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New award to bring diversity to campus

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mary GrohLiving in Toronto for 46 years, Mary Groh was increasingly surrounded by a multi-cultural society. As an active member of the Danforth Mennonite Church, following the closure of Warden Woods Mennonite Church, she witnessed the growth of various Mennonite congregations in the east end of Toronto.

When she saw a photo a few years ago of students from Conrad Grebel University College, Mary noted that “students from long-established Mennonite churches were the ones getting the excellent Christian-based education, and the new Canadians were not.” She shared her concern with Fred Martin, Grebel’s director of advancement, that “this didn’t seem right in a church community where equality is fundamental.”

Grebel Students singingThe admission policy at Grebel is to have approximately 50% of residence students come from Mennonite Churches. While Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC) students make up the majority of this portion, congregations from newcomer communities are under-represented.

Recently Mary sold her house in Toronto to move closer to family in Kitchener. At that time, she discussed her concern for a more inclusive church community with a variety of people, including Brent Charette, operations and church engagement minister at MCEC, who encouraged her to include Grebel in her conversations.

After several exchanges, Mary discerned a way of supporting students at Grebel. With funds from the recent sale of her home, she established the “Mennonite Diversity Award.” This award is designed to make an educational experience at Conrad Grebel University College accessible to Mennonite students from culturally diverse backgrounds. “My hope is to see a student body at the College that is more representative of the cultural diversity of the present and future Mennonite Church in Canada,” said Mary. This vision is focused on students from Mennonite church families who immigrated since 1975 and Mennonite Indigenous students.

The award is divided amongst three programs at Grebel: residence, Master of Theological Studies, and Master of Peace and Conflict Studies. With matching funds from MCEC, these three awards will be up to $10,000 for each successful applicant, as long as the funds last. Mary worked with Sherri Grosz, a gift planning consultant at Abundance Canada, to set up a gifting account to fund this award. MCEC is partnering to match these funds and strongly affirms Mary’s goal for the Grebel student body to represent the cultural diversity of MCEC congregations.

Grebel Interim President Jim Pankratz thanked Mary, saying, “We are grateful for your generosity that will provide support for many new Canadian Mennonite students. We are pleased by the interest already shown by church leaders from newcomer congregations. We are also grateful that the leadership of MCEC has encouraged this initiative and will provide some matching funds. This partnership with Mary and MCEC enables us to help them fulfill their vision for this award and to fulfill our mission to seek wisdom, nurture faith, and pursue justice and peace in service to church and society.”

The awards are ready for distribution already for the 2017-18 academic year. Details are available at

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