When the recipients of this year’s Citation of Merit Award accepted McPherson College’s highest honor, they didn’t see it as a way to glorify their own work, but as an opportunity to acknowledge all the family, friends, professors and colleagues who have helped them along the way.

When the recipients of this year’s Citation of Merit Award accepted McPherson College’s highest honor, they didn’t see it as a way to glorify their own work, but as an opportunity to acknowledge all the family, friends, professors and colleagues who have helped them along the way.
In other words, they understand that education, career and… well, life… are not accomplishments that one achieves alone, but rather in a community.
The McPherson College Citation of Merit is given to the college’s most distinguished alumni for lifetime accomplishments in service to profession, community, church and to McPherson College. The recipients are recommended by the Alumni Awards Committee and approved by the College Board of Trustees.

Steve Mohler
Steve Mohler ’64 (Warrensburg, Missouri).
Life has been about connections for Mohler — among people as well as between people and nature. Mohler said that advocating for the environment and teaching have been themes of his life for decades, and that began with his studies of biology at McPherson College - where he first began to think of himself as a scientist.
He’d originally intended to become a lawyer.
“My understanding from science led me to understand that if we didn’t understand ourselves as part of a system, ultimately we are doomed,” Mohler said. “Spiritually, my connection with nature became more and more sacred to me.”
The most important connection from his time at MC, however, was from meeting the woman who would become his wife, Judy. Turned out there was a bit of “chaos theory” working in Steve’s favor the day he - on the advice of a good friend - asked Judy on a date during his sophomore year at McPherson College.
He found out later that his friend had been trying to describe someone else who he thought Mohler should connect with.
“It turns out to be the best mistake I ever made,” Mohler said.
One of his first jobs after graduation proved a connection of a different sort - a cultural one - as he took a job teaching science and algebra at Canadian Academy in Kobe, Japan.
“I’m not sure I’d even heard of sushi,” Mohler said, giving an example of his initial culture shock.
Since then, he’s been the president and manager of Johnson County Mutual Insurance Company, president and co-owner of Insurance Associates of Johnson County, and most recently a biology instructor at Central Missouri State University.
Through it all, a simple phrase that he places at the end of most emails has been a guidepost for him.
“’A part, not apart,’” he said. “That’s how I think of my place in the universe.”
Even receiving the Citation of Merit from McPherson College has more to do with his connections than any of his talents, Mohler said.
“I’m very much complimented by it. I feel undeserving,” Mohler said. “The credit lies in the people that I have been in contact with and had productive connections with. What’s happened to me has happened primarily from being connected, and not from any other particular qualities that I hold.”
June Switzer ’59 (McPherson, Kan.)
A childhood memory from Holmesville, Neb., stand out as June Switzer’s first exposure to the name “McPherson College.”
Painted on old timber in black letters, placed beneath a mulberry tree in the south yard of the Church of the Brethren there, someone had placed a sign reading: “McPherson College… 180 Miles South.” June joined her friends in eating mulberries straight from the tree that stretched above that sign. The subtle advertisement proved effective.
“I never really considered attending any other college,” Switzer said.
She said that 180 miles felt like a huge distance from the rural community where she grew up.
“My time at McPherson College was a life-changing experience, and although my career interest led me to nursing programs offered elsewhere, McPherson College has always been my college home,” she said. “It was the place that where the shy and socially inept person that I was, could feel accepted.”
It was also the place where she met her husband, Ed. He brought out her adventurous side, she said, and together they spent two years in Brethren Volunteer Service in Puerto Rico along with many other opportunities at home and abroad.
When she received her nursing degree from the Hutchinson Hospital School of Nursing, she went on to become a nurse at Hutchinson Hospital, specializing in emergency care.
“Working in the emergency room was the kind of nursing I liked - the unexpected, the crisis management,” she said. “I liked being so organized that no matter what happened, we’d be ready for it.”
From there, she accepted a job as director of nursing at the Hutchinson Clinic. While she didn’t like giving up as much direct patient interaction as she’d had before, she enjoyed helping other nurses to become the best caregivers they could.
Switzer said she accepted the Citation of Merit more on behalf of others rather than for herself.
“I am both honored and humbled to receive this recognition. I feel that I do so as a representative of so many other alumni for whom McPherson College has been an invaluable stepping stone in our lives,” she said. “I do believe that God leads us in our life journey if we are patient and faithful.”

Les Shenefelt ’69 (Denver, Colo.)
The career of Les Shenefelt could be a textbook example of the benefits of a liberal arts education to teach the skills essential to a broad range of careers.
He studied biology at McPherson College, then finished his career working as an accountant and financial manager for the State of Colorado from 1975 to 2008 - 32 years in public service, culminating in his role as as the Colorado State Controller.
The controller in a state is essential - managing all financial reporting, making and enforcement of financial rules for the state, handling state payroll, and generally overseeing any points where the business of state government intersects with money.
“It was something I was good at,” Shenefelt said. “I started basically as an accounting clerk and moved all the way up to state controller.”
As for how one connects science to a career in government finance, Shenefelt said his education at McPherson College gave him the foundation with the essential skills of analysis, organization and a curious mind.
“Although I didn’t go into biology or science, a lot of the scientific method I learned in biology I was able to apply later in my career,” he said.
Of course, McPherson College was more than a time of studying. In particular, he recalls helping to restart the pep club, a marine biology trip to the Oregon coast and late-night games of Hearts in Metzler Hall. And don’t forget working on Homecoming floats his junior year… where he met his wife, Bonnie.
One other area where McPherson College directed his career was in developing his spirit, along with his mind. His skills in finance could have translated well to any corporation with a much larger paycheck. But MC taught him there’s more to life than the number of zeros in your salary.
“I wasn’t really interested in the corporate world,” he said. “I looked at working as comptroller as public service, and I was more interested in that than helping someone make a lot of money.”