Over the past 60 years, thousands of Grebel alumni have taken individual Grebel courses in History and Mennonite Studies, while hundreds of Grebel alumni have received University of Waterloo Arts degrees with majors and minors in History, along with some who have pursued specializations and minors in Mennonite Studies. The following profiles highlight a few of these alumni—some who went into history professions and some who used history as a jumping point for their career. We asked alumni to reflect on these questions: Where has your background in History or Mennonite Studies taken you? How did your studies prepare you for your profession, hobby, research, or volunteer role? How has your education or profession enriched your life, taken your life in an unexpected direction, or led to an accomplishment you’re proud of? How did Grebel inspire this path?
Disney animator. CEOs. Lawyers. Musicians. Peacemakers centred in war zones. These are just a few of the fascinating folks who have graduated from Grebel over the last 60 years. Not only are these alumni making advances in their fields, but they’re also representing Grebel’s excellence on an international level, with careers in countries all across the world.
Grebel alumni, staff, and friends are getting ready to explore Anabaptist beginnings on a European tour in May 2025. Alongside faculty experts Troy Osborne and David Neufeld, travellers will follow this story from the Netherlands through Germany, France, and Switzerland, visiting the very places where events significant to this tradition occurred.
Grebel aims to be a space for conversation and connection among people of diverse backgrounds and academic disciplines. Because Grebel administers the University of Waterloo’s Music program, the College naturally attracts musically talented students from every faculty at Waterloo. Some Grebel alumni have gone on to have remarkable careers in music performance, composition, conducting, and teaching. Others have chosen to combine their love of music with other passions in complementary fields. The following profiles highlight a sampling of alumni who have merged their interests in music and another field. We asked: How are you combining music with another field or interest? How has this fusion enriched your life, taken your life in an unexpected direction, or led to an accomplishment you’re proud of? How did Grebel inspire this path?
The world is filled with unique and diverse communities and cultures, friendship and family, love, and the resilient human spirit. However, the world is facing turbulent times with polarization, systemic violence, armed conflicts, and oppression on the uprise. “The Master of Peace and Conflict Studies community strives to transform conflicts, repair harms, and build flourishing communities,” said Reina Neufeldt, Chair and Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Grebel.
Grebel alumni are involved in many interesting initiatives that use technology for good—in start-ups, projects, support roles, research, and hobbies. The following profiles highlight some alumni who are involved in activities that use technology to make a difference in society and the world. We asked them to reflect on these questions: How are you making the world a better place using technology? How has this involvement changed you, challenged you, or enriched your life? Why are you driven in this direction? How did Grebel inspire this path?
To look back on Issa Ebombolo’s (MPACS 2017) career thus far is to look back on a journey of leadership, collaboration, and great accomplishments. From developing a peace curriculum, helping develop programs and support for refugee camps, and now, in his current role, working with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) as Peacebuilding Coordinator for Zambia and Malawi, he has helped promote peace and restorative justice in all that he does.
Sara Froese Berg (1893-1979) had an unfulfilled dream to receive an education. This dream was fulfilled as granddaughter Geraldine Balzer and great-granddaughters Kerstin and Alina graduated from the University of Waterloo and attended Grebel.
A glowing, curious object sits above the fireplace in the corner of the Grebel’s dining room. Its oranges, blues, and greens call from across the space, inviting closer inspection of the whimsical and intricate arrangement of shapes.
Grebel’s mission is to “Seek wisdom, nurture faith, and pursue justice and peace in service to church and society.” After graduation, alumni who desire to serve the church find a multitude of pathways to fulfill this call: in lay leadership roles, in pastoral vocations, or in leading church-inspired non-profits. The following profiles highlight a small sampling of alumni who are currently involved in church leadership, church institutional leadership, and church-related non-profits, either as a profession or as a passion. We asked three questions: What are one or two ways you are contributing to the church or its organizations as a leader? How has this involvement or service enriched your life? And how did Grebel inspire this path?
A surprising turn of events brought Grebel Master of Peace and Conflict Studies (MPACS) student Bethany Serengheu (MPACS 2022) together to work with Zambia-based alumnus Issa Ebombolo (MPACS 2017) on a Peace Club curriculum for The Meeting House church based in Oakville, Ontario.
Grebel Alumni are scattered across the globe, pursuing a vast assortment of vocations and lifestyles. With a focus on the care of our earth, the following profiles highlight a just a few of the interesting, intentional, and invaluable work some Grebel alumni are pursuing. We asked three questions: How do you work toward sustainability in your life? Why is this important to you? Do you have a memory of Grebel that relates to sustainability or the environment?
Pursuing a career in music education was a dream for Ann L. Schultz (BA 1990) who was always passionate about making music. After finishing a degree in music at Grebel, Ann completed a Bachelor of Education and began her teaching career at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate in 1991, becoming head of the music program there in 1997. She began serving as Rockway’s Principal in January 2013 and will retire from that role in December 2021.
A path to peace, responsibility and healing, rooted in relationship, spreading peace and justice across communities—Grebel alumni have many words to describe the positive impact of Restorative Justice (RJ).
Grebel alumni Emily Yarascavitch (BSC 2016), Stephanie Collings (BA 2020), and Nicholas Wong (BMATH 2020) all came to Grebel with a passion for music and another subject, and the flexibility of the Music Department allowed each of these students to dive into both areas of interest.
