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McPherson College Announces Spring Horizon Fund Grant Recipients

For more than a decade, McPherson College has been encouraging the entrepreneurial ideas of its students by awarding mini-grants that help students develop innovative solutions to common problems. With more than 300 grants awarded, the college recently announced the latest recipients of the Horizon Fund Grants.

This spring, the Horizon Fund provides grants to six students with ideas ranging from handmade jewelry to automotive detailing. The individual grants range from $100 to $500, and students can reapply for continued funding of existing Horizon Fund Grant projects.

Abbey Archer-Rierson, chief of staff and head of the entrepreneurship program at McPherson College, said, “The Horizon Fund Grant is just one of many ways McPherson College demonstrates its commitment to entrepreneurship and supports entrepreneurial students on our campus. The grants have supported a variety of wildly creative ideas, and this most recent round of funding is no exception.”

Recipients of the spring 2024 Horizon Fund Grants are:

  • Maria Miranda, graphic design & photography, Great Bend, Kan. – handmade jewelry – “I want to create unique pieces of jewelry that embrace Mexican culture. Jewelry is a form of self-expression and I think it is important to provide unique pieces that allow people to do so.”
  • Cameron Wright, graphic design, Denison, Texas – photography – “My business would focus not only on professional headshots but also on creating conceptual photography for galleries.”
  • Malia Pfeiff, Elementary Education with communication minor, Moundridge, Kan. – appreciation baskets for teachers – “I want to create bi-monthly appreciation baskets for teachers at the local elementary schools that include school supplies, snacks, and more.”
  • Dyron Dixon, psychology, Leander, Texas – photography – “I think people’s beauty needs to be shared whether it be through music, painting, or photography, and I think I could help with that.”
  • Derika Helms, business administration with graphic design minor, Inman, Kan. – graphic design and marketing services – “My goal is to help people establish a strong brand identity that effectively communicates their message with their target audience.”
  • Robert Schonberner, automotive restoration management, Omaha, Neb. – automotive detailing – “I would be meeting the needs of people who want their vehicles to look presentable inside and out, and people who need to sell their cars.”

President Schneider Receives Distinguished Alumni Award From University Of Pennsylvania

President Michael Schneider and family.

President Michael Schneider with his daughter Hayden and wife Kandee after the awards ceremony.

Dr. Michael Schneider, president of McPherson College, recently received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Higher Education Management Executive Doctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. The award recognizes program alumni who have demonstrated significant and effective leadership and management and have had a substantial impact or influence at an organizational, regional, or national level.

“We were pleased to welcome Michael back to Penn’s campus to receive the executive doctorate in higher education management Distinguished Alumni Award,” said Dr. Diane Eynon, senior fellow and director of the program. “I had the opportunity to work closely with Michael as his dissertation chair and it was clear then that he had a vision for what was possible and a strong sense of what it would take to accomplish it. That vision and commitment to excellence is why his peers choose him as this year’s award recipient.”

President Schneider’s passionate vision to elevate liberal arts through an entrepreneurial mindset has sparked the imagination of an entire campus. Under his leadership in the past year, the college gained recognition for having a student-restored 1953 Mercedes-Benz 300 S Cabriolet win second in the Post-War Luxury Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance, the most prestigious car show in the world. Additionally, the college achieved a historic milestone by securing a $1 billion endowment commitment, one of the largest philanthropic commitments in the history of higher education.

“The Executive Doctorate program prepared me well for the challenges facing smaller liberal arts institutions,” President Schneider said. “I am grateful to receive this award and fortunate to stay connected with many talented colleagues associated with the program. This award recognizes the work of an entire college as McPherson College does its part to transform the future of higher education.”

