Friday, November 6 – 9:30 p.m. – Trish and Al Huehn Theater/Upper Tegler
Catch up with some old friends and make new ones too. You are invited to the Concordia Alumni Drama Reception!
Following this Friday's showing of Theatre at Concordia's fall season production, The Glorious 12th, join the Concordia Alumni family for some light snacks and a glass of wine.
For more information, email email@example.com
Concordia’s Class of ‘55-63 shares a unique bond that has stood the test of time
“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”
You don’t have to hold an advanced degree in physics to contemplate the mysteries of time and space. For Concordia’s class of 1955-63, all it takes is an occasional refresher course. Being able to connect over a good meal or a strong cup of coffee provides the spark that brings those memories flooding back.
As 48 Concordia alumni discovered when they met up on campus for a reunion this summer, the past is easily in reach. The spirit of friendship and fellowship runs deep as any river, carving out memory banks that stand the ebbs and flows of years and decades. Held August 7-9, 2015 at Concordia, alumni retraced their roots as they walked the halls and grounds, marvelling at just how much has changed and just how much has stayed the same.
“It’s just incredible to hear the stories, you listen to these voices and you can hear them going back through the years. The connections are incredible. This is the generation that really saw Concordia come into it’s own and to have them back on campus is both an inspiration and a privilege,” says Concordia’s Alumni Relations Director Jennifer Klarenbach.
Coming together every five years or so, this diverse group of alumni share a common history, even if many of them never actually crossed paths during their student days. Some of these Concordians missed each other by a few months or years the first time around, but they’ve been making up for it ever since. Students who never studied or dined together have formed strong bonds through past alumni events, connecting outside reunions, even travelling together.
Knowing the era, one might expect to hear stories about innocent, hard-working students getting a good night’s sleep so they could study by day. One might imagine crowds of students in bonnets and crinolines, playing that game where you hit the wheel down the road with a stick. Not necessarily so. Based on some of the memories shared this summer, we thought it best not to use any last names (you know who you are).
“I loved the dorms – that was some of the best couple years of my life. With four guys in each room it was amazing we could study at all,” Ernie shares. “We played a lot of pranks on each other, but nothing I can say out loud. I heard about whipped cream on doorknobs and buckets of water over the door.”
Bob concurs: “We had four in our room and were always trying to get a couple of guys. While one was sleeping, we raised the bed on hooks. When he tried to get up he just rolled out of bed onto the floor. A bit of mischief kept us from going nuts with all that studying.”
But the ladies weren’t left out of the fun either. Marilyn recalls “The girls were locked in the dorms at night, but some of the windows opened. On ‘Shower Day’ the dorms were open to the public – that was the only time we could visit the boys dorm. I remember the locals would come and shower us with food and gifts.”
Marilyn says “For a lot of us, this became our family. You had no choice. We all came from small towns and had to get along.” That thought brings agreement from Bryan, who adds “After living with four or five guys, we learned to get along. After that, for the rest of my life I was always comfortable joining a group of people.”
And it’s clear that memory comes from all our senses, especially after listening to vivid recollections about the campus cuisine.
“On weekends they’d get these cheap wieners and boil the dickens out of them,” recalls Gloria. “I remember them being all cracked and grey. People complained about the food. One fellow slapped 29 cents on the table and said This is what your dinner cost, so take it and be quiet!”
Pauline can still taste the dreaded liver sausage. “It was the only food I ever put ketchup on in my life.” And speaking of ketchup, Linden recalls having to feel his way through the Hall of Horrors at Halloween. “We set up this blacked out tunnel you had to pass through to get to the main event in the gym. There were people covered in ketchup trying to scare you.”
Ethelwyn remembers those on campus parties and how grown-up it felt to plan events. “We held a spring carnival and I was in charge of decorating. One year the theme was Hawaiian so I went to Woodward’s and asked to borrow their window displays with palm trees and blue water. I borrowed the coach’s car to take it all back.”
For the students who attended high school or college courses at Concordia in the 50s and 60s, time may be slipping by too quickly these days. Making the journey back to campus get’s a little harder each year. The spirit is willing, but some days the body isn’t so up to the challenge. We hope there will be more reunions to come, but if not, having the opportunity to connect with old friends this summer won’t soon be forgotten.
Thanks for the memories.
