60 Stories for 60 Years

60 stories  - five headshots

Everyone has a story.

For Conrad Grebel University College's 60th anniversary, we want to celebrate the best part about Grebel: the people!

In an ongoing project, we are having conversations with–and writing stories about–nominated alumni who stand out as interesting or influential individuals, who left a positive impact on the College, and who continue to demonstrate a connection to Grebel's core values in their lives. Each of these conversations reveal new, inspiring stories from Grebel alumni living around the world.

We hope you enjoy reading these unique, fascinating, and valuable stories from across alumni generations!

60 stories - 5 headshots

Content teaser

Neil Thomas (BA 2013) described his undergraduate experience to be “much more about understanding who I was and building relationships, than it was about the classes that I attended.” Although he recognized that the goal of coming to university was higher education, at Grebel, Neil found that it was “also a really good opportunity and point in somebody's life to figure out who they are, and how they can become a functioning adult in the community.” This is a lesson he took to heart, as he now assists others through some of the most difficult and critical moments of their lives, working as a Crisis and Outreach Clinician in Oxford County for the Canadian Mental Health Association of Thames Valley. 

Mark Diller Harder (BA 1989) is a pastor at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church. In preparation for ministry, Mark studied at Canadian Mennonite Bible College, the University of Waterloo, and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary. His journey with pastoral ministry has been extensively rewarding, as he found acceptance and kinship in many diverse communities, including Welcome Inn Community Centre and Church, the Men’s Hostel at House of Friendship, Stirling Ave. Mennonite Church, First Mennonite Church, and St Jacobs Mennonite Church. Mark has a deep connection to music, holding an Associate of Music in Piano Performance. He also sings with and is currently President and Assistant Director of Menno Singers. 

Connor Huxman (BASc 2020) is a PhD candidate at Penn State University, conducting research and innovating new designs for orthopedic implants. His time studying biomedical engineering and visual art at the University of Waterloo, together with his medical device industry co-op placements, has helped launch a career in orthopedics engineering. He has since participated in, and won, international pitch competitions, and is leading the entrepreneurial efforts of his research. In his free time, Connor enjoys traveling with his fiancée, both internationally and through road trips in their converted camper truck across North America.

Staying focused on values learned at Grebel, Panteli Tritchew (BA 1979, MA 1981) has built community in the classroom and boardroom throughout his teaching career. After a number of corporate jobs in technical writing, Panteli spent the remainder of his career as an educator and administrator in communications at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia. He credits the Grebel experience for igniting his enthusiasm for learning and inspiring his desire to effect change. 

By integrating traditional and modern forms of music, Reverend Jacqui Foxall has helped foster a welcoming, collaborative community at Knox Presbyterian Church in Oakville. After experiencing a eureka moment as a young adult, Jacqui discovered her vocational call to become a minister and enrolled in Grebel’s Honours Music and Religious Studies program with a specialization in Church Music and Worship. Integrating her musical knowledge to augment God’s message drives Jacqui in her work and helped her grow alongside the Knox church community. Jacqui’s has retained her Grebel roots as she works toward a Conflict Management Certificate. 

Gordon Campbell is a lifelong contributor to the world of English literature with expertise in John Milton and the history of the Bible. Over the course of his career, he has accumulated numerous awards, been granted more than a dozen academic fellowships, been elected to the British Academy, and edited the 400th Anniversary Edition of the King James Bible upon which King Charles III swore his oath. He lived at Grebel in 1964, the first year of the College’s existence. His greatest fulfillment comes from his long-lasting marriage, three children, and six grandchildren. 

“The most fulfilling aspect of my career and personal life is experiencing God’s love and wisdom through his Son, Jesus Christ," said KyongJung Kim, a Mennonite pastor who serves at two churches and also works as a school bus driver for students with disabilities in the Waterloo Region. His spiritual awakening occurred after meeting Anabaptist Christians in Winnipeg from 1994 to 1997. Since then, he has continued his journey with Jesus and has remained committed to his faith no matter where life takes him.

