Bright Futures Co-Chairs Support Whole Campaign
Dan and JoAnne Rexroth love supporting ideas, projects and organizations that make life better for others. Projects in underdeveloped nations like Haiti, ideas that improve the life of senior citizens, and at MNU, the Bright Futures capital campaign, ignite their passion to make a difference.
Dan is president and CEO of John Knox Village, a retirement community providing independent living, services and amenities, and a full continuum of long-term health care services on a 400+ acre campus in Lee's Summit, Missouri. Recently he was named to Ingram's magazine's "250 Most Powerful Business Leaders in the Kansas City Area." JoAnne is a busy volunteer who enjoys the couple's grandchildren whenever possible. Dan also serves MNU as the treasurer of the Board of Trustees and the couple are faithful members of Lenexa Church of the Nazarene.
Longtime supporters of the Pioneer Athletic Association (their daughter Bethany ('10) played center for the Pioneers' women's basketball team), the Rexroth's are co-chairs of the Bright Futures campaign and recently provided a gift that supports all three pillars of the campaign: scholarships, capital projects and university support.
Dan and JoAnne's love for MNU stems from a long history with Nazarene higher education. They met (he was a freshman, she was a junior) at Olivet Nazarene University, near Chicago.
"Supporting students is really important to us because we recognize the cost of education is significant," Dan says. "We don't want finances to stand in way of a quality transformational educational experience. That's why we set up an endowment."
The Dan and JoAnne Rexroth Scholarship Endowment provides support for Nazarene students with financial need.
"JoAnne and I, my mother, our siblings, their spouses and our children all graduated from Nazarene colleges," he says. "We've seen first-hand how lives can be transformed. From personal experience, we know the value of Christian education."
They have chosen to support capital projects through the campaign because they know facilities and amenities are important.
"Students sometimes pick schools based on resources available to them," Dan says. "Whether it's well-equipped classrooms, labs or athletic facilities, we want to be sure our Nazarene schools have first-class facilities to compete with other schools. It's an important piece of the equation for MNU."
The couple also supports the university through the President's Honors gala each year. Dan says they try to bring friends and colleagues to the event each year to introduce them to the university.
"MNU puts its best foot forward at President's Honors. It's a first-class event where the university can showcase its quality and the quality of its students. It's a tremendous event that has raised some good money and it is a great community relations event."
In his career Dan says he's worked to make a person's last days, their best days. He has strived, he says, to make a difference in seniors' lives. In his volunteer work for MNU, Dan knows that gaining an education makes achieving a happy, fulfilling life, that much more likely. And he is making a difference here too.
"There is no price you can put on life transformation," he asserts. "If people want to make an eternal investment, they should invest in the lives of students who are going to be the teacher/leaders of our churches, our businesses and our country. I believe the future of MNU will be to shed an increasingly bright light on an increasingly dark world," Dan says. And that will surely make a difference. Read More
Jonathan Babcock's future certainly looks bright and he credits much of it to his alma mater. The December 2016 grad earned a degree in accounting and is now a research analyst for DeMarche Associates, Inc. The desire to pursue a career in finance is something that developed throughout Jonathan's education at MNU. It started when he went halfway around the world to study abroad at Korea Nazarene University. In partnership with MNU, Jonathan earned a minor in international business management. One of his KNU professors is on the board of a large South Korean bank and learning from him was inspiring. During his free time and while traveling around the country, Jonathan started reading more about banking and investments which he says developed into a deeper excitement about the world of finance.
When he returned to MNU the following semester, Dr. Mary Murphy, associate professor, asked him to help start a student investment club. At this point, Jonathan says he thought, "God really works in incredible ways, especially through the things that MNU does for its students."
The club exists to give students real-world investing experience while providing a fundraising opportunity for the MNU Foundation. With the help of School of Business professors, Jonathan recruited more members for a total of 10 students in the first year. The club manages a portfolio started with $50,000 from the MNU Foundation. In just one year of investing they have made money and foundation board members are pleased with the return. Realizing that more education was needed for club members to be successful, a course was developed.
