By Eastern Mennonite University’s Bonnie Lofton, writer, and John Styer, photographer
For the purposes of this article , “Mennonite colleges” refers to six institutions under the umbrella of the Mennonite Education Agency, part of Mennonite Church USA. Bethel College, founded in Kansas in 1887, is the oldest of the group. Goshen College, in Indiana, was founded next in 1894. Bluffton University took shape in Ohio in 1899. Hesston College is a two-year private liberal arts college (there are just a dozen in this country), which opened in 1909 in the vicinity of Bethel College. (Hesston and Bethel belonged to different ethnic-religious traditions in the Mennonite stream; these have since unified.) Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), which includes a seminary, began as a Bible school in the Shenandoah Valley in 1917. Finally, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, emerged from two seminaries, each representing a particular ethnicreligious Anabaptist tradition in the United States. In the 1960s, these seminaries began to share curricula and facilities; in 1994 they formally merged.
Early in the spring of 2009, Crossroads posed this query to 75 people who have studied and worked on multiple college campuses: What is distinctive about Mennonite institutions of higher education? From tens of thousands of words offered during interviews and in e-mails, plus a half-dozen books written on Christian education in the last decade, patterns began to be visible and 12 common traits emerged.
1 / Models of accomplishment
Many of our faculty members are famous, such as restorative justice pioneer Howard Zehr and Amish expert Steve Nolt. All hold graduate degrees from reputable accredited universities, some from “elite” places, such as Harvard, Princeton, Cornell, Notre Dame, and the University of California. Yet they choose to work in a Mennonite setting, preparing and challenging their students intellectually and spiritually to change the world.
A / ALAN KREIDER / GOSHEN, BA ’62 / HARVARD, AM ’65, PhD ‘71 / AMBS, professor of church history & mission / With wife Eleanor, was Mennonite missionary in the UK for 26 years; responsibilities included directing London Mennonite Centre and planting Wood Green Mennonite Church in London / Academic stints at Princeton University, Heidelberg University, University of Manchester, University of London, and University of Oxford, where he directed the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture from 1995 to 2000. / Views one of his earliest professors at Goshen, John S. Oyer, as a model – “his life was one of Anabaptist commitment, manifest integrity, and scrupulous scholarship.”
B / TED KOONTZ / BETHEL, BA ’69 / HARVARD, MDiv ’72, MA ’80, PhD ’85 / AMBS, professor of ethics & peace studies / “Some of the brightest students I met at Harvard Divinity School would not be good pastors, and some of the most gifted people I’ve met at AMBS – possessing relational, emotional and leadership strengths – would not be a good fit for Harvard, due to its heavy emphasis on book-based scholarship. Thankfully, AMBS cherishes both scholarship and relationships.”
C / ANITA STALTER / EMU, BS ’79 / MICHIGAN STATE, PhD ’97 / GOSHEN, vice-president for academic affairs & academic dean / Doctoral degree is in teaching, curriculum and educational policy. / Instrumental in establishing Goshen’s Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning. / Collaborates with teaching and administrative colleagues “to design curriculum that incorporates the college’s Anabaptist vision, liberal arts foundation, and international resources to prepare students to assume leadership for the complex challenges we face in an increasingly globalized world.”
D / MAR Y SCHERTZ / GOSHEN, BA ’71 / VANDERBILT U., PhD ’93 / AMBS, New Testament professor / Lives near AMBS and loves her “great neighborhood, where a third are Hispanic, a third are African American, and a third are Caucasian.” / At Vanderbilt, enjoyed being in an ecumenical environment “with Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists, Jews and people who didn’t have any religious background,” enabling her to “hone my arguments for pacifist interpretations of the Scripture.” / Appreciates having three colleagues at AMBS who are Old and New Testament scholars.
2 / Student-centered ethos
Mennonite-college people do research, write books, produce art, direct plays and musical groups, speak at scholarly symposia, lead national and international associations. They are quoted by the national media on such matters as: non-military solutions to world conflict, alternatives to incarceration, the Christian approach to our environmental problems, ways to combine theory and practice, a cappella singing in four-part harmony, disaster relief, and much more. But nothing is more important to them than their students. They come first. As much as possible, professors include students in their out-of-classroom work.
