Development News

Making Peace with Theater

Monday, February 22nd, 2010
The 2006 Goshen College Peace Play Contest winner was “Baby Boom” by Lia Romeo, performed by students (left to right) Derek Koch ’08 and Tara Hershberger ’08, which was about a couple adopting a machine gun as their baby.

The 2006 Goshen College Peace Play Contest winner was “Baby Boom” by Lia Romeo, performed by students (left to right) Derek Koch ’08 and Tara Hershberger ’08, which was about a couple adopting a machine gun as their baby.

A couple finds a basket on their doorstep and lovingly adopts the “baby” – a machine gun. A journalist investigates a car bomb explosion on a crowded campus, and discovers how easily people turn from peaceful relationships to suspecting each other. A woman searching for peace in the aftermath of 9/11 finds that her e-mail inbox still holds messages from a friend who died in the attacks.

How would you tell a story about peace in a one-act play? That is the challenge issued by the Goshen College Theater Department
to playwrights across the nation. The Peace Play contest is the only playwriting contest that focuses solely on peace, believes Professor of Theater Doug Liechty Caskey. The contest guidelines purposely leave the interpretation of “peace” very broad, resulting in a rainbow of ideas and approaches to the subject.

Established in 1982 with a gift from an anonymous donor, the biennial contest is listed in several directories for playwrights
and receives submissions from all over the world. The playwrights who submit their works are rarely connected to Goshen College or Mennonites. Caskey said he has come to see the diversity of response as one of the contest’s greatest strengths. “To bring these new voices in and for them to be in a talk-back with the audience – actually, there is something very vital about that. That’s something to celebrate,” he said. The only GC alumnus winner to date is Eric Meyer ’05, whose play, “In a Time of War,” took second place in 2004.

Typically, 70 to 80 submissions of new, unproduced one-act plays arrive on Caskey’s desk up until the due date of Dec. 31 in
odd-numbered years. The selection panel, made up of GC faculty members, will read the 2009 submissions over the next six months and notify the first- and second-place winners by early summer. “We get into great discussions and debates about who should be on the short list,” said Caskey. The Theater Department will stage the winning and the second-place plays during Homecoming Weekend in October 2010.

The first-place winner receives a $500 prize and is brought to campus for the world premier production of his or her play, which
will be designed, produced and acted by Goshen College students. Students interact with the artist in a workshop led by the playwright and join community members in a question-and-answer session after
the play.

Last year’s winner, Barbara Lindsay of Seattle, Wash., and secondplace winner Hillary Rollins of Santa Monica, Calif., are both awardwinning professional writers with impressive lists of credits. The two playwrights met for the first time in Goshen and hit it off from the start. Like most Peace Play winners, they were thrilled to see their plays performed. At this college founded by a historic peace church, they found a receptive audience, said Caskey, and “real interaction.”

Although the funding source for the Peace Plays has now run dry (see sidebar), the college is determined to continue the contest.
“When I think of the Goshen College core values,” said Caskey, “it just hits the nail on the head.”

– By Judy Weaver ’81

THE PEACE PLAY CONTEST, says Professor of Theater Doug Liechty Caskey, “has taken on a life of its own.” Created through a generous donor gift in 1982, the one-of-a-kind contest is now out of funds. But don’t tell that to playwrights around the country, who continue to send in new plays. The contest gives GC a presence on the national creative scene and provides students with unique learning opportunities. “The contest keeps rolling and we have to find a way to make it viable,” says Caskey. If you would like to help, contact the GC Development Office at (574) 535-7558 or (800) 348-7422 or online at

Ed and Mary Swartzendruber: A one-in-a-million pair

Thursday, October 8th, 2009


It takes persistence to give away one million dollars. In Ed and Mary Swarztendruber’s case, it has taken 55 years of joyful persistence from their first modest gift in 1954, when they were still farming. “We were struggling, believe me,” says Ed, “But we believed in giving 10 percent.” They hit the million-dollar mark – Ed’s longtime goal – in gifts to Goshen College this year. Along the way, they have become the patron saints of the GC Music Department and the Music Center. They have both passed their 90th birthdays and celebrated 70 years of marriage in April.

Sitting in the lobby of the Music Center, Ed says, “Every time I come into this building, I’m thrilled.” The Swartzendrubers have good reason to feel at home here. Plaques with their names grace the lobby and the beautiful Steinway grand piano on the stage of the Sauder Concert Hall, among other things. They are greeted by nearly everyone who passes by. A student waves on his way to the practice rooms and Mary explains, “He’s one of our scholarship students.”

The Ed and Mary Swartzendruber Music Scholarships were established in 1984. The first year, two students received the scholarship. In 2008-09, 19 students were recipients. The Swartzendrubers know them by name, treasure their thank-you notes and follow their college careers with interest, attending almost every concert and recital. “For the students,” says Professor Emeritus of Music Lon Sherer, “getting a Swartzendruber scholarship was always more than just getting money. It was like joining a family circle.”

The Swartzendruber’s special passion for the GC Music Department began to take shape when their children Kay (Montgomery) ’64 and Doug ’68 attended Goshen College. Kay played the flute in the new orchestra and later, Doug played the trumpet. In the early 1960s, the Swartzendrubers sold their farm and Ed eventually went into business as a co-owner of Edd’s Supplies, a farm fertilizer supplier in Shipshewana. The Swartzendrubers became charter members of the Associates Giving Club, a group of supporters who commit to giving at least $1,000 at year. Although they never attended college themselves, their scholarships have brought numerous students to Goshen College and their steadfast support has kept the Music Department humming.