Music has always been an important part of Emily Yarascavitch’s life. As a toddler, she took an immediate interest in the fiddle after attending her brother’s lessons, and at age four, she began lessons of her own. Soon after, she was competing in fiddle competitions across Ontario, which further led to North America-wide competitions, Royal Conservatory of Music Violin examinations, church choir performances, weekly fiddle clubs, and performing anywhere from nursing homes to big stage events.
Music has been an important part of Stephanie Collings’ life for as long as she can remember. As a child, she was quite shy, and preferred activities where she was not a part of a group or team. Piano lessons were the perfect solution.
Peace brings freedom from pain—it is a solution to some of our most significant problems. Rod Friesen graduated from Conrad Grebel University College in 2013 with a Master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies (MPACS). He began working with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Ontario in May 2017, where he oversees several service delivery and restorative justice-related projects in his role as a Restorative Justice Program Coordinator.
Crime can be viewed as more than just breaking the law—crime causes harm to people, relationships and communities. Restorative justice seeks to repair this damage through discussions between the victims and offenders, to address the harms as well as the wrongdoings. Mark Yantzi is the founder and first Executive Director of Community Justice Initiatives (CJI), a non-profit organization known worldwide for having started the first Restorative Justice program.
Christian Fox graduated from Grebel’s Master of Peace and Conflict Studies (MPACS) program in June 2015. Before that he completed an undergraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies. He currently works for the Dixie Bloor Neighbourhood Centre as a Conflict Resolution Service Facilitator.
Conflict usually brings pain and disorder, and often leads to further conflict but Restorative Justice paves a different path – a path that can lead to peace. Issa Ebombolo earned his Master of Peace and Conflict Studies (MPACS) degree from Conrad Grebel University College in 2017. Currently, Issa works for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Zambia and Malawi as a Peacebuilding Coordinator providing peace resourcing to local partners, including the government of Zambia.
Restorative Justice means a lot of things to Laurel Boytim, who graduated from Conrad Grebel’s Master of Peace and Conflict Studies program in 2019. After graduating, Laurel worked at the John Howard Society in Restorative Justice (RJ) diversion programs, where she developed pre-charge and post-charge programs with the federal crown, police, and Waterloo Region Integrated Drug Strategy (WRIDS).
The topic of Restorative Justice has held a strong place in Kimberlee Walker’s heart ever since she was working on her undergraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies (BA 2012) at Conrad Grebel University College. She always had an appreciation for art and creativity, and wished to combine her passions to make the world a better place—to spread peace and justice across communities with her love for theatre.
As an alumnus of Conrad Grebel University College and a resident of Grebel during several of the years during which John D. Rempel served as chaplain and residence director, I am deeply saddened by the disclosures of misconduct that have come to light.
Grebel alumnus and Researcher at Project Ploughshares, Kelsey Gallagher, made headlines after the organization released a special report he authored on Canadian arms exports, titled, “Killer Optics: Exports of WESCAM sensors to Turkey.”
Though this year’s convocation took place through a screen, it still held excitement and appreciation for the graduates. This year’s speakers also included a dose of the reality and state of today’s world, but not without providing some much needed hope and inspiration.
Because of her inspiring creativity, thoughtful dedication, and unique contributions to the Mennonite church, Grebel’s alumni committee has selected Sarah Kathleen Johnson (BA 2007, MTS 2008) as the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Service Award.
Alumni, family groups, friends and roommates from throughout Grebel’s history have joined together to name tables—a symbolic level of donation to the kitchen and dining room project. One of these tables has been named for Arnie Dyck (1945–2017) by his family and friends.
John Neufeld (BA 1996) has continually served the communities around him, whether through leadership or behind the scenes, at Grebel or in the broader Waterloo Region. In recognition of his generous and dedicated service, Grebel has named him the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Service Award winner.
Hebron Hailu Gabre-Marian’s (BASC 2007) first contact with Grebel was during a University of Waterloo Open House day in March 2002 when he was checking out the Mechanical Engineering program. His dad, knowing a little about Mennonites, convinced him to swing by Grebel for a quick tour. He remembers his tour guide fondly (Eric Lepp BA 2005) and thought, “if there are more people like this guy at Grebel, then this will be a fun place to live.”
Debra Worth (BA 2001) grew up in Kitchener, Ontario with her home backing onto the train tracks of Victoria Park. Neither of her parents had gone to university and she didn’t expect to go either. And if she did, why would she live in residence when her home was minutes away?
A few months ago, I received an unexpected request from far away. King Horiguchi, an alumnus who lived in residence from 1964 to 1968, wrote from Japan to tell us that he was coming to Toronto to attend the Rotary International convention with his daughter. While in Canada, he wanted to visit Grebel and connect with friends he had made over 50 years ago.
The inaugural Empowered Woman Preach conference took place at Grebel over the October 19–20 weekend. It brought together women of different denominations to encourage each other and become more equipped to proclaim Christ while working to renew their local church communities.
This summer, Grebel staff were privileged to meet hundreds of alumni at various gatherings around Ontario! We congregated in Leamington, Toronto, Niagara, and Waterloo, to reconnect over snacks and drinks, as President Marcus Shantz and Fred Martin shared Grebel news and future plans.
Trisha (Niemeyer) Ashworth (BASC 2005) lives in the greater Toronto, Ontario area. She is a professional engineer, a mother of two teenagers, a partner to John David, and an engaged member of Rouge Valley Mennonite church.
Grebel and its Student Services department has a unique vision for residence life. It includes expectations for participation, encouragement to explore questions of significance, involvement in chapels and community suppers, engagement with faculty and staff, and accountability to one another for creating a hospitable environment.