Ralph Torrie has over 40 years working as an analyst, communicator, and advocate for sustainability. He has been involved with several organizations to help create a greener future. After connecting with a classmate during a Peace and Conflict Studies class at Conrad Grebel University College, Ralph continued to find innovative and creative means to handle the environmental crisis. His consulting firm, Torrie Smith Associates, developed software to help local governments, environmental groups and Indigenous organizations take strategic approaches to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. He was a candidate for the Green Party in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections. He lives with his partner Judy Smith in Cobourg, Ontario and has two grandsons who live nearby. 

“Holding space to have difficult conversations can be incredibly difficult,” said Samantha Coelho, an Advocacy and Networking Specialist at Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Canada. “But I think having these conversations can lead to more intimate and fulfilling relationships, allow us to build empathy, and remind us to have humility about the positions we hold.”  Supporting marginalized communities, working for justice, and exploring creative approaches to addressing world issues have become a regular part of Samantha’s life, but her introduction to advocacy, justice, and peacebuilding began a decade ago during her undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo and Conrad Grebel University College where she studied Arts and Business with a major in Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS).

Brother William is a Franciscan friar with more than 30 years of service to the order. He loves combining aspects of creativity into his work and uses music to uplift his spiritual talks while engaging participants to use artmaking as praying. He studied Urban Planning at the University of Waterloo before going on to study Landscape Architecture at Edinburgh University and Religion and the Arts at Yale Divinity School 

Lori Guenther Reesor has experience as an author, speaker, and fundraising coach. After a spiritually enlightening experience during a student co-op term in Egypt, Lori has explored what it means to be generous. She also has three years of pastoral experience, and is an active member of Hamilton Mennonite Church. Her book, Growing a Generous Church, is filled with stories of how people learned generosity. The Reesor family is well known in the Grebel community; Lori met her husband, Barry, at Grebel, and both their children, Emma and Peter, also lived at Grebel. Emma followed in her parents' footsteps and met her husband, Thomas, at Grebel. 

Hingman Leung is a strategist, problem solver, and storyteller. She has more than 14 years of strategic policy analysis and intercultural relationship expertise, and has produced multiple films that touch on a variety of themes, namely society's mistreatment of food-waste management, and promoting racial/gender diversity. Hingman graduated with a joint honours degree in Environmental Studies and Music and plays recreationally in a band.  

Ian Stokes-Rees is a partner at Boston Consulting Group and previously worked as an Engineering Manager at DecisionSoft, a Research Associate at Harvard Medical School, and a Computational Scientist and Product Manager at Anaconda Inc.. He studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Waterloo, and did his PhD in Computational Physics at the University of Oxford. Through living abroad in England, France, and Tokyo, Ian is an advocate for lifelong learning and is constantly striving to expand his cultural perspective and identity. He has recently taken up amateur radio and enjoys connecting with people around the world, but similarly continues to enjoy the peace and solitude of nature through hiking, canoeing, and cross-country skiing with his wife Emily, a fellow Grebel alum. 

Paul Okoye is a business strategy consultant with a strong desire for social justice work. He graduated with a Master of Theological Studies degree, later serving as a sessional instructor and teaching Peace and Conflict Studies at the undergraduate level, as well as working as a trainer in Grebel’s Conflict Management Certificate program. He is also a member of Kitchener’s Equity and Anti-Racism Team. Above all, Paul values quality time with his family; he enjoys exploring scenic landscapes with his wife and embarking on adventures with his two children and their dog, Tucker.  

Nadia L. Hohn is a creative writer, educator, and artivist promoting diversity within children’s literature. She is author of the children’s book "Malaika’s Costume" which was awarded the 2021 TD Grade One Book Giveaway. Nadia has presented across the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Trinidad, Jamaica, and United Arab Emirates. In 2024 and 2025, Nadia will release her tenth and eleventh books, Patty Dreams and Getting to Grandma’s House respectively.  When she’s not lost in a story or concocting a tasty vegetarian dish, she is likely spending time in music and the arts, visiting family or friends, or daydreaming about her next adventure. She lives in Toronto where she teaches at an elementary school and several post-secondary institutions.  

