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CMU Recognizes Distinguished Alumni with 2013 Blazer Awards

MCC thrift shop founders to receive university’s Distinguished Community Service Award

WINNIPEG – A public policy expert, a man working at building relationships between First Nations people and Mennonites, two international development workers living in West Africa, and a pastor who donated one of her kidneys are the recipients of Canadian Mennonite University’s (CMU) 2013 Blazer Distinguished Alumni Awards.

CMU President Cheryl Pauls is pleased to present the awards to John Siebert, Leonard Doell, Robin & Zachary Heppner Entz, and Carol Penner on Friday, September 27 during the university’s Fall Festival.

The Blazer Awards celebrate alumni who, through their lives, embody CMU’s values and mission of service, leadership, and reconciliation in church and society. The awards are presented annually to alumni from CMU and its predecessor colleges: Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC) and Mennonite Brethren Bible College (MBBC)/Concord College.

“We want to honour and celebrate the significant contributions that alumni make to the church and the broader community,” Pauls says. “In telling their stories, it’s an encouragement and an inspiration to the rest of us. It awakens those of us who hear their stories to new possibilities for ourselves.”

Pauls will also present the university’s Blazer Distinguished Community Service Award to Selma Loewen, Sara Stoesz, Susan Giesbrecht, and Linie Friesen, the four women who started the first Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Thrift Shop.

“The vision, initiative, and level of commitment these four women displayed is remarkable,” Pauls says. “They had the imagination to create a project that was able to create good in multiple ways.”

The awards ceremony honouring these men and women takes place at 7:00 PM on Friday, September 27 in CMU’s Laudamus Auditorium.

Information about the award recipients:

  •  Blazer Award Winners - John SiebertJohn Siebert attended MBBC from 1977 to 1979 and has worked on public policy issues for the past 30 years. He is currently the executive director at Project Ploughshares, a Waterloo, ON-based non-governmental organization that works with churches, governments, and civil society, in Canada and abroad, to advance policies and actions to prevent war and armed violence, and build peace.


  • Blazer Award Winners - Leonard DoellHistorical research and writing have been strong interests throughout Leonard Doell’s life. Since attending CMBC in the late ‘70s, he has written extensively about Mennonite and First Nations history. Doell works as the Aboriginal Neighbours Coordinator at MCC Saskatchewan, where he helps build relationships between Mennonites and First Nations peoples.



  • Blazer Award Winners - Robin & ZacharyRobin and Zachary Heppner Entz earned degrees from CMU. They have spent the past six years working in the West African nation of Mali as community development consultants advocating on behalf of the Fulani communities as they seek to retain ownership of their communal lands. Robin and Zachary work with World Renew, the development, disaster response, and justice arm of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.


  • Blazer Award Winners - Carol PennerWith a PhD in Systematic Theology, Carol Penner has taught courses at Conrad Grebel University College, enjoys freelance writing, maintains a blog of worship resources, and has worked as a pastor for the past 13 years. Last year, Penner, who graduated from CMBC in 1981, donated one of her kidneys to a stranger after watching the process that her husband, Eugene, went through when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2008 and had his diseased kidney removed.


  • Blazer Award Winners - Altona WomenIn 1972, Selma Loewen, Sara Stoesz, Susan Giesbrecht, and Linie Friesen started a thrift shop in Altona, MB to raise funds for MCC’s work overseas. It was the beginning of a network that has grown to more than 100 shops across North America that has generated contributions totaling $167 million for the work of MCC.