Celebrating Mary's Retirement

Mary Brubaker-Zehr has served as Director of Student Services at Grebel for 26 years. Since 1996, her primary responsibility has been oversight and administration of the residential program. She has worked tirelessly with students to create a person-oriented community where high value is placed on respect, inclusion, honesty, interdependence, responsibility, and engagement.  

Picture of MaryBefore she became a pillar in Grebel’s administrative team, Mary was first a student at Grebel, where she attained an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Recreation and minor in Music from the University of Waterloo in 1985. Mary considers her choice to make Grebel home was one of her best life decisions. She lived in residence for three years, was a first-year rep on Student Council, was a residence don, and joined the Chapel Committee. She also met her husband Scott at Grebel, and they went on to have three children who also all lived at Grebel. 

Mary worked in the field of recreation therapy for two years before beginning her Master of Divinity studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. Prior to her arrival at Grebel in 1996, Mary was a pastoral intern for a year in a multicultural Mennonite church in Chicago, after which she worked for the Colombian Mennonite Church in Bogota, Colombia for about four years. Mary received a Master of Social Work degree from Wilfrid Laurier University in 2005 and has clinical and administrative training through this program. 

As Mary heads into retirement, we want to celebrate this significant milestone. We invite you to send in a congratulatory message, blessing, or memory. We also invite you to consider a gift in Mary’s honour. The Brubaker-Zehr family has donated funds to establish an endowment to provide an Annual Award to a returning student who exhibits the Spirit of Grebel. Additional donations in honour of Mary's retirement are most welcome.


Tributes, Messages, and Blessings

"Wishing you all the best in your well deserved retirement Mary! Your genuine and caring self has been a tremendous gift to the Grebel community."

Natasha Martin-Weber

"Thanks so much, Mary, for your indelible impact on Grebel's community!"

- Richard Cunningham

"Mary was a delight to work with as a student, don, and larger leadership team member. I recall getting to know her early on during a pre-orientation open day, late in the afternoon well after her formal duties were done - just being present to get to know the current and future students better. Best wishes Mary on your future endeavours and ventures."

- Robert & Claire Pringle 

"Happy Retirement, Mary! 26 years at Grebel is a BIG deal! One of my favourite Mary-isms is: "Moderation is cool!" It is simple expression, yet speaks volumes to who you are as a leader: wise, self-aware, creative and relevant with students! Thank you for always having an open door and providing a safe to laugh, to cry, and to be vulnerable. Big hugs to you!"

Hannah Hill

"Thank you for always being a smiling face and a pleasant "good morning", "good day" or "good night" for all of us "kids" living at Grebel. Thanks as well for putting up with all the noise we made in the lounge next to your office... it must have made it nearly impossible to get any work done! All the best in your retirement. You deserve it!"

Brittany Hicks

"Congratulations Mary! Thank you for always being so warm and welcoming <3. You went out of your way to make others feel more included and you were always a wonderful, outgoing, motherly figure. I really appreciated when you sat down to eat with us at the lunch table in the dining hall one time and initiated a lovely conversation with us; I was still getting used to Grebel and that was a heartwarming gesture. I will greatly miss you, I wish you best of luck in your next chapter of life :))"

Angelica Lee

"Congratulations Mary! I'll miss seeing you around - but maybe I'll see you at the Gym!"

Karen Sunabacka 

"Thank you for your many years of commitment and guidance for students at Grebel. I am thankful that I was able to live in this community during your time here. You will be missed!"

Joycelin VC 

"Thank you so much for showering Grebel students with care and support over the years, Mary! It was a true privilege to learn from you. I will always look back fondly on the conversations we had and the memories we made while I was an undergraduate student - here's hoping for more opportunities to connect in the future! All the best as you transition to this next well-deserved chapter. :)"

Mykayla Turner

"What a wonderful legacy you will leave at Grebel, Mary! In the short time we have known you, you have gained our respect and admiration for the way you work so tirelessly to not only meet the needs of students during their time in residence, but to encourage their growth in every way possible. Your approachability, warmth, sense of humour and dedication to the students have been so appreciated by Alana and Amy over these past two years. We feel very blessed that our girls were fortunate enough to learn from and be supported by you. Wishing you a wonderful retirement and have fun exploring all the things God has in store for you on this exciting new stage in your journey!"

- Shannon & Greg Matsuo

"Mary, I remember your call for the residence interview. The questions about current events, faith and community were unexpected and made me excited for being part of the residence. The community aspect of Grebel was so wonderful to me. I know you were a big part in creating that atmosphere. I encouraged my nephew, Matthew Pollex, to go to Grebel, and he met his wife, Rachel Wu."

Ruth Pollex

"Feel so blessed that Amy and Olivia had you on their team, Mary, as they took their first steps living away from home. Wishing you peace and rest and adventure and good health in your next chapters." 

