Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, ON, Canada, N2L 3G6
Grebel is Golden! 50 years ago, when Mennonites accepted the invitation to build a Christian liberal arts college ‘across the creek’ from the fledgling engineering school, the University of Waterloo, they were making a profound statement: we can deliver quality Arts education to a public, research-intensive university; and we can pioneer a unique hybrid model of Mennonite higher education in all of North America! Southern Ontario with its vibrant Mennonite presence and the province’s strong support to fund superior education is just the place to do it!~ Susan Schultz Huxman,President
For 50 years, Conrad Grebel has lived out its distinctive mission “to seek wisdom, nurture faith and pursue justice and peace in service to church and society.” In its situated “best of both worlds” place, Grebel faculty and students contribute to and take full advantage of all the opportunities of Canada’s most innovative university, while at the same time experience all the values of living and learning in an Anabaptist-inspired liberal arts college committed to community building, active peacemaking and compassionate service—cornerstones of our Mennonite heritage. It remains the only Mennonite private-public educational partnership of its kind in North America.
In the beginning, a handful of visionary leaders from 4 Mennonite groups broke ground on a barren, sandy field at 140 Westmount Road. In an act of prophetic boldness, the early innovators called the College’s first president from the prairies of Kansas. J. Winfield Fretz was a professor for 20 years at Bethel College, the oldest Mennonite College in North America. When Fretz arrived in Waterloo in the spring of 1963, he hit the ground running with a new look (his trademark bow ties), a new discipline (sociology) and, an innovative mindset (within a year he had co-founded the Mennonite Credit Union and before his first term ended ushered in the Mennonite Relief sale).
President Fretz started Community Supper, a mid-week, home-cooked style meal that brought faculty, staff and students together around round tables in the dining room. This year we spent $8,600 replacing those round table tops! We also raised $7,242 at a Fretz Bow-Tie Gala for a Fretz Seminar Room in the Mennonite Savings and Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement.
Over the course of half a century, this innovative experiment in higher education has yielded significant growth. In the fall of 1963, Grebel offered 2 classes: “The Left Wing of the Reformation” and “The Sociology of the Family.” There were 38 students and 2 faculty, which included the College president. Today, Grebel has 3,764 enrolments, (down from a high of 4,200 in 2012) in 130 courses annually in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Waterloo. Over 330 students associate with Grebel student services and residence life. Grebel now boasts two graduate programs, 14 full time faculty, 33 part time faculty and 38 staff. The initial building campaign goal was set at $250,000 in 1963 with $240,411 raised by 1967. The final building cost was $770,000. The balance was carried by a mortgage that was paid off 40 years later. The fifth capital campaign (our current “Next Chapter Campaign”) cost just shy of $9 million and we have already raised $6.3 million to pay for it! This year marks the 17th year in a row that the College has balanced its budget.
50 Events to Celebrate 50 Years!
2013-2014 was a whirlwind year at Grebel. We celebrated in grand (yet modest Mennonite) style by hosting 50 special events to celebrate 50 years. No one will accuse us of wasting a milestone anniversary!
We began in late August of 2013 with the first dozen of 50 events in a 50th Anniversary Weekend Celebration. The very first event was a book launch in the Chapel by Grebel’s 5th president: John E. Toews now residing in California for his new book entitled: The Story of Original Sin. We followed that with the release of the 50th anniversary book of Conrad Grebel: Bridging Mind & Spirit: Conrad Grebel University College, 1963 to 2013 by faculty member Marlene Epp, with archival and graphic assistance from Grebel staff Laureen Harder-Gissing and Jen Konkle. We observed a Date Stone Ceremony for our new academic expansion project, greatly enjoyed a fundraising “Fretz Bow Tie Gala” in honour of the first president of Grebel, and hosted alumni reunions from each of the five decades complete with slide shows, yearbooks, and superb storytelling. Silent auctions of all things Grebel--baked goods, music, art work, etc.-- and lots of fun activities for kids rounded out a full Saturday. An awesome talent show that night featured no less than 18 musical acts from all 5 decades!
At the Sunday Celebration Service, 5 Grebel alums, Gordon Campbell, Victor Winter, Louise Wideman, Marcus Shantz and Jessica Reesor Rempel represented their decade with stories and memories about the value of Grebel in their lives. An alumni “Mass Chapel Choir” under the direction of Len Enns struck a worshipful and inspirational tone. Members of the 50th Anniversary Planning Committee and many Grebel staff coordinated by Fred Martin’s Development/Communication Department deserve special commendation. Jen Konkle, for instance, Grebel’s Communication Coordinator, “went into overdrive” with daily good cheer that lasted for the next 11 months!