"That is when God sent us Jack Hansen, one of the most inspiring men I have ever met," Jonathan says. Jack ('92, MBA '99) has 15 years of experience as a broker and investment adviser for Edward Jones. With Jack's help, curriculum was developed for the investment portfolio strategy and management course that he and Associate Professor Mary Murphy, PhD, co-teach.
"This class teaches students in a hands-on way similar to an internship," Jonathan says. "Instead of solely learning concepts, you're able to apply the knowledge you've learned to persuade the class to purchase a particular stock. And the best part is, by the gracious efforts of the MNU Foundation, we're able to invest real money."
Jonathan says these experiences along with a mentor from MNU's Executive Mentorship Program, all developed his interest and significant real-world experience prior to his job search.
"The experience I gained through participating in the investment club opened up a lot of doors for me when looking at career opportunities. Not only did it help me further my knowledge in investing, it also helped me further develop leadership skills. It played a major role in helping me obtain the job I have now."
When asked about the future of MNU Jonathan says, "I am excited to see what the next 5, 10 and 20 years hold for this school, because I know it is going to continue to grow and do incredible things." Read More
Class president. Freshman mentor. ServeTeam member. Volunteer.
Senior Austin Petellin reflects a strong commitment to of one of MNU's core values: a passion to serve others. Since the moment he set foot on campus, Austin has dedicated hundreds of hours to servant leadership. He has worked alongside ESL families at a social services organization, local organization, led a shoe drive for the Kansas City Rescue Mission and built relationships through an after-school program in the metro's urban core.
Austin, whose parents are both MNU alums, calls the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho area home. Whenever he heads home, you can usually find him investing time with the youth group at or Upward Sports program at his home church, Coeur d'Alene Nazarene Church.
Austin specifically credits his two summers as a ServeTeam member as being a formative experience. "Service was the attitude of those summers; it taught me the lifestyle of servant leadership. During the years following those summers, I have revisited certain youth groups to nurture those relationships and hopefully recruit students to MNU."
In fall of 2015, Austin connected many of those youth group relationships through a role typically reserved for a working professional - he helped plan and manage the Kansas City District's NYI Breakaway youth event. As an organizational leadership and marketing major, he hopes to bring this orientation toward servant leadership to his future career. "If there is one thing I've learned since I've been at MNU, it is that God's Kingdom is moving and working everywhere, and I can be involved no matter what. Servant leadership is a lifestyle." Read More
MNU to Name Student Center After Cunninghams
When MNU's Bright Futures: the campaign for MNU was announced last month, many were delighted to hear that the new Student Center would be named after two of the most loyal and enthusiastic supporters of the university. After all, if not for the vision of Dr. Paul Cunningham, and the prayerful support of Dr. Connie Cunningham, MNU might never have been located in Olathe, Kansas.
Paul Cunningham was a young minister in his first pastorate in the small Olathe Church of the Nazarene in 1964 when the denomination voted to start a new college. Convinced that his city of 15,000 held the best potential location, Cunningham approached bank president and civic leader R.R. Osborne with the idea.
An enthusiastic leader with tremendous vision for what Olathe could become, Osborne jumped on board and put together a group of business leaders who donated 40 acres of land in addition to his own 40-acre donation. The location became MidAmerica Nazarene College and opened its doors in 1968.
"Throughout its history, the Cunninghams have welcomed, pastored and befriended students from all over the world as the university and the church that became College Church of the Nazarene grew," says Dr. David Spittal, MNU president. "It is safe to say that MNU would not be in Olathe today, if not for the vision and enthusiastic support of Drs. Paul and Connie Cunningham."
The new, state-of-the-art 50,000- square-foot Cunningham Student Center will replace the nearly 50-year-old Campus Center building, and more than double it in size. The center will feature multi-use spaces for meeting, a larger, enhanced dining area, outdoor areas, a fitness center and the campus store. The second floor will house Enrollment Development, Student Financial Aid Services and Student Development with space specifically designed for visiting prospective students and their families.
Bright Futures: the campaign for MidAmerica Nazarene University is a three-priority, multi-year campaign for $61 million.
Over the next five years, funds raised in the campaign will be designated for three priorities at MNU:
- Academic Programs: $6,989,043
- Capital Projects: $28,109,262
- University Support: $26,214,328
Maybe it's his electric personality, or the way his eyes crinkle up with his huge smile. All kinds of people are drawn to MNU alum Armand Banks.
