Monday, October 13, 2014

My Most Recent EMU "Graduation"

Fifty years later, 38 of the 100 living members of the graduating class of 1964
I gave the following as a part of a special program at Eastern Mennonite University's Homecoming Saturday in which members of our 1964 graduating class celebrated their 50th anniversary and were welcomed into EMU's Jubilee Alumni Association.

"I am honored to be here to celebrate a 'second graduation', this one into the ranks of Jubilee members of the EMU Alumni Association.

"One of my recurring dreams for many years was being a dorm student on some unnamed campus where no one really liked me or cared about me. I’m not a dream analyst but I’m sure that’s an indication of a major subconscious fear of mine when I enrolled here at Eastern Mennonite College in the fall of 1960. I was one of only a handful of Amish students on campus, and didn’t know what kind of welcome to expect, but I found an amazing hospitality and a sense of family here. And we have pretty much made this community our home, literally, ever since.

"It was here that I had the opportunity to sing in college choirs led by J. Mark Stauffer and Earl Maust, and through them the Mennonite Hour Men’s Chorus that sang at the Mennonite World Conference in Kitchener, Ontariao. As a member of the Amish branch of the Anabaptist family gathered there, this was a big thing for me.

"It was here at EMU that I became involved in a student-led jail ministry, something that led to my developing a passion for criminal justice issues. Currently some of us are working at community alternatives to a expansion of our local jail. When I visited inmates here as a college student we had a jail with a capacity of 70. The new one it replaced two decades ago is now overcrowded and holds 400. I'm joining others in asking what's wrong with that picture, and why we should be incarcerating so many people in our community. I realize that a lot of the convictions I've developed about justice issues are rooted in my experience here at EMU.

"And it was here I was introduced to a paper by Virgil Vogt of Reba Place entitled the Christian Calling that made a huge impact on me, replacing my long held “lay versus ordained” thinking to my seeing God’s will as about every believer being engaged in using whatever gifts given them in whatever ways our communities of faith call them to. This in turn led me to being open to serve as pastor of the Zion Mennonite Church soon after I graduated, while continuing to teach part time at Eastern Mennonite High School for many years, and then later to serve as a counselor at the Virginia Conference’s Family Life Resource Center and as an non-salaried pastor of a house church congregation.

"Not one of these roles were exactly what I came here for as a declared elementary ed major. But here I was being prepared, nevertheless, not just in my classes and in the service opportunities provided for me here, but in the many late night conversations I had with friends, mentors and peers that contributed to at least half of my education here.

"I still sometimes wish EMU could still be a little more EMC-ish, just plain and simple, more of a boot camp-like campus, challenging students to travel their world “tourist class” rather than insisting on first class. I hope we invest not only in brick and mortar improvements to our state of the art facilities, but in the kind of scholars from around the world who can help us gain a sense of truly being a part of a global village of shalom and justice, where God's will is being demonstrated all over the earth as it is in heaven.

"I am glad to claim EMU as my alma mater, imperfect though she may be. I’m in debt to her as indeed a kind of “fostering mother” (what the Latin term means) that has nurtured and encouraged me in immeasurable ways.

"So from my heart, thank you, and thanks be to God for the blessing EMU has been to me--and to my good wife of the class of 1963."

At the noon gathering of our class, I was asked to read the names of the following 22 classmates who have passed away in the past fifty years, another form of "graduation":

Kooker, Harold, Yonkers, NY   Oct. 23, 1973

Longacher, Marilyn Landis, Newport News, VA   Nov. 11, 1987

Cordell, Constance Hunsecker    June 4, 1991

Christophel, Rosemary, Harrisonburg, VA   Jan. 1, 1993

Mast, John, Nelsonia, VA   Feb. 10, 1993

Bird, Lois Weaver, Harrisonburg, VA   Dec. 28, 1995

Hess, John Henry, Harrisonburg, VA    Jan. 15, 1996

Gerber, Carol Handrick, Brutus MI     Feb. 20, 1997

Headings, Richard, Harrisonburg, VA    June 26, 2003

Nyce, Cleon, Chambersburg, PA   Aug. 4, 2003

Layman, Paul, Newport News, VA   Jan. 27, 2004

Bosley, Robert, Lititz, PA   May 20, 2005

Lehman, Verna Yeager, Harrisonburg, VA     Oct. 17, 2005

Bender, Nancy Shenk, Schwenksville, PA     May 30, 2005

Garber, Robert, Lititz, PA    Dec. 16, 2005

Roggie, Daniel, Lowville, NY   Dec. 10, 2007

Newswanger, Betty Hershey, Lancaster, PA    July 4, 2009

Gingerich, John, Hartville, OH    Feb. 24, 2010

Brunk, Truman, Harrisonburg, VA   Oct. 8, 2010

Fairfield, James, Singers Glen, VA   Nov. 29, 2012

Horst, Willis, Goshen, IN   Sept. 1, 2013

Glick, M. Catherine, Lancaster, PA    (death date unavailable)

Special thanks to classmates Linda Heatwole Bland and Dr. Elmer Kennel for compiling this list.
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