In a close-up from a holiday scene created in polymer clay by multi-talented Assistant Director of Auxiliary Services Sarah Regan, EMU security officers Tessa Teixeira, Jon Madison, and Dustin Turner (from left) drive an emu on their holiday patrol through campus. “I thought it would be weird to have Herm pulling a sleigh,” Regan said. This is just one of several miniatures she created to celebrate the entire Facilities Management team. Visit the Facilities Management Office to see it in person. (Photos by Rachel Holderman)

Ho Ho Holiday Fun at EMU

EDITOR’S NOTE: This published on 12/20/2021 as many of us were heading into the holidays, but we loved Sarah Regan’s art project so much that we’re posting it again in the news digest “In Case You Missed It,” just for fun.

The reception desk in Eastern Mennonite University’s Facilities Management office has been momentarily turned into a Christmas diorama, courtesy of the talented Sarah Regan ‘18, assistant director of auxiliary services.

Last year, Regan drew individually illustrated Christmas cards for each colleague; this year’s “little clay people” was the perfect next gift. She estimated that the entire scene took about 14 hours to complete but the time was thoroughly enjoyable: “I had a lot of fun making them and really just wanted to show my team how much I value them,” she said. “It wasn’t very difficult to come up with what each person would be doing. I just thought about what last Christmas was like and how everyone pitched in to make campus bright and joyful. I love them all, they’ve become like family to me and that’s what makes me want to show them off!” 

We wanted to share this delightful art with you and decided to add to the holiday fun with a few more photos of seasonal celebration on campus. 

Sarah Regan with the full miniature scene – each figure is about 2-3 inches tall – in the Facilities Management Office. Selected closeups, from left: Digging the hole for the tree are Lance Wenger and Matt Freed; Ed Lehman enjoys gingerbread cookies from a tray held by Cheryl Montgomery; Phil Martin with his pug puppy Laura; and Jack Hummel on the back of the truck, looking like he’s hugging the Christmas tree but actually getting ready to lug it off the truck and to the ground (he’s studying forestry).

Not pictured: John Shepard and Shane Bieber string lights; with the truck and tree are also Doug Blyer, Dan Marple Jr., and Kendall Wenger; Lori Gant and Sarah Regan wrap presents (Sarah likes “to balance things on my head,” so she’s actually doing that with a present); Diann Harman holds the star; Wayne Martin with the ladder; Joe Showalter shovels snow; Eddie McKee (also EMU’s assistant softball coach) throws snowballs; Mike Stellwag and Arnold Driediger build the snowman.

Regan’s two favorite parts: the tape dispenser next to Lori Gant as she wraps presents, and the gingerbread cookie crumbs on the tray, left over from the cookie that Ed Lehman is munching.

This is Regan’s first major foray in working with clay, though she has experience with many media. Crocheting, painting, writing, sketching, and sewing are some of her many “hobbies that come and go in waves,” she says, in addition to singing, dancing and playing the trombone.

Recycling crew member Jack Hummel enjoys teasing Regan about finding new hobbies, all the while feeding her creativity by bringing her “cool things he finds in the trash.” Regan has made a basket out of plastic grocery bags, a Christmas tree from discarded wire coat hangers and an apron out of t-shirt scraps.

Hummel brought her the discarded Sculpey polymer clay he discovered on one of his trash routes this fall – and a few days later, the instruments to work the clay. “And just like that, I found a new hobby!” Regan said.  

For many of us at EMU, Note-Writing Day in early December marks the beginning of our holiday celebrations. Admissions brings the festive spirit, poinsettias, Christmas music, the digital fireplace, sweet and salty provisions, hot drinks, pens, paper and lists of names. This year, 61 staff and 33 faculty joined in the fun to send 579 hand-written and individualized messages of warm holiday wishes and encouragement to prospective students. For the competitive and holiday-spirit-minded, there’s also an ugly Christmas sweater competition and chances to win EMU swag throughout the day. The day brings together all of our campus community in a celebration of togetherness and hospitality, as we share what we love about being a part of EMU and send invitations into homes across the country to come and join us. Pictured here are representatives of athletics, marketing, seminary, facilities management and student life.

Admissions staff pose for a pic in all their festive wear. That’s a sloth hanging from a candy cane (standing second from left) and yes, an actual emu on a holiday sweatshirt, too. Back row, from left: Matt Ruth, Luke Mullet, Ben Durren, Lexi Brown, Kiana Childress. Front row, from left: Rebekah Budnikas, Mary Davis, Ericka Gingerich.

Students took a break from prepping for (and maybe recovering from) their final exams to enjoy Christmas cookies and hot drinks offered by Bruce Emmerson and the Pioneer College Caterers around Thomas Plaza before the Lighting of the Green ceremony. Students were also treated to cookies in the Suter Science Center that morning, an annual tradition of the STEM faculty and staff, and cookies were also to be found in the Campus Center, along with tools to make your own snowflake art.

An aerial photo of the Lighting of the Green ceremony at dusk on Monday, Dec. 13, captures the drama of candles, Christmas lights, campus lighting and the setting sun. This annual event is hosted by the President’s Office for faculty, staff, students, retirees and families. The lights brighten campus for finals week and throughout the holiday break for local residents to enjoy.

The annual evening Christmas Lessons and Carols service on Monday, Dec. 13, included readings from student chaplains and congregational singing with the EMU Chamber Singers. In the classic approach to lessons and carols, scripture passages feature the image of light and trace themes of need and longing, stories surrounding the birth of Jesus, and the celebration of “God with us.” The event is a collaborative effort between the Office of Faith and Spiritual Life and the Music Department.

Patty Eckard, office coordinator with EMU’s Business and Leadership Department, regularly brings baked goods for sharing, but the arrival of her holiday cookie tray is highly anticipated among all who work in the Campus Center. Each year, Eckard bakes between 3-4,000 cookies, including 39 dozen sugar cookies, to give as gifts and to take to holiday parties. This year’s tray holds 34 varieties, from “standards I’ve been making for 25 years to some new kinds I wanted to try.” On the regular list are Nutter Butter santas, monster cookies, white chocolate cranberry bars, buckeye peanut butter balls, and p-nut bears nestled among other flavors of gingerbread, coconut, peppermint and truffles.

Eckard starts buying and freezing ingredients in the spring and begins perusing her two notebooks (one has recipes and other decorating ideas, all encased in plastic sleeves to preserve longevity) in the fall. She follows other bakers on Facebook for new ideas, too. Chocolate mint brownies are always the first creation in October (“I’m not sure why but I always start with them,” she says), and some of Thanksgiving week is always spent on the sugar cookies — 3-4 hours of baking and 10-12 hours of decorating. She aims to finish baking by the beginning of December, just in time to spread some sweet joy.

Merry Christmas!

All photos by Rachel Holderman, except for Admissions staff group photo by Lauren Jefferson. Thanks to Lori Gant for the email about Sarah Regan’s artwork, which inspired the entire photoessay.

If we missed sharing how you or someone else helped to spread the Christmas spirit at EMU, tell us about it in the comment box below.

Join the Discussion on “Ho Ho Holiday Fun at EMU

  1. I adore this post! I love seeing the creativity, spirit of sharing and giving, and Sarah Reagan’s clay creations. This shows the epitome of EMU’s values, and I am so grateful my son is surrounded by people like the staff and faculty at EMU. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

  2. I love to see the creativity of my former 2nd grade student Sarah Regan.
    She is such a giving and loving person. May your talents continue to shine.

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