Armand came to MNU on a football scholarship. He grew up playing ball at a St. Louis area high school and played for the Pioneers as an offensive lineman for four years. Armand will readily tell you that his childhood was "harder than most, but better than some," he says. At a young age, he assumed the responsibilities of someone much older.
The concepts of Christlike faith and life transformation were somewhat new for Armand when he arrived at MNU. "I wasn't really sure what to think," he says. He studied criminal justice, balancing classwork with football and a night shift job at Kids TLC. Like many other athletes, he also met friends and coaches who changed his life.
Life nearly came to a halt in Armand's senior year at MNU. "My mom was involved in severe substance abuse, and it was up to me to get her out and into a better situation," he says. So he personally moved her to Olathe to be close to him, in the midst of his responsibilities in the classroom and on the field.
Graduating in 2015, Armand became the first person in his family to earn a college degree. "My past didn't have to determine my future," he says. His faith has grown, and Armand is forever grateful to his coaching staff for modeling humbleness and teaching him to trust God with each decision.
Today, Armand is married to his college sweetheart and pursuing his personal passion of barbering. Inspired by the relationships that can be formed through this trade, he is motivated to pay forward the same care and concern that formed the bedrock of his relationships at MNU.
To Armand, the future of MNU is filled with purpose. He is excited to see new facilities and scholarship opportunities, so that others can experience transformation while they are a part of the MNU community. Read More
MNU Receives $300K from Sunderland Foundation for New Student Center
The proposed Cunningham Student Center is part of the new Bright Futures: the campaign for MNU, a three-priority, multi-year campaign for $61 million. The Sunderland Foundation has just awarded MNU $300,000 toward the construction of this new, multi-use building.
The state-of-the-art, 50,000-square-foot Cunningham Student Center will replace the nearly 50-year-old Campus Center building. The center will feature spaces for meeting, a larger, enhanced dining area, outdoor areas, a fitness center and the campus store. The second floor will house Enrollment Development, Student Financial Aid Services and Student Development with space specifically designed for visiting prospective students and their families.
The Sunderland Foundation's generous support will significantly assist in providing the resources necessary to realize our bold aspirations and propel us forward into a new chapter of the university's 50-year history," says Todd Garrett, director of development and corporate engagement.
The Sunderland Foundation has supported two previous capital projects at MNU: one for the Cook Center athletic and academic facility (1996-1997) and another for the Bell Cultural Events Center (2005-2006). The latest gift toward the student center is the largest gift from the foundation so far.
"The university has been privileged to receive The Sunderland Foundation's generous support for both of these campus facilities and now this grant for the Cunningham Student Center. We are so grateful for The Sunderland Foundation's commitment to making a significant impact on MNU's mission to transform student lives," Garrett says.
About The Sunderland Foundation
For more than 60 years, The Sunderland Foundation has invested in the places and spaces where nonprofits do their work.
Grants from the Foundation help build the places where families in distress find help and healing, where young minds grow and thrive, and where communities come together for celebration and inspiration.
Our focus on funding bricks and mortar projects - including building construction, renovation, repairs and restoration - reflects our unique heritage and provides a much-needed source of funding for established nonprofits that need new or improved facilities.
By supporting capital and special projects that allow nonprofits to fulfill their missions, The Sunderland Foundation is doing its part to create a stronger, safer and more vibrant future for the communities we serve. Read More
An accomplished leader in the business and technology industries, Ervin Cash, 1981 MNU alumnus, firmly believes in paying it forward.
The power of a solid, well-rounded education played a key role in Ervin's ability to successfully guide a diverse group of large, international companies. A role he has not forgotten. As the current CEO for SloanLED, a company which designs and develops high-reliability LED lighting products, he encourages students, especially those pursuing technology-related degrees, to recognize the need for both technical and people skills.
Ervin used his time at MNU to hone his career ambitions and gain the liberal arts education needed to effectively work with people and learn how to motivate them as a leader. "During my time at MNU, I gained a clear sense of commitment about my career pursuit and became more dedicated to achieving success, with a balance of people, technical, business and strategy skills."