One gift in 1973 was especially meaningful. Sherer, the orchestra director was gradually acquiring instruments to expand the orchestra, but his budget was slim and that year his request for an English horn was turned down once again. The horn would have opened up a whole new repertoire for the orchestra, but the price tag of nearly $2,000 was too high.

“The day that I got the negative word about my most recent request we had a recital in the old Assembly Hall,” recalled Sherer. “After the concert as we were walking out, I felt a hand on my shoulder and heard, ‘Lon, what can I buy for you?’ It was Ed.” Sherer thought he might be teasing, but answered immediately, “How about an English horn?”

By the time they filed out of Assembly Hall, Ed had agreed to buy it for him. “I was flabbergasted,” said Sherer. “Even now it is hard to describe how much that meant to me.”

A few weeks later, the professional-quality English horn was debuted during the orchestra’s spring concert. “We performed the Dvorák New World Symphony, with the wonderful English horn solo, and dedicated it to Ed and Mary,” said Sherer.

Little by little, the Swartzendrubers have given money for music faculty fellowships, visiting musicians, choir clothes, the jazz ensemble and for many, many instruments. They bought Goshen’s beautiful harpsichord, a portative organ and so many pianos, they’ve lost count.

Sixteen years ago, Ed went through treatment for cancer. “When I got well, I said, now I work for the Lord,” he says. And so, at age 92, he continues to work full days to support his philanthropic habit.

Where does such a spirit of cheerful giving come from? “Godgiven, I guess,” says Mary. Ed agrees, “I just enjoy it, I guess. I wanted to do it while I was living, too. A lot of people give after they die. I wanted to give it all while I was still living.”

–By Judy Weaver ’81

Octavio and Guadalupe Romero scholarships: Embracing the Goshen College culture

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

By Judy Weaver ’81

Guadalupe and OctavioPeeling potatoes in the Goshen College kitchen one afternoon in 1949, Octavio Romero ’52 switched on the radio to a local station. He was enjoying the music until college dietician Phyllis Roose made him turn it off. She explained that only classical music was allowed. Romero laughs now when recalling little surprises like that one. As a Catholic and one of the first Mexican citizens to attend Goshen College, he had to make a few adjustments to standards of Goshen College student life.
But Romero’s high school chemistry teacher, Harold D. Miller ’36, prepared him for attending Goshen College. There would be no smoking, drinking or movies, he was informed. Romero accepted the rules with aplomb. “I said, ‘no problem, I don’t have any money!’” Romero never got used to hymn singing or long Mennonite worship services, but he loved his two years at Goshen College. “My values are very similar to Mennonite values,” he said. He made many friends and grew so close to his host family that he still keeps in touch with them.
Romero came to Goshen College after Miller noticed his aptitude for chemistry and helped him apply. That first step led to a lifetime career as a chemist. He also followed in the footsteps of his father, an office manager for oil companies in Tampico, Mexico. Romero spent his career working for Shell Chemical in Texas and Saudi Arabia.
This year, Romero, 81, has honored Miller and several other key people in his life by arranging for future scholarships in their names. Romero and his wife, Guadalupe, have designated Goshen College as a beneficiary of a trust fund that eventually will provide scholarships for Goshen College students who are not born yet. But it was the Goshen College students of 1949 and 1950 who led him to make the gift.
“I would like to emphasize the admiration I had for the students,” he said. Romero still has vivid memories of his time at Goshen College. One thing that surprised him was seeing students in the men’s dorm leave wallets on their beds, with no fear that they would be stolen. “That made a tremendous impression on me.” he said.
Romero finished his degree at Louisiana State University and went on to earn an advanced degree in chemistry from Ohio State University. “But I love Goshen,” he said. “It’s a different attitude. It’s a school I really feel something for. I admire ‘Culture for Service.’ I never heard something like that until I went to Goshen. You go to school just to advance – but I had never thought about going to school to serve other people. I volunteer now, and I will give to Goshen for my service.”
Romero’s scholarships also will honor Willard Smith, a history professor who became a good friend; Glen Miller, his GC chemistry professor; his parents, and his wife’s parents.
His advice to others who may be thinking of helping to provide for Goshen College students is: “Do it! My only sadness is that I will never see [the students’] faces – the joy when they hear about the scholarship.”

To learn more about creating scholarship funds, contact the Development Office at (574) 535-7558 or e-mail

How it all added up – 2007-2008 Giving
(Fiscal year July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008)

Overall giving
Goal for 2007-2008 Goshen College Fund (unrestricted, annual fund)
Giving for the Goshen College Fund
Giving by alumni (an increase over last year)
Number of alumni who gave (an increase over last year)
Giving by churches
Giving by faculty and staff
Giving by the 15-member Board of Directors
Percentage of Board of Directors and Alumni Board members who contributed
Amount of gratitude the college has for all the support
I am so thankful for the abundant support we have received from alumni, friends, churches and businesses this year. They have captured the vision of where this top-tier Christ-centered academic institution is headed as we prepare students for successful careers and vocations that will both change individual lives and the world.”
–President James E. Brenneman

Get your copy
The 2007-2008 Goshen College Annual Report is now available. If you did not receive a copy and would like one, call the Development Office at (574) 535-7564 or e-mail