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Honoring a gentle giant

In college, Glenn D. Metzler (C 70, S 74) came across as a soft-spoken, cuddly teddy bear. But on a wrestling mat, he transformed into the Incredible Hulk.

Metzler was a standout heavyweight wrestler during his four years as an undergraduate student at then Eastern Mennonite College in the late 1960s.

A native of Ronks, Pa., Metzler grew up near Mt. Joy and attended Manheim Central High School, “a place widelyknown for its wrestling program.”

Prior to 1967, the first season wrestling became an intercollegiate sport at EMU, wrestling emerged on an intramural basis. Several EMU and neighboring Bridgewater College students held a friendly competition during the 1963-64 school year under the guidance of former coach Byron Shenk.

Metzler helped take the sport to the next level during his EMU days. He went undefeated in his class all four seasons, winning all but two matches that ended in draws. The team had six wins and two losses in 1968-69 when Metzler was cocaptain with Bob Bishop (C 70), who wrestled in the 134-pound weight class and also went undefeated that year.

“I remember Glenn as a gentle giant, more gentle than giant, really, a person who modeled integrity, humility and faith,” Bishop, of Doylestown, Pa., said. “Glenn would give you the shirt off his back, but there were no takers because it smelled like sweat.”

Metzler was an assistant coach under Byron Shenk his first two seasons, then served as both top wrestler and head coach his senior year. “I remember how nervous I was before my final match of year, going up against an opponent from Fork Union Military Academy who was also undefeated,” Metzler said. That match, which he has on video, ended in a draw.

Another vivid memory for Metzler—the famous library drive of December, 1969, when students raised $111,000 in three days in order to save a floundering campaign for a new library.

“The superintendent for Nielsen Construction Company, who went on to build the library, made an offer for someone to wash and wax the company car for a thousand dollars,” Metzler recalled. “I jumped up and volunteered our wrestling team to do it, which we later did.”

Metzler graduated in 1970 with a degree in Bible and sociology. Four years later, Metzler received a master of divinity degree from Eastern Mennonite Seminary. He and his wife, Betty, remained in Harrisonburg, where they bought and remodeled a house in the northeast corridor of the city, close to Broad Street Mennonite Church. Their children, Dean, Monica and Philip, were all born in Harrisonburg.

“I didn’t feel ready to pastor a church at that time,” he said, “but we opened our home to young people and I did a lot of church work without a title.” He did drywall work and painting for local builders as well as on his own.

Illness changed his life dramatically in 1986 and he had to adjust to a new way of life. He went on to do Clinical Pastoral Education and chaplaincy work in several area settings. This work continued when the family moved back to Lancaster. Glenn eventually earned a doctorate in 1998 in marriage and family from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, St. Davids, Pa.

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For the last five-and-a-half years, Metzler has been a chaplain at Landis Homes, a Mennonite-owned and operated retirement community near Lititz, Pa., where he works intensely with seniors who are wrestling with life-death issues.

“In many ways, ministerial leadership involves a wrestling model,” he said. “There’s takedowns, holds, reverses, boundaries and escapes.”

Metzler will be honored for his athletic prowess and achievements on Oct. 15 during homecoming weekend with induction into the EMU Hall of Honor.

—Jim Bishop (C 67)