President Schneider, a 1996 graduate of McPherson College, assumed the role of president in 2009, becoming one of the youngest college presidents in the United States. During his tenure, he has solidified the college’s commitment to debt-free education and post-graduation placement rates. The college’s job and placement rates rank among the best in the nation, while the average debt per student at graduation is one of the lowest of any four-year college in Kansas. For the past nine years, McPherson College has been named in the Chronicle of Higher Education as a “Great College to Work For,” with honor roll recognition for the past eight years.

Since becoming president, Schneider has served the higher education community as board chair of the Associated Colleges of Central Kansas, Kansas Campus Compact, and Kansas Independent College Association; as executive committee member of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities; and as national advisory board member for Future Business Leaders of America and Distributive Education Clubs of America.

The award was presented to President Schneider at the Higher Education Leadership Conference in Philadelphia in January.

Aaron Meis Joins McPherson College As Executive Vice President

Aaron MeisMcPherson College announces Dr. Aaron Meis will join the college as executive vice president, providing leadership for institutional strategy, planning, and execution of the Community by Design 2.0 plan. In addition, Dr. Meis will supervise enrollment and student success, including admissions, student affairs, advising, career services, and the Student Debt Project — a program ensuring students an opportunity to graduate with no student loan debt.

“I am incredibly excited to join the McPherson College family,” Meis said. “I have gotten to know McPherson College and President Schneider over the past decade. I am inspired by the dedicated faculty and staff and the powerful personal connections that students make there. The Community by Design 2.0 plan and the extraordinary success of the Ward-Burkholder Endowment have positioned McPherson for its next 137 years. I’m humbled to be a part of the next stage of the college’s history”.

Dr. Meis has 28 years of higher education experience. During his 15-year career at Xavier University, he led the development and implementation of multiple institutional enrollment strategies in first-year recruitment and undergraduate retention and persistence, serving for more than seven years as the university’s chief enrollment and student success officer. Prior to his service at Xavier, Dr. Meis served as dean of admissions at Converse University in Spartanburg, SC.  He began his career at Loyola University Chicago, serving for a decade in various roles in undergraduate admission.

“We are thrilled to welcome Aaron to McPherson College,” said Michael Schneider, McPherson College president. “His vast experience aligns with many of the college’s strategic goals outlined in the Community by Design 2.0 plan. I look forward to working with him on the college’s expansion and growth, including new academic programs, plans for a modern destination campus, and the Student Debt Project. His expertise will provide an immediate impact on our campus.”

Dr. Meis has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in higher education administration from Loyola University in Chicago. He earned his Doctorate in Higher Education Management at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, he has received certificates in educational management from Harvard University and leadership development from the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities in Washington, D.C.

He will begin his role at McPherson College in May.

TV Legend Jay Leno Narrates McPherson College’s Historic Finish At Pebble Beach Concours D’elegance

The Path to Pebble documentary

McPherson College announced today that legendary television host and comedian Jay Leno will narrate “The Path to Pebble,” a documentary that tells the incredible story of McPherson College’s decade-long journey to compete at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the most prestigious car show in the world culminating in a historic podium finish in August 2023.

“Pebble Beach is all about turning heads. And some heads were turned that day. A student entry had never placed in this elite competition. Could they do it? Better yet, how did they even get here? There’s a ten-year long story behind their short drive to the reviewing stand. And it started 47 years ago,” said Leno to kick off the documentary.

The 28-minute documentary will screen in McPherson on February 13 in a “sneak peek” at 7 p.m. at the McPherson Opera House. Admission is free with a ticket that can be obtained on the McPherson Opera House website. A premiere will follow in Wichita on February 15 with an event at Mark Arts, and future viewing opportunities will be announced later.

McPherson College, a Kansas liberal arts college, is best known for its one-of-a-kind Automotive Restoration Technology degree program, offering America’s only four-year degree in restoring classic cars from Mercedes-Benzes to Ferraris. The program has received national acclaim and earned the support of car collectors, including Leno, a noted car collector and enthusiast and a long-time major supporter of the program.

