Alumni, Legacy Family honored for contributions, lives of purpose
One of the highlights of each Alumni Weekend is recognizing individuals and families who – through their professional lives and service – have distinguished themselves for their contributions and their lives of purpose with distinction.
At Alumni Weekend 2022, we were honored to recognize two outstanding alumni – historian and teacher Brent Carson and international ambassador and mom away from home Julie Arnold ’86. We also recognized one of Heidelberg’s stellar Legacy Families, the Wilson-Gerber family, who has nearly 30 family members who are forever connected to Heidelberg and each other.
Check out their profiles below to understand their many important contributions to the life of Heidelberg University.
Outstanding Alumni Award – Brent Carson ’70
Growing up on his parents’ dairy farm in Delaware, Ohio, Brent Carson, ’70, may not have envisioned where his professional life would take him. After his Heidelberg graduation, this political science major earned his teaching credentials from Ohio Wesleyan University. What followed was a stellar 31-year teaching career with Delaware City Schools, teaching primarily sixth-grade social studies at the Frank B. Willis Middle School in his hometown – the same school he attended and where his grandfather attended 100 years earlier.
While the teaching profession is a noble one, Brent set himself apart with his interactive teaching style that included highly engaging activities such as wearing a toga, leading his students through tubs of ice water to re-enact Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon, and writing and performing medieval plays and the Marathon Runner’s Rap. He created an in-class game as test prep for his students called Captain Carson’s No Good Goody Game, earning him the enviable nickname “Captain Carson.” At Willis Middle School, he organized an after-school group called the Willis School History Club to start his students on the path to preserving the history of the school, the town and the county.
Although he turned his attention to education and local history after his Heidelberg graduation, there was one impressive exception. In 1974, Brent organized and became the advisor for a local chapter of the Teenage Republicans, or TARs. The local chapter quickly became the largest and most active group in the state. The Delaware County TARS group caught the attention of the National Republican Party in 1972 when the party sought youth to assist at their events. Four years later, during the election of 1976, the TARs experienced their first presidential campaign and their second in 1980. The experiences were legendary – think giant elephant and camping out in a college gymnasium – and live on in the memory books.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg in Brent’s long-standing efforts to keep history alive.
In addition to his outstanding teaching, Brent has made enormous contributions as a community civic leader and distinguished local historian, primarily in his hometown of Delaware.
He incorporated this passion for local history into his classroom at every turn, and always with a creative flair. He created “Delaware Extras,” a weekly extra credit exercise for his students, and formed an after-school group, the Willis History Club, to promote the history of the school, the city and the county. For his creative spirit and commitment to his students and local history the Delaware rotary presented Brent with its Teacher of the Year Award in 2002.
In 2005, Brent retired from teaching so he could devote more time to promoting and preserving Delaware County history – his true passion. He is widely recognized as the leading historian in Delaware County. Putting his knowledge to work, he was named chair of the Delaware City Bi-Centennial Committee. That same year, he joined the Delaware Historical Society Board of Trustees, serving as its president until 2018, when he was named president emeritus. He continues to serve on the board. He knows something about class reunions too, having organized the largest in the city’s history.
In recognition of his work as a teacher and local historian, Delaware City Schools inducted Brent into its Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.
To this day, Brent lives the same commitment to civic duty that he instilled in his students all those many years, sharing his love of history far beyond his teaching. For nearly half a century, he has brought to life the history of his community through hundreds of presentations through the years, even appearing on central Ohio television and video productions in costume as characters from Delaware’s history, and producing DVDs on local history. In all, he estimates he has given well over 2,000 presentations to groups of all ages!
But his volunteer spirit doesn’t end with history. Brent also has been involved with local scout groups, teaching Citizenship Merit Badges for 40 years, the aforementioned Delaware Teenage Republicans group and the Delaware Jaycees.