A / SANDEE ZERGER / BETHEL, BA ’66 / U. of Kansas, PhD ’92 / HESSTON , vice-president of academics and academic dean / Fluent in Spanish, having attended a Spanish language school as a child in Puerto Rico, where her dentist-father was doing alternative service, and having taught ESL classes in Colombia for almost three years. / Grandfather, mother, father, sister, husband and sons also are Bethel alumni. / “Hesston’s students are the most geographically diverse of all the Mennonite colleges, partly because it’s a great place to start your college career, within an environment of close, warm relationships.”
B / BRADLEY KAUFMAN / GOSHEN, BA ’96 / U. OF IOWA, MA ’02 / HESSTON , director of instrumental music and Bel Canto Singers / With a graduate degree in choral conducting, Kauffman keeps up the strong European-Mennonite tradition of a cappella singing at Hesston; as director of a new wind ensemble, he is equally determined to build a strong instrumental program. / “Hesston is uniquely friendly and welcoming, making it a good place for everyone, but especially for students who need to test out the idea of college.”
3 / Life & learning, beyond academics
Mennonites traditionally are “doers.” Practical people. The best way to learn about organic farming is to do it, applying information and theory gleaned from books and teachers. Want to be a teacher of English as a second language? Then apply your classroom lessons to tutoring immigrants who don’t know English. Instead of fretting about how much food Americans waste, study the food wasted in the college cafeteria and devise ways to channel it into feeding hungry people through the local food bank. Such combining of learning and doing is characteristic of all Mennonite colleges.
A / PAUL FRIESEN / HESSTON ’42 / U. OF WICHITA , MS ’58 & FORT HAYS STATE U., MS ‘60 / HESSTON & BETHEL, professor emeritus of art / Became interested in art as a teen-ager, especially in wood sculpture, at Woodstock School in India while his parents were missionaries there prior to World War II. Founded the art department at Hesston in 1957. Collaborated with Robert Regier, professor emeritus of art at nearby Bethel College, so that both professors taught art classes at Bethel and Hesston 1965-1978. Hesston’s Friesen Center for the Visual Arts, a $2 million building, opened last fall.
B / PAT MCFARLANE / EMU, BA ’74 / GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY, MA ’76 / GOSHEN, associate professor of communication / Was introduced to theater at EMU by her English professor, Jay B. Landis; she then pursued it further at Georgetown U. / During college spent summers in Lancaster, Pa., acting in the “Dutch Family Festival,” written by fellow EMU alum Merle Good (now co-owner of Good Books). / Collaborated with Goshen undergrads in 2005 on 60-minute documentary “Living Water…Living Faith,” focused on the stories of ”Mennonite women of color,” which is also the topic of her PhD dissertation, now in progress. This topic is inspired, in part, by her own experience as the wife of a Jamaican of African descent and the mother of two bi-racial young adults.
4 / Place to make life-shaping choices
For better or for worse, one’s college experience has a huge impact on one’s entire life. The reputation of Mennonite college alumni for working hard and smart, and for being honest and caring, serves future graduates well. As examples, pre-med graduates from Mennonite colleges enjoy an acceptance rate into medical school far above the national average. Over the last decade our alumni have enjoyed a placement rate approaching 100% within a year of graduation, with 90% employed in their field of study. Then there is the marriage matter: Many joke about the high marriage rate among graduates of Mennonite colleges, but statistically these marriages do have a great chance of succeeding, probably because of the partners’ shared values, backed by a supportive network of faith community, family and friends.
A / BARBARA & JOHN FAST / BETHEL, BAs IN LATE ‘60s / JAMES MADISON U., MFA (BARBARA); INDIANA U., MM (JOHN) / EMU, she teaches visual art, he teaches organ, piano and music theory / Barbara: “I sort of had my eye on him in high school because he was known to be a very fine musician.” John: “The first weekend she was at Bethel, I took her to Shakee’s Pizza Parlor in Wichita. That’s what we did for fun then.” / Barbara: “EMU was looking for an organ professor in 1975, and John was offered the position. In our mind, we were coming to a very conservative place – our friends were Bethel or Goshen grads.” John: “There were differences between the schools and the traditions backing each, but these have largely disappeared. The young generation is scarcely aware of them, and that’s a good thing.” / After 30 years among colleagues who came and went overseas, the Fasts did a stint in 2008 for Mennonite Central Committee in Cairo, Egypt, where they taught English at the Coptic Orthodox Church.
