Monday, August 26, 2013
On the extended weekend of August 23—25, Conrad Grebel University College celebrated an anniversary that many in the Mennonite world thought would not happen. Over 50 years ago, “radical” visionaries including a group of progressive young ministers, two university professors and a handful of forward-looking businessmen—individuals that included: Harvey Taves, Norman High, Milt Good, John Snyder, Roy Snyder, dared to boldly dream of a Mennonite college in Ontario. Current President, Susan Schultz Huxman observed that, “We forget that these early visionaries were young people—in their 30s and early 40s—who diplomatically rejected the naysayers in Canada and the U. S. who said we should not accept the invitation to join the University of Waterloo as a “church college” and be responsible for creating a vibrant residence community and a values added rigourous liberal arts education.”
Over 600 people signed up for a portion of the weekend, coming from as far as Britain, California and Winnipeg. The festivities began with the laying of a datestone near the entrance of the new $8.7 million academic facility expansion. This was followed by a Book Launch for “Bridging Mind and Spirit: Conrad Grebel University College 1963-2013” which was authored by Grebel professor of History and Peace & Conflict Studies, Marlene Epp, with the assistance of archivist Laureen Harder-Gissing and graphic designer Jen Konkle. This colourful 96 page publication elicited many memories during the weekend celebration.
The legacy of the college’s founding President, J. Winfield Fretz, was honoured at a sold out “Bow-Tie Gala” which was co-hosted by the Mennonite Savings and Credit Union (MSCU), an institution where Fretz played a key role in its conception.
The gala was emceed by John Rempel ‘67, one of the college’s early chaplains, who had interviewed Fretz during the college’s 25th anniversary and video clips of this were interspersed during the evening. Sara Goering-Fretz, Winfield’s daughter, who was visibly touched after seeing this footage, shared greetings from the family. Liz Heinmiller, an alumae from the first year the residence opened collected memories from fellow alumni who described Dr. Fretz as “supportive, encouraging, positive, and warm. “Many alumni recalled his get-to-know-you evenings at the beginning of term at his home. He took a genuine interest in each of us, making it a point to truly get to know us, not on a superficial level, but in a way which explored our goals in life and helped us set our sights on worthy things,” shared Heinmiller ‘69. The gala ended with the announcements of the winning bidders on the silent auction by development director Fred Martin ‘87, who encouraged other ‘vocal’ bidders above the silent bidders in an effort to reach the $50,000 goal for the Winfield Fretz Seminar room in the new MSCU Centre for Peace Advancement.
Saturday’s activities included a brunch for the 60’s era alumni hosted by Ed Bergey ‘67. Alumni shared about the impact that Conrad Grebel had on their lives, be that in volunteering or the careers of service that were pursued. Other decades gathered in the afternoon sun for reminiscing and for playing Ultimate Frisbee or for children’s activities. Wendy Chappell Dick ‘90, from Bluffton, organized Grebel HAD Talent, which replicated talent shows from across the eras. The outdoor show ended with some 8 mm footage provided by Karl Dick ‘65 of a talent show and a skating party in 1965.
The weekend ended with a Celebration Service on Sunday morning that featured a reunion of Chapel Choir members, directed by freshly retired director Leonard Enns. An alumnus from each of the 5 decades reflected on the spirit of the times and the impact of Grebel. Stories of pranks, weekly sheet changes and attempts at composting elicited much laughter. However, the Theatre of the Arts held a quiet hush when these alumni reflected on the impact Grebel had on their growth, friendships, values and faith.
The anniversary weekend also had a multimedia component provided by Facebook, Twitter and a variety of video clips on the college’s YouTube channel. This includes a 10 minute retrospective video called “Challenging Mind and Spirit: Grebel’s first 5 decades” with a script by Tim Miller Dyck’96 and narrated by Eric Friesen ‘67
This weekend celebration kicked of 50 events during the college’s 50th anniversary.
For more information visit grebel.ca/50th
Fred W. Martin
Fred W. Martin
Director of Development
519 885-0220 x 24381