Heidelberg prepared Brent well for the leadership he has given to his hometown throughout his lifetime. Those leadership skills became evident early – as a student on Heidelberg’s campus. Among his many activities, he served for two years as president of Heidelberg’s College Republican Club, which at the time was believed to have one of the largest memberships in the nation for the size of the College. Additionally, he was a member of Nu Sigma Alpha, the “Heids.” In the spring of 1970, his graduation year, his society brothers voted him as one of two “Heids of the Year.”
Service Award – Julie Arnold ’86
When Julie (Gase) Arnold received her undergrad degree from Heidelberg in 1986, her plans were unclear. But her decision to change from a Psychology and Spanish major during senior year – and become the very first graduate with a major in International Studies – was perfect timing. While her path may have been uncertain at the time, her passion for working with different cultures definitely was!
To understand Julie’s contributions to supporting and serving Heidelberg’s international student population, you have to first understand her career trajectory. While she was pursuing her graduate degree at Wittenberg University in 1988, she got a phone call from then-President William Cassell that would solidify her career direction. President Cassell was building an international presence at Heidelberg and was looking to promote the college globally. He needed someone to teach English in Japan, and he called Julie.
From 1988-90, Julie taught ESL in Kanazawa, Japan, before returning to Heidelberg to serve as the Director of International Student Services. In 1991, she returned to Kanazawa, where she worked as a coordinator and ESL instructor through 1995. It was there that she honed her Japanese speaking skills so that she could successfully serve as a translator/interpreter for three local Japanese companies, from 1995-2012.
A lifelong learner with a master’s degree from Heidelberg and additional studies in Spain and Cairo, Julie began full-time employment on campus in 2008 as the director of the Heidelberg English Language Institute. In 2009, she added teaching and coordinator of International Studies, and from 2012 until last month, she served tirelessly as the Director of International Affairs and Studies.
No matter where her feet were planted, Julie has excelled in turning foreigners into friends, serving their needs with the greatest of empathy. Whether she was supporting international students on campus or domestic students studying abroad, she always had a knack for anticipating what they needed and then stepping in to make sure those needs were fulfilled – frequently working behind the scenes and expecting no accolades for going the extra mile.
Julie would be the first to tell you that despite the support she provided, her students made an equally lasting impact on her. Her goal was always to put them in a position to thrive. Upon his departure after just a semester studying at Heidelberg, one international student gave Julie a keychain accessory with this verse: “Never underestimate the difference you make and the lives you touch.” That sums up perfectly Julie’s contributions to her beloved international students.
Additionally, Julie recognized the contributions that on-campus international students and faculty could make to teaching our community about other cultures. As the Director of International Affairs and Studies for the past 10 years, she advised the World Student Union and created campus programming such as International Coffee Hours, conversation partners and monthly ethnic-themed meals at Hoernemann Refectory. She enjoyed working with the university’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Committee and serving temporarily fulfilling responsibilities as the director of Multicultural Student Affairs.
Julie was known on campus for her “jump in and get it done” approach whenever there was a need. As someone who literally grew up on campus – her late father, Richard Gase, retired as Director of Facilities after 30 years and seven of her eight siblings also graduated from Heidelberg – she easily understood the ins and outs of campus life and never hesitated to volunteer when an extra hand was needed. She has been chauffeur, mover, mail and meal deliverer (during the pandemic) as well as friend, nurse and mom away from home for ‘Berg students.
Julie is a world traveler, having visited more than 30 countries, including China three times as part of Heidelberg’s exchange with Tianjin Normal University. During her travels, she has always been impressed with the kindness shown to her. Her great hope is that the students she encountered would pay that same kindness forward in their lives.
She has gone the extra mile – or thousands of miles – whenever there was a call to serve, and she always did so with empathy, compassion and caring for our international students at home and abroad. No job was too large or too small and she always served with a joyful spirit. The Heidelberg campus is better for her efforts to share her passion for other cultures.