Laura & Bob McClelland 

"Congratulations on your retirement Mary! You are a great asset to Conrad Grebel. I wish you all the best!"

Mark Heinmiller

"Congratulations on your well deserved retirement."

Joyce & Vern Gingrich

"Mary, I hope you continue to grow into retirement with the same verve. Blessings"

Steve Manske

"Warmest congratulations on your retirement Mary. Wishing you all the best on your upcoming adventures. Thanks for being a great colleague and for all you do to make Grebel a special community."

- Troy Osborne

"Congratulations on retirement Mary! Thank you for the years of loving dedication to making Grebel home for so many students, staff and everyone else who passes through. I'm so grateful for my experience at Grebel which you shaped in so many ways. I wish you all the best in retirement! It was fun to finish together!"

Adam Neufeld

Adam Neufeld with Mary BZ and other standing outside at night

"I was a student representative on the team that interviewed Mary, and soon after was on the Don team working with her. She was a wise, kind, and comfortable presence from the start! Congratulations and blessings on your well-deserved retirement, Mary!"

Janine (Wideman) Odreman

"When I attended my residence interview I was interviewed by Mary. The first thing anyone noticed about her was that she was a mom first - her warm and loving attitude wrapped her down-to-earth demeanour. She was impossible not to love. Mary kept an invisible spirit of Grebel alive within the walls of the college - almost every aspect of life there was influecned by her in some way (some of us even used to joke she had ears everywhere and microphones in the salt shakers!). It will be hard to imagine a Grebel without her influence. May you have many blessed years, Mary!"

- Matthew Chase

"Congratulations Mary on your retirement! What a moment to celebrate! Thank you for being such an incredible support during my time at Grebel. Sending lots of love as you kick off this next chapter. :)"

- Anneke Pries-Klassen 

"As a student who was deeply involved in the community at Conrad Grebel for 5 years, I got to see firsthand over and over again how deeply you care about students and treat every interaction with them as an opportunity to truly listen and engage. This is a pretty remarkable thing considering how many students you got to know over the years! You are not only clearly so good at your job but you've made an impact on countless students’ lives, including my own. You leave behind a wonderful legacy; I hope your retirement is full of equal measure of rest and continued adventure."

Nathan Henderson

"Congratulations Mary! During my time at Grebel I gained a new confidence in myself and made life long friendships. I know this is due to your leadership, kindness, and the encouraging conversations we shared. I am so grateful! I wish you peace during this transition and many blessings in retirement."

Claire Vander Hoek

"Thank you for being a gift to the Grebel community over the years. Learning about and observing your impeccable leadership with students services is very inspiring. It is a job well done. May you find greater joy as you rest and contemplate during retirement."

- Ndagire Brendah

Ndagire and Mary walking in a forest

"Congratulations on your retirement Mary!! Thank you so much for all the hard work, love, care, and dedication you have given to the Grebel community over the years. Best wishes in your retirement, thank you for helping to shape such a wonderful community of staff and students at Grebel :)"

Nathan Diller Harder 

"Thank you Mary, you've helped myself and so many other Grebelites through tough times. I really appreciate your big heart, kindness, and openness. You will be missed very much here at Grebel!"

Nat Smolcic 

"Gratitude and Blessings for your inspired leadership at Grebel. Much satisfaction and deep joy as you reflect on the impact you've had on so many lives. Patience and peace for the transitions and next chapters."

Gudrun & Ron Mathies 

"Dear Mary, My time at Grebel curated some of my closest friendships and heartfelt memories. I am confident in the fact that your guidance and leadership as Director of Student Services played a significant part in shaping my Grebel experience into the incredible one it was. Wishing you a very happy retirement. And, of course, "please stack your dishes"."

Nico Werschler

"Your gracious presence has been, for many people, an embodiment of the spirit of the community of Grebel. It will be hard to imagine the place without you. Congratulations on your retirement! I was really hoping to have you there long enough to welcome my children ;)"


"Congratulations Mary B-Z! You have been such a foundational part of the Grebel experience for so many of us. I am thankful for your kindness and words of advice, and especially for the midnight rides home from student council."

Melissa Murchison

"Thank you Mary for all the motherly love that you gave me. I will always cherish the memories, and looking forward to meeting you again. Congratulations and take care!"

Aradhna Karwal

"I lived at Grebel and in the apartments in my first few years of undergrad, beginning in 2003. I got to know Mary through involvement in FOC and student council. She was such a delight to talk to and work with. She was always positive, provided wise guidance, and cared very much about the students. Congratulations on your retirement Mary!"

Kyle Gossen 

"Congratulations on your retirement Mary! You are so loving and present for all those around you and you have played a huge role in making Grebel what it is. You really helped Grebel feel like home to me and it was always a pleasure working with you! Best of luck with your new threshold, and I look forward to seeing you around and staying in touch :)"

Issac Painting

"What a thrill it was to welcome you in to the Grebel community as a first year student at Waterloo back in the early 80s and then watch from afar as you devoted a significant chunk of your life to keeping the community thriving. I am so proud of you and know you will have mighty adventures in the years to come. Your sister, Nancy."