Ervin is committed to life-long learning. After gaining his undergraduate degree from MNU, he went on to pursue a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Kansas, an MBA at Xavier University and post-graduate study at Harvard Business School Executive Education.
Ervin currently serves on the Bright Futures Campaign Executive Committee and finds value in remaining connected to MNU.
"I am personally interested in making sure MNU remains viable and increases its relevance with students that are interested in a Christian education, but also want to pursue technology-based careers. MNU holds a legacy and I want to help build and expand on this."
Ervin utilizes and shares his breadth and depth of career expertise to help the university reach more people and share the mission of MNU. He also encourages other alumni to get involved in helping MNU find continued success.
"It's important for alumni to remember how the invisible influence of MNU - what it stands for, teaches and inspires - has encouraged and helped foster success throughout their lives."
"One of the most significant ways to acknowledge and show appreciation is through helping MNU continue its influence in shaping the lives of young people who are facing a very complex future," he says.
To Ervin, the future of MNU is bright, and he commends the university for taking the bold steps to becomes more viable, relevant and necessary in the lives of students.
Buchanans' committment valued
When Tim and Gail (Peckham FS '79) Buchanan think about the future of MNU, they have no doubt that it is filled with opportunity.
Their remarkable history of generosity to MNU is rooted in their unwavering support of Christian education. In 2013 the Buchanans donated $100,000 to MNU to help establish the Buchanan Choral Music Fund, providing valuable resources for student scholarships and faculty development. For five years, they have also sponsored the President's Honors gala at the highest level.
Now in support of the Bright Futures campaign, Tim and Gail are serving as co-chairs of the project and have already committed a substantial lead gift.
The Buchanan's have also seen the advantage of MNU from the perspective of parents: their daughter Emily (FS, '11), son Matt ('07) and daughter-in-law Lauren (Gilmore '09) all attended MNU.
"They formed remarkable lifelong friendships with incredible people. I can't speak highly enough about the character and Godly lives of the people our children are now sharing their life journey with," Tim emphasizes. "The quality of education and Christian worldview had a remarkable impact on my children." Graduating in three years from MNU, son Matt was immediately accepted into the MBA program at the University of Kansas. Today, he works alongside his father as the Director of Finance for Legend Senior Living. Following MNU, Emily was accepted to one of the top art colleges in the U.S. and today is an Animator at Dreamworks.
Tim is uniquely qualified to speak to the importance of facilities and physical spaces within a community. As a pioneer in the senior housing and assisted living industry since 1990, Tim has been designing, building and operating senior living residences where sense of community is a key component to resident's quality of life.
"These projects MNU is embarking on are a great fit for the forward vision of the school."
Tim says, "They are key components to drawing more students to MNU so that we can continue fulfilling our mission to transform students' lives."
An MNU trustee since 2012, Tim continues to provide valuable leadership and operational business knowledge to the university.
Gift Supports Entire Campaign
In 1975, her husband, Allen, challenged Madeline Tollefson to read the entire Old Testament. The words of Isaiah 58:6-12 were especially powerful to her, including the words about sharing food, providing shelter and meeting the needs of the oppressed. Unbeknownst to Madeline, Allen was reading the same verses at the same time and feeling equally challenged. This is how the couple describes what eventually became a strong calling to international mission work.
"We were called. We went on a trip to Haiti, and we were broken," recalls Madeline.
Over the last four decades, the Tollefsons traveled to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. They have felt particularly called to expose young people to missions, traveling with MNU groups 14 times to 11 countries.
When their son, Cary ('89) was attending MNU and heard that Drs. Frank and Sue Moore needed another couple to travel with them on a school mission trip to Belize in 1986, the Tollefsons jumped at the chance.
"We told Cary, 'have passport, will travel,'" shares Allen. They packed their bags and introduced themselves to the Moores at the airport in Kansas City. Little did they know that a deep, lifelong friendship with the Moores would stem from this first trip.
Self employed for 42 years, Allen and Madeline own AG Tollefson & Co. Inc, a company that constructs pre-fabricated buildings. As the business became successful and built an extremely strong reputation, Allen was able as an outreach to assist smaller church congregations who needed facilities and support mission work by funding trips or supplying building materials.
