When you ask Aron Gabriel about his time at Montreat College, you might expect the conversation to be driven by basketball. While the 1996 graduate and one of the school’s top scorers in history fondly recounts many memories of bus rides back to campus and lasting friendships from his playing days, Aron believes Montreat blessed him with much more beyond his numerous basketball accolades. 

A native of Catawba County, Aron attended Bandys High School. After leading the Trojans to the state regional finals in his junior year, Aron began to dream of playing collegiately. Unfortunately, before his senior year began, his head coach passed away. Devastated, Aron felt his chances of playing at the next level were dashed because of his coach’s connections. However, he continued to play basketball, and the Lord moved!

At the time, Catawba County was contracting their athletic trainer from the same company as Montreat. The trainer was very familiar with Montreat and encouraged Aron to check it out if he was interested in playing past high school. Aron believed that “the Lord hand-picked Montreat” for him. During his career at Montreat, Aron received All-Conference honors and Academic All-American recognitions. In addition to being the college’s career scoring king when he graduated from Montreat, he held many school records at the time, including the most three-point shots in a single game with eleven. Most of his records have since been broken, but his success did earn him a spot in the Montreat College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003, an honor he holds in high regard.

While Aron certainly left his mark in the Montreat recordbooks, beyond the court, Montreat College had a profound impact on his life. As an education major, Aron participated in the Teachers as Reflective Communicators (TARC) program, which emphasized the value of reflection. In the program, students had to address daily questions about what went well, what went wrong, what they could have done better, or what they did well. He continues this practice today after meetings or leaving work as the superintendent of the Newton-Conover City Schools. He believes that there is always something to learn, and this practice helps him to remember that. Furthermore, he feels that times of reflection are when the Lord teaches us valuable lessons.  

At Montreat College, Aron was also deeply influenced by the practice of opening class with prayer. Despite his professors’ knowledge, formal education, and status, what stood out to him was their decision to dedicate each class period to the Lord. This simple yet powerful act set the tone for each class because the goal became not just to teach or earn a grade, but to honor the Lord in the pursuit of excellence.  

Aron also attributes his love of learning to Montreat. Before attending Montreat, Aron viewed learning as a chore that had to be done rather than something to be enjoyed. He truly believes he would not have pursued his master’s degree or doctorate without the passion for education that Montreat instilled in him.  

Aron’s time at Montreat coincided with the school’s transition from a junior college to a four-year institution. Since his graduation, Aron has witnessed many changes at Montreat and he fully supports anything that contributes to the school’s progression while preserving its values. To Aron, the progress of the school means new avenues for students to encounter God, lives to be changed, and souls to be saved.

To this day, when Aron and his family drive through the Montreat gate, he experiences a special feeling. He even refers to Montreat as “God’s country.” His love for Montreat overflows, and he has recommended Montreat to many students who are figuring out their next chapter. Aron says that Montreat reinforced his sense of purpose and taught him that every person has a purpose. He believes we are each called to be stewards of our gifts for the glory of the Lord. He is deeply grateful for his time at Montreat and for the Lord’s fingerprints on his life. 

About the Author
Kylie Ridings ’27 is a current student at Montreat College and a Wilson Scholar in the Advancement office.