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Grebel Mourns the Loss of Former College President Ralph Lebold

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

With deep sadness, Conrad Grebel University College announces the passing of Ralph Lebold (1934-2017) on Tuesday, October 31. Lebold followed Frank H. Epp as the third president of Grebel from 1979 to 1989. Ralph is survived by his wife Eileen, and his children, Cindy and Scott, Connie and Tony, Marvin and their families. The funeral service will be held at Waterloo North Mennonite Church on Saturday November 4, 2017 at 11 am.

Ralph LeboldServing as president at Grebel in a decade of growth and change, Ralph “led from the middle” to increase unity amongst faculty and staff while expanding relationships with the Mennonite constituency. As described in Grebel’s 50th anniversary book, Bridging Mind and Spirit, during his presidency Ralph guided the College into an era of maturity and stability. With a new mission statement “that confidently acknowledged Grebel’s multiple relationships with church bodies and the public university,” Ralph brought stronger connections to the church constituency while increasing funding from the conference.

In 2006, Pandora Press published Ralph's autobiography, Strange and Wonderful Paths: Memoirs of Ralph Lebold. Reflecting in this book on his call to the presidency, Ralph wrote, “While I was comfortable enough in dealing with conflict, believed in young people, and was committed to Christian education, I also knew that once some of the conflicts were worked through, the larger task of academic leadership would await me. Would the faculty and the board be comfortable with my leadership?” And indeed, Ralph succeeded in his role, earning the respect of the entire College community.

Part of Ralph’s legacy included training pastors and leaders for the church. He taught regularly at Grebel, in courses like “Church and Ministry.” During his presidency, the College added the Master of Theological Studies degree, which has continued to be an important source of education for church leaders. The role that Ralph played in inter-Mennonite conversations regarding the need for Ontario-based leadership training for pastors was crucial to this development.

After a grade eight education, Ralph went on to receive the following degrees: Bachelor of Arts from Eastern Mennonite College (1958), Bachelor of Divinity from Goshen College Biblical Seminary (1961), Master of Theology from Crozer Theological Seminary (1968), Doctorate of Ministry from St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto (1980). In addition to the role of Grebel President, Ralph's career included several other leadership roles: Minister at Valleyview Mennonite Church (1961-74), where he initiated the Congregational Supervised Pastoral Education program; Conference Minister (1974-79), serving both the Western Ontario Mennonite Conference and Mennonite Conference of Ontario and Quebec, pre-cursors to Mennonite Church Eastern Canada; and Director of Theological Education with Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries (1989-97).

Ralph Lebold and Marcus ShantzReflecting on the loss of this important voice, new Grebel president Marcus Shantz remarked, “I got to know Ralph when I was thirteen years old at Waterloo North Mennonite Church. I always knew that my parents deeply respected Ralph and Eileen, and I developed my own connections with him when I grew older. Very recently, I had two significant discussions with him about Grebel and the role of president. He gave good advice, and I had been looking forward to more conversations.”

In 1997, Grebel and Mennonite Church Eastern Canada established the Ralph and Eileen Lebold Endowment for Leadership Training to fund expenses related to the pastoral training portion of the Master of Theological Studies program. This is the College’s largest endowed fund at over $1.3 million and a portion of these annual earnings fund the new Anabaptist Learning Workshop program.

Ralph remained connected and involved with Grebel for the rest of his life, most recently attending the 1985-95 era reunion to visit with alumni. “We will remember Ralph as a man who was quick to smile, and who always had a heart for the Mennonite Church and its people,” said President Shantz. “He will be dearly missed.”

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