B / LEEROY BERRY / EMU, BA ’66 / NOTRE DAME, MA ’69, PhD ’76 / INDIANA U. JD ‘84 / GOSHEN, part-time political science professor / From a 02/18/09 article in the Goshen College Record by Sarah Rich: As a boy, Berry traveled from Florida to Ohio every summer with his parents and seven siblings, chasing the seasonal crops to his parents’ boss’ home state. Starting at age 8, Berry joined his parents in the fields in the summer and on Saturdays, pulling radishes, skinning onions and weeding, even in the rain. “I was aware of the stigma that we, as migrant kids, had,” said Berry. Berry saw how his father abused his mother and how she, in turn, abused him. Berry said that even as an adolescent he ‘wanted a life that was better.’ In 1961, Berry graduated from a segregated Sarasota (Fla.) high school. The segregated school hadn’t offered him a very good education, but Berry had a keen desire to improve his position in the world. When it came time for his teachers to identify talented and potentially college-bound students, Berry’s name was brought up. The news circulated quickly in New Town Gospel Chapel Mennonite Church. “When my preacher heard me talk about going to college, he almost fell off his bench,” Berry said. This same pastor eventually encouraged Berry to look into Eastern Mennonite College in Harrisonburg, Va. Berry received his bachelor’s degree in history there. After Berry graduated, he went into voluntary service. He worked at a summer day camp in Cleveland run by a woman named Beth Hostetler. Raised in a white, Republican, middle-class Ohio family, Hostetler did not exactly share Berry’s upbringing. The two got married in 1969. In the years that followed, Berry moved to Goshen, began teaching political science at Goshen College, continued to work on his Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame and became a father to Joe, Malinda and Anne Berry. In 1984, Berry got his law degree from Indiana University and now works as a local attorney, in addition to teaching.
5 / You can’t go wrong here
Of course, you can go wrong in a Mennonite college, but folks will notice and care and try to help you – it’s a common advantage of small Christian colleges. Thus you are less likely to “go wrong.” And you are more likely to achieve the goals you set for yourself. Harvard-educated, penta-lingual Paul A. Keim, who has taught at six colleges and been dean at two, says: “What I usually tell students who aspire to be academics is that they can have the best of both worlds by doing their undergraduate work at a Mennonite school and then getting their graduate degree from a research institute.”
A / DON HOOLEY / EMU, BA ’77 / U. OF IOWA, PhD ’88 / BLUFFTON, math professor / Has lived and taught in Nigeria, India and Honduras. / “At Iowa, my major professor was available to me, but there was such pressure to publish, you hardly saw the other professors in their offices, beyond their weekly hour of scheduled in-office time. Here the doors to our offices are open.”
B / ABBY MILLER / HESSTON , AA ‘07 / BETHEL senior, majoring in communications arts / Graduated from Bethany Christian High School in Indiana, close to Goshen College, but opted to head to Kansas to attend Hesston for first two years and Bethel for the last two years. (Her brother went to Goshen.) / “My parents really wanted me to go to a Mennonite college, at least for my first couple of years. But I wasn’t sure. After graduating from a Mennonite high school, I wondered, ‘Do I need more Mennonite education?’ But college turned out to be so different from high school…. Hesston was great for me, because I am a very social person – it’s like going to church camp all year within a setting of quality academics. Bethel was a great next step for me. I got an attractive financial aid package, and it’s so pretty and so nice and so welcoming. Besides, I like the diversity here and the variety of perspectives – and that you decide on your own what you believe.”
6 / Can we be of service?
Virtually all faculty members, as well as many of the administrators and staffers, have done extensive voluntary service, always on the local level but usually internationally as well, often under demanding cross-cultural conditions with Mennonite Central Committee. They infuse the campus with their humble service ethos and global perspective. Students are encouraged to combine service with leadership. As a result, some grads have ended up at the head of United Nations agencies in Switzerland, while others have ended up at the front of a one-room schoolhouse in Indiana or Sierra Leone. All forms of serving and leading are equally valued.
