Student Stories

A Place Where I Could Grow

Daren Allee, MATS student

My Journey to Austin Grad

Christopher Stephens, BACS Alum

I’ve Learned to Live by Faith

Brenda Allen, BACS student

What I’ve Found At Austin Grad

Christopher O’Keefe, MATS student (2017)

I’m Exactly Where God Wants Me To Be

Joseph Collins, MA student (2016)

Profiles of Graduates and Students of Austin Graduate School of Theology, August 2019


  • Daryl Horton
    Daryl Horton
    DARYL HORTON earned a Bachelor of Science from Texas State University and worked in the semiconductor industry as an engineer and project manager prior to entering full-time ministry. Beginning graduate school at Baylor’s Seminary, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Horton later enrolled and earned his Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Austin Graduate School of Theology. He began serving full-time as the youth pastor and assistant to the pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Austin Texas, where he holds responsibility for the direction and administration of youth ministry in addition to supporting the senior pastor through preaching, teaching and providing leadership to the Mt. Zion congregation. After earning a Master of Divinity from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Horton is now nearing completion of a Doctor of Ministry at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. Horton states, “God has allowed my ministry opportunities to continue at Mt. Zion and extend throughout the Central Texas area serving on boards and commissions and with non-profits. I am also blessed to serve within our local, state, and national Baptist conventions.”
  • Scott Elliott
    Daryl Horton
    SCOTT ELLIOTT is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and Austin Graduate School of Theology. He is married to Laura and they have two sons, Jackson, and Dylan. He enjoys writing about the Christian faith and posting the occasional film review. He has written for Start2Finish blog which was named one of the top twelve blogs among Churches of Christ. His articles and reviews have appeared in RELEVANT Magazine, Englewood Review of Books, and other publications. He recently contributed a chapter to the book Why We Stayed: Honesty and Hope in the Churches of Christ. He is also the host of the web series 5 Questions, where guests are interviewed about issues pertaining to faith and Christianity. Scott is the president of the La Grange Area Ministerial Alliance. He has worked to promote faith in the community of La Grange by organizing outreach efforts after Hurricane Harvey and encouraging the entire town of La Grange to observe a technology fast throughout the week leading up to Easter.
  • Eric Jones

    Eric Jones
    Graduated from Huston-Tillotson University in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Austin Grad in 2018.

    He worked for the Boys & Girls Club of South Central before transitioning to Goodwill Central Texas. In 2015, Eric joined the Austin Area Urban League serving in multiple capacities, including that of an occupational trainer in addition to providing instruction with soft skills, computer literacy, financial literacy, development, community engagement, state and federal policy advocacy. Additionally, he serves as a case manager in the Workforce Development department where he assists individuals with obtaining employment or a professional credential, recruiting clients for the Housing Program (Emergency Home Repair).

    Eric states, “I rely a great deal on the technical writing skills that I developed through my [educational] process at Austin Grad. Austin Grad [also] developed and cultivated my ability to connect with people on a real and genuine level. Everyone I come in contact with, even indirectly, experiences some aspect of my training from Austin Grad.”

    Eric serves as an associate minister at South Austin Community Church. His primary responsibilities center on the church’s community involvement and engagement, feeding the homeless, in-school mentoring, and academic support. Eric also oversees the church’s liturgical experience and worship staff.

  • John Cardenas

    John Cardenas
    Earned an associate degree at Blinn College, a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies at Austin Grad, a Master of Arts in Education from LeTourneau University, a Superintendent Certification at Lamar University; and is in the process of completing the Master of Arts in Theological Studies at Austin Grad.

    In his professional career, John has been a teacher and principal and is currently a salesperson for Napa Auto Parts. During this time, John has also been a bi-vocational preacher for the Schulenburg Church of Christ. He is a member and former president of the Schulenburg ministerial alliance and is also a former member of the Rotary Club.

  • Mary Meoli-Johnson

    Mary Meoli-Johnson
    Was working as a registered nurse when the process of her sons enrolling in college motivated her to do the same. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies from Austin Grad in 2003.

    In 2009, Mary completed her parish nurse certification while leading a women’s’ Bible study and serving as a Community Bible Study group leader. Mary returned to Austin Grad and earned a Master of Arts in Theological Studies in 2010. In addition to her course work, she also took part in Lifeline Chaplaincy seminars on grieving and audited other Austin Grad classes of interest.

    Mary, as a certified dementia practitioner and nursing care director at an alzheimer’s assisted living facility, began a grief support group for families. She volunteers with and is an advisory board member for the Williamson County Salvation Army. She has served as a lay minister for the Georgetown Ecumenical Taize Healing and Wholeness Services with two other ordained ministers and has led services, taken part in serving communion, given homilies, provided prayer and anointing.

