2013 recipient: Andrew Reesor-McDowell

The Alumni Committee of Conrad Grebel University College is pleased to announce the selection of Andrew Reesor-McDowell  (BA 1976) as this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Service Award.

Andrew came to Grebel from the Toronto/Markham area where his family was deeply involved in Mennonite Church leadership.  Fraser Lake Camp, near Bancroft, was one example of this wider church involvement and Andrew spent many years there as a camp counselor.

Andrew majored in Sociology at the University of Waterloo with a strong interest in Religious Studies. He roomed with Gary Leis.  Decades before Mennonite Church integration, these two young men spearheaded joint youth events that included the Western Ontario Mennonite Conference, from Gary’s background, and the larger Mennonite Conference of Ontario, where Andrew’s father Emerson, was a pastor.  Soon these events included Mennonite Youth of Ontario (MYO) from the United Mennonite conference.

During this time, Andrew and Gary also participated in a unique Mennonite Voluntary Service experience, travelling to the southern US in a music group called “Cherchez Vivre.”  Andrew negotiated with President, Winfield Fretz to arrange an Independent Study credit for this experience.

While at Grebel, Andrew was involved in leadership roles in Ontario Mennonite Youth Fellowship.  He spent one summer working on a sociology project with Dr. Winfield Fretz and one summer helping to lead a coffee house program at Grand Bend under the leadership of John and Louise Miller. “Grebel was a formative period in my life,” remembers Andrew. “It was a time of intense interest in the studies, the community life and the professors.  The extent of interest and involvement from the President and professors in the life of the student community was outstanding.”

In his career, Andrew has been a leader in children’s mental health, working  for over 30 years at the Hincks-Dellcrest Treatment Centre in Toronto.  Here he served as a family worker, program supervisor, and program director. Since 1988, as a Senior Manager, he had responsibilities that have included open custody services for youth and children's mental health prevention and early intervention services. He was the Director of the Hincks-Dellcrest Institute which provided mental health training for professionals.

At the Centre he led the international team which provided training in early child development to partner agencies in more than 20 countries with the assistance of the Canadian International Development Agency and generous supporters. 

Andrew has been asked to provide leadership in the church and church related ministries, and this has been a focus of Andrew’s volunteer service.  At the Mennonite Church Assembly in Vancouver in 2012, Andrew completed his term as Moderator.  He was at the helm of the denomination during some difficult times after integration. He also had served 3 years as Moderator of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada and six years on the Grebel Board, 3 years as Chair. 

Andrew also served as a consultant with Associates Resourcing the Church and assisted with congregations as they examined their unique missions and structures.  Andrew served as a consultant to the Grebel Board in 2006 as they worked to shape a strategic plan. 

Andrew says that “Grebel has done an outstanding job of supporting students, and providing thoughtful theological leadership to the church. It is gratifying to see how Grebel has developed over the past 50 years and how much the church has benefitted from the vision”.  

The Distinguished Alumni Service Award recognizes alumni who have made a significant and unique contribution to the church, community, nation, or world. “Grebel Graduates need to see alumni who follow their passions and volunteer their time in important social issues and for furthering God’s kingdom in the Church” said Wendy Cressman Zehr, who chairs the alumni committee. 

This award was presented to Andrew at Conrad Grebel’s annual convocation service. Convocation at Grebel  is a celebration of hard work and dedication that students have shown in their studies. Two students graduated with Master of Theological Studies degrees, and  more than 80 undergraduates who were residents, music students, and peace and conflict studies students were recognized. This year’s guest speaker was alumnus Eric Friesen who described music as the one area of study that is both intellectual and emotional, as he spoke on the topic of “Music: The Heavenly Dance,” Valedictorian, Caleb Redekop challenged the graduating class to “give back to the world, just as Grebel gave to us.”