September 19, 2012 – Canadian Mennonite University presents its CMU Blazer Distinguished Alumni Awards on September 28, 2012, at 7:00 pm in the Laudamus Auditorium, honouring alumni Bill Janzen (CMBC 1966-1967), Sarah Klassen (MBBC ’62), Patrice Nagant (CMU ’01), and Bonita Sawatzky (CMBC 1981-1982). The celebration is one of the key events of CMU’s annual Fall Festival taking place September 28 to 29.
“We are very proud of our Distinguished Alumni. We take pleasure in presenting awards to such fine individuals to help recognize their contributions to their communities and to the church,” says CMU Interim President Earl Davey. “It’s great as well to have this opportunity for current students to get to know our alumni, who were all shaped in important ways by their faith-based university education and experiences.”
William (Bill) Janzen, (CMBC 1966-67)Over a 33-year career as the founding director of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Ottawa, Bill Janzen played a significant part in peace and justice initiatives in Canada and abroad. Opening the Ottawa office in 1976, Janzen took a lead role in advocating on issues of peace and justice to the Canadian government with a number of coalitions.
Two significant projects stand out for Janzen during his career. In 1979, he played a key part in negotiating Canada’s first master agreement for the private sponsorship of refugees. That same year, he authored a report for the US Congress on undocumented Mennonite settlers in Texas and Oklahoma. The report led Congress to pass a special bill granting those individuals permanent resident status. Janzen was also involved in helping to found the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
“I always found Bill to be a voice of calm, reflective reason in the Ottawa tempest,” commented Bill Blaikie, retired Manitoba Member of Parliament, upon Janzen’s retirement in 2008. “He is one of the best examples I can think of for Christian witness and advocacy in the political process.”
Janzen began his studies at Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC). “CMBC was very important in my formation and education,” he notes. In 1970, he earned his Master of Arts degree in International Development from Carlton University’s Norman Patterson School of International Affairs. He completed a second MA in Biblical Studies from the University of Ottawa, and received his PhD in Political Theory from Carlton University in 1981.
Janzen is married to Marlene and they have two adult children. He is an active member of Ottawa Mennonite Church.
Bonita Sawatzky (CMBC 1981-82)
Leaving the mountains in her home province of British Columbia to come to Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC) on the prairies was a significant move for Bonita Sawatzky. She wondered what she would do with her life, what she believed about God, and how she would fit in. “CMBC was a great place,” says Sawatzky. “It gave me the ability to think critically as to what I read and heard in the world and in the church.”
Always having a love for learning, she wrestled from infancy with her other love, being active. Born with a spinal cord disorder that affected her arms and feet, she decided to attend University of British Columbia (UBC) and study Physical Education with the idea of developing methodologies and technologies that would enable people with disabilities to participate in physical activities. She went on to complete a Master of Arts degree at UBC and her PhD at Simon Fraser University. Her scholarly work focuses on understanding the biomechanics of human movement in children and adults with spinal cord injuries.
Passionate about her work, Sawatzky began her career as a research assistant in surgery and orthopaedics at British Columbia’s Children’s Hospital. Today, she leads research work in her field of expertise as Principal Investigator with ICORD (International Collaboration of Repair Discoveries), an inter-disciplinary spinal cord injury research centre. Her role is to develop a rehabilitation laboratory that assesses movement strategies in those with spinal cord injuries.
Sawatzky is married to Brian Wixted ; they worship at Peace Mennonite Church in Richmond, BC where she has served in church leadership and worship leading.
Patrice Nagant (CMU ’01)
Patrice Nagant is passionate about evangelism and church planting. Patrice and his wife Cindy Bucci gave their lives to Christ in 1980 and joined a church north of Montreal, where they grew in faith and served the Lord. Busy with their interior landscape business, theological education was pursued part time and at various schools including: Emmaüs Bible school in Switzerland; Acadia University, Montreal; and at École de théologie évangélique de Montréal (ETEM).
In 1999, they sold their 20-year-old business and moved to Winnipeg to study at CMU. Nagant graduated in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology.
After CMU, Nagant returned to Montreal to direct Rendez vous Montreal, a Key City initiative of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (CCMBC). Rendez vous Montreal was a partnership to plant new churches. Through Nagant’s work, church planters were identified, coached, and locations determined. In total, six churches have been planted since Rendez vous Montreal began
While Nagant continued to oversee the development of other new churches, in 2006, together with his wife and another couple, David and Patricia Miller, he became directly involved in L’Intersection, a church plant in the French-speaking city of Terrebonne, QC.
In 2011, CCMBC began C2C Network for church planters to promote, train, coach, and equip the planters and support new initiatives. This year, Nagant accepted the invitation to oversee the C2C network Québec.
Patrice and Cindy worship at L’Intersection. They have three married children.
Sarah Klassen (MBBC ’62)
Sarah Klassen is an award-winning poet, born and raised in Winnipeg, MB. She is the author of nine books, including Monstrance (Turnstone Press, 2012) and A Feast of Longing (Coteau Books, 2007) for which she received the High Plains Award for fiction. Her debut poetry book, Journey to Yalta (Turnstone Press, 1988), received the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award.
Klassen has contributed to eleven anthologies including Pith & Wry (Scrivener Press, 2010) and Poetry as Liturgy: An Anthology of Canadian Poets (St. Thomas Press, 2007). Klassen is a former poetry instructor at the CMU School of Writing.
“If your notion of a poet is someone who is awash in sentiment and woozy with emotion, reading the work of Sarah Klassen is a useful corrective… Her observations have unusual clarity and her language is generous and precise,” says Sue Sorenson, Assistant Professor of English at CMU.
Klassen graduated in 1962 from Mennonite Brethren Bible College (MBBC) with a Bachelor of Arts degree earned a Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Manitoba in 1971. She then taught in various elementary schools and later taught high school English.
While she retired from teaching in 1990, Klassen continued to teach English as an additional language at Lithuania Christian College. Teaching English took her to Karkhiv, Ukraine allowing her to visit Barvenkovo, Ukraine from where both her maternal and paternal grandparents departed from for Canada in the 1920’s.
Currently, Klassen is the poetry editor for Prairie Fire and reviews editor for Rhubarb magazine. She attends River East Mennonite Brethren Church.
CMU’s Distinguished Community Service Blazer Award will also be presented on September 28, honouring Tall Grass Prairie Bread Company. (See news release on this award.)