    Mary has also served as a lay minister on a Walk to Emmaus Renewal Retreat and believes that she is the only laity to have ever had that privilege in her Emmaus District. To do this, she had to get special dispensation, which was granted due to her education from Austin Grad, which was considered equivalent to a seminary education.

    Mary and her husband changed from their Southern Baptist denominations to Methodism (now attending First United Methodist in Georgetown, Texas) after her 2010 graduation so she could instruct all adults at church as opposed to just women. She has co-taught an adult Sunday School group for eight years, has been the grief support group facilitator, and serves on her local church’s governing board.

  • Brooke Hollingsworth

    Brooke Hollingsworth
    Holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Texas at Austin. To prepare for her ministry of teaching and curriculum writing for Come Before Winter, a ministry to women in missions around the world, Brooke earned the Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Austin Grad.

    Brooke’s degrees prepared her to teach both Bible and math at Brentwood Christian School, a private Christian academy in Austin, Texas. She teaches adult Bible class at Westover Hills and has written church-wide curriculum for adult classes. Her impact on her students has been far-reaching.

  • Michael Sutton

    Michael Sutton
    Received an Associate in Applied Science in Mechanical Design Technology, a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies, and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies (the last two degrees were from Austin Grad).

    Michael has been employed with the Austin Police Department for 13 years and is now a detective. He worked at Central Texas Children’s Home, was a Honolulu police officer, and served in the United States Army.

    On occasion, Michael instructs adult and children’s Bible classes and preaches when asked. He also performs weddings for friends and coworkers.

  • Sergio Longoria

    Sergio Longoria
    Was born to an atheist family and grew up in Mexico. In his adulthood, his parents converted to Christianity and two years later, at age 26, Sergio also converted.

    After his conversion, Sergio returned to college to complete his education and earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, a Master of Arts in Philosophy, and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Austin Grad in 2010. While at Austin Grad, Sergio took a class on grief which he says really helped him understand how to approach people that have experienced loss.

    Sergio is employed in the design of equipment for the protection of our country’s infrastructure from malignant electromagnetic sources. As a bi-vocational minister, he was able to volunteer to preach for a few months in a Hispanic church that was not able to offer a salary. He has preached in other churches as invited and currently teaches a Bible class in the church he and his family attend. Sergio has also coached chess for children at the local library for over seven years.

  • Leon McCowan

    Leon McCowan
    Graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in December 1997 with a Bachelor of Business Administration. He started working for Universe Technologies Incorporated in 1998 as a program support specialist working on environmental databases at the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG) in Austin, Texas.

    In May 2000, he was hired directly by TXARNG and his duties were expanded to include hazardous materials, hazardous waste management, and information technology. In July 2000, he joined St. James Missionary Baptist Church (St. James) and began serving in the Singles’ Ministry, College Ministry, Baptist Training Union, and Brotherhood. He met his wife, Stephanie, in the Singles’ Ministry and married in July 2001. Later that year he announced his call to the Preaching Ministry and was licensed to preach that December.

    As a bi-vocational minister, Leon was promoted twice professionally. As he grew in ministry, Leon was led to Austin Graduate School of Theology where he applied and was accepted into the Master of Arts in Theological Studies Program in the fall of 2003. While enrolled, he took part in student government, the Ambassador Program, and graduated May of 2006. Leon was then accepted into a part-time doctoral program at Dallas Baptist University (DBU) and began his coursework the summer of 2006. In 2013, he was approached by the pastor of St. James and was asked to join the church staff as an associate pastor which he accepted. Leon completed his Ph.D. in Leadership Studies from DBU in May 2014 and was ordained. Leon continues as a bi-vocational minister, serving the Texas Military Department in a full-time capacity and part-time at St. James.

  • Norman Horn

    Norman Horn
    Earned his Master of Arts in Theological Studies at Austin Grad in 2010 while also enrolled in graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering. During that time, he served as the primary worship leader at University Avenue Church of Christ. He then spent time at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a post-doctoral associate, worked at various startups, and now works in the healthcare industry as a materials scientist and researcher. He continues to serve in lay ministry at O’Fallon Church of Christ in Missouri—primarily as a worship leader, as well as in a theology-centered nonprofit.
  • Denice Knight-Slater

    Denice Knight-Slater
    As a teacher at a Christian high school and a private tutor for homeschooled teens, finds herself surrounded by young adults throughout her workday. Through teaching literature, history, theology, and biology, in every circumstance, she has used resulting opportunities to share the Lord with her students through the curriculum and life events.

