A Constellation of Rising Stars
The following story was written by Kerith Ackley-Jelinek, publications director at Grace College. It was first published in the summer edition of Two Eight & Nine Magazine.
Dr. Michael Harstine (BS 90), former Grace business professor, says he’d be hard pressed to identify three brighter Grace graduates than Kathy (McGee BA 86) Haddad, Polly (Cary BS 01) Teevan and Lauren (Zeltwanger BS 08) Endsley. They each have their own rising-star story, but they couldn’t have had it without one another. When Kathy and Rich Haddad (BS 87, MSNM 16) returned to Warsaw, Ind., in 1992, after both graduating from Grace College just a few years before, they wanted to create a place for Grace College students to experience, well — grace. “We wanted to give students a place where they could come and feel at home,” describes Kathy. “A place where students knew they would be accepted and loved. I wasn’t going to be shocked or disgusted by anything they told me.” As a previous student at Grace, Kathy understood the pressures to look the part of a perfect Christian: to do and say the right things, but on the inside, to be hiding all the pain, confusion and struggles of life. During her own time at Grace, Kathy came to understand the transformative power of Jesus’ grace through professors like Dr. Mike Grill (BA 67) and Bill Gordon, who showed her that Christianity isn’t a set of behaviors, but a relationship. “It sounds simple, but it’s a profound difference,” says Kathy, and she wanted other students to understand it.
So in the 1990s and early 2000s, Kathy and her husband Rich began hosting students every Monday night. They would come watch football, eat pizza and work out life and faith issues. In 1997, Grace freshman Polly (Cary) Teevan was unsure if Grace felt like a right fit for her and had made plans to transfer to another college. But when Polly heard from her roommate about a Bible study Kathy and others were beginning on Philip Yancey’s book, “Disappointment with God,” she called Kathy out of the blue. Not only did Polly become a regular attender on Monday nights, but she met once a week with Kathy for the next three years.
Reflecting back on meeting Kathy, Polly says, “I could talk about everything, and it was a real conversation. Kathy demonstrated how your faith was a relationship where you could face challenges, struggle and still be authentic in your journey. There were no topics that were off limits.” Polly says there’s no doubt that her life changed because of Kathy. “It changed the conversation; it changed my course. One hundred percent.” Meanwhile, Grace accounting professor Dr. Roger Stichter was challenging Polly in the classroom. “He sets the bar high for excellence. He won’t do the work for you, but he gets in the trenches with you,” says Polly. Bill Gordon, a former business professor, also helped Polly consider her future career and learn how to apply her knowledge in the workplace. “I can’t overstate how much those professors invested in providing their students with an excellent education,” insists Polly.
Polly has been working for DePuy Orthopaedics for the last 17 years. She is currently the U.S. hip and shoulder marketing director, and she applies the principles she learned at Grace to recruit talent to her team and to create and influence its culture. “When I’m looking for talent, I look for people with character, curiosity and motivation. Those are things I can’t teach them,” explains Polly. “But I know Grace purposely works to strengthen students’ character and sharpen their competence. In addition to investing in students academically, professors also get involved with their lives personally. I can remember Prof. Gordon and Tom Dunn taking students out to ski on Winona Lake or inviting them over to have dinner to invest in them as people. I have a soft spot in my heart for ‘Gracies,’ because I know Grace is mindfully investing in its students, and I was a beneficiary of those investments.”
So when Polly met Lauren (Zeltwanger) Endsley at DePuy in 2010, she was eager to help Lauren any way she could. Lauren, who was working in the finance department, was anxious to make the transition into marketing. Polly was willing to invest the time in sharing her experiences with Lauren, and when a prospect came up at another company, Lauren was ready to take the leap. Lauren had graduated from Grace in three years, before the three-year degree option existed. Professors Dr. Michael Harstine, Dr. Roger Stichter and Bill Gordon mentored her while she was there, and it’s because of the investment they made in her life that she goes into work each day looking for ways to invest in and bless others around her. “They helped me understand that to whom much has been given, much will be required, and I want to pay it forward,” she says simply.
After Lauren moved to her new job, she was on the lookout for another mentor. At a business meeting in 2013, Lauren found herself sitting across the table from Kathy. “I saw how extremely poised she was and what a professional example of female leadership she offered,” remembers Lauren. Lauren introduced herself and asked Kathy if she would have time to meet with her and offer some coaching. Kathy agreed, and the two have remained close ever since. But Polly remembered Lauren. And later that year, she offered Lauren a job in her marketing department at DePuy. It was the perfect job description, and so Lauren went to work for her, and is now a group product director for the U.S. hip marketing team. Polly also had been discussing with Kathy for years about her being “DePuy material” and was just waiting for the right fit to bring Kathy onto her team. When the right job position surfaced in 2016, they both knew it was the perfect fit, and Kathy joined Lauren and Polly at DePuy as a U.S. marketing product director.
If it weren’t for the investment Grace professors made in their education and spiritual lives, and the way they’ve chosen to serve one another, they all wonder where they’d be today. Kathy, Polly and Lauren aren’t just a force of intelligence in their workplace; they are also one of light. “In every interaction,” says Kathy, “I ask myself, ‘Is this holy ground? Is this a moment to shine some light in the darkness?’”
I’d call that brilliance.