A / RANDY KEELER / BLUFFTON , BA ’80 / EMU SEMINARY, MDI V ’86 / FULLER THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, DMIN ’08 / BLUFFTON , assistant professor of religion / Started on his path to youth ministry just out of his undergraduate studies, doing voluntary service with inner city youth in the Boys’ Clubs of Fresno, Calif., 1981-83. / “In the 1990s, I was challenged to develop a youth ministry major that was distinctively Anabaptist at Bluffton. The first class majoring in youth ministry graduated in 2000. Currently we have 28 students in the youth ministry program. Last year we graduated five: two are doing full-time youth ministry in Methodist churches; one is working as a ‘parent’ in a school for delinquents, and two are in mission service.” / Was Bluffton’s campus pastor from 1990 to 2005, as well as men’s soccer coach at Bluffton for 10 years. / “I’ve always seen my calling as being to encourage young adults to go into ministry. I don’t see myself as an academic. I see myself as a practitioner. I try to teach in a pastoral way.” / Keeler believes Bluffton’s underlying frameswork is similar to that of the other Mennonite colleges: (1) discipleship, (2) community of faith, and (3) peace and nonviolence.
B / BOB YODER / EMU, BS ‘94 / AMBS, MDIV ’01 / WESTERN THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, DMIN ’07 / GOSHEN, campus minister / “I resisted the Anabaptist identity. I went to a public school, where I was a bit ostracized for being different – after all, my mother wore a prayer bonnet and such. I kept thinking, ‘There’s bigger and better things than this Mennonite thing.’ At EMU, Yoder focused on pre-medical studies. But instead of entering medical school immediately, he detoured to work at the Laurelville Mennonite Church Center (Mount Pleasant, Pa.), to serve as the first pastor of a church plant, New Life Mennonite Church in Somerset, Pa., and to participate in a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation to the West Bank and Israel. In so doing, Yoder got hooked on ministry.
C / J. NELSON KRAYBILL / GOSHEN, BA ’78 / PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, MDI V ’83 / UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY (VIRGINIA), PHD ’92 / AMBS, outgoing president / With wife Ellen, he has taught or done mission work in Uruguay, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Korea, Japan, and the United Kingdom. / Professors at Goshen encouraged him – a young man raised on a Lancaster, Pa., farm in a traditional Mennonite family – to study at the U. of Barcelona, Spain, for a year. Kraybill’s six siblings – Leona, Elvin, Eugene, Dave, Ron and Leon – have led extremely varied lives as: theologian (Nelson), psychiatric nurse in Pa., lawyer in Pa., information systems analyst in NY, economist-director of African Studies Program at Ohio State University, peace professor-consultant-writer in Israel, and physician in Lancaster, Pa. Some went to Goshen, others to EMU, most spent time overseas, and all earned graduate degrees.
7 / Caring for all of God’s creation
Mennonite colleges have long stood for frugality – which translated into energy conservation and other environmentally friendly practices – but lately they have come to understand that God’s Creation should not be despoiled. We humans need to work to keep species from disappearing, water and air from being polluted, and the earth’s climate from changing. Our God-given resources should be used wisely and justly, not benefiting some to the detriment of the majority. Our colleges now teach and try to model being “green” and caring for all creation, animate and inanimate.