A picnic and ping pong enthusiast, Njo Kong Kie is also a collaborative pianist and a composer for dance, drama and music theatre. He gave nearly 600 performances during his 16-year tenure as Musical Director with the Montreal contemporary dance company, La La La Human Steps. At Grebel, Kong Kie played for the various choirs and really enjoyed all the square-dancing opportunities.

Wali Muhammad is a Learning and Developmental Specialist at POWER-tek and a DEI Trainer at DIVERSIO. He worked in Pakistan as a lecturer in psychology and a management consultant before receiving his Master of Peace and Conflict Studies degree at the University of Waterloo in 2014. Wali’s learning programs integrate the latest research and insights from extensive consulting across North America, the Middle East, South Asia, and China. He is fluent in four languages, has led over 200 strategy sessions, and volunteers with Community Justice Initiatives as a Sulah Mediator.

Dr. Shelley Bull is one of a small but growing community of research biostatisticians in Canada working at the interface of human genetics and statistics. Developing and using statistics to help solve some of the genetic puzzles linked to breast cancer and type 1 diabetes, Shelley looks at both the causes and outcomes of diseases that strike many Canadians. She is a member of a group of scientists working in statistical modelling and analysis in the Prosserman Centre for Population Health Research at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Sinai Health and is a faculty member at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at University of Toronto. She lives in Toronto with her husband, Wayne Carrick. 

Jane Ramseyer Miller graduated from the University of Waterloo in 1985 with a BA in Psychology. After working in community organizing for several years, Jane’s part-time music work began to grow and soon she was conducting three choirs.  In 1995, Jane began conducting One Voice Mixed Chorus, a 125-voice LGBTQ+ chorus in Minnesota. She received her master's degree in Choral Conducting in 2011. Today, Jane works for GALA Choruses as Artistic Director. In her free time, she is an avid biker and pickleball player. This past summer she walked around Lake Superior as part of Aat Hn Indigenous-led Water (Nibi) Walk.

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Linda Ruby graduated from the University of Waterloo in 1986 with a BA in English and Drama before attaining her Bachelor of Education from Western University in 1989. She worked as a secondary school teacher across various schools in the Waterloo and Ottawa District School Boards. In retirement, Linda enjoys spending more time with her husband at their cottage on Georgian Bay, participating in a film club, walking with friends, and spending time with their three young adult children, who live in Ottawa, Vancouver, and Waterloo. Two of their children, Laura and Aaron, also lived at Grebel while studying at UW. 

Patrick Quealey completed his BES (Hons. Coop), Peace and Conflict Studies minor with an International Studies option, at the University of Waterloo in 2002. Patrick went on to complete an MSc. in Environment and Economic Development at the London School of Economics in 2004. Patrick is currently the Deputy Director for Asia within the Bilateral Affairs Division at Natural Resources Canada and the Vice-President of his condo’s Board of Directors. Patrick is especially proud of his two boys Malcolm (14) and Kyran (13). Beyond parenting, Patrick’s biggest passion is travelling and has visited many countries across the world.

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Ruth Richardson Ragovin graduated from Grebel and the University of Waterloo in 1978 with a BA in Religious Studies and Health Studies before receiving her Master of Philosophy in 1982 and Ph.D. in Theological and Religious Studies in 1985 from Drew University. Following graduation, she was awarded a Fulbright fellowship. She spent years working both as a scholar and serving the church as an ordained minister. Ruth attributes much of her life’s work to a near-death experience she encountered at the age of 15, in Nepal, and the strong influence Conrad Grebel College had upon her.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

500 Friends - Kristin Reimer (BA 1998)

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Kristin Reimer graduated from the University of Waterloo in 1998 with a BA in Peace and Conflict Studies before attaining her Bachelor’s, Master's, and PhD in Education from the University of Ottawa. Today, she is married with a son, and uses her degrees to teach restorative justice, a movement she has been a part of since the ‘90s, at Monash University in Australia as a Senior Lecturer. Kristin is known in Grebel lore for her grand 10-year party where she hosted 500 people on her farm for a day of reunion and celebration.  

