Northwest. During the event CBC Alumnus A.J. Gary, Director of the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management and the Governors Homeland Security Advisor, shared his reflections as a graduate of the CBC PACE Program. He then introduced the Conway Police Department Honor Guard who presented the colors, and Mr. Gary led the pledge of allegiance. Peggy Pillow, Administrative Assistant to CBC President Terry Kimbrow, sang the National Anthem. Following the opening prayer by CBC Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Gary McAllister, CBC Dining Services, under the direction of Chef Jill McCollum, served a delicious meal. 

The first course was Smoky Bacon and Blue Cheese Wedge, followed by the second course consisting of Fillet of Beef with Wild Mushroom Demi Glaze, Jumbo Shrimp and Grits, Arkansas Lemon Almandine, Butter Glazed Broccolini, and Yeast Rolls with Herb Butter. The meal was concluded with the Parade of Patriots Cream Cake delivered by Gala volunteer to each of the 56 tables. 

Following the meal, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Brian Birdwell was introduced by CBC alumnus Chaplain Kevin Guthrie. The highlight of the evening was Lt. Col. (Ret.) Brian Birdwell who shared his amazing story of Gods provision on in his life when on September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 was crashed just yards away from his second floor Pentagon office. Lt. Col. (Ret.) Birdwell was critically wounded and severely burned. Of the burns that covered more than 60 percent of his body, nearly half were third degree in severity. Today, following 39 operations, months of hospitalization and numerous skin grafts, Brian has made a miraculous recovery. Despite physical limitations, he testifies not only to his physical healing, but the ultimate miracle of grace through Christ. He ended his comments with sharing the importance of places like Central Baptist College in the landscape of higher education in America. After the keynote speaker, Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert presented Lt. Col. (Ret.) Birdwell with the Arkansas Traveler Citation. 

A special Dueling Pianos performance of a patriotic medley was given by Wrenetta Austin, Becky Cameron, Judy Rogers, and Lynette Stanley. The pianos used in the performance were provided by Steinway Piano Gallery of Little Rock. After his closing comments, President Kimbrow asked Peggy Pillow back to the stage to sing the little known fourth verse of the National Anthem. CBC Alumnus Cody Hiland, former United States Attorney, closed the event in prayer. In his announcement of the $707,500 total that had been raised through this event for student scholarships, President Kimbrow acknowledged an anonymous matching gift of $400,000, 53 event sponsors, and many additional individuals and businesses who made contributions towards the total. "I am truly grateful for the generosity of so many" said President Kimbrow. "The Central Baptist College Board of Trustees, businesses, not only in Conway, but across the state of Arkansas, and other individuals who are such faithful supporters of Central Baptist College all came together to make this an unforgettable night for the support of Christian Higher Education." Contributions are being accepted toward the $400,000 matching gift through June 30, 2021. To contribute visit and complete the online giving form. Checks may be mailed to Central Baptist College, 1501 College Avenue, Conway, AR 72034 with 2021 Scholarship Gala on the memo line of the check. For more information contact Amy Reed, Director of Development at or 501-205-8934. 

Central Baptist College is committed to transforming lives through education that integrates Christian faith and academic excellence in a Christ-centered environment, and is a four-year, private, liberal arts college owned and operated by the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas. CBC offers approximately 40 baccalaureate degree programs, 16 athletic teams that compete in the AMC conference of the NAIA, and 6 fine arts performance groups. For more information about CBC visit

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