a / LUKE GASCHO / EMU, BS ’74 / NOVA SOUTH EASTERN U., EDD ’99 / Became director in 1997 of Goshen College’s 1,189-acre Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center, 28 miles southeast of campus. / Brought decades of experience in educational leadership and strategic planning to the job of figuring out what to do with more than a thousand acres of land that Lee and Mary Jane Rieth donated to Goshen College in 1980 for conservation and educational purposes. / Merry Lea encompasses a range of geological and ecological features, including wetlands, bogs, lakeshores, upland and lowland forests, prairies, meadows, marl pit, and glacially formed gravel ridge. / It now hosts thousands of visits from schoolchildren every year, with Goshen College students often serving as guides and educators-in-training. / In recent years, college students have been able to live in a cluster of new buildings called Rieth Village, largely powered by a windmill, solar panels, and geothermal climate control system. The village (pictured above) serves as a model of sustainable construction – they were the first buildings in Indiana to meet the highest “platinum level” under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. / Gascho travels widely, speaking to church, college, community, and environmental groups on how Christians can put their faith into practice on “creation care” issues. He is also a prolific writer. His latest work, 176-page Creation Care: Keepers of the Earth (2008), is a user-friendly guide to the spiritual basis for environmental stewardship. It shows how people’s choices affect air and water quality, energy use, and the climate, while also impacting their global neighbors. / Gascho: “Many of the environmental issues we’re facing are deeply rooted in money and materialism. Our task is to seek and then practice a way of life that truly represents our respect for the natural order of creation and justice for all people.” / On the broader college level, Gascho has chaired Goshen’s strategic planning committee for the last eight years; in 2003-04, Gascho involved 300 people over nine months throughout the system in thinking about and planning for Goshen’s future. One result of the process: Goshen’s decision to launch its first two graduate programs – an MS in nursing and an MA in environmental education.
B / MATTHEW SIDERHURST / GOSHEN, BA ’99 / COLORADO STATE U, PHD ’04 / EMU, assistant professor of chemistry (pictured in the EMU greenhouse) / After receiving PhD, did postdoctoral research with the USDA-ARS-PBARC in Hilo, Hawaii, working to identify attractants for several economically important invasive insects. / Currently maintains research collaborations with USDA scientists in Hawaii./ Will be taking three students to Hawaii to research control methods for an invasive fire ant in the summer of 2009. / Has received over $125,000 in grant money to do chemical ecology projects with eight students. / “A huge reason I am where I am is because of the handful of profs at Goshen who engaged me in class and in research.” / “Having colleagues who appreciate how faith intersects with peace and justice, and the choice of leading a simple lifestyle … this has to be at the top of my list of positives for working at EMU.” / Beginning in the fall of 2009, EMU will be offering a new Environmental Sustainability major; related information at www.emu.edu/begreen.
8/Peace & social justice as core values
People educated at Mennonite colleges are known worldwide for enabling people to address conflicts with dialogue and relationship building, rather than with weapons or other forms of force. This often leads to addressing the roots of the conflict – most often, conditions that cause people to feel victimized or hopeless. Starting with self-transformation, ideally peace ripples out to those immediately around us and further, finally reaching people very different from us. In this way, we can be vehicles for God’s unconditional love and try to live up to the statement, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9)
A / RUDI KAUFFMAN / EMU, BA ’01 / U. OF CINCINNATI , PhD candidate / BLUFFTON , assistant professor of restorative justice / Kauffman: “Does ‘just war’ have outcomes that are more just or less just? In researching my dissertation, I found an inverse correlation. ‘Just war’ is an oxymoron.” / As an undergraduate at EMU, did a lot of 21-credit-hour semesters in order to complete three majors – justice, peace & conflict studies; history; sociology – while minoring in economics and political science. / Takes cross-discipline approach in studying and advocating for new approaches to criminal justice that are restorative rather than punitive. / After earning an MA at Quaker-founded Earlham College in Indiana, started his teaching career in a one-room schoolhouse where he taught 6th, 7th and 8th grades simultaneously, which “very nearly killed me.” / As doctoral student gave presentations on government-initiated cybersecurity. / In current position, wrestles with relationship between educating aspiring police officers and restorative justice.
B / ANETTE SELEYIAN LOLCHOKI / EMU senior, majoring in math / Came to EMU from her home country of Kenya after learning about it from a Kenyan whose daughter completed an EMU degree. / “One thing I will take from EMU is how I view the world. I don’t think fighting back is the answer. We need to try to look at other means of resolving conflict, like dialogue, instead of retaliating.” / “Humility is another thing I’ve learned here, like not going around buying expensive things just because you have the means to buy them. It is better to use wealth to help others.” / “One of the hardest things for me to get used to was calling professors and older people by their first names. I have lived all my life referring to older people with terms that show respect. I still show respect for my professors, even if I have learned to call them by their first names. I show respect in my tone of voice.” / “I love math. My long-term view is to go home and encourage other Masaii girls to boost their performances in math. If I can do it, they can do it too!”
