A Heart for Understanding
“From the moment I met my husband, I knew immediately that I’d never met anyone like him.”
Ellen Moreno-Riaño has a soft voice with a slight Southern lilt, having grown up in Knoxville, Tenn. But when she speaks, it’s evident that she’s filled with the Spirit of God. Sometimes, tears will come to her eyes when she thinks about how God has blessed her family. She wipes tears away as she reflects on the day in January, over 30 years ago, when she met Gerson Moreno-Riaño for the first time. She had sat down at the same table with him and his friends in the dining commons at Cedarville University.
The first thing Moreno-Riaño asked her was, “What do you want to do after graduation?” Ellen responded that she wanted to be a public school teacher. Moreno-Riaño happened to have cassette tapes (yes, cassette tapes) on Christian education and wondered if she would want to meet and listen to them.
“But I said, ‘It’s not a date,’” Moreno-Riaño emphasizes as he looks at his wife with a smile.
The next time they met, they talked about their faith and love for God. At the time, Ellen was a junior at Cedarville.
“I was coming to the end of my college life,” Ellen said, “and I prayed, ‘God, there isn’t anyone here for me. If you want me to meet someone, you’re going to have to drop someone right in front of me.’”
Moreno-Riaño proposed after three months of dating, and they were married the following December. This year marks 30 years of marriage for the happy pair, who are often seen holding hands or sharing adoring glances.
“I tell my children, ‘Home isn’t a place. It’s wherever your mother is,’” said Moreno- Riaño. The couple are parents to six children, ranging from age 14 to 28, who live all around the country. Their youngest son moved with them to Grand Rapids and attends high school in the area.
Ellen is just as passionate about Christian higher education as her husband. She has a deep desire to help people understand what it means to be a Christian and that every beautiful, wonderful longing you have is a reflection of God Himself.
She says that her husband has all the right qualities of a university president—a desire for excellence in everything he does and a humility and passion to serve the LORD. Ellen is still not sure what her role as first lady looks like yet, but she has spent many hours in prayer about it.
“I spent a lot of time in prayer for Cornerstone and my husband,” Ellen said. “It’s a wonderful blessing to be here. I am so thankful to the LORD for giving us an opportunity to take part in the great work of Cornerstone. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work.”
Read the CU Magazine
Every year, Cornerstone University publishes exciting stories about our incredible community and the impact our faculty, staff, students and alumni are making. In the 2021 issue of the Cornerstone University magazine and annual report, you’ll find more stories about Cornerstone’s new chapter of history under the leadership of Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riaño.
Audrey Wierenga (B.A. ’18) is the copywriter for Cornerstone’s Marketing & Communications Office. She graduated from Cornerstone in 2018 with a degree in broadcast communication. Audrey also serves on the Young Alumni Council.
In her spare time, Audrey enjoys working on her own full-length work of fiction, co-hosting a podcast about the Academy Awards and participating in local theatre productions.