In 1997, Leno established the Fred S. Dusenberg Scholarship and the Jay Leno Popular Mechanics scholarship, both of which continue to provide financial assistance to students interested in studying classic automotive restoration.

In 2023, McPherson College’s 1953 Mercedes-Benz 300S Cabriolet – restored entirely by students at the college’s Automotive Restoration program – secured second in class at the 72nd Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The victory marked the first time in Concours history that an entirely student-restored car has ranked in the top three in class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

“We’re so appreciative of Jay for lending his time and talent to document our historic journey to Pebble Beach, but especially for his continued support of our Automotive Restoration program, which has helped shape the future of our students,” said McPherson College President Michael Schneider. “We can’t wait to debut ‘The Path to Pebble’ and showcase our students, alumni, and faculty that poured their heart and soul into this project to make our lofty, bold, and audacious goal a reality.”

McPherson College Receives $2 Million Mabee Foundation Matching Grant

Campus Commons construction progress

McPherson College received a $2 million grant from the J.E. & L.E. Mabee Foundation. The grant will be directed toward construction of the new Campus Commons. The Mabee Foundation grant comes following last year’s completion of the Building Community comprehensive campaign, which generated $64 million to support campus infrastructure improvements and educational initiatives, such as the Student Debt Project, student scholarships, health sciences, automotive restoration, and other academic growth areas.

The Building Community campaign is the catalyst of the college’s largest-ever investment in new buildings and sets McPherson College on the path of becoming one of the best small colleges in the country.

“This grant represents the generosity of the Mabee Foundation, along with our community of supporters whose gifts enabled the college to secure the funds necessary to achieve the challenge grant,” McPherson College President Michael Schneider said. “We are extremely grateful to the Mabee Foundation for their dedicated partnership over the years. They have been instrumental in supporting building projects at McPherson College.”

Major gifts from California philanthropists Melanie and Richard Lundquist, Sodexo, the Dalke Charitable Foundation, Peoples Bank and Trust, and a significant anonymous donor propelled McPherson College to reach the challenge grant goal. Construction is underway on the new Campus Commons with a completion target of 2025. The new structure will be the most prominent building on the McPherson campus, serving students, employees, and community members. While the 55,000-square-foot building will provide a state-of-the-art event venue, student services hub, and place to grab a bite to eat, other campus building projects are online to further enhance the McPherson College student experience.

The expansion and remodeling of the current Sport Center athletic facility is scheduled for completion in February. The project includes adding over 4,500 square feet to the original facility and renovating another 2,000 square feet of existing space. The expansion includes an additional weight room, athletic training area, and offices. The renovation consists of installing new lockers, updating restrooms, and adding storage space.

Work started on the Boiler House this fall. The Boiler House is a new café in the middle of campus that will have indoor and outdoor seating and serve as an additional late-night dining option. The project is an imaginative reuse of an existing utility building — a 1940s-era brick structure, which housed McPherson College’s main boilers for over 70 years. When completed, it will create an entirely new campus gathering point providing space for socializing and collaborating.

Path to Pebble: Documentary Trailer Released

Witness the thrill, excitement, and challenges McPherson College students experienced on their Path To Pebble! A 10-year project culminating at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, bringing home one of the top awards. A full-length documentary of the student experience is currently being produced.

Watch the trailer below and follow us on Facebook for updates about the documentary.

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McPherson College Career Services, Amy Beckman Featured By NACE

Amy BeckmanMcPherson College’s career service program was recently featured in an article published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). The article noted that 80% to 85% of McPherson College students work at any given point in the year, including academic year and breaks. The article acknowledged an initiative led by Amy Beckman, executive director of career and experiential learning, that incorporated NACE career readiness competencies into student job descriptions and supervision.

“It was a great opportunity for us to put some intentional purpose behind what we are coaching and mentoring our student employees in and finding out what our students are learning on the job,” Beckman said regarding the work done in her office to ensure students are career ready.

