“Her Sons and Daughters Carry to Others Her fame throughout the land”
Joe Booz and Cal Closson
This headline is the well-known line from Graceland Forever, our official school song, proudly entreating all GU alumni to spread the glory of the Graceland story.
Student Warren McElwain wrote it in 1925 (the only song he ever wrote) after a particularly stirring chapel convocation led by Roy Cheville, Mabel Carlile and Belle Royce.
It strikes a strong chord today as our admissions counselors recruit in the fiercely-competitive world of higher education, carrying Graceland’s fame to future students throughout the land. It may sound a little corny to today’s modern students, but the sentiment stands true! Our sons and daughters (you, our alumni) are our greatest ambassadors. We need you to share our fame.
As Alumni Board of Directors’ member Wade Wallace ’82 said, “The best schools in the country include alumni in their admissions process. It is absolutely worthwhile to explore ways to involve alumni in student recruiting. The future benefit to Graceland could be profound.”
Wade could not be more on target, and President John Sellars agrees. He said, “Our alumni represent one of Graceland’s richest resources. We are blessed with a talented and diverse network of graduates – ‘sons and daughters’ with compelling testimonies of the impact Graceland made, and continues to make, on their lives.”
The Alumni Board of Directors has teamed with Kirk Bjorland ’89, Vice President for Enrollment Management, Greg Sutherland ’73, Director of Affiliate Relations and Paul Davis ’77, Director of Alumni Programs, to identify simple yet important ways that you, our sons and our daughters, can get involved.
First, talk about Graceland with your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Share your Graceland story. Your years on “the Hill” set the tone for your life. Your story is unique. Tell it! And, be sure to share exciting news from today’s Graceland – like the new Shaw Center and new Fitzgerald Fitness Center, and myriad new academic majors and programs.
To find out what is going on at GU contact Alumni Board members Cal Closson ’82 at 816.308.1436 or email@example.com, and Joe Booz ’86 at 816.977.4962 or firstname.lastname@example.org. They are the movers and shakers who are getting this effort off the ground!
Here is an easy way to help. Make a list of all of the high school students you know who are considering higher education, including children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends and neighbors. Email your list to Cal or Joe. Be sure to include full names and contact information, and maybe something you know about the student’s academic, fine arts or athletic interests.
Here’s another fun tip. Wear a Graceland shirt, hat or jacket when you are out and about. You’ll be surprised what happens. A Gracelander was at Disney World recently, wearing a GU shirt, and an alumni couple from the 1970s hugged him and said, “Hey, are you from Graceland?” Then they shared their GU story. They had not returned to Homecoming for 30 years. They are coming back to “the Hill” for this year’s fall classic!
If you attend a Community of Christ congregation, find out if you have a GO GU ‘Graceland Rep’ among you. If you’d like to be a ‘Graceland Rep’ or get one in your congregation, contact Gretchen Booz ’55, GO GU! Alumni Coordinator, at 816.729.0379 or email@example.com, or Greg Sutherland at 641.784.5470 or Greg.Sutherland@graceland.edu.
Cal and Joe are going to make these alumni recruitment efforts happen. You only have to meet them and shake their hands to know how much they love Graceland. They know Wade Wallace is right: “The future benefit to Graceland could be profound.”
So help Cal and Joe connect with future GU students. They will arrange personal letters, calls or visits from Graceland faculty or staff, Community of Christ personnel, Alumni Board members, and even graduates with successful careers that might interest a future student.
And remember one last thing. According to Kirk Bjorland, “One of the greatest gifts you can give Graceland is the gift of a student.”
“What do you say we make a quick stop at Graceland? I’d love to show you around campus.”
Wanda Bingaman ’49 Andersen
By Joe Booz ’86
The simple invitation noted above set in motion an important turn of events for the late Gerry Berg ‘52 Lysinger in the summer of 1950. At that time she was working and living in Des Moines with no plan whatsoever to attend Graceland or any other college for that matter.
“I just remember that Gerry and I decided to spend the weekend in Kansas City; just us two girls,” Wanda Bingaman ’49 Andersen recalled recently. “I thought it would be nice to show my friend around campus on our way back home to Des Moines.”
And so on that Sunday afternoon more than 60 years ago, Wanda, then a recent Graceland graduate, took a brief bypass off Highway 69, pulled onto campus and gave Gerry a short tour.
“I don’t know what happened during that impromptu visit to Graceland, but I’ll never forget seeing Gerry bursting through the front door of our parents’ home that evening,” remarked Gerry’s sister, Gretchen Berg ‘55 Booz. “She was absolutely bubbling, going on and on about Graceland.”
In short order, Gerry applied to Graceland and was accepted. She resigned from her job and enrolled in the fall of 1950.
“Yes, it’s fair to say she jumped in with both feet,” commented Gerry’s brother, Ken Berg ‘60. “Her devotion to Graceland was really something special. No doubt she set the bar pretty high for the rest of us.”
Gerry graduated from Graceland in 1952 with honors, but her impact on “the Hill” was only just beginning.
“Gerry was such a proponent of Graceland. She was most certainly the reason I went to Graceland, and I know the same is true for my brother and a number of our cousins,” added Gretchen, who went on to serve a 12-year term on the GU Board of Trustees.
In fact, 32 of Gerry’s direct descendants, including all four of her children, are either Graceland alumni or current students. Gerry passed away in 2006 but her legacy lives on at GU. Next year, four of her g rand children will be on campus plus four great-nephews and one great-niece. In addition, one of Gerry’s nephews is a member of Graceland’s Board of Trustees and the Alumni Board of Directors features a nephew, niece and daughter-in-law.
“I had no idea that brief stop at Graceland in 1950 made such an impression on Gerry,” noted Wanda, “but I sure am glad I acted on my impulse to show her around campus.”
The last line of our school song, Graceland Forever, cited on the previous page, ends with, “O Graceland, we’re all for you.” In 1950, Wanda Andersen, with a simple, thoughtful gesture, ‘… carried Graceland to others’ by merely inviting a friend to see the campus. The simple, thoughtful gestures we make today can transform the lives of the young people of our generation. And as we can see from the story of Wanda and Gerry, the transformations go on and on.