As Distinguished Professor of Economics Emeritus Steve Anders, PhD, stepped to the stage to offer the benediction on Graceland’s commencement ceremony, those present likely felt the emotions of 45 YEARS IN THE CLASSROOM flow through his words.
For Anders, his prayer for the graduates to “find joy and fulfillment in their chosen paths” spoke to his own personal journey of joy and fulfillment through seven decades on “the Hill.”
“May you be filled with the courage to take on the challenges and to embrace the opportunities that lie ahead on the road you travel. May you never forget the lessons you learned during your time at this University, on this Hill, and may you always carry the memories and experiences with you as you move forward.”
STEVEN L. ANDERS, PhD, ’73
Benediction from Graceland University’s 127th Commencement, April 30, 2023
Five years after graduating from Graceland in 1973, Anders returned to the institution to begin his teaching career. That storied career came to a close this year, 50 years after he graduated from “the Hill” and 45 after he joined the faculty.
Chair of the C.H. Sandage School of Business Jeff McElroy, EdD, took several of Anders’ economics classes when he was a student early in the 1980s. He said, “Personally, I had Steve for several economics classes in the early 80s when I was at Graceland as a business and economics double major. Even back then, early in his career, he taught all of the really tough economics classes, including the senior seminar. He’s always just been that good.”
Another of his colleagues, Professor of Economics Rob Poulton, PhD, said, “Steve has been an amazing mentor to me and countless others. His passion for teaching and for his students is contagious. He holds his students and his colleagues to high standards, and they respect and appreciate him for this. We are forever indebted to Steve for the positive impact he has had on Graceland and on those who have had the pleasure of working with him over this time.”Anders’ time at Graceland spanned six (seven, if you reach back to his time as a student) decades and stretched into nearly every area of the institution. When he joined the faculty in 1978 to teach economics, he was influenced and mentored by legendary Graceland economics professors like Jerry Runkle ’34 and Frank Hough ’59. He also brought the influence of one of his graduate professors during his time at K-State.
“I was really influenced by Jerry Runkle and another professor of mine from K-State, John Nordin, that had a major impact on my teaching style,” Anders said. During his time as a student, he took seven courses from Runkle, who repaid the favor by recruiting him to be a professor at Graceland.
As Anders reflected on his time as a faculty member, he holds many dear memories, but most significantly, “The level and intensity of respect I felt from so many of the students in my major — the sense of love and respect that I felt from so many of those students.”
His favorite course to teach over the years was his senior seminar, a rigorous capstone course involving an oral presentation and a final paper of 20-30 pages. Anders has kept diligent records of this course over the years, including all of the final research projects that students completed from “Unemployment in Grand Cayman” to “The Determinants of Prices Within the Secondary Lego Market.”
“During that course, I tell my students that I am your greatest advocate,” Anders states emphatically.
Students shared their enthusiasm for Anders’ style, and in 1985, he received the Graceland Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching just near the beginning of his career.
In 1989, Anders became chair of the Social Science Division, helping to expand business internships at Graceland and leading the effort toward creating the Accounting major.
From 1996 through 2009, Anders represented the faculty in the administration, first as Associate Dean of Faculty, then as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, making him Graceland’s longest serving Dean of Faculty, though that streak was disrupted in 2006, when he was appointed Interim President following the resignation of late Ambassador John Menzies.
During his year as Interim President, Anders helped steady the University through a tumultuous period, and celebrated with students as they won the national men’s soccer championship and national and world championships in the SIFE (then Students in Free Enterprise, now Enactus) competition in Paris, France.
Then-men’s soccer head coach Ivan Joseph, PhD, ’96 said, “Steve was a fan of excellence in all things that championed the student experience. I remember Steve and a contingent of fans waiting for us in the Kansas City airport when we arrived with the [national championship] trophy. It was a nice, thoughtful touch as president that made our students and staff feel special.”
“My experience as president was great because the job was totally different,” Anders said. “I went wherever Institutional Advancement wanted me to go, and that year was the #1 fundraising year that Graceland had to date.”
“But what was neat to me was being in different settings, whether it be a home or a church — interacting with people who had a love for Graceland and wanted to tell their story, and I was willing to listen. That really was a ‘Wow’ moment for me — working here on campus, you don’t always hear those stories,” he said.
Amidst all those accomplishments, another worth mentioning is the key role he played in the endowment of the C.H. Sandage School of Business and the Endowed Chair of Economics, which he has occupied since 1997. Even during his presidency, he stayed in the classroom because he wanted to teach his favorite senior seminar class.
“Barbara Higdon [President Emerita Barbara McFarlane ’49 Higdon] thought I was crazy at the time, but it was so important for me,” Anders said.
In 2010, Anders became only the third person in Graceland’s history to be granted the rank of Distinguished Professor by the Board of Trustees, joining the elite company of Bruce Graybill ’52 and Velma Ruch ’41.
As he reflects on his career, he hopes that he is remembered for the quality of his instruction, his fairness, and his respect for students.
“10/10 would recommend!”
WILL SIMMERS ’23
His current students have the utmost respect for him. Will Simmers, who graduated in 2023, said this about Anders: “One of the best professors I’ve had. He has made me feel more confident in my works in economics than I ever thought possible. He’s always there when I have a question, and with his vast knowledge, he is able to explain things in a way that is easy to understand, which allowed me to further my understanding of the topics we studied. 10/10 would recommend.”
Anders helped shape Graceland’s faculty, its classrooms, and the administration for generations past and those still to come. Thank you, Dr. Anders, for the blue and gold blood, sweat, and tears you have given over the years in service to our beloved alma mater.
Final Papers Through the Years
Anders kept rigorous records of his senior seminar projects and papers, which are included as part of the syllabus. Browsing the papers offers a view into the history of not just his time at Graceland, but of the current events over the decades. Some samples:
The Economics of Pollution, Ed Colyer, 1979
U.S. Dependence on OPEC Oil, Scott Manuel, 1981
The Less Developed Countries: Growth Problems in Nations in Poverty, David Seda, 1983
The Effect of Women in the Labor Force, Sonia Wheatley, 1985
AIDS and its Effect on the Labor Force and the Economy, Jennifer Stone, 1987
The Economics Effects of September 11, 2001 on the Insurance Industry, Julie Thomann, 2003
The Effect of Hosting the Olympics on the Greek Economy, Andrew Neill, 2010
The Economics of Marijuana and Legalization, Olivia Finger, 2015
The Sharing Economy, Ross Robino, 2017
The Economics of March Madness, NCAA Revenue Generation and Redistribution, and the Effect of COVID-19 on the March Madness Tournament, Kade Jensen, 2022