Eastern Mennonite University’s first century is the focus of two 5-week courses offered through James Madison University’s Lifelong Learning Institute. Until its demise in a fire, the Ad building was the campus's most prominent building. (EMU Archives)

Lifelong Learning course highlights Eastern Mennonite University’s first century

Eastern Mennonite University’s first century of “Serving, Leading, Transforming” is the focus of two 5-week courses offered through James Madison University’s Lifelong Learning Institute.

The classes will meet from 9:30-11:30 a.m. on 10 consecutive Thursdays, Sept. 14-Nov. 16, in the dining hall foyer at Eastern Mennonite High School, 801 Parkwood Dr., Harrisonburg. Part I begins on Sept. 14 (register for part I here), and the second session begins on Oct. 19 (register here). Enrollees must be Lifelong Learning Institute members (register and pay the $20 fee here), and the cost is $35 for either the first or second five weeks, or $50 for all 10 weeks.

An “overview of EMU’s transformation from a small, insular academic community to an accredited university offering undergraduate and graduate degrees with global impact,” the courses will explore “the transformation of a quiet school on a hill meant to protect its students from the world into a place engaging with, welcoming and sending alumni out into the world.”

The courses begin with the history of Mennonites in the Shenandoah Valley, the birth of the school, and its growth into a college and university. Speakers will also present on arts, music and sciences at EMU and development of the seminary and the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.

Presenters include historians, administrators, professors, and other members of the EMU community. Many are alumni of the university, and have fulfilled many roles at EMU. They will “reflect the changes that have occurred over the past 100 years as well as the impact those changes continue to have on the future of EMU,” said Louise Hostetter, who chairs the EMU Centennial Committee and recruited the course instructors.

“I hope that people come away with a much better understanding of the positive impact EMU continues to make on students, local community and global community,” she said.

A session will also be devoted to the history of Eastern Mennonite High School and led by Elwood Yoder, a historian and current faculty member at the school.

Session I topics and instructors

  • Sept. 14 — “Mennonites in the Valley,” presented by Phil Kniss, senior pastor at Park View Mennonite Church and a graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary.
  • Sept. 21 — “Eastern Mennonite School, 1917,” presented by Elwood Yoder, a Mennonite historian and teacher at Eastern Mennonite High School who has published numerous historical articles and books.
  • Sept. 28 — “Eastern Mennonite College, 1965-1980,” presented by Myron Augsburger, the fifth president of EMU from 1965-80 and a professor of theology from 1963-80.
  • Oct. 5 — “EMC becomes Eastern Mennonite University” or “Women of EMC/EMU,” presented by Lee Snyder, interim president in 2016 and vice president and academic dean for 12 years at EMU.
  • Oct. 12 — Session to be presented by Don Kraybill, an Anabaptist scholar whose new history of EMU will be released at this fall’s Centennial celebration.

Session II topics and instructors

  • Oct. 19 — “Development of the Arts at EMU,” presented by Jerry Holsopple, professor of visual and communication arts and an artist, photographer and renowned videographer, and Esther Augsburger, a sculptor whose work has been placed around the world, including at EMU. While her husband Myron was president, Esther studied music — but later became the university’s first art graduate.
  • Oct. 26 — “Music and the Mennonites,” presented by Ken Nafziger, professor of music at EMU for four decades and artistic director and conductor of the annual Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival, and Jeremy Nafziger, a 1991 graduate and a leader of the men’s a cappella group Cantore.
  • Nov. 2 — “Sciences at EMU,” presented by Roman Miller, professor (now emeritus) for more than 30 years and the founding director of the MA in biomedicine program, and Beryl Brubaker, former provost and nursing department faculty member.
  • Nov. 9 — “Eastern Mennonite Seminary,” presented by Nancy Heisey, associate dean at Eastern Mennonite Seminary.
  • Nov. 16 — “Center for Justice and Peacebuilding,” presented by Gloria Rhodes, current chair of the department of applied social sciences and coordinator of the peacebuilding and development undergraduate major.

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