Goshen College awards honor six exceptional alumni during Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 5-7

GOSHEN, Ind. – Their lives have been focused on rehabilitating prisoners, educating educators about the needs of children in poverty, changing the way researchers think about genetics, assisting Iraqi refugees, preaching and serving a family in need. During Goshen College’s Homecoming Weekend 2007 on Oct. 5-7 the college will honor six exceptional alumni with awards for lives and dedication to service that has inspired others.

Awarded by the Goshen College Alumni Board and named for the college’s motto, the 2007 Culture for Service Award will be presented to Goshen College alumni Jonathan W. Beachy ’72 of San Antonio, Texas, Ruby Payne ’72 of Corpus Christi, Texas, and David P. Bartel ’82 of Boston, Mass. Dana Graber Ladek ’97 of Amman, Jordan, will receive the 2007 Decade of Servant Leadership Award, which recognizes young alumni who are making significant contributions to their communities, church and world. And the Goshen College Maple Leafs Athletic Club is presenting the 2007 Dr. Ruth Gunden Champion of Character Award to Sue Conrad ’92 of Lancaster, Pa., and the 2007 Dr. Roman Gingerich Champion of Character Award will go to Henry Zehr ’78 of Warsaw, Ind.

The award recipients will be honored at an Alumni Awards Ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. in the Church-Chapel. All of the alumni award recipients will be present, except Graber Ladek who is unable to attend from Jordan. Following the ceremony will be a hymn sing at 8 p.m. in the Church-Chapel and then an Alumni Reception at 9 p.m. in the Church-Chapel Fellowship Hall.

The Culture for Service Awards, given annually, honor Goshen College graduates who have made lifelong commitments to service, which can take many forms. Recipients distinguish themselves through exemplary records of service and achievements at home or in their churches, colleges and communities and the larger world.

Jonathan W. Beachy ’72 – Culture for Service Awardee

When the service term Jonathan Beachy took in Paraguay with Mennonite Board of Missions in 1973 ended, he wasn’t ready to leave. He and his wife Ruth Miller kept working, extending their term, and when their final assignment ended in 1996, they remained independently, continuing to devote their lives to those in need.

In total, Beachy and his family spent over 30 years in Paraguay. During this time, Beachy worked as a nurse, chaplain, translator and mentor, among other things. An important part of his accomplishments took place in the nation’s largest men’s prison, located in the capital city, Asunción, where he served as the co-founder and director of the prison’s holistic program, a program of the Mennonite Brethren Church of Asunción.

Prisoners were able to take part in the holistic program, where they were also educated, and many eventually became Christians. In his years there, Beachy, through the church program, had a hand in drastic changes and improvements in the facilities as well. Significantly, during his time with the prison, the rate of inmates in the ministry program who returned to prison after being released the first time was reduced to 7 percent, as compared to the national recidivism rate of 70 percent.

The path Beachy took throughout his life, eventually bringing him to Paraguay, began with church and family members modeling a firm faith to him and his decision in high school to “live my life in service to God,” he said. “The decision to enter Voluntary Service, rather than to go directly to college after high school, exposed me to a world I never knew, and opened my eyes to a broader reality.”

“My Mennonite roots, and education prior to and at Goshen, were crucial in connecting me to service, to living simply, to being a peacemaker, to caring about society’s ‘rejects,’” he said.

In 2005, Beachy and his wife moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he is working for University Health System as a nurse in a unit in which all patients are inmates. They are members of the San Antonio Mennonite Church, where he is an elder. The couple has four adult children, Lisa ’97, Heidi, Julio ’07 and Peter.

Ruby Payne ’72 – Culture for Service Awardee

After 20 years of working in the public school system, witnessing the lack of accessibility education offered to students from poverty, Ruby Payne wrote a book that she has since built a company around, aha! Process, Inc., and travels the country as a consultant speaking about the mindsets of economic classes and on crossing socioeconomic lines for work, education, relationships and social change.

