Graduation Day Eastern Mennonite College, 1970: Elvin Kraybill, me, Myron Augsburger, Conrad Brunk. Truman Brunk

Graduation Day Eastern Mennonite College, 1970: Elvin Kraybill, me, Myron Augsburger, Conrad Brunk. Truman Brunk

ย “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail,”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Graduation Day 1970.

I was nervous and excited.

My friend Elvin and I were the student commencement speakers.

We marched with the college president.

After that day, we would not see each other for another decade.

Elvin became a lawyer practicing in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

I became a professor at Goshen College.

Both of us pioneered new roles.

We met again when my father was very ill.

Our family needed a lawyer. Elvin was there.

The will he drew up allowed Mother to keep the Home Place when Daddy died.

Daddy's gravestone. D. May 3, 1980. Age 55..

Daddy’s gravestone. D. May 3, 1980. Age 55..

I went back home to Indiana.

Elvin and I met again in 1997 when Elvin chaired the Mennonite Board of Education

Once more we stood together on a platform looking out at a large audience.

He inaugurated me into the office of college president.

We laughed about meeting again on a stage neither of us foresaw in 1970.

J. Lawrence Burkholder, Myrl Nofziger, Elvin Kraybill (nearly hidden), Victor Stoltzfus, me, 1997. Goshen College inauguration.

J. Lawrence Burkholder, Myrl Nofziger, Elvin Kraybill (nearly hidden), Victor Stoltzfus, me, 1997. Goshen College inauguration.

Name someone you know who has gone where there is no path.

Now think of one way you too have broken new ground. What is it about your life that you could not have foreseen at commencement?

I wish the Class of 2015 a life full of friends in time of need, surprises along the way, and jubilation in the end. Want to add a story or a good wish of your own? Please leave a comment below.

Shirley Showalter


  1. Richard Gilbert on May 27, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Fantastic, Shirley.

    • shirleyhs on May 28, 2015 at 8:10 am

      Thank you, Richard.

  2. Melodie Davis on May 28, 2015 at 6:38 am

    Great photo of EMU graduation line up! I remember the weekend Barbra Graber took me to visit her sister, married to Elvin, as a practicing young lawyer in Lancaster. There weren’t a lot of Mennonite lawyers in those days. I learned how to repot plants that weekend from her sister. Can’t remember her sister’s name just now. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I admire women I know who have walked alongside husbands who experienced an early stroke or mental illness or Lewy Body Syndrome–and have had their lives and expectations for marriage turned completely upside down. There may be paths forged by others to follow, but no one’s path or journey is exactly the same and so in essence they find their own new ground.

  3. shirleyhs on May 28, 2015 at 8:25 am

    The name you are looking for is Esther. ๐Ÿ™‚

    The path you describe sounds like a hard one. Thank you for offering this example. Our graduation speech mentality turns this idea into an individualistic one. Your example illustrates the path of resilience, service, and commitment. Without these, no achievement lasts. With them, no act is small.

    Wonderful reminder, Melodie. Thank you.

  4. Merv Horst on May 28, 2015 at 9:39 am

    Myron Augsburger in a plain suit! Classic!

    • shirleyhs on May 28, 2015 at 10:28 am

      True, Merv. Myron looks classic no matter the cut of his coat.

  5. Marlin Gerbefr on May 28, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Impact of mentoring

    I had grown up in a small Ohio town in Amish-Mennonite country, completed two years of college, volunteered two years in a European mission program and had found what I thought was a perfect job in food sales.

    While my 1949 Ford was being serviced, the owner of the garage quizzed me on my vocational intentions. Surprisingly, all of a sudden he abruptly turned and rudely walked away from me!

    His response to my query of his sudden action, was, “Marlin, for goodness sakes, you go back to school, obtain your four year college degree, then sell Swiss cheese, eggs, and fresh chickens door to door if this remains your vocational passion!”

    As a result of his kind and wise words of mentoring I finished college, enjoyed 37 years of teaching; the last 28 years in a Michigan community college.

    His action taught me the importance of helping many young people in my profession discover more positive and perhaps more productive options for their own careers.

    • shirleyhs on May 28, 2015 at 11:12 am

      Marlin, welcome to the comments section of this blog! I have enjoyed your responses to Magical Memoir Moments, and now others can as well.

      It’s incredible that your whole life was so influenced by a “chance” encounter at a Ford service center. Your story makes me hope that my conversations with others today can be as good for them as this one was for you!

      You found your vocation and loved it.

      My guess is that you used the skills you developed selling good food door-to-door when you were in the classroom. Am I right?

  6. Wilma Shank on May 28, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Thanks, Shirley, for sharing the remembrances of remarkable and outstanding segments of your life. Indeed, inspirational.

