When Jeff Gingerich sat in his cap and gown, eager to walk the stage and collect his high school diploma with the rest of Iowa Mennonite School’s class of 1986, he imagined himself studying …
When Jeff Gingerich sat in his cap and gown, eager to walk the stage and collect his high school diploma with the rest of Iowa Mennonite School’s class of 1986, he imagined himself studying science and becoming a physical therapist.
That did not happen.
At Eastern Mennonite College, he found studying social work was a better fit; he went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania. He began a teaching career, moved into roles as provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, and last summer took office as president of St. Bonaventure University in New York.
For a farm kid from Parnell, that’s an impressive trajectory, one that no-doubt inspired Hillcrest Academy’s class of 2023 as Gingerich addressed them at Commencement Sunday, May 28.
“It seems like only yesterday, and yet amazingly, it was 37 years ago that I was sitting in your seats, actually seats in the gymnasium, after four great years at IMS,” Gingerich said as he began his message to the graduates. “As I look back on those 37 years since I graduated, I could have never predicted the twists and turns that my life would have taken, and I definitely would not have predicted standing here today giving a graduation talk. I’m pretty sure my teachers would have never predicted that as well.”
Gingerich describes his newest role as president of St. Bonaventure University as forward-looking, requiring him to imagine the school ten years in the future and doing what it takes to make sure it reaches its goals. Fundraising and alumni relations are a part of his work; after Commencement, he was off to California to do just that.
He doesn’t get back home to Iowa as often as he’d like, but he was surprised and grateful to be asked to give Hillcrest’s Commencement message and eagerly accepted the opportunity. After the ceremony, many sought him out, happy to share a few words with Hillcrest’s native son.