9 / Whole (holistic) people
Our colleges are small enough that folks can and do stray far beyond the lines of their discipline. An English professor may collaborate with an environmental science professor on a project. You may find a chemistry professor in a lead role of a major campus production, or a physical plant worker in a choir. Professors may be found cheering for their students playing football, basketball, or other games, or chatting with them over meals. If you’re a pre-med major, you can drop into the ceramics lab and throw some pots for relaxation. Or pray in the arboretum. Or play intramurals at midnight. And in chapel and church, you can sit among the entire community – those who clean and maintain the buildings beside those who study and teach in them – and worship as one body of Christ.
A / JUNE ALLIMAN YODER / GOSHEN, BA ’67 / AMBS, MDIV ‘88 / BETHANY THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, DMIN ’91 / AMBS, professor of communication
and preaching / Was one of the first Mennonites to get an advanced degree in theater by earning a master’s degree in the subject from the University of Iowa in 1970 / “I remember the phone call I made to my parents when I told them I was accepted into the [U. of Iowa] theater program. There was a
long pause, a long silence, and then my dad said, ‘Well, we don’t understand this, but we trust you.’” / Next Yoder decided she wanted to be a preacher at a time when the Mennonite church did not have women in pastoral leadership roles, so she pursued and obtained MDiv and DMin degrees. Again, her parents were baffled but ultimately accepting. / Today she is widely recognized as a mentor and teacher of preachers, using her theater training to help preachers literally unglue their arms from their sides and use their whole bodies in being in the pulpit and spreading the Word. / Yoder bemoans the simplistic “Sunday school faith” of many people with advanced academic degrees – “they have a university-level understanding of their academic discipline, but a grade-school understanding of their faith.” / On reasons for attending a Mennonite college: “If you just want chemistry, you can get chemistry anywhere. If you just want Shakespeare, you can get Shakespeare wherever you go. You can get quality teaching wherever you go. But you can’t get the same quality of interaction between professors and students. And you can’t get the same quality of people doing the teaching.”
B / BRIAN WIEBE / BETHEL, BA ’85 / NORTH WESTERN U., MM ’87 / GOSHEN, executive director of the Goshen Music Center (pictured in background) / Was hired in 2001 when Goshen College’s splendid $17 million performance, recital and classroom center was half-way constructed. / “They said the sound of the train whistle [the campus is bisected by a train track] would not be audible inside the concert hall. Early one morning I heard the train coming. I quickly hopped on my bike, pedaled here, ran inside, shut all the doors and waited to see if I could hear the train whistle.” (He didn’t.) / “Mennonite institutions have been leaders in ‘living more with less’ and in ‘creation care’ generally. All of them emphasize compassionate peacemaking. Beyond our traditional Mennonite constituency, I see interest growing exponentially in the values we hold. The world is coming our way.”
10 / Relationship building, usually community based
Most of us live in close proximity to each other and care about each other, offering mutual support beyond the classroom. We are a community. We are accountable to each other, committed to working through conflicts respectfully and peacefully. Viewing ourselves as “brothers and sisters in God’s service,” we tend to use first names and to have egalitarian relationships rather than hierarchical ones. Peacebuilders trained in our colleges start with building relationships across whatever “enemy” lines they encounter, whether ethnic, religious, political, or military. Newcomers tend to be welcomed with relationship-building activities. In our sports teams, players get beyond differences of beliefs, backgrounds, skill, race, and scholastic ability to forge tight teams who become family to each other.
A / DEB ROTH / HESSTON, AA ’83 / GOSHEN, BA ’85 / HESSTON, DIRECTOR OF ACCESS (Academic Center for College Excellence & Student Success) / “When a student leaves Hesston, there is almost a ‘Hesston withdrawal period.’ It’s a period of adjusting, of letting go of two years that were so good.“
B / JIM YODER / HESSTON, AA ’62 / GOSHEN, BA ’64 / INDIANA U., PHD ’69 / HESSTON, chemistry professor / Major roles in two dozen Hesston productions, including Twelfth Night, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, The Bourgeois Gentleman and A Christmas Carol. / Two teaching stints in Swaziland, one as a Fulbright scholar. / “Happily I am aware that I can no longer tell from my class rosters, or from race or other appearance, who is Mennonite and who isn’t.”