(Article by Chris Rechner)
Concordia University of Edmonton is creeping up to its 100th birthday, and it’s amazing to look back to see exactly how far we’ve come since the beginning.
Originally Concordia College, the institution was founded in 1921 by the Lutheran Church as a place to prepare young men to work in the ministries.
Before Concordia’s historical Schwermann Hall building was constructed, it was a struggle to find a space to accommodate a class of 35 students. As a solution, space was rented in Edmonton’s Caledonian Temperance Hotel.
Concordia College – Edmonton's Caledonian Temperance Hotel
By 1926 the construction of Schwermann hall was complete, and as demand for more programs and space grew over the decades so did the campus.
The most recent expansion was completed in 2007 – The Hole Academic Centre.
With the additions of new buildings over the years, Concordia has undergone a great physical transformation; however, it is its reputation and what it has to offer on national and international scale that has been the biggest change.
In 1987 a major shift was made when Concordia College became a degree-granting institution, and following this, a formal name change to Concordia University College of Alberta came in 1995. For the next 20 years Concordia expanded its program offerings and increased its student enrolment.
Renamed Concordia University of Edmonton in the spring of 2015, Concordia has solidified itself as a top university in Alberta’s capital city, and is highly regarded as a destination university in over 40 countries from around the world.
“Mom and Dad worked at Concordia, so people on campus remember me from before I was born,” Jennifer laughs. “I literally grew up there. It’s more than a school to me – it’s a family.”
Having recently taken on the role of President with the Concordia Alumni Association, Jennifer (BSc ‘09, BEd ‘11) is excited to keep those family vibes rolling. After a long day in the classroom teaching, Jennifer perks up immediately when she starts to talk about her memories of student life.
“At first it was all study, study, but then I started socializing with a group of 25 or so students, just hanging out and going to movies. There was so much diversity there. None of us knew each other before but we still all stay connected. Concordia is our glue – it holds us together.”
Whether it was managing the Concordia men’s basketball team or getting involved in extracurricular activities, Jennifer credits Concordia with giving her the confidence and self-understanding to flourish.
“I teach in a smaller school and it feels like a family too. Concordia taught me not just how to teach, but how to prepare for the life of a teacher.” Jennifer explains, “My professors taught me to see more than just a page in a book, but to look deeper. My lab instructors treated me like a unique individual. All the staff on campus challenged me – both academically and personally – to get the most out of my university experience.”
Jennifer has brought that same inspiration to her work with the Alumni Association. “We work as a team. There’s such a great group of people who share the passion and want to help Concordia flourish into the place it can be.” Having the privilege to attend an alumni reunion this summer opened her eyes even wider.
“Hearing those stories, they have the same love for Concordia. I realized this all started so far before me. But it’s not just about looking back, it’s about finding ways to connect and stay involved. Because anyone who knows this place understands it isn’t the building, and it’s not the classes. It’s the staff, the faculty and the students who bring this place to life.”
“Getting involved in the Students Association, it was like this whole other world opened up,” says the 2015 Concordia grad. Once he got a taste of student politics, Tyler quickly went from the sidelines to the front lines, working as the SA Athletic Coordinator and then VP Internal. Planning events, coordinating clubs and helping out with the campus newspaper might have seemed a natural fit for the charismatic athlete. Not necessarily so.
“To be honest, I didn’t do that well at it,” Tyler chuckles. “But I listened and I learned and I just kept trying. I basically lived on campus – you can ask any janitor, we all got to be friends.”
In his fifth year (and with a full course load) the double major in HR and Leadership took on the SA Presidency. He also found time to chair the Alberta Student Executive Council, representing 16 post-secondary institutions across the province.
“Being a student leader, you’re on 24/7. You’re always serving, lending a helping hand. You take it upon yourself to help out,” Tyler shares, “You want to create that accountability and you need to engage students and build those relationships with the people who make Concordia a special place – the alumni, staff and faculty.”
Since graduating, Tyler has been an invaluable resource to the Concordia Alumni Association, taking on the role of member at large. And he’s already leveraged those Concordia connections to start a small business, find work in real estate sales, and go door knocking for Concordia board member and Edmonton West federal election candidate Karen Leibovici, something that’s lit a fire under Tyler with an eye towards a future political career.
“It all comes back to networking. You’ve just got to get involved when you’re a student to make those connections. And continuing to be involved with your university as an alumni helps you make professional relationships that just might bring great value in the future.”