NACE is a professional association that connects nearly 17,000 college career services professionals, university relations, and recruiting professionals. It serves as the leading source of information on the employment of college students and forecasts hiring and trends in the job market.

The McPherson College career initiative has allowed Beckman to target mentorship programming for supervisors and training for student employees to connect the competencies to their work. She plans to add more training for supervisors about how to have high-impact practices within the work they assign to students and how to engage in reflective conversations with students about what they are learning and how they can apply that to their current work, other jobs, and schoolwork.

“We are leveling up our experiences, so we feel more confident when sending our students out into the community to do internships and to work, and we want our employers to be confident that our students are well-prepared,” Beckman said.

Last year, 80% of McPherson College’s graduates had at least one internship or field experience before graduation. Three-quarters of the class had secured a job or graduate school placement before graduating, and after six months, 99% reported having a job or working toward furthering their education.

McPherson College Named One “2023 Great Colleges To Work For” With Honor Roll Distinction Among Small Colleges

2023 GCTWF Honor Roll LogoMcPherson College is a great place to work, according to a new survey by the Great Colleges to Work For® program. The results, appearing in a special edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education, recognize McPherson College for the ninth year in a row. McPherson College is also on the survey’s Honor Roll for the eighth year.

The results are based on a survey sent to over 103,000 faculty and staff at 194 colleges across the country. In all, just 72 of the 194 institutions achieved recognition on the list for specific practices and policies. Only 42 colleges were included on the Honor Roll, an elite group of institutions that are standouts within their enrollment size. McPherson College was recognized in 6 categories and was the only Kansas school earning recognition on the list.

“McPherson College continues to move forward boldly and with confidence, supported by its dedicated community of employees,” President Michael Schneider said. “As we embark on a future supported by the historic $1.5 billion endowment estate commitment, our employees are a vital part of our success. They continue to provide meaningful input on our strategic plan, which sets a focus on the next 10 years with initiatives aimed at campus growth, academic innovation, and wellness.”

President Schneider points to some basic practices, such as the college’s compensation plan and benefits including retirement contributions made after one year of employment, as reasons why people like working for McPherson College. Monthly all-campus meetings, called “huddles, where information is shared from across campus, foster community involvement. Programs like training from the Kansas Leadership Center, which develops adaptive problem-solving skills, and other significant professional development investments in the operating budget, sets McPherson College apart from other college campuses.

In a comment featured on the survey’s website, one McPherson College employee says, “I appreciate that I feel like I am a part of a team, and we are all working toward the same goal! I enjoy the small feeling of the campus community, as it is easier to get to know others from different departments. Everyone is willing to go the extra mile for our students.”

McPherson College was recognized in six categories including compensation & benefits, professional development, confidence in senior leadership, shared governance, faculty experience, and diversity, inclusion, & belonging.

“I appreciate how leadership approaches directing the college,” said Rick Tuxhorn, director of the endowment and former CFO, who has been with McPherson College for 12 years. “Our president, cabinet, and board are student-focused, innovative, forward-thinking, and believe in its employees. This is evidenced by how the president invests in the faculty and staff through compensation and benefits. When an organization can find and retain top-notch employees, the entire organization benefits, especially the students. This is one of the reasons I believe McPherson College is a great college to work for!”

Community is central to McPherson College’s identity, according to President Schneider. “As our college community looks toward the future, faculty and staff are actively planning our current innovative strategic plan. The plan drove decision-making and much of the work we did over the last several years, and much of the work will continue as we focus on the future. In addition, we did all of it while balancing our operating budget and maintaining our overall enrollment and student retention. By working together, these plans will nurture the creative processes to sustain innovative academic ventures like the new Health Science program, continue supporting students to graduate with zero debt through the Student Debt Project, and transition MC from a traditional residential campus to a vibrant community.”

The Great Colleges to Work For® survey is one of the country’s largest and most respected workplace recognition programs. The survey conducted by ModernThink — an organization committed to improving workplace quality — recognizes the colleges that get top ratings from their employees regarding workplace practices and policies.