In all, over 600 people registered for the weekend, including some alums from as far away as England and California. Dozens of volunteers in blue shirts: students, alumni, board members and staff, made events accessible, inviting, efficient and fun!
Other Fall Term 50th special event highlights included the International Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA) Conference, the War Requiem musical extravaganza, the All-College Alumni Train Ride to St. Jacobs, a 50th Anniversary Reception for the UW community, and alumni events in Toronto and Ottawa. The “Celebration in Song” and world premier of a piece based on Psalm 150 and composed by Tim Corlis, commissioned by Grebel, featuring the Chamber Choir, Chapel Choir and University Choir was the term’s crowning achievement. This event, held at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on November 30, showcased the individual identities of our 3 choirs and our 3 conductors (Ken Hull, Mark Vuorinen and Gerard Yun) exceptionally well.
Winter Term 50th special spotlight events included the sold out Bruce Cockburn concert in the UW Humanities Theatre in February. We made money on this event too!
We awarded Grebel’s first Honorary Doctorate of Divinity to John Paul Lederach of the University of Notre Dame at our Convocation Ceremonies in April. Dr. Lederach is internationally recognized for his groundbreaking work in peace and justice from a Mennonite perspective. We launched our first concert/exhibit involving the newly opened Grebel Gallery in the MSCU Centre for Peace Advancement in early May. An Austrian duo performed commissioned classical pieces that supported our inaugural Grebel Gallery exhibit: the story of Bertha Von Sutter, the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The Austrian Ambassador, Arno Riedel, came to this special program and brought greetings.
Eleven months later in Spring Term, we “closed the book” on our anniversary year with 2 significant events in June: the dedication of our beautiful, functional and on-budget Academic Expansion Building project (well over 400 people enjoyed our Open House and building tours of all 4 storeys) and the 10th Lebold Endowment Banquet—a fundraiser co-sponsored by Grebel and MCEC which honours the legacy of the 3rd President, Ralph Lebold. This well established fundraiser supports the deep connections between the church and college, between quality pastoral training and forming and equipping strong leaders for the Mennonite Church. This year we received a generous $250,000 gift from MCEC and the Harold and Enid Schmidt Estate to support theological education at Grebel, bringing the Lebold Endowment to over $1 million.
Recruits, Retirements, Recognitions
Grebel remained in major hiring mode this year (8 hires in past 3 years). We were so fortunate to attract three outstanding academics: Dr. Trevor Bechtel was hired as dean of the College. He is an associate professor of Religion with strong leadership experience at Bluffton College in Ohio and Loyola University in Chicago. Dr. Tim Corlis was hired as assistant professor of Music. He is already an accomplished composer and respected music theory teacher. Previously, he was a lecturer at Canadian Mennonite University. Dr. Paul Heidebrecht was hired as the first director of the MSCU Centre for Peace Advancement. He will also be teaching some courses in both the MPACS and MTS programs. Previously, he served as director of MCC Canada in Ottawa. All 3 hires were students at Conrad Grebel and the University of Waterloo!
Grebel said goodbye to 2 outstanding academics who retired: Dean Jim Pankratz and Music Professor, Carol Ann Weaver. On May 16, nearly 150 people from the Grebel community toasted (and roasted) Jim Pankratz, our dean for 8.5 years. Before coming to Grebel, Jim served for 28 years at 3 other institutions as dean or president. That experience proved to be enormously valuable in helping the College navigate so much change! In the 3 years of my presidency, Jim has led the search committees that brought us 6 replacement hires in 3 years. Further, in his tenure here, he led Grebel’s Theological Studies program into a full conjoint degree partnership with University of Waterloo and supported 4 major program reviews. I am particularly grateful for his kindness, generosity, wise counsel and support for women in leadership positions. Professor Weaver has spent 29 years at Grebel as an accomplished music theorist, composer, performer, and artistic director of Sound in the Land. On June 9, a full house of colleagues, family, friends, students, and international guests from the Sound in the Land conference paid tribute to her creativity, courage, and community-building with heart-warming (and often hilarious) tales of her travels and performance prowess!
