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EMU Mourns Loss of Student


The Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) community was saddened to learn of the death of Theodore (Theo) Brian Yoder on Thursday, April 12, 2012, after an intermittent 12-year battle with various cancers.

Yoder, 22, was the son of Brian and Lynn Yoder of Kalona, Iowa.

Yoder was a 2008 graduate of Iowa Mennonite School, Kalona, and a member of Wellman (Iowa) Mennonite Church in Wellman.

Theodore (Theo) Brian Yoder. Photo provided by family.

He was working toward a degree in congregational and youth ministries at EMU before withdrawing from classes on two separate occasions due to illness over the past two years. Loren Swartzendruber, president of EMU, visited Yoder at his home in Iowa in March to bestow an honorary bachelor of arts degree. Yoder was a member of the EMU class of 2012 which will celebrate commencement exercises on April 28.

Yoder discussed his health journey this past fall with Deanna Durham, assistant professor of applied social sciences, and continued to talk with her regularly, nicknaming her his “EMU mom.”

“Theo endeared himself to many of us here at EMU through his wonderful quick wit and honesty. These past few months were especially meaningful as he shared with us both his vulnerability and courage,” Durham said.

Phil Guengerich, athletic events coordinator at EMU, added, “Theo was an extremely loyal, hardworking person who never backed down from work.”

Guengerich, whom Yoder referred to as his “EMU dad,” employed Yoder as a work-study student.

“Theo took this job very seriously but always maintained a sense of humor and lightheartedness. I always sensed he viewed every day as a gift and wanted to do what he could with that day.”

Friends in the EMU community are invited to visit Common Grounds Coffeehouse in University Commons between 1:30 and 4 p.m. today (Friday, April 13) to light a candle, share a hug or a prayer, sit in silence, and sign a card for Theo’s family.

Persons can also respond to Theo’s life and death by comment below or by visiting CaringBridge.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Yoder-Powell Funeral Home in Kalona. Visitation will be Sunday April 15 from 2 to 8 p.m. and a memorial service will be held Monday, April 16.  A charter bus will leave campus early Sunday morning to allow those from EMU who would like to attend to travel together.  Those planning to travel on the bus should confirm that intent on the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/events/352135391498688/

The reduced cost for round-trip bus travel to Iowa will be $25 per person with EMU ID (students, faculty, staff).  That cost is subsidized by a travel fund. Contributions can be made to the travel fund by writing checks to EMU with “Iowa bus trip” in the memo line. Mail them to EMU Business Office, 1200 Park Road, Harrisonburg VA 22802.

Campus Ministries has scheduled a campus memorial service for Wed., April 18 from 7 to 8 p.m. in Common Grounds. All are welcome to attend.

EMU’s information on grief and support resources is available online.

2 Responses to "EMU Mourns Loss of Student"

  1. Marcy Sterner Gineris says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with the Yoder family and the many friends of Theo mourning his loss. Such a courageous young man and loving family…

  2. […] evening included a special mention of Theo Yoder, a senior student worker with the athletic events staff, who had passed away from cancer just a […]