C / VAL HERSHBERGER / HESSTON, AA ’82 / EMU, BA ’84 / JAMES MADISON U., MS ’96 / GOSHEN, associate professor of physical education / “It sounds like a cliché, but it is really true that the biggest distinctive [of Mennonite colleges] is their sense of community. In a place like this, you get up every day and look forward to going to work with your colleagues.”
GARY CHUPP / EMU, BA ’87 / GOSHEN, assistant professor of physical education / “The majority of the players I recruit are not Mennonites, but they do feel part of a family here – a basketball family. We act as a support group to each other.”
JEWEL LEHMAN / EMU, BA ’84 / U. OF NORTH CAROLINA -GREENSBORO, EDD ’03 / GOSHEN, associate professor and department chair of physical education & secondary education / Wide experience beyond Menno colleges: James Madison U., where she got her master’s and was an assistant volleyball coach; Baptist-founded Campbell U., where she was volleyball coach; Methodist linked Greensboro College, where she taught P.E.; and UNCG, where she earned her doctorate. “Each has its positive aspects” – positives of Mennonite colleges include their “work ethic” and “student-centered ethos.”
11 / Global vision
Mennonite college folks think that living, working, learning and serving outside of one’s own culture enables us to see that people different from ourselves are our brothers and sisters in the sight of God, whether we share their nationality, religion or any other feature. The majority of the faculty members at Mennonite colleges have extensive international experience. Many students — most students on some our campuses — spend a semester or more outside of their home cultures. Insular and provincial? No way! Not even if our locations are rural.
A / FLORINA IMMACULATE MARY BENOIT / EMU, MA ’04 / OSMANIA U. (HYDERABAD, INDIA ), PHD ’08 / Benoit and her husband “Ashok” (at right) were among nine Fulbright students from Asia who completed master’s degrees in conflict transformation at EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding in 2004. / Upon returning to her home region in the southern sector of India, Benoit entered a PhD in social work program. For her doctoral research, she collaborated with Ashok (also pursuing a PhD), and one other academic to document, for the first time ever, the humiliating conditions under which Sri Lankan Tamil refugees live in camps in Tamil Nadu, an area of India adjacent to Sri Lanka. Now a “doctor,” she is Assistant Manager of Industrial Social Work at Loyola College in Chennai.
G. “ASHOK” GLADSTON XAVIER / EMU, MA ’04 / LOYOLA COLLEGE (CHENNAI, INDIA), senior lecturer in social work and PhD candidate / Spends mornings and early afternoons teaching and supervising 80 students at Loyola College. In the late afternoon and evening, he and Florina volunteer at the Organization for Eelam Refugee Rehabilitation (OfERR), through which they offer extensive trainings in support of Tamil refugees. They have pioneered the use of dramatic techniques – called “play-back theater” – in their trainings. / The couple travels frequently to Sri Lanka – where hundreds of thousands have been harmed by war – as well as to other parts of the world (about two dozen trips annually outside of India) for trainings and presentations. / Ashok: “Our work in Sri Lanka is in the area of building local capacities for peace and inter-religious education.”
B / DON CLYMER / HESSTON, AA ’73 / GOSHEN, BA ‘75 / EMU SEMINARY, MACL ’08 / WICHITA STATE U., MA ’79 / EMU, assistant professor of language and literature / Has taught Spanish, German and Latin American studies at Hesston / Served with Mennonite Central Committee in Guatemala in 1976 and Mexico 1986-1989. Also with Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions in Honduras 1968-1970 and in 1973. / “Where I grew up, people thought, ‘You go to college and you lose your faith.’ What I find ironic is that students who go to Mennonite colleges are more likely to stay in the church. That’s what happened with me and my 10 siblings. Of the five who went to Mennonite colleges, four remained in the Mennonite church [80%]. Of the six who didn’t go to Mennonite colleges, only two remained in the church [33%].” / Of the 20 students on the 2007 EMU cross-cultural to Guatemala and Mexico, which Clymer and his wife Esther led, half intend to go into voluntary-type service in the future.