Dr. Jeremy Bergen was promoted to associate professor of Religious Studies and Theological Studies and was appointed to direct the Masters in Theological Studies (MTS) program (an administrative role previously held by Jim Pankratz). Dr. Mark Vourinen - Choral Music, Dr. Alicia Batten - New Testament, and Dr. Maisie Sum - Global Music, completed their first year fully immersed and contributing eagerly in this our anniversary year. Dr. Derek Suderman, Old Testament, and Lowell Ewert, Director of PACS, were on sabbatical for parts of the academic year.
We recognized 5 people for milestone years of service at Grebel: Archivist, Laureen Harder-Gissing – 5 years; Associate Professor of PACS, Nathan Funk, and Kitchen staff, Millie Vargas—10 years; Chaplain Ed Janzen and Custodian Marinko Franjic—15 years.
In other important recognitions, we graduated the first cohort of our new graduate program at Grebel—Master of Peace and Conflict Studies (MPACS.) These 11 students in MPACS walked across the stage, joining 10 Master of Theological Studies (MTS) students and 100 undergraduates in Grebel’s special convocation ceremony.
Grebel students won awards and provided leadership in all kinds of ways. Here’s a sampling: Jacob Winter, 2nd year International Development, won the bi-national C. Henry Smith Oratorical Peace Competition with his speech entitled: “What’s your problem?” This speech contest is between student winners of all the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ universities and colleges across Canada and the USA. Next year’s Grebel contestant will be Brendan Coady, 3rd year Mechanical Engineering, who won the inter-Grebel Peace Oratory Contest this past Winter Term with a speech entitled: “Peace through Butter.” Kim Penner (MTS ’11) was awarded the A. James Reimer Award at Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre (TMTC.) Kim is a ThD student at Emmanuel College at the Toronto School of Theology. MPACS student, Shinjita Alam and PACS Certificate program student, Marg Van Herk-Paradis were recipients of the Rotary Peace Scholarship Awards—a new initiative made possible by the Kitchener-Waterloo Rotary Clubs. Timothy Souza, PACS student, took leadership in developing a student-chapter of Rotary—called Rotoract—a joint venture between all of the colleges: Grebel, St. Jerome’s, Renison, and St. Paul’s. Ian Reed, Grebel 3rd year Associate, organized 10 students each month to purchase groceries, prepare and serve hot meals to 250 people at Ray of Hope—a Christian organization in Kitchener that serves the homeless and other people in need. A large group of students, 30 in all, embarked on Service Learning Trips during Reading Week.—half to Stanton Island New York with MDS; half to St. Catharines to help at a women’s shelter. Tamara Shantz, program coordinator in Student Services, assisted our students.
Ernie Regehr, (’68) co-founder of Project Ploughshares and Officer of the Order of Canada, received the UW Faculty of Arts Alumni Achievement Award. At a special lecture and reception on March 26, Ernie spoke on: “Limits to Force: Why contemporary wars are rarely won.” The Great Hall was filled to capacity.
We received an estate gift from Helen `Liz’ Lane, one of the oldest students at Grebel in the 80’s (she began her degree at age 70) to support Music and Travel Education at Grebel. She had often said that the highlight of her university experience was a Music and Culture travel education course in Vienna taught by then Grebel music professor, Bill Maust. What a difference faculty make in the lives of our students. Professor Maust passed away this summer after a long battle with cancer. He is remembered by hundreds of students, colleagues, and friends as an exceptional teacher and administrator during his 20 years of service to Grebel.
Finally, special recognition goes to our donors (friends, alums, parents, faculty, staff and students). Many gave both to Capital and Annual Fund this year! The Next Chapter Campaign brought in $6.3 million dollars from 1, 204 donors. Many of you reading this column contributed to our campaign this year and in prior years. Thank you so very much! There is an exceptional culture of giving that has been cultivated at Grebel in so many people since the College’s founding. You are part of an inspiring story we are creating together to support and honour Grebel’s special sense of place and mission! Many of you said to us in sending gifts, “Grebel matters! Its people and programs have been so formative to my family, my friends, my community, my church. May it continue to expand and flourish.” Your names—all 1,204 of you—are on a temporary thank you wall in the Atrium. Visit us!