"We love to give," he says. "The business was a vehicle to help us share our heart for missions."
The Tollefsons were inspired to create the Frank and Sue Moore Endowment in 2013 with a gift of $25,000 - funds that help support MNU students who travel on mission trips.
Today, Allen and Madeline embody the joy of giving.
"There's a definite change in the heart when we give," says Madeline. Together, they are serving on the Bright Futures campaign leadership committee and they have committed the largest gift they have given previously to any campaign; believing the Christian education provided by MNU to be crucial to our future.
Their generous gift will give a great foundation for all aspects of this campaign: $100,000.00 will provide additional scholarship support, $17,000.00 will be added to the existing Frank and Sue Moore Endowment for student missions trip support, and the balance of the gift will support the Cunningham Student Center.
The Tollefsons desire to see MNU have a significant impact on the state, the country and the world. Together, they hope to inspire others to support this campaign.
"Give what you can give - it will work," Madeline says. "The Lord takes whatever you give and makes it work." Read More
A love of science and MNU's small class sizes brought alumna Rebekah (Wilkins '13) Oster to the university, but the close-knit community and Christ-focused learning environment kept
A true academic, Rebekah earned her bachelor's degree in chemistry, with an emphasis in forensic chemistry from MNU, and then went on to graduate school at UMKC, obtaining her master's in chemistry. Today, she utilizes the skills she learned in school working as a statistical programmer for clinical trials.
Rebekah deeply values the abilities she learned during her time at MNU and believes they ultimately led to her pursuit of graduate school. "Graduate school is hands off. You have to be self motivated and in charge of your own plan of study. MNU taught me to be that way. My professors at MNU helped me when I needed it, but also trained me to do things by myself."
The focus MNU provides on identifying and using individual strengths also played a central role in Rebekah's decision to go on to graduate school. In fact, it was during her freshman year at MNU that Rebekah discovered her personal strengths, thanks to the Gallup Strengths Finder test each student completes. Rebekah's professors encouraged her to focus on these strengths and put her all into her work - working for the Lord and not for men.
With a heart for science and seeing future generations pursue the field, Rebekah thanks MNU for building a community of learning. She points to the university's unique classes such as modern physics, as well as its encouragement of open conversations on important topics like evolution within the science industry. "When you go to MNU, there is a big emphasis on community. The community changes and grows, but everywhere you go on campus you can see it. MNU is focused on God, on His will and on His passion for each individual."
Rebekah also thanks MNU donors for their contributions, specifically to the math and science department, stating that, "Every dollar given makes a direct impact and goes to something wonderful - most likely chemical instruments in the math and science department. Chemical instruments separate lower-quality institutions from the higher-quality ones. Having these instruments available affects students' experiences and helps them prepare for graduate school."
Focused on progress, whether personally, academically or professionally, Rebekah sees a promising future for herself and the university. To Rebekah, the future of MNU is filled with hope because it provides each student with a springboard into their own bright future. Read More
If you've made it out to a Pioneer football game in the last few years, you've doubtless heard the name Roy Dennis. The defensive lineman has played an important role on the team for the last four years, and he is quick to credit being a part of the team as a significant piece of his MNU experience. "I've had coaches that have been like fathers to me," shares Roy. "They've shaped me into the person I am today."
And while Roy will tell you about the professors and coaches who have shaped his life during his time at MNU, he will also tell you how hard it was for him to get here.
Roy grew up in Grandview, Missouri in a single parent home that wasn't always a safe place. He stuck with football while in a variety of living situations during his high school years. Recruited in 2012, Roy is the first of his siblings to attend college.
Once at MNU, Roy connected quickly with the coaching staff and with chaplain Brady Braatz. As a history major, he made a commitment to his classes - sitting in the front, asking for help and learning to overcome procrastination.
Then, during the second semester of his freshmen year, during a Kingdom Come service, Roy felt something he never expected - a calling to serve the Lord as a senior pastor. "That wasn't something I even knew I wanted to do," he recalls. "But I've become more comfortable with this calling, and I know it's where I'm supposed to be."
Roy changed his major to ministry, and began to form close relationships with faculty members Dr. Randy Cloud, Dr. Jim Edlin, Dr. Larry Fine and Dr. Don Dunn. "They've helped me see ministry in a different way," he shares. "They've been caring and open with me."