    • shirleyhs on May 28, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      Thank you, Wilma. I’m sure that you have had many moments of surprise and joy in your own life when friends from the past crossed your path again. Such a sign of God’s grace — and even sense of humor.

  7. Dawn Nelson on May 28, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    I am enjoying your beginning look at post-college years, and what happened to you after the BLUSH story ends.
    I have heard that a memoir needs an “Opening Scene” that has lots of sensory details and sets forth the theme of the memoir. This blog post seems to me like it could be the opening scene of your next section of memoir – encompassing the years from college graduation to college president! The theme could be something like that – from student to president.
    I am interested to hear more about how you and Stuart forged new paths in Mennonite men’s and women’s roles in those years. And how you changed personally in the process. And how you decided on your vocation.

    • shirleyhs on May 28, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      Thank you, Dawn. This is a very helpful comment. You have a good intuition for an opening scene. Starting at the end of the college years, setting up the main conflict, moving backward and then forward again, seems like a good structure. I’m interested in exploring the college years themselves also. The changes that were taking place on campus were the foundation on which the changes in gender roles in the ’70s would be based.

      Thanks for encouraging more exploration, and feel free to tell me and others here what resonates and what doesn’t. Your questions are great!

  8. Marian Beaman on May 28, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    Elvin Kraybill is also the attorney for Aunt Ruthie, not surprisingly my most significant mentor, helping me forge a unique path.

    His parents, Simon and Mary Jean Kraybill are members at Bossler Mennonite, my former home church. All of their children shine in the professions: law, medicine, missions even. This year the couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

    At my EMC commencement, I could probably have predicted I would eventually become a fancy girl, but I had no idea I would marry a non-Mennonite artist and move to Florida.

    Jubilation at the end? Yes, that’s my wish too for the graduates – for us all.

    • shirleyhs on May 28, 2015 at 9:30 pm

      Another connecting link between our stories, Marian. I don’t think they’ll ever end. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Interesting that you knew you would become fancy even before Cliff swept you off your feet. I’d like to hear more about that.

  9. Laurie Buchanan on May 29, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Shirley โ€” I so much enjoyed reading this post and seeing the photographs! It’s fun to share in your JUBILATION!

    At the end you said, “Name someone you know who has gone where there is no path.”

    I oh-so admire Madonna Buder! Born on July 24, 1930 she is a nun who “balances her love for faith and fitness.” Here’s a link to one of the many articles you can read about her online:

    • shirleyhs on May 29, 2015 at 10:40 am

      I knew you would have a great person to suggest, Laurie. And wow, what a story. Thanks for that link. I hope someone finds it who needs a shot of energy today. You recognize her pathless journey because you are on the same kind.

      Thanks also for finding my new favorite word –jubilation. You will likely be hearing more about it here. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Marylin Warner on May 29, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    My favorite memoirs include the threads of recurring connections that weave through our lives. This is a wonderful post, Shirley.

    • shirleyhs on May 29, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      Thanks, Marylin. I love the thread of recurring connections also, as you can tell. I appreciate that you took the time to tell me. It’s fun turning over the old photos and asking what story they have to tell now.

  11. Elaine Mansfield on May 30, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Beautiful images and love memories of your lifelong friend. I’ll give an easy answer and name my husband Vic as a person who went where no one else had trod. A kid from the housing projects ended up with a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Cornell and then became a scholar of physics (particularly quantum mechanics) and philosophy, Jungian psychology, and Buddhist. He had to deal with lots of skepticism about his work in his early days as a professor, but he wrote three books about those topics and gained acceptance.

    I’ve experimented and learned from many spiritual traditions and teachers and went looking for a woman teacher. I found Marion Woodman. I dared to change my career completely to write about unorthodox ideas about the need to face the lessons of grief. That resonates with some and others run, but it’s the path I’m taking.

  12. shirleyhs on May 30, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Elaine, it’s been a pleasure to learn about Vic through you. Having been an academic myself, I can readily imagine the sometimes lonely path he had to travel to his own destiny. I admire him for continuing to stretch and grow through every stage of life and even death.

    And you also have carved a new path. I don’t know the work of Marion Woodman, but I look forward to learning more as I continue to read your blog and follow you on Facebook. You make a great role model. Thanks for the visit.

  13. Merril Smith on May 31, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Great photos and post–traveling through time by way of your college.
    I knew at my college commencement that I’d be married in another month, but not that I’d have two wonderful daughters, become a crazy cat woman, and that I’d end up with a Ph.D. in history and the author/editor of several books. Life is a journey full of unexpected twists and surprises isn’t it?

    • shirleyhs on May 31, 2015 at 8:58 pm

      Indeed, Merril. The unexpected twists and surprises provide a lot of life’s zest. There’s always something new to learn from whatever comes along. Sounds like you have made the most of what commenced in your life — and that we have more than one thing in common.

      May you continue to find excellent surprises in your path!

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