Tuesday, April 22, 2008

John D. Yordy honored for his service as a professor, provost and interim president


Goshen College Provost and Executive Vice President John D. Yordy with his wife, Winnie, at the reception held in honor of his 31 years of service to Goshen College.

>> Click here to view photos from the reception

PROFILE: John D. Yordy

Position: Retiring June 30 as Goshen College provost, executive vice president and professor of chemistry

College leader: Served as interim president, 2004-2006

Born: Sept. 17, 1942, St. Johns, Mich.

Education: B.A., chemistry, Goshen College, 1967; doctorate degree, organic chemistry, Michigan State University, 1974

Career: Laboratory chemist, Federal-Mogul Corp., St. Johns, Mich., 1960-61; volunteer, Heifer Project International, in Mexico, 1963-65; instructor of chemistry, physics and mathematics, Mennonite Central Committee, Nigeria, 1967-70; graduate assistant and research assistant, Michigan State University, 1970-74; research chemist, The Lubrizol Corp., Wickliffe, Ohio, 1974-77; assistant, associate and professor of chemistry, Goshen College, 1977-2008; visiting associate professor of chemistry, while on sabbatical, University of Nairobi, 1987-1988; visiting professor of chemistry, while on sabbatical, Emory University, Atlanta, Ga., 1995-96; provost and executive vice president, Goshen College, 1997-2008; interim president, Goshen College, 2004-06

Study Service-Term leadership: Honduras, 1979-80; Dominican Republic, 1985

Family: Married to Winifred “Winnie” Hostetler; three adult children, John, Eric, Michael

GOSHEN, Ind. – Goshen College Provost and Executive Vice President John D. Yordy was honored for his 31 years of service to the college at a reception attended by more than 250 current and former colleagues and community members.

During an afternoon reception on April 21 in the Fellowship Hall of College Mennonite Church, Yordy thanked current and former faculty and staff members, administrators and students for the support they have provided him and the college.

“Through these years, I have worked with so many wonderful people here at Goshen College … from my time as a student, from my time working here until now,” said Yordy, who plans to retire June 30. “We’re one learning community committed to a common mission and values. And that’s what this institution has been about through the years, and it’s just been a wonderful thing to be part of.”

President James E. Brenneman commended Yordy for his service to the college, the Mennonite church and the world.

“John’s vision and his leadership are as vital and relevant today as when he first became a student at Goshen College,” Brenneman said. “John served Goshen College for 20 years as a chemistry professor and another 11 years as provost, overlapping two years as an interim president. In all this work, he provided keen oversight, leadership in good times and in times of transition and crisis.”

Brenneman delighted the audience by showing a video clip of a 1967 interview with Yordy — then a student at Goshen College — from a celebrated CBS News documentary, “Lamp Unto My Feet — Mennonites: The Peaceful Revolution.”

“What’s most extraordinary to me is what John said in that interview — about the influence of faith in his life, about ‘Culture for Service’ and that the Mennonite church would need to adapt to changing circumstances, but would also continue to be relevant in a new day, and that Christ was at the center of our lives. The same could be said, and is being said, I think, by many of our students today,” Brenneman said.

“Faith, service to the Mennonite Church, service to Goshen College and service to the world are hallmarks of John’s career whether in Goshen, Haiti, Mexico, Honduras, the Dominican Republic or Kenya. Indeed, ‘Culture for Service’ and a life lived in companionship with Christ are apt descriptions of John Yordy. And it’s still a wonderful blueprint for our mission at Goshen College. Some things never change.”

Professor of Physics Carl Helrich praised Yordy for his accomplishments as a professor and an administrator, including his support for the renovation of the Science Building and his commitment to providing innovative research opportunities for students.

“Most of us remember the last 11 years of John’s service to the college and forgot those noble years that he wore a lab coat; most, but not all. John did not lose his perspective on the role of creative work beyond the confines of the classroom in the education of students,” Helrich said. “We’re sorry to see you go, John, but we celebrate the years we’ve worked together.”

Scott Barge, a 1999 Goshen College graduate, described Yordy as an excellent teacher and mentor with a great sense of humor and a tireless commitment to Goshen College.

