During Goshen College’s Homecoming Weekend on Oct. 6-8, the college honored four outstanding alumni with awards for their commitment to the college’s core values.
Sponsored by the Goshen College Alumni Board, the 2017 Culture for Service Awards were presented to Sheri Hartzler ’73 of Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Philip Thomas ’87 of Goshen. The 2017 Young Alumni Award was presented to Nicole Cober Bauman ’08 of Elkhart, Indiana. The 2017 Dr. Ruth Gunden Champion of Character Award went to Justine (Clemmer) Pletcher ’72 of Goshen, and the Dr. Roman Gingerich Champion of Character Award went to Stan King ’61 of Goshen.
The Culture for Service Awards were initiated in 1989 and are given annually to honor Goshen College graduates who have made lifelong commitments to service. Recipients distinguish themselves through commendable accounts of service and achievements at home or in their churches, colleges, communities and the larger world.
For the 12th year, the Goshen College Maple Leafs Athletic Club presented the Dr. Ruth Gunden and the Dr. Roman Gingerich Champion of Character Awards. The two awards, created in 2005, are presented to a male and female alumni athlete who exemplify the college’s core values in their lives, work and community service. Gunden and Gingerich were pioneers in Goshen College’s athletic history.
Sheri (Greaser) Hartzler has led a life in service of others since graduating from Goshen College in 1973 with a degree in elementary education.
“My parents modeled a life of serving others,” she said, “and because of my educational experiences at Goshen College, especially Study-Service Term, I was equipped to carry on that tradition.”
Hartzler spent 22 years working for Mennonite Media (now MennoMedia) and 16 years representing the Anabaptist comedy duo, Ted & Lee (now Ted & Co. Theaterworks). Hartzler also helped start Patchwork Pantry, a food distribution program in Harrisonburg, Virginia, after she, her husband, Jay ’73, and two sons, Nathan and Philip, did a year of Mennonite Voluntary Service in Evansville, Indiana.
“Directing Patchwork Pantry for 20 years helped me stay in touch with the poor in my community and a large group of volunteers from local churches and universities,” she said. “But my paying jobs were also ones in which I felt like I was able to contribute in a small way to making a difference in our world, whether through the gift of laughter and biblical story, through helping to produce documentaries and websites on social justice issues, or more recently through work with a local literacy agency.”
After retiring in 2013, the Hartzlers spent a year serving in Romania with the Nazarene Missions Corp. Since then, they have spent the majority of each year in Romania as Nazarene volunteers.
In Romania, Hartzler is involved with Veritas, a Christian ecumenical organization that supports the community of Sighisoara through service, education and intercultural exchange. The agency provides programs for children, adults with special needs, elderly and teens and a counseling center for those impacted by domestic violence. At Veritas, she coordinates fundraising projects, is a member of the board of directors and provides support for the executive director.
But her work with Veritas goes beyond that. Hartzler is willing to do whatever needs to be done, like spending hours sorting through donated clothes and other supplies or leading music with several of the Veritas clubs.
She also spends two afternoons each week working with children in a nearby village, Tigmandru, where she leads music and different activities, like crafts.
“The 20 to 60 children (ages 3-12) who attend the kids’ club,” she said, “take me right back to my education classes at GC as I use many of the tools I learned there in my work with these Roma children.”
Since most of the year is spent serving in Romania, Hartzler’s free time comes during the summer months they spend in the States, where she enjoys baking, reading and entertaining friends and family.
“I’m honored to receive this recognition,” Hartzler said, “and am especially grateful for all the experiences I have had and the wonderful people I have been privileged to work with along the way.”
Philip Thomas ’87
Culture for Service Award
With more than 25 years of experience in conflict prevention, transformation and peacebuilding, Philip Thomas ’87 has dedicated his life to helping facilitate peace and reconciliation.
Thomas, of Goshen, has traveled to more than 30 countries around the world in his work with heads of states, indigenous groups, community leaders and corporate executives, trying to encourage dialogue and implement peace. He has worked with organizations at all levels, from local to international.
“So much of my work involves me working with others, listening and understanding others deeply, recognizing and supporting them in the very difficult and complex environments they must navigate and celebrating their efforts,” he said, “and so having others recognize me and celebrate my work and effort is truly humbling and overwhelming.”
