Conrad Grebel University College celebrated an anniversary last month that many in the Mennonite world thought would never happen.
More than 50 years ago, “radical” visionaries—including a group of progressive young ministers, two university professors and a handful of forward-looking businessmen—dared to boldly dream of a Mennonite college in Ontario.
Susan Schultz Huxman, the institution’s current president, observed during the Aug. 23-25 festivities: “We forget that these early visionaries were young people—in their 30s and early 40s—who diplomatically rejected the naysayers in Canada and the U.S. who said we should not accept the invitation to join the University of Waterloo as a ‘church college,’ and be responsible for creating a vibrant residence community and a values-added rigorous liberal arts education.”
More than 600 people signed up for the weekend, or parts thereof, coming from as far away as England, California and Winnipeg.
Aug. 24 activities included a brunch for 1960s-era alumni hosted by Ed Bergey (’67); alumni shared about the impact that Grebel had on their lives, be that in volunteering or the careers of service that were pursued. Other decades gathered in the afternoon sun for reminiscing or playing Ultimate Frisbee.
The weekend ended with a celebration service on Aug. 25 that featured a reunion of Chapel Choir members directed by recently retired director Leonard Enns. An alumnus from each of the five decades reflected on the spirit of the times and the impact of Grebel. Stories of pranks, weekly sheet changes and attempts at composting elicited much laughter. However, the Theatre of the Arts held a quiet hush when these alumni reflected on the impact Grebel had on their growth, friendships, values and faith.
This weekend celebration kicked off 50 events during the college’s 50th-anniversary year.
To kick off Conrad Grebel University College’s 50th-anniversary celebrations, president Susan Schultz Huxman, centre, and board chair Susan Taves prepare mortar to lay a date stone in a wall of the institution’s new $8.7-million addition. More than $6.2 million has been raised already for the project that is to be completed late next spring.
A Bow Tie Gala was held at Grebel’s 50th-anniversary weekend to honour founding president J. Winfield Fretz, who usually wore a bow-tie. Four of the remaining living presidents were in attendance. From left to right: past presidents Ralph Lebold, John Toews and Henry Paetkau, and current president Susan Schultz Huxman.
Author and professor Marlene Epp launches Bridging Mind and Spirit: Conrad Grebel University College 1963-2013 at Grebel’s 50th-anniversary weekend last month. The colourful 92-page retrospective, created with the assistance of archivist Laureen Harder-Gissing and graphic designer Jen Konkle, was well received by alumni and friends.