In 1994, she worked as the director of staff development for a school district in Texas. “I had a principal come to me and ask for help with discipline in a building with a high percentage of students from poverty,” Payne said. “As a result of working in that building and the experiences that I had being married to a man from poverty, I wrote a book, which has now sold over 1 million copies.”

Payne’s book, “A Framework for Understanding Poverty,” offers advice on an important issue most teachers are likely to face, an issue her book is one of few to deal with: how to approach students from diverse economic backgrounds, and in particular, how to educate students who live in poverty. Since then, she has written or co-authored more than a dozen books and her company has published more than 50 books and videos.

Payne’s company is built on the mission “to positively impact the education and lives of individuals in poverty around the world.” Payne said Study-Service Term (SST) was a defining experience in shaping her passion to help others. “On SST, I went to Haiti in 1971. And that experience significantly impacted my professional and corporate mission,” said Payne, who grew up in Mt. Gilead, Ohio.

After graduating from GC, Payne received a master’s degree in English literature from Western Michigan University and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from Loyola University.

She and her company have developed the Payne School Model, a guide for schools looking to improve their accessibility to people from poverty, and she continues to write and co-write books teaching people to consider the way upbringing can influence the ability to learn, among other things.

Payne’s popularity continues to grow. During this past year, she gave public lectures, including some pro bono, in nearly all 50 states, as well as in such countries as China, India, New Zealand and Australia. And in June, an article about her ran in The New York Times Magazine.

Payne has a 23-year-old son, Thomas, and attends Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Corpus Christi, Texas.

David P. Bartel ’82 – Culture for Service Awardee

In his relatively young career, David Bartel has changed the way researchers think about genetics and how life began, through his findings on ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules.

Bartel’s research at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, which is part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he teaches biology, has surrounded RNAs. RNA, as Bartel has helped to discover, regulates the expression of more than a third of human genes. Bartel and his research team were also essential to discovering RNA’s importance to gene regulation in plants and animals and the potential manipulating them holds in significant research such as cancer.

“His research will improve the lives of many through alleviation of diseases and improving the productivity of plants,” said Phil Sharp, institute professor at MIT, where he also researches at the Center for Cancer Research. “He is an outstanding scientist whose research will enhance the humanity of all people.”

Bartel has been recognized in various ways over the past few years for his work. In 2005, he was named a biomedical investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He was also awarded the Newcomb Cleveland Prize, the National Academy of Sciences Award in Molecular Biology and the Louis D. Institut de France Award from the French Academy of Sciences.

Bartel’s respect for humanity is exemplified in the way he lives his life, as well. “He lives a modest lifestyle and is strongly supportive of his family,” Sharp said. David Page, the director of Whitehead Institute, said, “Dave is simply known as a peacemaker and supporter of all. He sees the good in everyone.”

Between his graduation from GC and his enrollment in Harvard’s doctoral program, Bartel and his wife, Jan Preheim ’84, served with Mennonite Central Committee in Zambia, Africa.

Page recognized Bartel’s time abroad as influencing his work now. He said, “Dave’s service in Africa in MCC, following graduation from Goshen, set the stage for an ongoing global perspective manifested in Dave’s collaboration with scientists of diverse origin, near and far.”

Bartel and Jan live in Boston with their three teenage children, Steven, Aaron and Laura, and attend the Mennonite Congregation of Boston.

Dana Graber Ladek ’97 – Decade of Servant Leadership Awardee

Ten years of traveling in places like Japan, Cambodia and Honduras, working to promote human welfare, has brought Dana Graber Ladek to the heart of the war-torn Middle East.

“My path over the past 10 years has focused on international humanitarian assistance,” she said. “Various volunteer and international experiences helped me land a job with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), where I currently work from Jordan assisting people displaced from the conflict in Iraq.”

Because of her current position, which involves maintaining international media relations, Graber Ladek has been interviewed by many major news outlets, including NPR, BBC, the New York Times and NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

“The first time that I worked and lived abroad was during Goshen College’s SST program,” Graber Ladek said. “My semester in Costa Rica was an enriching, growing experience and this, along with volunteering with my grandpa on an eye project in Guatemala and working for a summer in Japan, ignited my passion for working in international development.”

