Donovan Noble was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters on May 3. Photo credit: Darren Heslop 

May 23, 2024

Honorary Doctorate Awarded to Maranatha President Donovan Noble

Andrews University is pleased to award Donovan J. Noble with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of his ongoing commitment to serve as a catalyst for thousands of volunteers, especially young people, to actively participate in mission opportunities.

He has encouraged them to serve as Christ's hands and feet through building and supporting churches, schools and communities around the world. 

Born in Mobridge, South Dakota, Noble moved to Oregon in his early life. He attended Milo Adventist Academy and, later, the University of Oregon, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in management. 

After graduation, Noble entered the United States Air Force, where he received officer training at the School of Military Science in Texas and, subsequently, was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He then moved on to Air Force pilot training in Arizona.  

While attending pilot training, Noble had a life-changing spiritual conversion experience and, consequently, requested transfer from active to reserve military status. “My motivation for service has nothing to do with accolades or honor. Since I became a Christian, my only goal has been to work closely with Jesus to expand the Kingdom of Heaven wherever He directed,” he affirms.  

God opened the way for him to teach Bible, business management and physical education at Minneapolis Junior Academy in Minnesota. At that point, Noble understood the necessity and value of a more formal Christian education. He decided to attend Andrews University, where he was further prepared to lead and live a life of service to others. He obtained an MA in religion in 1980.  

“Andrews University holds a special place in my life and family background,” he states. “Getting a solid Christian education for the purpose of service for others is exactly what Andrews provides.” Following this commission of service, he moved to Colorado, where he was a counselor and Bible teacher at Mile High Academy. Later, he worked as an executive at Synergy, a management consulting company in Denver.  

All these experiences were an important preparation for the major life work that God had arranged for him. Through a series of God-led events, Noble became the president of Maranatha Volunteers International (formerly Maranatha Flights International) in 1983. He continues to serve as president to this day. Under his leadership, Maranatha has constructed over 10,000 churches and over 3,000 classrooms, drilled over 3,500 water wells and participated in over 5,400 miscellaneous projects, including disaster relief housing, repairs and youth camps. The organization has been able to positively impact 88 countries and mobilize nearly 100,000 volunteers in mission service.  

“God led me to Maranatha, and it has been a blessing in my life,” he states. “Working with church leaders all around the world and with exceptional volunteers and donors has been a joy and privilege in my life that I did not anticipate.”  

Because of the collaboration between the leadership of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and Maranatha Volunteers International, Noble was also asked to serve on the Executive Committee of the General Conference for many years. 

Noble married his wife, Laura, in Gold Hill, California, in 2001. “Since Laura joined me in this mission, the beauty of working closely with God has grown exponentially,” he says. They adopted their daughter, Jackie Arevalo, and continue a mission of service together.  

“I am humbled and feel privileged to receive this high honor,” Noble states, reflecting on the honorary degree. “In life, you can choose many different paths and set various priorities. I would encourage anyone who wants their life to matter for the kingdom of God to choose a life of service for others. Consider carefully the life of our Savior and mentor, Jesus Christ. There is nothing better or more satisfying than doing what God leads you to do, where He wants you to do it and prioritizing service over self.” 

Founded in 1874, Andrews University is a premier institution of higher education for the Seventh-day Adventist Church and offers more than 150 areas of study, including advanced degrees. Its main campus is in Berrien Springs, Michigan, but the University also provides instruction at colleges and universities in more than 25 countries around the world. 

Office of University Communication, Andrews University