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Alumni of the Year: Vic and Christina Buckwalter

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Two idealistic young people meet at EMU, earn their degrees in pre-med and education, and spend their entire careers serving others – without fanfare – at home and abroad. Now they get some fanfare from a university that values service and promotes the helping professions.

Vic Buckwalter ’73, originally from Cochranville, Pa., went on to medical school at Temple University in Philadelphia. Christina Yoder ’73 Buckwalter, from Barberton, Ohio, earned a master’s degree in the psychology of reading from Temple University. Vic’s residency in family medicine was at Lancaster (Pa.)
General Hospital.

“I got excellent preparation for medical school at EMU,” said Vic. “I took all the courses I could in anatomy and biology from Dr. Daniel Suter.”

Vic Buckwalter

The Buckwalters’ first stop in their careers of service was at the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona, where Vic was a medical officer in the Indian Health Service for two years. Then they went to Tanzania under Eastern Mennonite Missions, serving two terms with a two-year break in between. Vic worked in a hospital and Christina homeschooled their children – Benjamin, Nicholas ’05, and Molly.

After eight years in Africa, the Buckwalter family settled near Harrisonburg, in a house between Massanutten Peak and Keezletown. Christina taught at Waterman and Spotswood elementary schools and Vic practiced family medicine at Carilion Family Medicine in Weyers Cave.

But Africa beckoned again. This time – 2008 – they accepted a four-year term of service in Kenya under Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). They lived in Webuye in the western part of the country.

Vic was on the faculty at Moi University in the family medicine department. He taught Kenyan physicians who were pursuing post-graduate degrees in family medicine. One day each week they worked in a family medicine clinic.

Another day was devoted to over 400 diabetes patients. Funding from MCC provided a medication subsidy and supported a diabetes laboratory. Vic and his team provided glucose monitoring for some of the most poorly controlled patients requiring insulin therapy.

Christina worked as a reading specialist at the local public school—District Education Board Primary School. She taught small groups of students who needed extra help with reading. (All students in Kenya are expected to be adept in both English and Swahili.) Christina also traveled to the capital city, Nairobi, each month to train teachers at two Mennonite schools in impoverished areas.

The Buckwalters returned to their Virginia home in April 2012, where Vic joined the staff of Harrisonburg Community Health Center as a family physician.

So what did they think of being chosen EMU’s alumni of the year? “We were totally shocked,” said Christina. “How can we follow last year’s winner?” (Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee, MA ’07.)

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