I attended Immanuel Lutheran School from 2nd grade through 8th grade (1969 – 1975). This time certainly helped mold me academically, spiritually and emotionally in a positive way. Prior to Immanuel, I had attended Gary Lutheran School for kindergarten and 1st grade. My mother has been my kindergarten teacher. I had the opportunity to move schools to ILS with classmate Linda Ahlbrand when her father Wendell Ahlbrand and my mother Marjorie Kelley both took teaching jobs at Immanuel. Mr. Ahlbrand had previously been the principal at Gary Lutheran and both he and my mom ended up teaching 2nd grade at Immanuel. To stay fair, Linda had my mom as her 2nd-grade teacher and I had her dad. This made for an easy transition as I felt comfortable with Mr. Ahlbrand, I knew my mom was right down the hall and the fact that I had a huge crush on Linda prior to the move didn’t hurt either! This being the case, I was quick to make many new friends and relationships that I still hold dear today. It is also worthy to note that prior to my going to Immanuel, my mother’s best friend (who was also my aunt on my father’s side), Betty Schwan, had been a beloved teacher at Immanuel and had just left with her husband and family to spend several years abroad as part of her Valparaiso University chemistry professor husband’s teaching assignment.
Unfortunately, it was also during this transitional year that my mom was diagnosed with cancer. We ended up losing her during the spring of my 3rd grade year. I do know that she loved her students and her brief time spent at Immanuel and she never regretted the move. The support that we received from the ILS family during this time was amazing.
During my time as a student there I had the opportunity to interact with several teachers at Immanuel. The list includes Augie Prahlow, Connie Felton, Dorothy Eggerding, Judy Miller, Phil Bickel, Nancy Kohlhoff, Jim Mannel and Bob Boetel. Our principal was Merl Bray and the pastor was Paul Bretscher, whose son Nathan was also in my class. Each one of these people had positive influences in my life for one reason or another.
One of my most memorable times at Immanuel was during my 8th-grade year. Mr. Boetel directed our class in the production of Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town”. The entire class really came together in filling all of the roles from acting to set design. For me personally, it gave me the confidence to speak in front of groups of people for the first time. Something that I still need to do to this day.
As my class year ended that same year, our group wanted to leave something to be remembered by. The whole class made a short parody film a big national movie out at the time “Airport 1975”. In our film, produced and directed by Paul Baepler, we used a school bus decorated as an airplane and Mr. Bray was kind enough to let us use his office for the office scenes in the film. In our minds, it was the best thing ever done. Our class buried the film in a time capsule (infant casket) along with other items that were supposed to be revealed back to the world in the year 2000 (25 years after our graduation from Immanuel). Unfortunately, the existing church was built on top of where we had buried the time capsule and the casket was moved to the area around the pond. I regret to say that over the years, water seeped into the casket and nearly everything was lost including the film. To this day, I still wish that I could see that production as I am sure it would be extremely funny to us in the class!
After Immanuel, I went on to graduate from Chesterton High School and I would make sure to always meet up with all of my old ILS friends at CHS vs VHS football games, etc., despite the rivalry.
I went on to get a degree in Engineering Geology from Purdue University and eventually a master of science in Entomology from the University of Nebraska. I am currently the Vice President of the company where I have worked for the past 32 years, Insects Limited, Inc. My company synthesizes insect pheromones and manufactures trapping systems that are used in food plants and museums around the world. It has been a wonderful career so far and I am set to take over as company president in December of this year.
The best advice that I can give to the current students at Immanuel is to cherish those friends around you, continue to learn your entire life and never turn your back on your faith as this is the strength to get you through the difficult times that we all encounter in life.