Having emmigrated from Austria as a young man in the 1890s, John Armbruster Sr. eventually settled in the Stony Plain area, building a lumber yard and hardware store from the ground up. He instilled in his five children a strong work ethic and a do-it-yourself attitude. Not only did he supply the materials to build the surrounding community,John’s father brought the age of electricity to Stony Plain with the first electrical generator. He supplied the young town with power from 1925–29, and his face now watches over the historic downtown from a 1400 sq. ft. mural by artist Brian Romagnoli titled Evolution of Electricity.
The Armbrusters were among the earliest donors to Concordia, supplying materials and money to help build the chapel. After graduating from Concordia High School in 1944, John went to work alongside his father, where he and his brother Jack expanded the family business to pouring concrete foundations as the town grew up around them. Taking over the store when his father retired, John also inherited his father’s strong connection to Concordia, serving on the Board of Regents.
Along with lessons on building a business, John’s father also instilled in him the value of building a good life, a strong marriage and a healthy community. Concordia helped reinforce the strong moral foundation that guided John and his wife Beth as they worked side by side each day, building a wonderful life together. John Armbruster’s Charitable Trust Helps Concordia Grow Forward
From traveling to Europe and the Middle East to running the store and balancing the books, the power of that lifelong bond is still obvious today. Their respect and affection creates an intimate bubble around the couple (now in their 90s) as Beth helps finish John’s thoughts when his concentration wanes. Seeing them together, relaxed in the beautiful custom-built home that looks west onto a perfect prairie pasture, it’s easy to see the love, commitment and faith that’s made for such a happy marriage.
They say you can tell everything you need to know about a man by watching him laugh. It’s true John struggles to find his words these days. His body bends and leans with age, a testament to a life of hard work. But here in the moment, looking at a 70-year old yearbook and recalling stories from his days at Concordia, his eyes light up easily with the generosity laughter, drawing a straight line to another time and place.
He recalls the evening rounds of Professor Schwermann – the first President of Concordia – but to John, a trusted teacher and a good friend. “He would come around the dorms at 10:00 to make sure the lights were out,” John says, “we would wait until he left then tip over the beds of whoever was sleeping.” And with the war raging in Europe, John recalls spending a long time marching around the campus in a “military platoon.” His father wasn’t keen on his children being soldiers, and encouraged them to pursue their education. John’s sister Gertrude took up that challenge, going on to become a research professor in food sciences at Cornell University.
From their first gift to the Concordia choir almost 30 years ago, the Armbrusters have blessed future Concordians with donations that have helped grow the institution that’s been so important to their family. John and Beth approached their estate planning wanting to reduce taxes and to maximize the value of their gift, while ensuring their needs are taken care of through their golden years. By converting property and investments into a Charitable Remainder Trust they were able to generate a tax receipt for their full gifts to Concordia and the Church while continuing to stay comfortable and secure in their home.
When he looks back over his life, there is a deep sense of satisfaction. John grows thoughtful as he says “We were in the business of building. It’s a good way to live.”
In the one year since graduation, Joel (BA, 2011) and Rachel (BA, 2011) Kjearsgaard have been chalking up a series of firsts. From new graduates to newlyweds, from new parents to new business owners, this power couple celebrated a recent visit to their old campus by becoming new donors to Concordia.
For Joel and Rachel, donating to their alma mater is a way to celebrate the unique connections they found through their Concordia experience. Having met each other previously through a mutual friend, it wasn’t until two years later that the two reconnected in the hallways of Concordia. The close personal relationships the two developed during university – both with fellow students and their professors – have followed them forward. It’s no coincidence that their marriage celebration included three Concordia alumni as part of their bridal party.
It almost didn’t happen, however. It’s funny how the strangest, most seemingly random connections can lead to those life-changing moments. If Joel’s neighbor, Scott Gamble, hadn’t pestered him so much he might not have ever reconnected with Rachel, the love of his life.
“I kind of fell into Concordia,” Joel shares as he describes how his friend kept pushing him to check out Concordia. Joel had attended another post-secondary institution for his first year and was looking at continuing when Scott kept telling him he owed it to himself to check out Concordia to see what he was missing. With just a few weeks before the start of school, Scott’s consistent prompting (not to mention the offer of a place to stay) gave Joel the confidence to apply. “Scott was right. I found my whole life transformed by my Concordia experience.”
