The decision to attend Milligan was life altering for Andy Stewart (’12). Growing up in Rowlands Gill, England, Stewart made the trip across the pond for the opportunity to play soccer for the Milligan Buffaloes.
This fall, Stewart returned to campus and spoke during convocation. In his talk, Stewart reflected on Milligan’s impact on his life. He began by explaining how a kid from a small town in England made his way to Milligan.
“Out of the athletic offers I received from American colleges, Milligan was the perfect fit for me, and I didn’t fully understand that at the time,” recounted Stewart.
Stewart acknowledged the confidence he possessed as a student-athlete, and how as a young man, he believed this confidence defined him and his successes. He also shared the moment he realized his confidence and his athletic abilities could no longer be at the core of his identity.
During his senior year, Milligan played Bryan College in the conference semifinal. Both teams were tied at 2-2, but Bryan ultimately beat Milligan in overtime.
“After the game ended, I collapsed on the field in shock,” recounted Stewart. “Soccer was over for me, and at the time, I genuinely believed that meant the life where I placed my identity was over for me.”
Stewart recounted how this experience deeply shaped his faith and identity. Arriving on campus as a freshman, Stewart acknowledged that while he knew of Jesus, he did not fully know Jesus.
Milligan’s commitment to the Christian liberal arts built a strong foundation for Stewart when his faith was tested, and Stewart credits this foundation for his future successes. Milligan also allowed Stewart to meet his future wife, form lifelong friendships, and play the sport he loved.
“Milligan afforded me the opportunity to be around solid Christian people every day,” shared Stewart. “I was surrounded by tremendous friends who exemplified Christ, and this had a major impact on how I chose to spend my time and act on a daily basis. The support I received from Milligan’s faculty, the community, my now wife, family, and friends showed me the importance of pursuing my faith first.”
Stewart graduated from Milligan with a degree in physical education and taught for a year in Tennessee before moving to Pensacola, Florida, with his wife, Rachel (Severns ’12) Stewart. There, Stewart received his master’s degree in educational administration at the University of West Florida and served as assistant soccer coach. Rachel, who majored in child development at Milligan, received a job as a child life specialist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and the couple moved to Little Rock, Arkansas.
Stewart joined Central Arkansas Christian School as a physical education teacher and soccer coach. Over the years, he has transitioned into school administration and currently serves as the high school principal while pursuing a doctorate in organizational leadership at Abilene Christian University.
As an educator, Stewart strives to enrich his students in academics and in character. The mission of Central Arkansas Christian is a perfect fit for Stewart, as the school aims “to provide a distinctively Christian education that inspires excellence, independence, and a transforming faith in God.”
Stewart’s talents as a soccer player have continued to play a major role in how he shapes students in their faith and in their education. Though Stewart transitioned out of his coaching role when he became principal, he was fortunate enough to coach the Central Arkansas Christian soccer team to their third state championship in school history this past spring.
In reflecting on his team’s performance, Stewart praised his team’s relentlessness stating, “Even when the chips were down, they weren’t going to give up, no matter what. They bought into the process.”
Stewart’s impact on his student-athletes was apparent in the athletes’ remarks after winning the state title. The MVP award went to Central Arkansas Christian senior Blake Smith, who acknowledged that he would not have joined the team if Stewart had not been the coach.
Stewart served as Smith’s Bible teacher a few years earlier, and Stewart’s ability to interact with his students and his kindness towards everyone led Smith to join the team.
“I appreciate how Milligan’s professors and coaches demonstrated how I can anchor my passions and talents in my faith,” shared Stewart. “Following their example, I hope to inspire a new generation of students and athletes.”