After GC, she worked with the Peace Corps in Costa Rica, where a children’s library was named in her honor. She served with Mennonite Voluntary Service in Washington, D.C., and translated for a humanitarian organization in Guatemala. “I cannot imagine a career more fascinating and rewarding than assisting people around the world,” Graber Ladek said.

Graber Ladek’s interest in service was sparked growing up in a church where it was emphasized and exemplified, Mountain Community Mennonite Church in Palmer Lake, Colo. One of the pastors there, Don Rheinheimer, said of Graber Ladek, Her faith has become second nature to her so that her whole life has been shaped and directed by her faith commitments, particularly as they relate to peace and justice issues for people who are underserved or denied basic human services.”

She continues to recognize her Mennonite faith as a role in her life. “I am now carrying what I have learned through my Mennonite upbringing and education to my work around the world.

Graber Ladek is married to Stephen Ladek.

The Decade of Servant Leadership Award was developed in 2005 to recognize an alumnus or alumna whose contributions and achievements in career, public or church service and volunteer activities early in post-graduate life are valuable and inspiring. The award is given to alumni during or prior to their 10th class reunion year.

Sue Conrad ’92 – Dr. Ruth Gunden Champion of Character Award

As a student, Sue Conrad was an All-Conference tennis player, and an NAIA All-District 21 team member and NAIA All-American Scholar Athlete. She graduated in 1992 with majors in communication and Bible, religion and philosophy. After receiving a master’s degree in speech communication from The Pennsylvania State University, Conrad returned to Goshen College as an assistant professor of communication from 1998 to 2002. Her former colleagues describe her as enthusiastic, engaged and interested in learning, and a teacher who always invited her students to excellence.

“I had a very personal call from God that encouraged me strongly to go to seminary,” she said. “Pastoring was something I had thought about earlier in my life, but sort of disregarded as I hadn’t seen a lot of women in that area and I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge … and now I can’t imagine doing anything other than pastoring.” Conrad studied at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries and earned a master’s of divinity degree in 2005. She now is associate pastor at East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church in Lancaster, Pa.

Henry Zehr ’78 – Dr. Roman Gingerich Champion of Character Award

When Henry Zehr was a student at Goshen College, he played soccer with the team that went to the NAIA national soccer tournament in 1977 and participated in a campus wrestling club. He graduated in 1978 with a degree in elementary education and went on to earn a master’s degree in education from Ball State University. Zehr found a professional home in the Warsaw Community Schools, where he has taught for 30 years. He was head wrestling coach and soccer club coach, has led many soccer clubs and camps for children in the Warsaw area and continues to referee soccer games across Northern Indiana.

Zehr chose to step down as coach to devote more time to his youngest daughter, Kailey, who suffered from a genetic disorder called Turner Syndrome. Zehr and his wife Sherry and their oldest daughter, Abby, supported Kailey as she struggled with decreasing health. Before Kailey died in October 2005 at the age of 15, she won her school’s outstanding character award and was baptized. “Kailey was a true reflection of the type of person her parents are,” said Henry’s brother, Clifford Zehr. “Henry cried along with his wife and family and friends and continued to lean on God. His servanthood in his daily walk, I believe, is what leads to all the core values this award represents.”

In its second year, the Dr. Ruth Gunden and the Dr. Roman Gingerich Champion of Character Awards, presented by the Maple Leafs Athletic Club, will annually honor a male and female alumni athlete who exemplify the college’s core values in their lives. Gunden and Gingerich were two pioneers in Goshen College’s athletic history.

– By Kelli Yoder

Editors/photographers: The Culture for Service award winners will be available for photos at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 5 in the College Mennonite Church-Chapel hallway, following the chapel service. For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or jodihb@goshen.edu.


Goshen College, established in 1894, is a residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S.News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit www.goshen.edu.