Executive Director Announces Retirement Plans

How do you know the right time to retire? Luke Gascho, Merry Lea’s executive director, has asked this question of friends.

“You’ll know,” they replied.

Luke, who turned 66 this fall, says he has a strong internal sense that it is time to let go of leadership at Merry Lea. He announced his intent to retire on June 30, 2019 at a staff meeting on Monday, November 12.

“I’m grateful to have such an amazing team—and know you will carry on the mission well. I believe there are other excellent people out there who can join the team to aid in carrying out the vision. I feel satisfied with what we have accomplished at Merry Lea as a team working together––and I am ready for opportunities in the retirement chapter of my life,” Luke told his seventeen colleagues. Team members were sobered by the news but not entirely surprised. Some admitted to fighting tears.

Like many grandparents, Luke and his wife, Becky, look forward to more easily spending time with grandchildren who live at a distance. Luke also enjoys multiple hobbies: woodworking, photography, gardening and nurturing an orchard. He plans to continue reading about his professional interests, which include ecology, leadership, faith and the intersections between them. He may do some writing on these themes as well.

The Heartbeat of Merry Lea: Programs and Collaboration

“My work has allowed me to grow in each of the areas I’m interested in,” Luke says.

During his 21 years of leadership at Merry Lea, Luke oversaw the design and construction of Rieth Village and the development of the undergraduate programs based there. The Master’s in Environmental Education and the Merry Lea Sustainable Farm came into existence during this time as well. Luke saw care for the earth as integral to the Christian faith, and this vision led to the founding of the Mennonite Creation Care Network.  At Goshen College, he led strategic planning processes and was instrumental in the creation of the Institute for Ecological Regeneration.

According to Luke, the heartbeat of Merry Lea is not any individual. It is these programs and the web of people who have already demonstrated good leadership guiding them.

“We have a good collaborative relationship. We are not solo operators,” he says.

A subcommittee of the Merry Lea Board is already at work on succession planning. The subcommittee consists of Marcia McNagny, Ann Vendrely, Ken Newbold, John Yordy and Heather Harwood.