    God has given Denice a gift in her teaching abilities—a gift which has also been well-rooted in her church. She has had the privilege of hosting weekly youth groups at her home and leading weekly high school girls’ groups.

    Denice states, “Truthfully, I am probably not the traditional pastoral student completing the M.A.T.S. program at Austin Graduate School of Theology, but there are so many non-traditional ways of pastoring and counseling. [Austin Grad] equips me for those challenges and gives me the tools to share my faith with wisdom and truth.”

  • Chris Bennett

    Chris Bennett
    Earned a B.A. in Christian Studies in 2012. While a student at Austin Grad, Chris served in an internship with the company for which he now works.

    He has completed coach training with a group that specializes in equipping church leadership and professionals to create meaningful change in people’s lives. He is currently working on certification with the International Foundation of Employee Benefits. His employer has recently made significant changes to their health insurance plan and Chris is assisting other employees in understanding and navigating the complexities of the health care system.

    Chris uses his experience and knowledge to help meet people’s immediate needs in hopes of finding opportunities to connect them with Jesus and their local church.

  • Jedadiah Baker

    Jedadiah Baker
    Received a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies in 2016. He is the president and founder of Conduits of Change which feeds and clothes the homeless community in the Austin and surrounding area, helping those affected by disasters like floods and fire.

    His foundation works closely with Community Live Support at Youth Advocate Programs Incorporated, which helps the youth and families involved with local assistance programs. Jedadiah is also the youth pastor at Northeast Community Church.

  • Norris and Tamika Eason

    Norris and Tamika Eason
    Norris Eason is a graduate of Austin Graduate School of Theology who received his Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies December of 2015. Currently, he is enrolled at the Fuller Theological Seminary, scheduled to complete his Master of Arts in Theology in 2019. His future educational track includes completing his Master of Arts in Business, with a collegiate campus to be decided.

    Tamika Eason has been enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies degree program at Austin Graduate School of Theology since 2015. She excels in the on-campus setting that affords fulfilling engagement with professors and peers. She is near completion of this program and eager to pursue a theological degree at the master’s level.

    They both share that Austin Grad has been pivotal in preparing them to be lifelong learners, confessing that neither can view their life apart from being students of Scripture.

    Most recently, through the promptings of the Holy Spirit, Pastors Tamika and Norris Eason moved to Georgetown, Texas with their three daughters to plant The Way Church ( They are enthusiastic about the opportunity to start a community of God’s people who wish to leave their ways and live Christ’s way.

  • Joseph Harrell

    Joseph Harrell
    Received his Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies in 2017 and was the first Austin Grad B.A. Online Program graduate.

    Joseph was baptized at the age of nine and always knew he wanted to be a preacher. After going in several different educational directions, he came to Austin Grad to get his ministry degree. Joseph learned at Austin Grad that “there is more to preaching than just talking!”

    He said, “This school teaches the Bible. Number One. That’s the greatest part of the school. It teaches you how to dissect the Bible instead of just seeing it as that mere glance on the top that everyone else tries to teach you.”

    Joseph hopes to become a youth minister and wants to help others “receive Christ into their lives.”

  • Amber Cessac

    Amber Cessac
    Graduated from the Austin Grad B.A. Online Program with a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies in 2019. She enjoys writing, speaking, teaching, and is drawn to ministry with and for others and children.

    Because of her experience at Austin Grad, she feels that God is pulling her out of her comfort zone, and she is looking forward to ministry opportunities. “God has put wisdom and experience in me,” she said, “and I will be seeking opportunities to use these gifts for others.” Until that opportunity arises, she is busy at her church home and raising five daughters with her husband.



  • Daniel Napier
    Daniel Napier
    Came to Austin Grad in 1995. He was highly intelligent and motivated but had failed to earn his high school diploma. He was admitted to the bachelor’s degree program under unique circumstances and was an excellent student.

    After earning his B.A. degree in 1998, Daniel went on to earn two master’s degrees at other seminaries and then graduated from Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, in 2010 with a Ph.D. in Theology. Between 2006 and 2012, Daniel was a missionary in Zagreb, Croatia. In 2012 Daniel returned to Austin Grad as an assistant professor of theology but later returned to the mission field in 2018. Daniel is currently in Greece working with refugee converts.