McPherson College Ranks In U.S. News & World Report “Best College” List

For the eighth consecutive year, McPherson College has earned recognition by U.S. News & World Report in its 2023-24 “Best Colleges” list for Regional Colleges in the Midwest. This year, the college climbed 10 places in the rankings. Additionally, McPherson College was ranked on the “Best Value Schools” and “Top Performers on Social Mobility” lists.

Only schools ranked in or near the top half of their categories are included on the “Best Value Schools” list. When evaluating colleges for this list, U.S. News & World Report considers the most significant value to be among colleges that are above average academically and considers academic quality as well as cost. McPherson College was also recognized among colleges that are successful at advancing social mobility by enrolling and graduating large proportions of students awarded Pell grants.

“It is an honor to be included on such a well-respected list,” President Michael Schneider said. “It’s further proof that McPherson College is being recognized for the work being done by our faculty and staff to ensure quality education, excellent student experience, and value.”

Initiatives such as the college’s Student Debt Project, designed to assist students in graduating with little or no debt, along with the college’s impressive career placement rate, are just a few examples of why McPherson College is recognized on the “Best Colleges” list, according to President Schneider.

“We have some of the highest placement rates in the country, with more than two-thirds of our graduates having jobs or graduate school placement before they even graduate,” President Schneider said. “Combined with our focus on eliminating student debt we are proving to students and families that a McPherson College education is the best choice, and our campus improvements are putting the needs of our students first to create a living and learning environment for the 21st century.”

The U.S. News & World Report has been ranking colleges for over 35 years. U.S. News measures academic quality using 17 metrics, with the most weight placed on outcomes, including not only the ability of a college to retain and graduate students from different socioeconomic backgrounds but also graduates’ average indebtedness. Class size, undergraduate academic reputation, and colleges’ investment in instruction and student services are among the other data points collected to develop this year’s rankings.

McPherson College Exceeds Double Match Challenge – Establishing A Future $1,500,000,000 Endowment

$1B endowment announcement on July 21, 2023

College now gets down to business in planning how it will receive and deploy funds over time to expand programs and reduce student debt


McPherson College in Kansas announced today that it has met the match on its historic $500 million endowment double match challenge. Additionally, the anonymous donor surprised the college community by committing an additional $500 million estate gift for a total commitment of $1 billion. The McPherson College Board of Trustees also voted unanimously to name the McPherson College endowment after two late alumni and professors at McPherson College, Drs. John Ward and John Burkholder. McPherson College President Michael Schneider announced the milestone at an on-campus event this morning attended by over 200 faculty, staff, trustees, students, and friends of the college.

The total funding of $1,592,000,000 will result in the largest endowment of any small liberal arts college in the United States. (Editor’s note: see below for breakdown)

The donor agreement provides the flexibility for the anonymous donor to pay out over time or it is all paid in full upon the donor’s death, which is the latest time at which McPherson College would have access to the anonymous donor’s $1 billion. Most other gifts to meet the challenge will come over time as part of estate commitments.

“Today is historic, not just for McPherson College, but for all small liberal arts colleges in America,” said Schneider. “I am incredibly grateful to our anonymous donor for giving us an unprecedented opportunity—and responsibility—to build and implement our strategic vision of becoming a destination learning community. We have also been given an amazing opportunity to honor two legendary alumni and professors, Dr. Ward and Dr. Burkholder.”

“Now, the work begins to build a bridge to our future endowment,” Schneider added. “We need to carefully plan how the income from the endowment is deployed to reimagine and construct the campus of the future, build a much-needed rural health pipeline in Kansas, create a center for the future of automotive engineering and work to make college more affordable for all our students. There has never been a better day to be a part of the McPherson College community!”

