Founder of The Well honored for "spreading the gospel one cup at a time"
(April 10, 2015) -- Rob Touchstone (’97, M.Div. ’12), director of missional entrepreneurship in Lipscomb’s College of Business, was named the 2015 winner of the Mary Morris Award for Exemplary Service to Society. The award is given annually to a member of the Lipscomb University community who demonstrates a high level of service to the community and the church.
The award is given in memory of Mary Morris, former education professor and founder of the Center for Character Development at Lipscomb. It is an award established by her family to recognize an individual each year who has gone and above and beyond in serving others.
Touchstone exemplifies how Lipscomb’s Christian spirit helps craft students into lifelong servers. When a graduate student in Earl Lavender’s missional living class, Touchstone had a “crazy” idea that tugged at his heart for about four years before he shared it with some friends, who also caught his vision.
His “crazy” business idea became a reality in the form of The Well, a nonprofit coffeehouse with two locations in Nashville, one in Brentwood and one across from Lipscomb, focused on serving quality coffee and giving profits to provide clean water around the world. The coffeehouses also serve as a gathering place for worship and Bible study and a casual, unintimidating environment for significant conversations.
“As we developed this concept, we realized that people around the world were dying because they didn’t have access to the most basic necessities of life. But we also recognized the hope local needs of people needing hope, love and community. The Well is our way to love our community world,” said Touchstone.
The Mary Morris Award was presented to Touchstone on April 9 in the College of Business’s weekly chapel service, where several university officials praised his work.
“Thank you, Rob, for spreading the gospel one cup at a time,” said Kate Watkins, program director in the D.Min. program and a former classmate of Touchstone’s in graduate school. The ceremony concluded with remarks by a student who was converted to Christianity due to his relationship with Touchstone as his Bible teacher.
Mirroring the qualities that Morris displayed herself in her short life, recipients of the Mary Morris Award for Exemplary Service to Society should exhibit a spirit of volunteerism, engage in meaningful civic activities, demonstrate a commitment to Christian missions and be an advocate for Lipscomb University.
In his acceptance speech, Touchstone noted that he personally knew Morris as a teenager in Maryland and was touched by her friendship and commitment to Christian values. “I could never match the service Mary offered the world, but I’m proud to take up the torch,” Touchstone said. “I am thankful to God to be allowed the opportunity to do something beyond my wildest dreams.”
Earlier this year, Touchstone was appointed director of missional entrepreneurship at the College of Business, where he said he works to inspire future generations to pursue their business dreams while also having a positive missional impact on the world.
Ray Eldridge, interim dean of the college, said business schools, especially at Christian universities, often struggle with how to incorporate vocational mission and social entrepreneurship into the curriculum. At Lipscomb, every undergraduate business major takes an introduction to entrepreneurship class. Touchstone said he hopes his “real-world” experience of having a missional business idea and implementing it will be helpful to students as an example that ideas can become reality.
This spring, Touchstone is serving as a practitioner and co-instructor in business classes and laying the foundation for a possible future center for missional entrepreneurship for Lipscomb students. He will also continue as adjunct faculty in the College of Bible & Ministry. He said he hopes to also “be a bridge-builder with the other colleges on campus to find ways for students in other disciplines to learn how to implement their ideas.”
“What excites me about the College of Business and this new role is that we will show students how to integrate faith and business,” said Touchstone. “I feel more empowered than ever to train students to ‘be sent out into the world’ to create businesses that will be missional.”