“I’ve had the immense privilege of calling John a friend and colleague for 12 years and there’s no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing and be where I am today without his influence,” said Barge, who is a doctoral candidate at Harvard University. “I’m grateful to you, John.”

A 1967 Goshen College graduate, Yordy worked as an industry research chemist and received his doctorate in organic chemistry from Michigan State University in 1974. He taught chemistry, physics and mathematics at a high school in Nigeria while serving with Mennonite Central Committee from 1967 to 1970 and worked for Heifer Project International for two years in Mexico.

With his wife, Winnie, he has led Goshen College Study-Service Term units in Honduras (1979-80) and the Dominican Republic (1985). During a teaching sabbatical in 1987-88, he was a visiting professor of chemistry at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. He also was a visiting professor of chemistry, while on sabbatical, at Emory University, Atlanta, Ga., in 1995-96.

Yordy was appointed as Goshen College’s provost and executive vice president in 1997, nearly 20 years after joining the faculty as a professor of chemistry.

As provost, Yordy served as chief executive officer in the absence of the president, and his duties included overseeing and coordinating the offices of the academic dean and dean of students as well as supervising the college budget offices and managing strategic planning processes. Yordy, who served as interim president from 2004 to 2006, announced his intent to retire from Goshen College in February.

Yordy, 65, began transitioning out of day-to-day responsibilities March 10, but is serving until June 30 as an adviser to President Brenneman and a consultant in such areas as institutional effectiveness, hiring, assessment of vice presidents and meeting leadership and facilitation.

In his closing remarks Monday, Yordy thanked his family for their support and offered praise and well wishes to his colleagues.

“There’s this continuity from the past, to the present, to the future that’s part of what makes Goshen College great, and it’s just good to be here,” Yordy said. “To all of you, may God’s grace and care and power be part of your experience now and in the future.”


– By Richard R. Aguirre


Statement by John D. Yordy at retirement reception, April 21, 2008

At a moment like this, you know, you sort of feel like you’re speechless, but it’s not the time to be speechless, so just let me reflect a little bit on Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn who came in on their own memorial service and thought it was better than their life itself.

This is actually the very first time I saw any clip from this (CBS) video in 1967, and I can see why I’d only want to see it once.

Through these years, I have worked with so many wonderful people here at Goshen College and as I think about all of those persons — from my time as a student from my time working here until now. I just have to say it has been and it is a wonderful community to be in.

I think about staff and administrators and teaching faculty, and with all due respect to (Professor) Carl (Helrich), did he actually leave here? Carl left out part of it. You know, the roles are not nearly as important as the fact that we’re one learning community committed to a common mission and values. And that’s what this institution has been about through the years and it’s just been a wonderful thing to be part of.

I also want to just say something about learnings from my family because in a sense they have helped to shape who I am.

My sister, Wilma; will you at least let people learn where you are? From her I learned something about the possibility and the limitations of delegation when I asked her to watch the school bus for me — even when she forced me to get on it.

And my brother, Wally; it’s good to have you here. And Wally convinced me some years ago that it was impossible to have both brains and hair. And I recognize the reality in that.

I would just say, in closing, that I have learned so much from so many of you who have given so much and from the past there is a great tradition upon which those of us who came and worked in the most recent past built on. And that’s going to be the case for the future as well. And there’s this continuity from the past, to the present, to the future that’s part of what makes Goshen College great and it’s just good to be here.

And to my immediate family, to Winnie, who has given a lot to Goshen and to me through the years, I’m grateful. Our sons who are here today, Mike and Eric; our one son, John, is not here. To you and your grandchildren, it’s a great place to have lived. And you’ve added immeasurably to my understanding of what it means to be a father, a parent and a professor. And for that, I thank you.

To the President’s Council, I wish you well. To all of you, may God’s grace and care and power be part of your experience now and in the future. Thank you.

Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview with Provost Yordy or President Brenneman, contact Richard R. Aguirre, director of public relations, at (574) 535-7571 or; or contact Jodi H. Beyeler, director of the campus news bureau, at (574) 535-7572 or


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

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