His most recent work has been in Afghanistan, where he has supported the United Nations Assistance Mission (UNAMA), and in Somalia, where he offers support to the country’s top governmental leadership, including the president and prime minister. Thomas has worked with the U.S. State Department African and Middle East Desk of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.
Since 2005, Thomas has been working with various U.N. agencies as a senior consultant, while also supporting different international organizations. In 2007, he co-authored “Democratic Dialogue: A Handbook for Practitioners” with Bettye Pruitt, a project that was released jointly by the U.N. Development Programme, the Organization of American States, the Canadian International Development Agency and International IDEA.
Thomas founded D3 Associates, a consulting firm aimed at creating change in organizations, teams and communities through collaborative action. In addition to consulting, D3 Associates provides training programs, facilitation and other tools for those in dialogue. Thomas also teaches an occasional peace, justice and conflict studies course as an adjunct professor at Goshen College.
When Thomas is at home, he enjoys walking with his dogs on the paths and trails, as well as spending time at the local coffee shops and engaging in meaningful conversations. He is a self-proclaimed lover of magic, and he enjoys using magic to create curiosity, wonder and an openness to the unknown in the work that he does.
“My introverted nature tends to run from attention on me,” he said, “but it is an honor to ‘feel recognized, appreciated and blessed’ by others.”
Nicole (Cober) Bauman ’08
Young Alumni Servant Leadership Award
Nine years after graduating from Goshen College, Nicole Bauman’s life path can be hard to name or identify as a specific “job” or “career.”
Bauman’s calling is a combination of working for sustainability, healing, community and justice.
A few years ago, Bauman and her partner, Jason Shenk, began the Prairie Wolf Collective, a housing co-op in the city of Elkhart, Indiana, where they live in land-based community with others. Bauman also started Red Oak Farm, a micro urban permaculture Community Supported Agriculture project, in order to address the lack of access to fresh produce in her neighborhood.
“So much of my learning at GC [was] around the interconnected nature of all things, all struggles for justice, our own inner work and in building the world we long to live in,” she said. “My life reflects this, as it weaves together many different areas of justice, healing and living into this new sort of resilient world we imagine, even as we struggle within the shell of the old.”
Bauman is also invested in promoting healing. She is a yoga teacher in the Elkhart area and practices reiki, a healing technique that uses touch to produce positive energy in a person’s body. Bauman also practices as a doula, a birth companion who provides physical and emotional support.
Beyond all of that, Bauman is active in working for justice in her community. Her biggest passions are fighting lead contamination in water, protecting water rights and standing alongside undocumented people. She also studies and practices Nonviolent Communication.
“Nicole has chosen and grown a life centered on caring for the earth and those around her,” said Greta Weaver ’08. “She intentionally engages marginalized groups and individuals in her community to understand, walk with, and advocate for and with them.”
Since Bauman’s work is hard to classify into one trajectory, she finds that it can often go unnoticed or be misunderstood. But being selected for the Young Alumni Servant Leadership Award gave her proof that others are paying attention.
“To me, it feels like a very sweet acknowledgement of the on-the-ground, behind-the-scenes, slow-but-steady work I have been doing for the last decade,” she said, “which is not necessarily glamorous or fundable. But I believe it is at the heart of the sort of creative resistance our world so desperately needs right now.”
In her free time, Bauman likes being near water, whether that’s swimming, paddling or hiking in the watershed. She also enjoys biking, woodworking, carving, knitting and being in the woods.
Stan King ’61
Dr. Roman Gingerich Champion of Character Award
Stan King’s 30-year research career in plant pathology was bookended by successful stints with the Goshen College tennis team, first as a nearly undefeated player, then as one of the longest-serving coaches in Maple Leaf history.
King was born in India to missionary parents. That’s where, as a boarding school student in South India, he took up tennis as an 8-year-old, earlier than most of his peers in the U.S. When his family moved to Goshen he attended Goshen High School where playing tennis for the GHS team helped him transition.
“Tennis was something I excelled at,” said King. “It gave me some self-esteem and self-confidence, which was especially important for a 14-year-old moving into a new country and culture.”
As a student-athlete at GC, King lost only two tennis singles matches in four years playing no. 1 singles and doubles.
