HILLSBORO – The Tabor College Writing Center received a fresh look and a new name over the summer.
The English department, which is located on the main floor of the Lohrenz, received an endowment from the memorial fund of Katie Funk Wiebe, a former English professor who died in October 2016.
Over the summer, new carpet, furnishings, wall coverings and lighting were installed in the English department’s writing center.
“Everything was 30- years-old or more,” said writing center director and English professor Dr. Deborah Penner. “The area was really in need of refreshing so it could be an enhanced learning space for students.”
In a dedication ceremony on Oct. 21, the center was also renamed as the Katie Funk Wiebe Writing Center. The event included remarks from Jean Janzen, a Mennonite Brethren poet from Fresno, and Funk Wiebe’s daughter, Joanna Wiebe.
The Tabor writing center was started by former English professor Dr. Beth Empsen. Penner has been director of the writing center since 1999.
“Our goal is to assist students with writing at any stage,” Penner said. “We work with clients in a way that they learn to edit and revise their own papers in order to elevate the level of academic expression and discussion on campus.”
Students who come into the writing center work individually with students who have been hired as tutors. Since Penner became director, 63 tutors have worked in the center.
The English department has plans to use more of the endowment to renovate the faculty offices next summer.
“We’re very touched and blessed to receive this generous gift, and we’re grateful for it,” Penner said.
Katie Funk Wiebe was an English professor at Tabor from 1967-1989.
Before moving to Hillsboro, she and her husband, Walter, were involved in writing for Mennonite Brethren youth publications in Canada. In 1962, Walter was offered a job at a publishing house in Hillsboro, and the family moved. Within six weeks of the move, Walter died and Katie was left as a widow in a new place.
Katie had a talent for expressing herself on paper and was able to get a job at the publishing house. She was eventually hired to teach English at Tabor College.
“She was good at it,” said Peggy Goertzen, director of the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies. “She was very focused and had pretty high standards for herself and the students.”
Katie used her writing talent to publish numerous books, many of which were autobiographical and historical in nature.
“She personified the MB writing world for a lot of folks,” Goertzen said. “She had a passion for communicating truth and insight and life lessons through storytelling.”
Katie was named one of the most influential women in the Mennonite world by the Mennonite World Review and was an early advocate for women’s leadership in conference colleges. She was a member at Parkview Mennonite Brethren Church, where she published historical stories about the church in the newsletter. Katie was also on a board for student publications at Tabor and the board of Christian literature. In addition, she wrote hundreds of articles for the Christian Leader.
“An important thing to everything that Katie did was that she was trying to communicate God’s truth,” Goertzen said. “She gave voice to a lot of emotions and transitions in life that sometimes get overlooked.”
Information was provided by Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies.
Tabor College is a four-year Christian liberal arts institution located in Hillsboro, Kan., with a second campus located at 21st Street and Ridge Road in Wichita. For more information, visit http://tabor.edu.