For nearly a century, he recalled names and family connections without hesitation. Now, it’s time for others to remember and celebrate the rich legacy of this remarkable man.
Paul Thomas (P.T.) Guengerich, administrator emeritus at Eastern Mennonite University, died in the early hours of Oct. 4, 2011, at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC). He was 98.
Guengerich held several positions during his long tenure at EMU, beginning in 1964 as dean of men and then dean of students, registrar and associate in the admissions department. He and his wife, Marjorie Yoder (C 68) Guengerich spent the 1970-71 year as mission associates with the former Mennonite Board of Missions at Hokkaido International School in Sapporo, Japan. Guengerich retired for the first time from EMU in 1981.
Less than a year later, he returned to the school in a new, part-time role that he continued in until 2006, spending several hours each day in the alumni-parent relations office where he combed church periodicals, newspapers and other information sources for activities, achievements and milestones of EMU’s more than 18,000 alumni. He condensed these considerable gleanings into news items for Crossroads, the university’s magazine.
“P.T. made a life long contribution to the Mennonite Church and to Mennonite education,” said Loren Swartzendruber, president of EMU. “His phenomenal memory for individuals and relationships endeared him to generations of students and alumni. I could always count on their constant and enthusiastic support personally and institutionally.”
Surviving, in addition to his wife Marjorie of VMRC, are two sons, Ronald Guengerich (C 67) of Goshen, Ind., married to Ruth Lapp (C 68) Guengerich; and Philip Guengerich (C 70) of Harrisonburg, married to Susan Hess (C 69) Guengerich; five grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and three step-grandchildren; and three sisters-in-law. He was preceded in death by three brothers and one sister.
The Centralia, Mo., native moved to Kalona, Iowa, as a youngster, where he and his family of four siblings lived on a farm until he moved in 1964 with his spouse, Marjorie Yoder Guengerich, and sons Ronald L. and Philip Guengerich to join the faculty at EMU.
Guengerich was educated in rural schools and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Iowa. He and Marjorie Yoder of Wellman, Iowa, were married in 1942. Two months later, Guengerich was drafted, and he and Marjorie served in Civilian Public Service (CPS) in Fort Collins, Colo.; Hill City, S.D.; Beaver Dam, Wisc.; and Luray, Va.
He was ordained in 1947 at West Union Mennonite Church near Kalona, where he pastored until 1964 and was also principal of Iowa Mennonite School near Kalona from 1949-64.
A decade ago, Guengerich offered his view of retirement: “Refuse the rocking chair. Explore volunteer work that you enjoy and that contributes to human need. Do things you didn’t have time for earlier, like Elderhostel and similar enrichment programs. Broaden your horizons through travel, taking advantage of senior discounts.”
Which is exactly what P.T. and Marjorie did. In retirement, the couple helped Norman (C 60) and Dorothy Kreider (C 54) establish a Mennonite Central Committee Gift & Thrift Store. Marjorie managed the thrift end of the store from 1983-96. The couple was enthusiastic followers of EMU athletics over the years and received special recognition December 11, 2008 from the Loyal Royals athletic support group.
P.T. and Marjorie were the oldest members of Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg.
One Sunday in 2003, near Guengerich’s 90th birthday, he was the “special guest” during the children’s time in the worship service at CMC. Former co-pastor Ray Hurst invited the children to ask P.T. questions about his life. The first question: “When did you see your first airplane?”
“When I was about six years old,” was his response.
The second question: “When did you see your second airplane?” The session ended with the children gathering around Guengerich as Hurst led a prayer of blessing.
A memorial service will be held Tuesday, Oct. 11, at Community Mennonite Church with pastor Jennifer Davis Sensenig and EMU President Loren Swartzendruber presiding. A private internment will be held at Weavers Mennonite Church before the memorial service.
Memorial contributions may be made to Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Road, Harrisonburg, VA 22802 or to Mennonite Central Committee, PO Box 500, Akron, PA 17501.