Like so many students, Roy has relied on financial aid to be able to stay in school. "There are so many kids who need to stay here at MNU in order for their lives to be impacted," he says. "Lots of them can't afford to stay because of difficult home situations. Scholarships are an investment in something that has a significant return."
Today, Roy is beloved on campus. He earned his local ministers license in 2015. He has volunteered with the elementary and junior high age groups at College Church of the Nazarene for the last three years, a position that has further cemented his calling to ministry. "I want to make it safe for kids to come back to church and have a relationship with their pastors," Roy says. "We have to get our kids running back to church, and that takes a relationship."
To Roy, the future of MNU reflects possibility - he hopes the school will continue to foster a strong, relational culture that can be transformational to students from all backgrounds. Read More
Music, missions, travel and adventure have led South Dakota native Tori Palmer from her home in the Midwest to Seoul, South Korea via MNU. Though she never imagined ending up on the other side of the globe, she knew early on that MNU would be her top college pick.
"I was 6 or 7 when after seeing a PR [traveling singing] group from MidAmerica I told my mom, ‘I'm going to go to that school and be in that group someday.'" And she did. Traveling for a summer with New Covenant PR group, Tori says that experiences at MNU drove her passion to major in music education and get involved in missions. With jazz band she performed and traveled around the US and to Europe. Coupled with the influence of her professor and advisor Ron McClellan, Tori found herself ready to teach young people in Korea.
"I taught in Kansas for a year but couldn't stop thinking about an opportunity to teach English in Korea," Tori says. "I prayed about it and applied and thought, ‘what's 1 or 2 years in Korea?'"
The relatively short time she planned in Korea has turned into seven years, first teaching English and now music. Still seeking new adventures, Tori has taken mission trips with her Korean church to Thailand on the Myanmar border. Working at a drop-in center that provides vocational training, Bible teaching and meals as well as at a safe house, Tori has learned that when people are seeking God they have a lot in common. "We're like family."
Tori credits her MNU experience and God's leading with what she has been able to accomplish today.
"MNU is where my faith became my own; Christian Beliefs class really challenged me. It shifted my faith into my own. Having an environment that fosters that thinking and growing is so great."
Recently Tori visited MNU and Kansas City. "It's always great to come back here," she says. "I don't think I'll ever come back and not feel comfortable here, even though things change and people change, it still feels like home. To Tori, the future of MNU looks hopeful. "There is hope that comes from what God is doing on campus.
In her own life Tori thinks her future will include something "more missions based." It might be a little scary, but it is also hopeful. Seeing how God has guided her so far, easy to believe he will lead in this too. Read More
Dr. Larry Fine
A quiet, gentle spirit and genuine interest in getting to know those around him are just a few of the things that make Dr. Larry Fine one of MNU's most respected and beloved faculty members.
Dr. Fine's teaching career at MNU spans 47 years. He's spent all of them as a member of what is known today as the Department of Bible, Theology and Mission. He developed and led the school's first international trip to an overseas site: a student trip to Israel in 1974. Multiple diplomas hanging from his office wall, and too many books to count.
At his core, Dr. Fine is a teacher. He's trained and taught pastors, students who want to become pastors, and even those in the mental health profession. Thousands of MNU students have been personally impacted by Dr. Fine's commitment to Christian service and education.
He carries a particularly deep passion for students preparing to enter a career in ministry to become emotionally and spiritually healthy. "If they're going to have to give emotional and spiritual guidance to others, they need to be healthy in those areas, too," he says. This passion led to Dr. Fine's development of the pastoral counseling and spiritual formation courses that ministry students take during their junior and seniors years at MNU.
Though retired from full-time teaching at MNU, as a professor emeritus, he continues to teach a handful of spiritual formation classes. He speaks occasionally in chapel, where his steady voice challenges students to commit their problems to a sovereign, unchanging God.
To Dr. Fine, the future of MNU is significant.
"This generation is the most sensitive, open, vulnerable and honest I've ever seen."
"They're real. I have tremendous hope for this group of students that are here now. They have a tremendous chance at great ministry in the future because they are more real and accepting, and that means they can reach more people," he says.