President’s Letter: Mennonites on Mars

By Susan Schultz Huxman | December 20th, 2017

GREETINGS EMU FRIENDS, wherever you are! Jesse and I were thrilled to see hundreds of you during our fall Centennial celebration. Among the 80 events we celebrated was the honoring of six outstanding EMU alumni trailblazers – Chester and Sara Jane Wenger, M.J. Sharp, Laura Rosenberger, Leonard Dow and Anxo Pérez – all of whom have modeled extraordinary leadership, service and impact.

Anxo Pérez, our Alumnus of the Year from Madrid, Spain, founder and CEO of, an internet-based language learning program that employs more than 100 people in nine countries – said this about how EMU has impacted his life: “I can’t believe how many people at EMU helped me find my calling and helped me make contacts all over the world. In every country, I find Mennonites, many with ties to EMU.”

As an aside, Anxo joked: “When we get to Mars, you know what? I think we’ll find Mennonites there!”

This eyebrow raisingidea – as implausible as it may seem – echoes a prominent theme of Don Kraybill’s Centennial history Eastern Mennonite University: A Century of Countercultural Education (2017, Penn State University Press): How did a separatist “quiet in the land” Mennonite community that opened a “safeguard” Bible school for its seven students in 1917 in the midst of the Great War grow into a world-class, world-engaged university with 1,700 students and thousands of alumni serving and leading, including a Nobel laureate from Liberia, 100 years later? Yes, that’s as astonishing a trajectory as considering: First the moon, then Mars!

In this issue of Crossroads, we turn towards our second century. With the four themes of our strategic plan at the forefront – Celebrate, Engage, Grow and Diversify – we hear visionary words from current students and are inspired by our amazing alumni: They all keep this astonishing transformation alive, learning from and living out the countercultural mission of EMU. As you read, be challenged by their words and their lives. These individuals have distinguished themselves as unconventional leaders here and around the globe; have given back to their communities, including EMU; and have been recognized for making positive impacts in their careers.

Each page of this magazine underscores an important truth: For a small university nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, our influence extends far and wide. Our values of peacemaking and discipleship, service and community are beautifully and boldly being lived out in the rich lives of our many graduates.

As we launch our second century with a bold new strategic plan to celebrate, engage, grow and diversify this “Christian university like no other,” may we not shrink from the possibilities of where we might land!

Mennonites on Mars? Perhaps not, but as poet Robert Browning once famously said: “Our reach should exceed our grasp or what’s a heaven for?”