Building Project and Strategic Planning
In 2013-2014, we placed another cornerstone on the campus. The “Next Chapter Campaign” for Academic Building Expansion is a multi-purpose, 4-storey renovation and addition to the College. Our construction partners, Nith Valley Construction and Architecture Incorporated, provided the grand plan and worked tirelessly with Paul Penner, Director of Operations, and over 50 trades and 300 workers to deliver a beautiful, functional and invitational new space! We were thrilled to have 5 committees related to the building project—composed of faculty, staff, students, board, alumni, and community supporters—54 people in total who gave leadership and energy and behind the scenes attention to a staggering number of details. We owe a great deal of thanks to Paul Penner who represented Grebel’s interests in all phases of the construction process on top of his regular Operations and Human Resource supervisory roles. Above all, the College is indebted to a Grebel Board of Governors for setting the course, aligning the priorities, authorizing and overseeing the budget, and always asking the really good questions.
We broke ground in March of 2012 having surpassed our bare minimum fundraising goal ($3.7 million). In August 2013, we laid a new cornerstone at our kick-off 50th anniversary celebrations. On June 22, 2014, we dedicated the building and were thrilled to report over $6.3 million raised from many supporters and alums near and far who are equally passionate about Grebel’s special mission to “serve church and society.” Director of Development, Fred W. Martin, was the fundraising “architect” of this impressive outpouring of giving.
This capital project for mission-centered program enhancement ---all 25,000 square feet of it--- expands and enriches Grebel’s academic partnership with the University of Waterloo. Taken together, the building’s major upgrades, including the welcoming front entrance, give us the capacity to enrich our mission, elevate our people, and engage a growing constituency.
The Next Chapter Campaign honoured the legacy of many Grebel supporters and leaders with named spaces, including 3 Grebel Presidents: The Henry Paetkau Seminar Room, The Frank and Helen Epp Peace Incubator, and The Winfield Fretz Seminar Room. Campaign supporters also recognized the College’s first Board of Governors chair, Milton Good, with the Milton Good Library.
We also spent the 2013-2014 year looking ahead to developing a new strategic plan for the College. The “old” one expires with all goals completed in 2015. In the Fall, we completed “stage 1”: collecting background research from faculty, staff, students, board, alumni, external reviews of various programs, and examining the new University of Waterloo strategic plan. In the Winter, we moved to “stage 2”: hiring Blue Leap Consulting Inc. to work with the Board on distilling priorities and options. Summer and Fall of 2014 will be spent in many College conversations that will move us to finalize a compelling plan that will take Grebel from 2015-2020.
In this our half-century anniversary year, we celebrated “the next chapter” of Conrad Grebel. The campaign has been built upon the familiar hymn of promise: “In the bulb there is a flower…. From our past will come our future.” Indeed, we took sustenance in the firm foundation of our half century past to secure a glorious future centennial!
Susan Schultz Huxman, President
Greetings friends of Grebel. It has been another exciting year for Conrad Grebel here on the campus of the University of Waterloo. We celebrated our 50th Anniversary with over 50 events both celebrating our past, our present, and looking toward the future.
The minutes of the first Board meeting highlight issues that are still discussed today. Various conferences of Mennonites were represented around the table to discuss their possible role. There is also a note in the minutes about the role of the executive secretary-treasurer being important as he would have to handle the negotiations with the University. We are a church college and so we serve the church. At the same time, Grebel was created to add value to the University. Today, Grebel is still in constant negotiations with the University.
On June 22, we celebrated the Grand opening of the expansion of the academic programs including the MSCU Center for Peace Advancement. It was a great event marking the tremendous generosity of our Grebel supporters. The new space will provide opportunities to continue our work in peace, music and community engagement.
In the past few years we have said goodbye to many long term faculty and staff. In this past year, Professor Carol Ann Weaver retired after 29 years of service in the Music department, and Jim Pankratz retired as the dean of the College. We have hired Tim Corlis and Trevor Bechtel as their widely endorsed replacements.
With the new space and the new people on staff, we have great energy to fulfill our mission “to seek wisdom, nurture faith and pursue justice and peace in church and society.” As a Board , we have begun the process of formulating our next five year strategic plan (2015-2012). It is our task to set out the future plan for Grebel and determine how the College interacts with both Church and University. We had two long-term board members, Byron Weber Becker and Wendy Cressman Zehr completed their valuable service to the Board of Governors.
Fred Redekop, Board of Governors Chair
Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, ON, Canada, N2L 3G6