12/Living & working as Jesus taught
Jesus lived very, very simply, reaching out to those who were poor, rejected and suffering. He prayed. He asked for forgiveness for those who sinned. He performed miracles. He rejected worldly wealth. He suffered in the face of violence, asking that we love our enemies and turn the other cheek. At Mennonite colleges, there is a heartfelt desire to live and work as Jesus did, though we confess to falling short to living up to this desire.
A / MARION BONTRAGER / HESSTON, AA ’57 / GOSHEN, BA ’59 / GOSHEN BIBLICAL SEMINARY (now AMBS), MDI V ’63 / HESSTON, professor in Bible and ministry department / “I work for the Mennonite church, but I happen to teach at Hesston. One of my goals is for students to become biblically literate. All are required to take the course ‘Introduction to Biblical Literature,’ which I created. In pre-tests, fewer than 10 students out of 115 knew the books of the Bible. I teach the Bible as drama, as narrative story. We would be very concerned if students left here without a love for the Bible and a commitment to the Word.”
B / LOREN L. JOHNS / GOSHEN, BA ’77 / GOSHEN BIBLICAL SEMINAR Y (now AMBS), MDIV ’84 / PRINCETON THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, PHD ’98 / AMBS, associate professor of New Testament / Taught Bible at Bluffton from 1993-2000, while coordinating its peace and conflict studies program, 1998-2000. / In high school, Johns had a teacher who undermined his faith, leading Johns as a teenager to believe his only choice was between being honest or being a Christian. This caused Johns to arrive at Goshen College “having rejected my faith.” / “I had some really good conversations my freshman year about why my friends continued to believe and why I did not.” Over time, though, “I thought I could see God working in my friends’ lives and that was a bit bothersome to me.” / Stanley C. Shenk, one of Johns’ professors at Goshen, “had a style of considering critical issues that attracted me. He didn’t ignore the questions, nor was he afraid of considering them seriously.” / Within the supportive environment offered by Goshen, “I had a conversion experience that was more profound than the baptism I had at age 11. God blessed me with a sense of joy and peace.”
C / LEE F. SNYDER / U. OF OREGON, BA ’72 / JAMES MADISON U., MA ’74 / U. OF OREGON, PHD ’85 / BLUFFTON, president, 1996-’06 / EMU, academic dean, 1984-’96; v-p, 1987-’96; interim provost, 2008-’09 / In a keynote speech to the Mennonite Health Assembly on 03/30/07, Snyder noted that during World War II, rather than take up weapons, many Mennonites joined the Civilian Public Service. Some were sent to work in mental hospitals. Dr. Paul W. Pruyser, a Menninger Foundation executive, made the following observations about the Mennonite workers in mental hospitals (as cited by Snyder): They had “an abhorrence of violence and cruelty, an acquired sense of responsibility for the welfare of others, a cordial team spirit, a modest self-appraisal, and a sober lifestyle that stimulated community feeling rather than personal fulfillment of brilliance… They… fulfilled their service obligation as a mission – a peace mission, a human betterment mission rather than an evangelistic outreach campaign.” / Snyder believes Mennonite institutions continue to do a remarkable job of nurturing these qualities, not just in the classroom but in all the ways that Christian service is performed, modeled and taught.
This issue of the Bulletin is devoted largely to an in-depth exploration of Mennonite higher education – what makes it distinctive and valuable, who has benefitted from it, why it remains relevant to today’s student and why it endures.
The following feature, “12 Traits of Mennonite Colleges,” originally was published in a longer form in the Spring 2009 issue of Crossroads, the alumni magazine of our sister school Eastern Mennonite University (EMU). This is being published in the Bulletin because the subject matter has great relevance for Goshen College, as it does for all other Mennonite colleges and universities, and for all those who care about their past, present and future.
For their generosity of sharing these excellent and inspiring stories and photographs with us, we thank the following individuals from EMU: President Loren Swartzendruber; Kirk Shisler, vice president for advancement; Andrea Wenger, marketing and communications director; Bonnie Price Lofton, editor/ writer of Crossroads; and Jon Styer, designer/ photographer.
Go to www.emu.edu/crossroads/colleges/ to read and view the full issue of Crossroads about Mennonite higher education.
– Richard R. Aguirre, editor