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Curwin Friesen graduated from the University of Waterloo with an honours degree in Economics under the International Trade Specialization program. He was the winner of the Governor General’s Silver Medal and also completed the General Management Program from Harvard Business School. A businessman at his core, Curwin has sought leadership positions in various organizations, namely Friesens Corporation where he led the company for two decades. Today, he is the President of Greenvalley Equipment in Manitoba, and sits on the board of several companies in industries spanning from insurance to software.  

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Kaylee Perez is a passionate refugee advocate who holds a Master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies and has worked in the settlement sector since 2013. Add being raised in a Cuban-Colombian-Palestinian family in Canada, and you learn what has fueled her dedication to peace work both locally and abroad. Kaylee currently serves as the National Migration and Resettlement Operations Coordinator with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Darren graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in Religious and Mennonite Studies. He returned in 2013 to pursue the MPACS program. Today, Darren enjoys riding a bike with his family, and is the Manager of Active Transportation and Development with the City of Kitchener.

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Candace Bustard graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2020 with a BA in Joint Honours Biology and Music with a Music Intensive Specialization and a minor in Medical Physiology. A musician at her core, she went on to pursue a Master’s in Music Composition from the University of Ottawa, studying with Dr. Kelly-Marie Murphy, and is currently in a Doctorate of Music, Composition program at the University of Toronto, working with Gary Kulesha. An accomplished musician, Candace won first place in Jâca’s Emerging Composer Competition with her piece, Melodies from my Mother. She recently received an honourable mention in the Grand Philharmonic Composer Competition for her poignant piece, It’s All Love

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Brian graduated with a degree in Environmental Science in 1990, and in Architecture in 1993. Since then, he has spent his career focusing on cultural and community-based projects, including the Canadian War Museum, Waterloo Regional Museum, Union Museum in Dubai, and of course, Grebel’s kitchen and dining hall. Alongside architecture, Brian is a musician and leader of the band, Brian Rudy + The Architects.

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Rudy and Beverly Neufeld met during their undergraduate studies at Grebel and married in the winter of 1968. Both enjoyed long, illustrious careers as teachers spanning over three decades before founding Neufeld Learning Systems - home to the Understanding Math software. For the last 20 years, the Neufelds have been traveling the world to grow and develop their business. 

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Doris Jantzi was a Senior Research Associate at the Center for Leadership Development, OISE/University of Toronto. She specialized in leadership, policy analysis, and quantitative data analysis. Today, Doris enjoys living in downtown Toronto where she pursues opportunities to experience art and even nature. Doris and Alvin ”feed their soul” at the Ontario Art Gallery and the Royal Ontario Museum – appreciated especially by Al as a retired history teacher. Queen’s Park is close to their home and Doris noted the many magnificent trees that provide a lovely canopy. 

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Kenny Hildebrand graduated from the Peace and Conflict Studies program at the University of Waterloo in 2015 and now lives in New York City. Since 2020, Kenny has worked as an Associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. In his free time, Kenny enjoys traveling, baking, comedy shows, trivia nights, golfing, board games, and spending time with his friends at his local dive bar.

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Katie Gingerich graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Peace and Conflict Studies and Religious Studies, and she completed a Master of Education from Wilfrid Laurier University. Today, she is a skilled facilitator, mediator and designer, working as a Manager of National Program Operations at Shad Canada.  

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Greg Culp graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2006 with a degree in Fine Arts. He now lives in Burbank, California with his wife Andrea and three daughters. Since 2012, Greg has worked at Disney Animation Studios in Cinematography Lighting. In his free time, Greg enjoys plein-air digital painting and sketching, photography, and taking the family to Disneyland or to Malibu for a beach day. 

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Devon Spier is a 2012 PACS and Religious Studies graduate from the University of Waterloo, a bestselling author, theologian, and rabbi-to-be. They currently teach students to write their own theology through poems, prose, and digital images. A recipient of peacebuilding awards from YMCA and Interfaith Grand River, they were recently honoured by the Ontario Government with a "Leading Women, Building Communities" award. Devon's poetry books are currently used in religious communities and academic courses taught in Asia, Europe, and North America.