Joel now runs his own property maintenance/management business – YardGaard Property Services. He admits that people often tease him about running a business with a philosophy degree, but Joel takes such clichés philosophically. “I feel like I am doing what I went to school for. Managing people, organizing projects, setting goals and meeting deadlines – my Arts degree gave me the confidence to think through problems and do anything I wanted to do.”
Joel continues to share a story of a subcontracted job that went sideways, explaining that it’s one thing to be successful when things go by the book, but when complications arise it’s those critical thinking skills that keep you steady on the path. “Even when you appear to be hooped, Concordia taught me how to stop and see the problem clearly, then gather up your resources to solve it.”
Rachel, who majored in psychology and drama, distills this critical thinking ability down to its essence. “Confidence, that’s the biggest thing. It ties into everything. Whether you’re facing a long research paper or a work situation, you just remember ‘I can do it’ and it all works out.”
Having been home-schooled, it made such a difference for Rachel to come into an environment where all her professors – including favourites like Jamie Dyce, Caroline Howarth and Dr. Randy Ritz – don’t just know your name, they get to know the person behind that name. “They get it. Instructors like Jamie understand how busy you are as a student, and they help you focus on what is important stuff to know.”
This sense of family that starts in the classroom extends into the hallways and follows Concordia grads into the workplace. Rachel says “That family you have at Concordia is amazing. I wouldn’t be who I am without Concordia.”
When it comes to pinpointing the Concordia difference, it’s that intersection of curiosity and practicality that Joel and Rachel cherish the most. From the independence that follows from learning to do research to the creativity that comes with developing critical thinking skills, the Kjearsgaards draw on that holistic experience to help them balance their business strategy with the hard facts of finances and cash flows. And now that they are running both a growing business and a busy family, time management has become the mantra in their household.
Being able to donate to Concordia helps bring it all together for Rachel and Joel, allowing them to stay connected to an experience that shaped their lives together. And despite all the introspection they enjoyed as Concordians, when it comes to considering a post-secondary institution their advice cuts through all the clutter.
“Don’t consider – just go. It’s a life-changing experience.”
Engineers build the infrastructure that powers our world. Small business owners build our local economy, creating opportunities to grow. When Mak Hakim sold local powerhouse consulting firm Sinai Engineering and retired a year later in 2010, he and wife Joyce had some time to slow things down and contemplate the community that helped them build a happy life.
As a long-time corporate supporter of Concordia through his engineering firm, Mak could have powered down the relationship and moved on. Instead the Hakims chose to amp up their personal commitment, creating two new scholarships and providing support for operations to, as Mak shares with a wink, “keep the fires burning.”
Spending just a few minutes with the modest yet charismatic Mak Hakim is enough to see he has no problem keeping his own fire burning. From his birthplace in Alexandria, Egypt to stops in Calgary, and Toronto before planting deep roots in Edmonton, Mak has carried a torch that burns the same colour as Concordia’s flame. Although he is not a religious man and had no prior exposure to Concordia, attending the Grande Masque Gala in 2005 was like love at first sight.
“I felt an instant connection with the way the students and faculty conducted themselves,” Mak explains, “There was a sense of pride and an aura of sincerity about the experience that quickly transformed into a desire to support the institution as much as I could.”
That support has now extended to two new annual scholarships; one in science and the other in the vocal or performing arts. Whereas some institutions would see these donations hitting opposite ends of a spectrum, what Mak loves about Concordia is that science students and musicians aren’t separated by ivory towers, but rather brought together in a common quest to satisfy their understanding of what it means to be alive in the world.
“As an engineer I obviously have a biased appreciation of how science improves our lives, but can you imagine a world without Beethoven, Puccini or B.B. King? Listening to music is like eating good food,” Mak declares as he describes the chemistry of curiosity, “It’s about richness, flavour and depth.”
Mak and Joyce see a reflection of those values and that depth in the hallways and classrooms of Concordia, and having grown up with limited means, Mak doesn’t tolerate the notion that someone with the ambition and talent to excel in University should miss the chance because of financial barriers.
“I’ve seen both sides of the story. I grew up not that well-off but my parents valued education. My father was a social worker and a teacher. When you get something unexpected it ignites your passion and excitement. My education created an opportunity for freedom.”