  • Matt Soper

    Matt Soper
    Became a Christian in 1983 before his senior year in college. He earned a B.A. in Business Administration at Rhodes College in 1984. After working various jobs, Matt came to Institute for Christian Studies (I.C.S. now known as Austin Grad) in 1987. He graduated with a B.S. in Biblical Studies in 1989. He says, “I.C.S. helped me to articulate a call to vocational ministry.”

    Matt went on to earn an M.Div. in 1992 from Princeton Theological Seminary and a D.Min. in 2007 from Abilene Christian University.

    He served as a preaching minister in Connecticut, California, and Texas from 1992 to 2013. After a brief hiatus, he began his current ministry preaching for the Heights Church of Christ in Houston in January 2016. Matt’s primary responsibilities include preaching, teaching, evangelism, and leadership. He states, “We were a 15-member congregation and my role has been to renew and revive this formerly venerable 100-year old Houston church. We have about 70 people now.”

  • Jim Hays

    Jim Hays
    Serves as preaching minister for the Southern Hills Church of Christ in Buda, Texas, a bedroom community of Austin. He has served at Southern Hills since January of 2011, having previously served as preaching minister for the Goldthwaite, Texas Church of Christ from 2007-2010.

    Jim started preaching in 2004 as a fill-in itinerant preacher in Southern California, primarily at the North Oaks Church of Christ in Santa Clarita.

    Jim grew up in Jal, New Mexico, a small oil and gas town near the Texas border. After high school, he enrolled at Abilene Christian University (ACU) where he majored in mass communications from 1977 to 1981. He left ACU without a degree to pursue a career in the radio industry. He managed radio stations for thirty years in markets like Bakersfield, Fresno, and Ventura, California; Columbus, Ohio; Ocean City, Maryland; El Paso, Odessa, Abilene, and Brownwood, Texas. He ended his radio career in Los Angeles, California, programming for the Westwood One Radio Network from 1998 to 2007.

    After he was hired for the preaching job in Goldthwaite, Jim enrolled at Austin Graduate School of Theology to finish his undergraduate degree in biblical studies. He continued at Austin Grad for his graduate work, receiving his master’s degree in theological studies in December of 2015.

    Realizing the importance of continuing education, Jim regularly audits classes at Austin Grad and attends the school’s annual Sermon Seminar.

    Jim has been married to his wife Deborah for 20 years. They have three adult children and two beautiful grandchildren.

  • Allan Stanglin

    Allan Stanglin
    Enjoyed a 16-year career in sports radio, reporting, anchoring sportscasts, hosting talk shows, and serving as the sports director at KRLD in Dallas before leaving the mass media industry to dedicate his full-time energies to preaching,

    After finally submitting to God’s long-time call, Allan earned a master’s degree in theology at Austin Graduate School of Theology while serving as the associate minister at the Marble Falls Church of Christ in Marble Falls, Texas. By God’s grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Allan began his full-time preaching work at the Legacy Church of Christ in North Richland Hills, Texas, in June 2007. He began his work at Central Church of Christ in Amarillo, Texas, in August 2011.

    Allan is a graduate of Dallas Christian High School and Oklahoma Christian University. He and his wife of 28 years, Carrie-Anne, have three daughters, Whitney, Valerie, and Carley. Allan enjoys reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Eugene Peterson. He is passionate about Texas history, Dr. Pepper, and the Lord’s Supper. His preaching emphasizes the grace and mercy of God, the blessing of Christian community, and the sanctification of the saints. And he suffers from a complex love/hate relationship with the Dallas Cowboys.

  • Greg Neill

    Greg Neill
    Has been in full time ministry since 1994. He is a 1984 graduate of Stephen F. Austin University (B.B.A. in Accounting) and a 2012 graduate of Austin Graduate School of Theology (M.A.T.S.). He is currently enrolled in the Doctor of Ministry program at Abilene Christian University.

    After ten years in the accounting and construction industries, he began his ministry career in Tyler, Texas. He has served congregations of the Churches of Christ in Tyler and Dallas, Texas, as a youth minister. In 2002, Greg began his pulpit career with the University Church of Christ in San Marcos, Texas. Since December 2006, he has served the Marble Falls Church of Christ, Marble Falls, Texas, as the pulpit minister. Greg also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Austin Graduate School of Theology.

    He served on the Board of Directors of Camp Blue Haven from 2002-2015, including a term as Board president, and is currently serving as president of the Camp Blue Haven Foundation. Greg has been involved in foreign mission work in Tanzania, Jamaica, Croatia, and Mexico. He and his wife Kris have been married since 1988. They have two children. Madison is a graduate of Pepperdine University is currently teaching school in Austin, Texas and Mason is a student in Marble Falls ISD in Marble Falls, Texas.

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