Lawrence McElrath '13
Lawrence McElrath ’13 says that his professors were more than teachers.
“They made my experience personal,” he says. “They were ministers. Co-laborers.”
When Lawrence came to Malone, he was training to be a bishop in his church. And, he claims, he was more than a little cocky heading into his New Testament class. He figured since he was already preaching and already knew his Bible well, he didn’t need to study to ace his first test.
“Dr. [Sue] Nicholson [Associate Professor of Biblical Studies] handed out all the tests except for mine, and my preacher friend, James, and told us to see her in her office after class,” the Theology major recalls. “She rebuked us for not studying. We told her we didn’t need to study, we knew the Bible, and we had the Holy Spirit to guide us. She held up our tests, which had both earned C’s, and basically told us, ‘Men of God, either get the voice of the Holy Ghost right or study for my tests.’ I never forgot that, and from that day on, I studied!”
His Malone education, Lawrence says, grew him from being a person who had a relationship with his Bible and church, to a person who had a relationship with Jesus.
“When I came here, my identity was wrapped up in being a bishop,” he says. “Now, I’m just Lawrence, and I’m confident of who I am in Christ. He gave me a heart for people, and I’ve had the chance to be discipled by mentors such as Pastor Randy [Heckert, University Chaplain] and Joel Soza [Professor of Biblical Studies] as well as to disciple – I started off leading a Bible study that was three guys in a room that grew to one with 25 football players coming.”
He spends his ‘free’ time in ministry to kids – volunteering at the downtown Canton Martin Center to mentor kids and reach out to gang members.
This summer, following in the footsteps of Heckert and Soza, Lawrence will complete basic combat training as a specialist in the United States Army and then will enter the chaplaincy program in January.
“My twin brother and some other guys are in the Army, and none of their chaplains were Christians,” he says. “One was a Wiccan, one was a Buddhist, and one was an atheist. So I felt a calling to minister there as a Christian. I’m excited to go.”
Though Lawrence was well-versed in the Bible – and became even more so – he entered Malone on academic probation. Because of this, his class schedule his first semester included Study Skills with Patty Little, who is Director of the Center for Student Success.
“Patty Little is why I graduated,” Lawrence says simply. “She helped me every step of the way, and both encouraged me and held me accountable. She always told me, 'you do your part, and I’ll find a way to help you graduate.' That meant when I was struggling in a class, I had to go and find a tutor. That meant when I was struggling financially, she taught me how to manage my money and to pay my bills before I went to Applebee’s with my friends.”
More than once, Little helped Lawrence find a way to help him get to the next semester. She learned that he was a regular blood donor, so she found him a $500 scholarship for donating blood. She found him a loan to buy books, then helped him figure out the payment plan with his work study check. His parents were overwhelmed with the financial burden, so, after confirming that Lawrence wanted to continue at Malone, talked to them to help figure out a way to get him through.
“All four years, she sent me a Christmas card, and once, she invited me to speak to her Study Skills class,” Lawrence says. “She gave me a graduation card that said, ‘You made it!’ At graduation, I gave her the biggest hug in the world.”
And to Little, that was payment enough.
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