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Students Thank Donors on Tuition Freedom Day

IMG_5247.JPG John,Katie Epp & grandd Becky Longhurst 144KBDecember 13, 2012 – Canadian Mennonite University gathered on November 26, 2012 to celebrate Tuition Freedom Day, recognizing the assistance of donors and of the Government of Manitoba for their generous contributions in support of higher education throughout the year.

Tuition Freedom Day is the time of year by which revenues from student tuition fees would technically run out, in terms of   paying actual costs for the student’s university education, and support from the community essentially kicks in to pick up budget costs  for the remainder of the year. From Tuition Freedom Day forward, money from government grants, from donor gifts, and funds from University’s operating budget are utilized to make higher education possible for CMU students.

CMU President Cheryl Pauls welcomed guests and brought greetings to the event from Manitoba’s Minister of Higher Education and Literacy, Hon. Erin Selby. Pauls noted that CMU operates with a budget of $13.4-million, out of which approximately $4.7 M (35%) is paid through student tuition and fees.  The Manitoba Government supports CMU with an annual grant of approximately $4.0 M (30%) while $2.9M (22%) is raised through ancillary business, meal plans, and campus rentals. The final 13% of CMU’s budget, $1.8M, reflects the generous giving of individual donors and businesses along with the undergirding of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Brethren Church congregations, together supporting the Annual Operating Fund and designating support to student scholarships and bursaries. In sum, the combined gifting of government, donors, and the Church is truly significant in support of the learning of CMU’s students.

“I am honoured to be here on behalf of the CMU student body to say thank you to all of those who so generously support our education,” says fourth-year  CMU student Gabrielle Lemire, who iscompleting her Bachelor’s degree in Bible and Theology and Mathematics. “Education is so much more than just information or the way to get a job. Education has the potential to help us learn who God has created us to be in a supportiveenvironment. And this is exactly the kind of environment that CMU provides.”

“This is a time not only to celebrate what a great university CMU is; this is a time to highlight the importance of having a community to surround the students, staff, and faculty at CMU,” says Lemire, addressing the large Tuition Freedom Day gathering in CMU’s Chapel. “Going to CMU would not be possible for many of us if it weren’t for the financial support that our broader community has given. On behalf of all the studentshere at CMU, thank you for investing in us, and entrusting us with this precious gift.”

Dave Bergen, representing Mennonite Church Canada, spoke at the event on behalf of the church ownership bodies. In addressing CMU’s students, Bergen says: “It is a privilege to be here at this annual event celebrating the different partnerships and connections that make it possible for you as students to receive university education at CMU, and to be forming your understandings of vocation and life through the lens of Christian faith and theological understandings.”

MC Canada, he notes, is simultaneously an owner, a donor, and a huge cheerleader for the work of CMU. “We are one of a number of partners who believe in and support Canadian Mennonite University and its mission,” says Bergen.  “We are proud that CMU is deeply rooted in the church, and that its graduates are inspired to engage in the mission of God in many different ways. We thank God for the opportunity to be partners with you in this amazing educational endeavor.”

As part of this year’s Tuition Freedom Day 2012, CMU’s Development Office featured a special announcement of a generous endowment fund that has been created through donations from Portage Mennonite Church, which closed in July 2012. The endowed funds will generate two annual scholarships of $2,500 each for future CMU students. CMU Church Relations Director Abram Bergen was pleased to introduce Gerald and Grace Loeppky, Alma Pankratz, Tony and Astrid Peters, and Margaret Thiessen, congregational members from Portage Mennonite Church who were present to represent their church for this important announcement.

“This ‘small church that could’ leaves a large legacy, as it will support the training of future leaders and musicians at CMU,” says Bergen.

Each year, over a thousand individualdonors support CMU. Representing this important group was retired pastor couple John Epp (MBBC ’53) and Katie Epp, former music faculty member at Mennonite Brethren Bible College. The Epps have served in a number of Mennonite churches in Winnipeg since 1976.

“We are thankful to be regular and faithful donors,” says John Epp. “We support CMU with prayer and finances because it is a place of learning committed to seeking, teaching, and living the truth, as a Christian university of the church for the world.”

In 2003, he comments, the colleges Mennonite Brethren Bible College, (MBBC, a CMU predecessor college) and CMBC jointly planned and celebrated their 50th anniversary on the CMU campus. “We were two small classes with a combined total of 27 graduates, which by 2003 had shrunk to less than 20.  At our 50th celebration, we established the Class of ‘53 bursary fund of $20,000. Over the intervening years,” says Epp, “we have assisted nine students with a total of $5,836.” Eligibility for this bursary is open to all disciplines of studies.

“Our personal support for CMU combines prayer and finances,” says Katie Epp. “Scholarship and prayer are mutually complimentary, so we support and pray that all life and learning at CMU will be imbued with the heart and mind of Christ. God bless you as you keep on making it happen.”

The Epps were joined by their granddaughter, CMU student Rebecca Longhurst, at the Tuition Freedom Day celebration.

CMU Student Council President Brent Retzlaff, in closing the event, thanked guests and the CMU community for their participation and support.

Photo: Long-time donors and friends of CMU Katie Epp and John Epp, with CMU Student and granddaughter of the Epps, Rebecca Longhurst