Brad is a member of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in Saskatchewan and a survivor of the Sixties Scoop. In his distinguished career as a lawyer spanning more than 25 years, he was part of the legal team that successfully defended a challenge to a First Nation’s tax laws under the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, is a Partner for Maurice Law in Winnipeg, and is the first Indigenous lawyer to hold office as President of the Canadian Bar Association. Brad is also the Chair of the Indigenous Advisory Group for United College at the University of Waterloo and was recently appointed King’s Counsel by the Province of Manitoba.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Island Living - Ron Tiessen (BA 1969)

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Ron Tiessen has lived for 44 years on Pelee island where he has farmed and led a variety of community initiatives, like the Heritage Centre. He and his wife Kathryn, also a retired teacher and native of Pelee Island, raised 3 boys there.  

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Steph Chandler Burns (they/them) graduated from the University of Waterloo in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Social Development Studies and minoring in Peace and Conflict Studies. After working in medical records keeping for a few years following graduation, Steph returned to Grebel for a Master of Theological Studies degree in 2015. During Masters studies, Steph began exploring Queer Theology, looking at the intersections between queer identity and faith. Steph has a number of publications and presentations exploring the topics of Anabaptist faith, queer identity and the nature of God. They have worked at the intersections of faith and marginal identity since graduation in 2017, working with people on parole, in congregational ministry, and most recently with Pastors in Exile, an affirming, community-based ministry with young adults in Waterloo Region. Steph enjoys conversations about God, faith, meaning and activism. They also enjoy collecting tattoos, and are particularly proud of their Grebel stained-glass-inspired quarter sleeve. They live in Kitchener with their spouse, Greg, cat, Lulu, and over 200 board games. 

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Paul Born is the co-founder of the Tamarack Institute and for 20 years was the CEO/Co-CEO. An author of five books, he is also the co- founder of Vibrant Communities Canada. Paul is semi-retired and continues as a coach and trainer providing practical support to communities and organizations interested in achieving large-scale change. Paul is married to Marlene Epp and they have two sons, Lucas and Michael, and Daughter in laws, Betty and Laura. In his leisure time, Paul loves to volunteer in his community, cook Paella for large groups, visit with friends and go for long walks. He wishes he was a better golfer and plans to join the pickle ball craze. He is a member at Rockway Mennonite Church.

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Hannah Redekop lived at Grebel from 2007-2010 and graduated from the Global Studies and Spanish Language and Literature programs at Wilfrid Laurier University in 2011. In 2013, she started full-time accompaniment and human rights documentation work with Community Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Colombia. Hannah celebrated her 10th anniversary with CPT in 2023, working as a Communications Associate. She lives in Amman, Jordan with her partner Alaeddin Rahmeh. Together they founded Underground Amman, an arts and culture initiative that seeks to support and develop the hip hop and street art cultures in Amman through community-building events, activities, and jams, as well as a street art and graffiti walking tour. 

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Mark Bender graduated from the Master of Mathematics program at the University of Waterloo in 1965 and completed further studies at Uppsala University. He now lives with his wife, Elsa, in Norrköping, Sweden. Mark retired from a long and fulfilling teaching career in Math and Physics in 2008. During his days as a retiree, Mark enjoys spending time with Elsa and his grandchildren, singing in Norrköping’s Chamber Choir, and exploring Sweden’s great outdoors.

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Max lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario with his partner Amy and their two dogs. Since 2021, Max has worked as director of Pandora Press. He is also a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Social Accountability at NOSM University. Max is working on a trilogy of books on social critique including Postsecular History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022), Ontologies of Violence (Brill, 2023), and Critique of Conspiracism (Routledge, under contract). In his spare time, Max enjoys a good cup of coffee with an interesting book, walking his dogs in the forest, and getting out on the water during the sailboat racing season. 

Grebel's 60 Stories Project | Savio Wong graduated from the University of Waterloo in 1984 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. After graduation, he obtained his B.Ed. degree from the University of Western Ontario and embarked on a fulfilling teaching career at Waterloo-Oxford District Secondary School in Baden, where he taught for 32 years until his retirement. During the first half of his teaching career, Savio taught both Computer Science and Mathematics, and in the latter half, he transitioned to becoming a full-time Teacher-Librarian. In his retirement, he continues to indulge in his two passions: books and travel.