Walking Stick Commemorates 20 Years of Leadership

The Merry Lea Team celebrated Luke Gascho’s 20 years of leadership as executive director at a September staff meeting and surprised him with two gifts. Thanks to careful planning, the team managed to keep their astute and emotionally intelligent leader clueless until the right moment.

Administrative Assistant Maria Tice, who managed to gain control of the devotional slot for the day, prepared an engaging reflection on staffs in the Bible. “Staffs were a symbol of leadership,” she remarked, citing stories related to Moses, Jeremiah and a passage from Numbers 17 where the staff of Levi bursts into bloom and bears almonds.

Property Supervisor Kerry Goodrich then produced a “staff “ or walking stick mounted for wall display. Chuck Harvout, a Merry Lea volunteer, made the walking stick out of an ash tree from Merry Lea. Kerry and Marcos Stoltzfus, director of the environmental education outreach team, made the wooden holder from a piece of tulip poplar siding from one of Merry Lea’s buildings and affixed a commemorative plaque.

During the reflections that followed, Jennifer Schrock, communications manager, mentioned “visionary patience” as a gift of Luke’s that she particularly appreciated. She recalled watching Luke persist at times when it seemed unlikely that the Rieth Village vision would come to fruition. Dave Ostergren remembered the way in which Luke had handed off leadership to him when he first arrived at Merry Lea as the new director of the graduate program.

“I’m thankful that Luke always reminds us to take the time to be whole people,” Director of the ASI John Mishler said.

The team also gave Luke a gift certificate to Prairie Moon Nursery in honor of his 65th birthday on October 4.