Sponsors and Stories

The “Crossing Boundaries” team would like to thank our sponsors and those who chose to honor, mothers, mentors or friends. If you would like to donate to the conference and honor a mother, mentor or friend, visit the donate page.


Sophia Sprunger, Anna Sprunger and Emma Nouri – granddaughters

honored by: Aldine and Keith Sprunger

Viola Graber Schrag – mother

Why we honor her: did not graduate high school but nurtured me to be myself even though we often didn’t agree on issues.
honored by: Leann Toews

Cora Irene Garber Kauffman Garber – mother

Why we honor her: She was a writer, photographer, mentor of young women
honored by: Joseph Gascho

Marilyn Klaus – youth pastor

Why we honor her: Marilyn was the first woman pastor at my home church (Bethel College Mennonite), starting in 1977. I was intrigued and inspired by this strong, single young woman who opened her home to us, helping us through all of our teenage angst. Thank you, Marilyn!
honored by: Mary S. Sprunger

Helena Hartpart – great-grandmother

Why we honor her: Helena was my great grandmother, a Jewish woman who married my Mennonite great-grandfather, in Ukraine, just before migrating to Kansas.
honored by: Kimberly Schmidt

Elsie (Penner) Pankratz – grandmother

Why we honor her: Elsie (Penner)Pankratz, 1910-2006, lived in Mountain Lake, Minnesota, and in Goshen, Indiana. She had a lifelong interest in Mennonite and family history, and in 1972, she and my grandfather, together with many community friends, founded the Heritage House museum, documenting immigrant life and settlements around southwestern Minnesota. Two decades later, she published her memoirs, Through the Years. She was also an intrepid traveler internationally and a longtime member of MEDA. My family and I owe our passion for history in large part to many years of delightful engagement with this extraordinary Mennonite grandma.
honored by: Rachel Waltner Goossen

Virginia Joy Peachey Spicher- mother

Why we honor her: She got her BS as an adult, commuting, working as a nurse, and maintaining a household, 4.0. We both graduated in 1985; now I see what her degree meant.
honored by: Julia Spicher Kasdorf

MaryBeth Lind- nurtrition professor at EMU

Why we honor her: MaryBeth taught nutrition during my sr year at EMU. She had just finished her Masters Degree and then went on to help create the Simply in Season’s cookbook. I appreciate her ability to weave her faith/ values/beliefs into her vocation as a nutritionist.
honored by: Carol Spicher

Mary K. Oyer and Mary Eleanor Bender- former colleague at Goshen College

Why we honor them: When I arrived at Goshen College in 1976, and taught the first women’s history class there, I asked students which women they most admired. These two names topped the list. After I got to know them personally and observe their influence on others, I knew I was very blessed to have pioneer Mennonite women role models of the highest order. I rise up to honor them.
honored by: Shirley Hershey Showalter

Vesta Mae Peachey- mother

Why we honor her: Vesta loved to tell stories to her children and write poetry. She taught Sunday School and was church newsletter editor at Locust Grove Mennonite Church, Belleville, PA.
honored by: Virginia Spicher

Freda Pellman Redekop (1930-2011)

Why we honor her: Freda Pellman Redekop (1930-2011), who graduated from Goshen College with a BA in German in 1990, after taking courses at 7 different colleges and universities. A keen intellect, she assisted in the editing of a number of her husband’s scholarly books, and she served as editor of The Redekop Book, an extensive pictorial genealogy of the Redekop clan, and the genealogy in A Pellman Family History.
honored by: Calvin, Bill, Ben and Fred Redekop and families

Susanna Heatwole Brunk- great-grandmother

why we honor her: Ruth Stoltzfus Jost will be singing a ballad about her at the conference
honored by: Ruth Stoltzfus Jost

Elsie Hammontree Hostetler- great grandmother.

why we honor her: Elsie met her future Mennonite husband, Joseph Hostetler, at deaf school. I often wondered what it must have been like for this 18 year-old Missouri bride to have joined a plain Mennonite church. Her artist’s sketch book, which was handed down to me, was one of my most prized possessions growing up. In a community where there was little regard for artists or art, Elsie’s amazing drawings represented another world.
honored by: Dr. Lee Snyder

Mamie Hartzler- mother

why we honor her: She stayed home and raised five girls while Dad was away every night at a church or church school meeting. He got all the credit, while she got none, well only a little for her cooking for guests. He died of heart disease at 62 and she lives on at nearly 103!
honored by: Beryl Brubaker

Emma Sommers Richards- A sister missionary in Japan

why we honor her: On June 17, 1973 Emma was ordained to Christian ministry by Illinois Mennonite Conference at Lombard Mennonite Church. She was the first woman to be ordained in Mennonite Church U.S.A. In the book about her, ‘According to the Grace Given to Her: the ministry of Emma Sommers Richard’ I was asked to write the chapter about her experiences in Japan, ‘In Japan, 154-1966: among many discoveries, a far-reaching one.’ That discovery was her gift for preaching! In the U.S. she also mentored many people
honored by: Nancy V. Lee

Pat Swartzendruber- mother

why we honor her: My mother earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree at Eastern U. and Notre Dame U., respectively, while being a wonderful mother to four young children. She served as a vice president at two Mennonite organizations — Mennonite Mission Network and Prairie View Inc. Later she would offer 13 years of volunteer leadership to the EMU community. I am so grateful for the servant-leader that is my mother! She has a deep love for history and the global church and will be very pleased this conference is taking place.
honored by: Tim Swartzendruber

Jakobine Schroeder- Grandmother

why we honor her: My grandmother Jakobine Schroeder was a refugee from Poland and managed to get to safety with her ten surviving children, including my mother, Erna. I honour the stories they were unable to tell, and testimony of their lives.I honour them for their character and quiet strength.
honored by: Connie T. Braun

Susan Gascho- Daughter

why we honor her: strong young woman who as lead pastor/poet/song writer/performer has pioneered ministries on behalf of women and the LGBTQ community
honored by: Barbara Gascho

Ruth Longenecker Kraybill Souder- Maternal Grandmother

why we honor her: Key components of this 103-year-old woman’s intriguing secrets include: A pine dowry chest, two Gospel Herald essays, penned in 1915 and 1916, a word from the Lord, a mysterious letter from a young Bucks County widower, a train, a courageous plunge into the unknown, and a brown wedding dress. Her 300+ descendants live to tell her story of religious zeal, countless hooked rug patterns, gardening until age 98, and letters to a Mennonite bishop on behalf of young women.
honored by: Mary Lou Weaver Houser (Edgewalker Fund for the Arts)

Susan Gascho-Cooke – Pastor

why we honor her: An extraordinary pastor and woman.
honored by: A CMCL Congregant

Sadie Hartzler

why we honor her: Sadie Hartzler (1896-1972) was the first full-time librarian at Eastern Mennonite School (later University), beginning in 1928. She was also a de facto member of the university’s administrative leadership.
honored by: Harry Anthony Brunk Memorial Fund, Menno Simons Historical Library, EMU


Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

  • Leann and Jerry Toews
  • Lauren Good and Jennifer Hiebert
  • Kimberly Schmidt
  • Mennonite Quarterly Review
  • Just Pax Fund
  • Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
  • John and Virginia Spicher
  • Calvin Redekop
  • Shirley and Stuart Showalter
  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Ruth Stoltzfus Jost and Timothy Jost
  • Dr. Lee Snyder
  • Harry Anthony Brunk Memorial Fund, Menno Simons Historical Library, EMU
  • Raylene Hinz Penner and Douglas Penner
  • Marpeck Fund
  • Eastern Mennonite University