With vast humanitarian experience and Gospel-centered passion in his heart, Gordon Zook, PhD ’15, boldly embodies Eastern’s motto of Faith, Reason, and Justice in the many ways that he works to create access and opportunity for underserved communities.
While Gordon chuckled at the thought of being nominated as the Distinguished Young Alumnus of the Year, his recent degree and youthful spirit are apparent in his story and make him a worthy recipient.
For 18 years, Gordon and his wife Carol served with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in India, Bangladesh, and Haiti, helping villages make more effective use of their resources and helping establish small-scale business enterprises. From there, Gordon continued to pursue his passion for people as CEO of Ten Thousand Villages, a nonprofit fair trade organization creating opportunities for artisans in developing countries to sell their handcrafted products to U.S. markets and amplify their stories.
“I’ve seen firsthand what can happen when people are given the opportunity to develop their skills,” shares Gordon. “Knowing the impact of helping them break the generational cycles of poverty that can keep them, and their families, trapped in desperate situations is powerful. It’s incredibly rewarding to encounter people whose lives have been changed by these opportunities.”
His current role as Grants and Fiscal Services Chief at the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is no different. “Currently, we support programs that give Pennsylvanians the opportunity to develop new skills or to be retrained for new careers,” Gordon explains. “This helps them find meaningful employment at family-sustaining wages and equips them to deal with the ongoing changes in the economy.”
Gordon reflects, “In each of these settings, I have been able to use resources God has blessed me with to help others, one of them being my PhD from Eastern.”
When reflecting on how his global service has impacted his relationship with God, Gordon shares, “I’ve learned that God’s love is deep and wide, broader than what I know and understand. I’ve been challenged to explore my faith more deeply and to be humbler in my understanding of truth. The desire to use my life to serve others following the example Christ set for us is a foundational part of my Christian faith.”
“Change is not always as dramatic or as quick as we would like, but our responsibility is to faithfully carry out the work God has called us to even if we do not always see the results when we want to.”