At its most recent meeting, the McPherson College Board of Trustees named the McPherson College Endowment the Ward-Burkholder Endowment. Dr. Ward graduated from McPherson College in 1950 and had a distinguished career in higher education, first as a professor of agriculture at McPherson College for 12 years and later at the University of Nebraska. Dr. Burkholder graduated from McPherson College in 1949 and was a professor of biology at the college for nearly 40 years. Many members of the Ward and Burkholder families were on hand at today’s event.

“Naming faculty on this massive endowment highlights the unique faculty-student relationships found at McPherson College including the times John and John were themselves students at the College. Priceless might be a fitting word to describe the influence that faculty, staff, and administration of McPherson College have on the lives of its students,” said Marty Ward, a McPherson College Trustee and son of Dr. John Ward. “The Ward and Burkholder families are honored and grateful to everyone who has had a part in the Ward/Burkholder Endowment. On behalf of Dad and Dr. Burkholder – thank you.”

According to the terms of the double match gift challenge that concluded on June 30, the anonymous donor agreed to contribute $2 for every $1 given by others, up to $500 million.

Donations of this scale do not usually go to colleges with the size or location of McPherson College, which gives the school the rare opportunity to build and sustain the small liberal arts college of the future on the Plains.  McPherson College is following its student-first values, directing the funds toward its academic programs as well as making college more affordable and accessible—ensuring talented people in places like central Kansas have the opportunity to thrive over the long term.

Joining in the day’s festivities was U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, the senior United States senator from Kansas.

“McPherson College has taken an innovative approach to training students to meet the demands of the McPherson community and the surrounding area,” said Sen. Moran. “The great work at McPherson College is attracting donors who want to support institutions offering young Kansans opportunities to thrive during college and long after they have graduated. I look forward to continuing to support these efforts at the federal level.”

McPherson College’s student-centric plans include a renewed collaboration on rural health initiatives, plans for state-of-the-art science and engineering facilities, and a huge boost for students facing challenges affording college. Specifically, this includes McPherson’s Community by Design strategic plan, which includes East McPherson, the campus master plan; a new Kansas Center for Rural & Community Health; and McPherson College’s Student Debt Project, which has been proven to be a true pioneer in college affordability.

The new Kansas Center for Rural & Community Health will ensure the next generation of practitioners can use the latest technology and techniques to help improve healthcare in rural Kansas. McPherson College’s groundbreaking Student Debt Project, which has established a successful partnership with local businesses, has made McPherson College significantly more affordable. The program, where McPherson College donors match 25 cents for every dollar a student contributes to their education, will be expanded in the future as a result of meeting the match, not only making a McPherson College education affordable for more students, but also serving as a blueprint for other colleges across the country struggling with keeping student debt low in the face of rising costs.

“McPherson College has been a special place for Richard and me for over a decade,” said Dr. Melanie Lundquist. “We have especially appreciated President Schneider and Provost Gutierrez’s innovative, problem-solving leadership. It has also been one of our greatest pleasures to support McPherson’s one-of-a-kind automotive restoration program. Richard was honored to donate his classic Ferrari to the program, and we are both thrilled that this unique program – and McPherson College — will be on solid footing for perpetuity as a result of this phenomenally generous matching gift.”

The Lundquists committed $50 million to the match and donated his classic Ferrari to the college’s automotive restoration program—the nation’s only four-year degree program.

Next month, McPherson College’s automotive restoration program will be making its first-ever appearance on the industry’s biggest stage – the 2023 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The students’ fully-restored 1953 Mercedes-Benz 300 S Cabriolet will compete at this year’s event, a monumental milestone for the unique program.


Editor’s Note:

Pre-Challenge (Before Feb. 13, 2022)
Existing Endowment + Estate Commitments     $250,000,000

Challenge (Feb. 13, 2022 to June 30, 2023)
Challenge Commitments                                   $342,000,000

Anonymous Donor Estate Match
& Additional Estate Commitment                  

Total                                                                 $1,592,000,000