Nancy Brubaker

"Hi Mary! You've played such an central role in Grebel for so long, that many of us can't imagine it without you! You have such a kind and loving nature, caring for each of us in our home away from home. I always appreciated how you remember about and ask about people in my family back home. Thank you for everything you do and how you've helped to make Grebel the community that it is. Missing you lots already!"

Kathryn Wu

"Congratulations on your retirement, Mary! Thank-you for being such a caring, supportive presence at Grebel over so many years. I was grateful for your encouragement many times, and for a car ride to an x-ray once! Haha. May God bless you and may you feel His presence more and more each day, and I hope you enjoy this next chapter of your life! :)"

- Elizabeth Ibrahim

"Mary!!! You are someone who has the profound capability of seeing the strengths and gifts of each person. Your ability to see mine and encourage and foster my growth has been incredible impactful on my sense of self and confidence in life. I am so truly grateful for finding myself at Grebel and under your care and leadership. You’re support at Grebel and since has been incredible"

- Sage Streight

"Mary, many hours of my own formation as a leader were spent in your office, on the don team and student council. Thank you for the space you held for us and the laughs you shared with us. May your retirement be blessed with peace and wonder!"

Alissa Bender

Alissa Bender and friends

"Mary, wishing you all the best in your well deserved retirement. I hope it is fillled with time for family and finding whatever new adventures you embark on."

Matthew Lindsay

"Your unfailing kindness and willingness to engage with me and fellow students is a huge part of the welcoming nature we all love about Grebel. Thank you for your long-time dedication to all of us"

Sebastian Lingertat

"It was truly an honour to work with you this year. You provided a refuge in times of stress and chaos. Thank you for your kindness, compassion, and understanding. I wish you all the best as you move on to future adventures!"

Alana Matsuo

"Mary was the one interviewed me for Grebel residence appication. I can not thank her enough for introducing me to this amazing community!"

Henry Hung

"All the very best for your retirement, Mary. No doubt you will have many new adventures. You will be greatly missed at Grebel."

Alicia Batten

"Mary was the first person I met at Grebel, for a very early interview. Interestingly I can't picture Mary without a smile. Always very approachable. Grebel was richer for having you there."

Mathieu Cain

"Mary, thank you for being a great leader and mentor to myself and many others at Grebel. All the best in your retirement!"

Peter Groot 

"It has been a great joy that our paths have crossed many times. First as students in residence, then as I served on the Grebel Board for many years, and again as both of our children became students in residence. Enjoy your well deserved retirement!"

Dawn (Sovereign) Regier

"I was a first year resident at Grebel in 1997 and then a Don. Thanks to Mary, I felt welcomed, safe, heard and stimulated. She is a caring leader who makes people want to be the best version of themselves each day. I am grateful to have had your positive influence in in my life at such an important time. Thank you Mary!"

Mary Ann Collishaw

"All the best in retirement, Mary! You have been such a stable, caring presence in your leadership of the Grebel residence over the past 26 years. I know my life was greatly impacted by living in residence at Grebel - and that I benefitted from the culture that you gave leadership to. Also grateful for my time in Student Services - you were a pleasure to work with! Wishing you much rest, joy & purpose for you & Scott as you enter into this new season!"

Chris Brnjas

"Mary, thank for the many positive memories you provided me during my time at CGUC. All the best in your retirement! :)"

Matthew Cunnington 

"Congratulations - its been a long and prosperous run!"

Jamie Koch

"You made such a great impression on us and Jared. Your positivity and sincere care for Grebel students is evident and valued!"

Kevin & Sarah Dyck

"Who can ever forget Mary’s smile and cheery demeanour! All the best in your retirement. Keep smiling!"

Kate Taylor 

"Thank you for making Grebel a true haven in a scary world. Thank you for making us a company of peacemakers in a hurting world. Honestly Mary, you're pretty awesome!"

Nathaniel Kim

"Thank you so much Mary for all your support during my time at Grebel. Your care and commitment to community has helped shape some of the best memories of my life. Wishing you all the best in your well deserved retirement!"

Sarah Squire

"Mary, it has been a great pleasure to work with you and get to know you over the last couple dozen years and I will miss you. I appreciate your compassion, wisdom, strong leadership and sense of humour in your service to students. I wish you great adventures, health and fulfilment in your retirement!"

Laura Gray 

"May this next season be a time of new adventure, fresh joy, and deep soul fulfillment! Your warmth, gladness and spirit of hospitality is a constant in the ways you walk through the world. Your loving smile is but one of the many ways you pour into people through your presence. May your vessel remain full and overflowing in the journey ahead!"

- Johonna McCants-Turner