For some, finding one’s purpose in life is a freeway with a clearly marked onramp and smooth pavement.
But for people like the recipients of this year’s Young Alumni Award reward at McPherson College, purpose was found on a scenic, winding backwoods trail.
So for Kristen Reynolds of McPherson, Kan.; Todd Frankenbery of Benton, Kan.; and Jim VanGoethem of Galva, Kan., the journey has been just as important as the destination.
These three alumni – all from the class of 1991 – were honored at a special all-campus gathering on Oct. 14. The Young Alumni Award recognizes outstanding MC alumni who have graduated within approximately the last 30 years.
Todd Frankenbery started out as a business major at McPherson College, then considered pursuing eye care as an ophthalmologist or optometrist… until he realized he has a slight phobia about having to treat people’s eyes.
“Fortunately I met my wife Sara, and she showed me where the library was,” Frankenbery said.
Sara helped him to settle on pursuing dentistry, and he earned his undergraduate degree from MC in biology, on a pre-dentistry track.
“The beauty of college is you get that opportunity to experience things,” he said, “And it’s never too late to get a new plan and head down a different path.”
After graduating from dental school in Oklahoma, he practiced in McPherson, then had an opportunity to become a partner with Anthony Martin in Wichita. In 2008, Dr. Martin retired and Dr. Frankenbery took on a new partner. Today, two more doctors work for them at the practice and about 45 employees in all.
Frakenbery said it’s a great team that has a lot of fun.
“I’m lucky to have surrounded myself with good people,” he said. “I love my career, there’s nothing else I can imagine doing. It’s allowed me to meet a lot of people and help a lot of people.”
Outside of the workplace, he helps with a number of service activities. One uniquely emotional opportunity came in his senior year of dental school. At that time, Dr. Frankenbery was a member of the Forensic Dental Team that helped to identify victims of the Murrow Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City. He continues to be active in a variety of charitable and volunteer organizations – among them the Wichita District Dental Society, USD 375 Circle Board of Education, Circle High School Booster Club, the Light the Night Leukemia Walk, and VC Cares for Kids.
Kristen Reynolds has a heart for helping people accomplish the sort of tasks that most people just take for granted – doing the dishes, typing on a computer, brushing teeth. She took her health arts major from McPherson College and turned it into a career of 24 years (so far) as an occupational therapist – a “sibling” to the field of physical therapy.
In physical therapy, the primary goal is improving a physical impairment by working on large muscle groups. An occupational therapist is more focused on smaller muscle groups, with an end goal of greater patient independence in the “activities of daily living” – such as hobbies, job requirements, and housework.
“I’ve done just about everything you can do within occupational therapy,” she said.
She’s also currently working part-time as a receptionist for Ameriprise Financial and as an office manager for the Antique Telephone Collectors Association.
In occupational therapy, she’s had the opportunity to work with people in age ranges from preschool through retirees in assisted living and nursing care facilities. She’s worked with the McPherson County Special Education Cooperative, the Rice County Special Education Cooperative, the Hutchinson Regional Medical Center, and The Cedars, as well as teaching pediatric occupational therapy with Brown Mackie College.
But working with children, she said, was probably her favorite work.
“They just think they’re playing and having a good time,” she said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”
Her goal was getting adults in the lives of children with physical impairments to “take over” in caring for them.
“A huge part of my job was to work with teachers and parents and help them to know what I do with children,” she said. “That’s ultimately what I want to do – work myself out of a job.”
In her volunteer work, Kristen tries to help families as well – helping with children, public health, and alleviating poverty. She was one of the founding members of Circles of McPherson County – an organization dedicated to the elimination of poverty – and has volunteered for them ever since. She’s also worked on the advisory board to Prairie View and helped to raise more than $8,000 for the Haiti Medical Project.
While Jim VanGoethem was still a student at McPherson College, worked part-time for Midwest Electric Service starting in the spring of 1989, then went full-time after graduating with degrees in both Accounting and Economics/Business Administration
Today, he owns the company.
“It’s kind of like I went back home to what I helped build,” he said. “It was a neat experience.”
The work focuses on industrial electrical construction and maintenance at refineries and natural gas compressor stations. Most of the work is for the local CHS refinery in McPherson.
As owner, VanGoethem sees his primary responsibility as being a servant to his employees – usually his last question before leaving the office will be, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“We have wonderful people working for us,” he said. “Sometimes I feel my function is to make coffee and unlock the doors. The leadership sets the tone for the whole organization, even in my little world. I feel like I’m treating people right.”
His entrepreneurial spirit has drawn him to pursue other ventures while also leading Midwest Electric Service – including owning and managing VanGoethem Farms and a number of residential rental properties known as J & L Rentals. He’s also been a partner with Deerfield Homes, an accountant at Keith Mines CPA, and operations manager at Midwest Electric’s telephone service wing.
“I’m just a normal guy,” he said. “I’ve always worked hard and God’s blessed me with gracious outcomes. Christ set the model for serving in everything we do. I want my life’s activities to glorify God.”
He sees himself as more than a businessman, however – community and church are highly important to VanGoethem. He has put in many hours of volunteer time, trying to make the world around him better.
He and his family helped to rebuild homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2008. He volunteers each year with his family at an RFK foster kids camps, and currently serves on the boards of the McPherson Aquapups Swim Club, McPherson High School Booster Club and Vatterott College’s electrical department. While attending Countryside Covenant Church during the last 17 years, he’s served on the church council, numerous committees, praise and worship team, taught adult Christian Formation classes and led Bible study groups.
During the award ceremony on Friday, McPherson College President Michael Schneider praised the recipients as stellar representatives of McPherson College.
“These are some of our very best alumni,” he said, “who exemplify our mission to build whole persons through scholarship, participation and service.”