Legacy Family Award – Wilson-Gerber Family
The first alumni who represent this year’s honored Legacy Family were members of the Classes of 1927 and 1929. Eleven decades and 26 additional alumni later, the members of the Wilson-Gerber Family have left their mark in their varied professions, their communities and Heidelberg. Among their ranks have been ministers, teachers, businessmen and women, accountants, medical professionals, IT specialists, theatre performers, administrators, insurance representatives, public servants and manufacturers.
The Wilson side of this Legacy Family dates back to 1927 with the graduation of Jenibel Dean, who earned her secretarial certificate. Jenibel married Joseph V. Wilson, who – after receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1929 – was the owner of Wilson’s Clothing. Joseph died in 1990 and Jenibel in 1995. Their union produced three children, all Heidelberg students: Robert D. Wilson, who attended 1953-54; Nancy (Wilson) Ehrman, ’60, who taught elementary school for 27 years; and Joseph F. Wilson, ’67. Robert, who died in 1990, and Joseph F. assumed co-ownership of the family clothing store. Joseph also taught and worked in economic development.
The Gerber clan dates back to patriarch Rev. Dr. Otto Gerber, who served a long tenure on Heidelberg’s Board of Trustees, from 1946 to 1971. Otto had two children, both of whom graduated from Heidelberg: Calvin O. Gerber, ’59, a religion major who served as a parish minister for more than 30 years (deceased April 18, 2022) who met his first wife, Carol Hernke Gerber Stenklyft, ’59, a teacher and homemaker, at Heidelberg; and Richard Gerber, ’67, who served as student body president while at Heidelberg and went on to a career as a hospital chaplain.
The Gerber Family and the Wilson Family were inextricably linked together when Karen Wilson, ’85, daughter of Robert Wilson, married John Gerber, also ’85, son of Calvin Gerber. Karen, a business administration and computer science major, works at Benchmark Prints and Clyde Public Library as a fiscal officer. John, who completed his BS with the same majors as his wife, went on to earn his nursing degree and currently works at Bellevue Hospital as a supervisor.
And speaking of Robert Wilson’s children, all three of Karen’s sisters are Heidelberg grads and all of the sisters married Heidelberg guys. Sibs Kari Wilson, ’93, an accountant who works for Synchrony Financial, married Greg Pfarrer, ’92, who also works for Synchrony Financial as a project manager; Kristie Wilson, ’96, a kindergarten teacher, married Gregory Brown, ’96, who works for Sunvera Group as the director of Revenue Cycle Management; and Karla Wilson, ’96, who works for Teijin Automotive Technologies, married Michael Geyman, ’94, who works for Bowling Green City Schools.
Another son of Calvin and Carol Gerber, Greg, ’88, followed suit when he married Beth Roth Gerber, ‘88. Greg is a senior software engineer for Snap-on Business Solutions and Beth works in companion care. Greg and Beth’s daughter, Anna Gerber, is a current Heidelberg student who plans to graduate from Heidelberg in December with her degree in theatre production.
Also among the current generation to carry on the family’s Heidelberg legacy are John and Karen Gerber’s two daughters, Kayla Gerber Perman, who graduated in ’12 with her degree in biology, and Maria Gerber, who graduated in ’17 with her degree in music education. Both daughters are teachers, Maria in K-5 music and Kayla in science.
Rounding out the Gerber side is Michael Gerber, ’90, who currently works as the IT director of ParkOhio. Rounding out the Wilson side are Nancy Ehrman’s son and grandson – and Jenibel and Joseph’s grandson and great-grandson – James Ehrman, ’86, currently serving as the director of the Seneca County Board of Elections in Tiffin, and his son, Matthew Ehrman, ’12, who works in the manufacturing industry at V-Tech in Bowling Green.
Whether they live a hop, skip and a jump from campus – in Tiffin or Clyde, Ohio – across the state or have migrated to Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the 28 members of this revered family, both living and deceased, will forever maintain the bond that links them, and that is their Sweet Alma Home.