Winter 2007 > Development News

development news

A different kind of gang: ‘GC Gang of the ’50s’
By Jennifer Rupp '06

CV Image They say college is where you make lifelong friends. The “GC Gang of the ’50s” is a vivid example of this.

Goshen College is the place where they forged their friendships, and now the six married couples are giving back to the institution that they’ve all grown to love.

Jim ’57 and Joyce Burkhart Millen ’57, Robert ’61 and Helen Stoesz Peifer, Ron ’56 and Mary Lu Imhoff Smucker ’56, Glenn ’58 and Anne Harnish Weaver ’58, Dennis and Nancy Stuart Yoder, and Ed ’58 and Theo Hartzler Yoder ’57 comprise this group of college friends turned alumni turned donors.

As the name of their self-titled group indicates, this collection of friends formed during their years at Goshen College in the 1950s. Although not all of them graduated from Goshen, all but one attended the college. Beginning with their connections in intramurals during their first year, the “gang” began to form with six students in 1952. In 1953, their number grew to 11 and the last member married into the group in 1957.

After graduating and scattering across the country, these close-knit friends wanted to keep in touch and be involved in each other’s lives. In 1963, the group had a reunion of sorts, and the get-togethers have been an annual tradition every since. Ranging from tent camping and visits to cottages, condos, amusement parks and golf courses, the reunions have become a way to reconnect and stay close over the years.

  As heart-warming as their yearly reunions are, members are noteworthy for much more. Although many members of the group have donated to Goshen College, recently they decided to sponsor a scholarship to encourage students to attend GC.

“Why not have an endowment fund at GC where we all met each other, and it can benefit our grandchildren and others down the road?” said Ed Yoder. “We want to get Mennonite kids to come to Mennonite schools.”

The idea for the scholarship came about through Dennis and Nancy Yoder’s desire to give a significant gift to an organization in honor of their friends Ed and Theo Yoder. When donating to Goshen College was suggested, Dennis and Nancy quickly agreed.

CV Image “It seemed a perfect idea,” said Dennis Yoder. “Nancy and I felt we should give to a cause we believed in. Goshen College has given experiences to us, our children and our grandchildren, which will last throughout life and eternity. Our prayer is that assistance from these funds will give persons a similar experience at Goshen College.”

The rest of the group was consulted at the next “Gang of the ’50s” reunion in October 2005, and a new endowment was formed, with each group member contributing to the fund.

Per the group’s wishes, the scholarship will be divided between athletics and nursing – two things that originally united members of the group. This is a unique scholarship for GC, as it is the first time that these two categories have been combined into a single scholarship. It is also unusual for a group of alumni to begin a scholarship fund of this magnitude.

Creating more than just a financial legacy, the “Gang of the ’50s” members have seen 16 of their 20 children attend Goshen College. On top of that, the five oldest of their grandchildren are either recent grads or current GC students, and two of the grandchildren from different families are even planning to be roommates when they come to Goshen in 2007.

“Why did 16 of our children come to Goshen? [When we are together] we talk about the good times we’ve had at Goshen. Our children have heard us tell [those stories], and [so have] our grandchildren,” said Ed.

A further testament to their commitment to family, all six couples have or will celebrate 50th wedding anniversaries between 2005 and 2007 – and you can be sure the “gang” will get together for the celebrations.