His first season as a Maple Leaf coincided with the debut season of intercollegiate tennis at GC in the fall of 1957, coached by none other than Roman Gingerich himself, a man King admires for his yeoman efforts to bring intercollegiate athletics to GC.
“I am grateful for my GC experience － it was positive and a good one,” said King. “It gave me a strong foundation and direction for my life. Turning down a tennis scholarship at Western Michigan University in favor of GC was, in retrospect, a crucial decision for me.”
King continued his formal education at The Ohio State University, receiving his master’s and doctoral degrees in plant pathology. His 30-year research career had him teamed with scientists engaged in regional projects to improve crops, primarily coarse grained cereals (pearl millet, sorghum, corn) in semi-arid areas of Africa and Asia.
One of his more significant research achievements was identification in West Africa of stable sources of resistance to downy mildew disease in pearl millet which were later used by him and other scientists to develop breeding materials to combat downy mildew disease epidemics in India. One composite variety developed from this work added over $50 million annually to the income of pearl millet farmers in India during the late 1980s.
After returning to the U.S. in 1997 and retiring as a plant pathologist, King started a “retirement career” coaching tennis, first as girls’ team coach at GHS (8 spring seasons) and then adding the men’s team at GC (fall sport) in 1999. After 17 years with GC tennis, King retired with a 106-103 record, a program high for wins by a coach.
“It was a privilege and great opportunity for me to coach tennis, especially at GC”, King said. “My career as a plant pathologist was interesting, fulfilling, and a great fit. To top that off with coaching tennis was like icing on the cake.
King enjoys being active – traveling with his wife, Bonnie, volunteering in the Goshen Community, reading, and visiting with people. They have two married sons, Matthew ’92 and David ’00 (a player on King’s first GC team), and three grandchildren. Stan and Bonnie attend College Mennonite Church, Goshen.
Justine (Clemmer) Pletcher ’72
Dr. Ruth Gunden Champion of Character Award
During her four years as a Maple Leaf, Justine (Clemmer) Pletcher ’72 played at center forward for the varsity field hockey team.
“Hockey was a huge part of my love of college,” she said. “I found wonderful friends, enjoyed the release from academic pressure and simply had fun! I do not remember scores or records, but I do remember the camaraderie and sharing with my coaches and teammates.”
Field hockey, a sport popular in the East, lasted for nearly 30 years at GC, but a lack of interest in the Midwest and the rise of women’s soccer made it increasingly difficult to find competition close by. In the final season, 1990, the team only played five schools from Indiana.
As a student-athlete, Pletcher had a number of different role models, especially Dr. Ruth Gunden and Berdene Wyse, her hockey coach, both of whom “exemplified Goshen’s motto of ‘Culture for Service’” and impacted her life.
“I knew that I was accepted, encouraged and valued, as I played hockey, learned to be a teacher and grew as a person of faith,” she said. “Berdene Wyse led us with joy, intensity and respect. That was how we played and treated all we met.”
When Pletcher graduated from GC with a degree in elementary education, she started teaching at New Paris Elementary in New Paris, Indiana, where her classroom guidelines were simple: “Treat Others Right and Do the Right Thing.”
Pletcher also continued to stay involved with the GC field hockey program. She officiated a number of home games and even served as interim coach of the team for a year in 1980.
After a few years, Pletcher and her husband, Ken ’70, began to start a family, and she enjoyed staying at home with their two sons, Nate ’00 and Todd ’05, for 10 years.
Once the boys were older, Pletcher returned to teaching, this time at Middlebury Elementary School, a part of the Middlebury Community School system where Ken spent a number of years as a basketball coach, teacher, and eventually, athletic director.
But over the years, Pletcher has remained involved with Maple Leaf athletics, as Ken also taught, coached and served as the athletic director at the college for a number of years, and both of their sons played soccer during their time as students at GC.
The Pletchers have also been loyal members and financial supporters ever since the start of the Maple Leaf Athletic Club, the official support group of GC athletics.
In 2008, Pletcher retired from teaching after 26 total years. Since then, she’s volunteered in school programs, supervised GC student teachers and participated in children’s education activities at church.
Traveling has become Pletcher’s first priority in retirement, especially to visit her children and new grandson in California and Australia. When she’s not visiting her sons and their families, she enjoys reading, knitting and being outside to exercise. The Pletchers attend College Mennonite Church in Goshen.