Top reads for 2105 published by EMU news include Harrisonburg Rescue Squad members Jackson and Katie Maust (left) and Amos Beachy, 98, who graduated in 1954 and returned to his alma mater for the first time in 2015. (Photos by Michael Sheeler)

Top Ten most read news articles and editor’s picks of 2015

As Eastern Mennonite University faculty, staff and students move into the first semester of 2016, we look back at some of the top news items from 2015.  There was plenty to cover in the news this year, from the arrival of EMU Lancaster’s first associate provost Mary Jensen to the graduation of Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s largest class. The university launched a new minor and new graduate certificate programs, and broke records in enrollment and number of athletes named to the annual Old Dominion Athletic Conference All-Academic Team.

These 10 headlines drew readers’ attention in the past 12 months:

1. President Swartzendruber’s December call to action and civil discourseLoren-610x370

By far the most viewed story of the year, with 15,000 reads and nearly 600 Facebook likes, was President Swartzendruber’s December reflections on attacks in San Bernardino, Paris, South Carolina, and elsewhere. “Our campus community continues to prayerfully discern what the peace position means to us in a world beset by violence,” Swartzendruber said. He called everyone to practice Jesus’ command to love one’s enemies and to engage in dialogue with those who come from different backgrounds, while pledging that EMU would work locally and regionally at Muslim-Christian dialogue and continue to train students and others with world-changing tools and principles.

2. Amish teacher, 98, returns to alma materamos

Amos Yoder ’54 waited a long time for this trip. Yoder, who is Amish and lives in Minnesota, spent his career teaching and farming in the Midwest and Great Plains and never returned to Virginia—until daughter Rebecca Barbo brought him to campus last year. A group of former classmates and EMU alumni relations representatives greeted Yoder on his visit. Yoder said the campus looked very different, but he treasured the opportunity to return to a place so important to him, calling his years at then-Eastern Mennonite College “one of the high points of my life.”

3. Jackson and Katie Maust with the Harrisonburg Rescue SquadMaust_Couple_Sheeler_Large2

Titled “Married alumni couple spends spare time saving lives,” the story of Jackson and Katie (Lehman) Maust was one of the top five most-read of the year. They work as a physical therapist and emergency room nurse, respectively, but spend much time away from work among the ranks of the 160 HRS volunteers (including many other EMU alumni). Katie says it’s a calling. “It’s a way that we serve God,” she says.

4. Retirement announcement

Loren Swartzendruber began the end of an era in April when he announced he would retire at the end of the 2015-2016 academic year. EMU’s eighth president, Swartzendruber will have served for 13 years in the role and 33 years total in Mennonite higher education. A national search for EMU’s next president began in June.

5. The Yutzy family and their dairy’s new solar installationYutzy

Sustainability on campus and off are always popular reads. The Yutzy family, which includes several EMU alumni, was featured by the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record for innovations at their Windcrest Holsteins farm in Timberville, Va. This past year the farm’s barn and milking parlor were covered with nearly 1,800 solar panels. The $1.3 million system, made possible via a grant, tax credits, and depreciation allowances, is expected to pay for itself within five years and eliminate the farm’s power bill. It is Virginia’s largest privately owned solar installation.Davisfeature-610x370

6. Articles honoring faculty of note and moments of historic importance

As we approach the Centennial celebration of 2017, EMU readers enjoyed and shared articles about former faculty members Abraham Davis, who started what is today Multicultural Student Services, and Calvin E. Shenk ’59, who spent a quarter-century teaching at EMU before retiring in 2001.  Articles on Park Woods Cabin and the Bard’s Nest, as well as the radio station WEMC garnered a good number of hits. The Shenandoah Valley Youth Symphony celebrated 25 years in March.

7.  Record enrollment and soaring graduate program growth

Good news abounded in EMU’s student numbers in 2015. The incoming traditional undergraduate class included 257 students—up from an average of 205 in the previous decade and increasing in diversity, as well. Graduate enrollment jumped, with the master’s in education program showed the most growth. A total of 1,908 students were registered across all EMU programs, including EMU Lancaster, at the beginning of the fall semester.

8. Alumnus Konrad Wert aka Possessed by Paul James returns to EMUWert_Konrad_Courtesy_web2

If you missed Konrad Wert ’01, this photo alone will make you wish you’d caught the show. Wert, performing as the one-man band Possessed by Paul James, returned to EMU. His album There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely hit No. 12 on the November 2013 Americana/Bluegrass Billboard charts. Wert graduated with a degree in liberal arts and now teaches special education in Texas when he’s not on the road.

9. Harrisonburg’s new restorative justice initiative

Restorative justice articles always draw excellent reader numbers, but this article about the new Harrisonburg initiative garnered a record number of hits and Facebook shares. The new program, the first of its kind in Virginia and more than two years in the creation, involved restorative justice practitioners from EMU and James Madison University, Harrisonburg Police Deparetment, representatives of local law practices, the Commonwealth’s attorney and the Fairfield Center.

10. Any sports story!Streetball_web-610x370

EMU news blog readers love their sports! There’s always great coverage available at, but sometimes EMU news and your former sports-writer editor can’t resist the urge (with permission from Sports Information Director James De Boer) to “break” a sports story.

Whether finding articles at or EMU News, sports fans read, like and share them, from profiles of former athletes like pitcher-turned-Mets group sales director Kirk King ’07 to features on athletes in action, such as Jess Rheinheimer, Hannah Chappell-Dick and Kat Lehman at the indoor track NCAA championships, and a history-making baseball trio.

The editor’s favorite in this category was coverage of a charity basketball game that resulted in the photo above and the following headline: “Black Student Union fundraiser game pits the (victorious) Streetball Kingz against the hometown Wreckin’ Royals.”

Here’s wishing you happy reading in 2016. Send news tips to editor Lauren Jefferson at