Last Friday, Goshen College faculty, alumni and current students met for a convocation that welcomed alumni back to Goshen and recognized the outstanding work of a few of these alumni. 

Daryl Abbott ’69 and Pauline (Graybill) Kennel ’53 were announced as winners of the culture for service award. The Dr. Ruth Gunden and Dr. Roman Gingerich champions of character awardees were Melissa (Lehman) Gillette ’05 and Geof Landis ’76. The young alumni servant leadership award was presented to Jeremy Pope ’11.

Champions of character awards recognize former student-athletes for positive contributions to their communities and values such as integrity, servant leadership and sportsmanship. 

Gillette, this year’s Gunden award winner, ran cross country at GC; now, after earning her master’s degree in medical molecular genetics at Indiana University and a doctorate in biology at the University of Notre Dame, serves as the clinical program director of genetics and provides counseling at the Saint Joseph Health System in Mishawaka. 

“Melissa is humble in her work,” said Rebecca Stoltzfus, president of GC, “but she’s shaping the community with her research in genetics and cancer. She approaches her medical career as diligently and passionately as she approached her All-American running career here at Goshen College.”

Throughout his life, Landis, the winner of this year’s Gingerich award, has consistently found himself in positions of leadership. “Landis,” Stoltzfus said, “has exemplified what it means to be a servant leader in business and on the soccer field.”

After his soccer career at GC, which included four years starting at goalkeeper and a fifth-place finish in the NAIA soccer tournament in 1973, Landis went on to work for Menno Travel for 40 years. Currently, he works for GYSO, a recreational soccer league for over 400 kids, serving as the board president.

The young alumni servant leadership award is given to an alum who has impacted their community in their first 15 years after graduation. 

Pope, this year’s winner, studied business and sports management at GC, and also played on the basketball team. After graduating, he founded Next Level Skills, a basketball academy for recruiting and college preparation. Pope’s programs help prepare youth athletes to succeed in middle school, high school and college, both athletically and academically.

“I came here as a kid,” Pope said in convocation, “with a goal to get buckets, get a degree and make a lot of money through sports. When I left here at 22, my goal was to change people’s lives through sports.”

The culture for service award, started in 1989, is given to two graduates who have lived out the GC motto in their professional lives and personal experiences. This year, awardees were Abbott and Kennel.

Abbott graduated with a social work degree. After graduation, he found a job at the department of public welfare in Elkhart. He played a leading role in the program’s development into CAPS, a social program aimed at child abuse education. After retirement, he became the interim director of Loveway, a horse therapy program.

Abbott, being a “man of few words,” elected to have his daughter, Ashley Abbott, speak on his behalf. 

“Even in the face of adversity,” she said, “I have watched my father remain strong in the face of the Lord. He continues to remain positive and uplifting to others. The enormity in which he cares for others is inspiring to witness.”

Kennel graduated with a degree in music. After completing multiple masters’ degrees and a doctorate in music education from Northwestern, Kennel became one of the Mennonite Church’s first licensed female ministers. She also served as a minister of music and a coordinator of Chicago Area Mennonites.

“Service adventures,” she said, speaking of adventures at GC, “served me in developing my music skills and leadership skills. This stimulated spiritual growth and expanded my horizon.”

The convocation concluded with a rousing rendition of GC’s alma mater, led by Scott Hochstetler, professor of music and director of the low voices choir and the chamber choir.