This is a report of a study on people who graduated from Lancaster Mennonite High School in 1953. Although people pursued many different paths, the data show amazing persistence of Mennonite identity over the years.
Results of Lancaster Mennonite High School
James Hurd and Barbara Breneman Hurd [Barbara is a 1953 graduate]
This survey was created to find out what has happened to the Lancaster Mennonite High School (LMH) class of 1953, especially their education, church and Anabaptist commitments, and experiences of their children. The results are a testimony to the grace of God and the power of LMH.
Graduates from the year 1953 met in Lititz, Pennsylvania this June to celebrate the 65th anniversary of their graduation. Thirty-five people of this class attended, plus 14 of their spouses.
We were interested in understanding how “useful” an LMH education is, and how to measure its impact over the years. What did people do after graduation? What vocations did they pursue? How many alumni attend an Anabaptist/Mennonite church today, and how many still identify as Anabaptist? How many sent their children to LMH or to an Anabaptist school?
Forty-two surveys were returned, including surveys from LMH’ers and from their spouses. We refer to all these as “respondents.” Fifteen of the respondents were males; 27 were females. Thirty-five of these were graduates of LMH.
Of all respondents, 20 had lived primarily in Lancaster County (55%), ten in a different Pennsylvania county, six in a different state, and three had lived outside of the U.S.
Of those who listed their primary vocation, eight females listed parenting/homemaker (no males listed this), seven people listed a blue-collar-type job (e.g., trucking, market), 19 listed a white-collar-type job (e.g., teacher, salesman), and three listed a church-related vocation (pastor, missionary).
Who did these LMH’ers marry? Overall, 14 out of the 35 graduates (40%; ten females and four males) chose an LMH spouse .
Nine LMH’ers (26%) reported they’d received an advanced degree beyond high school.
Eighteen LMH’ers (51%) reported that at least one of their children had attended LMH! In the 14 cases where both parents were LMH’ers, 10 of the parents (71%) had at least one child who attended LMH.
Who is still Anabaptist? Twenty-six LMH’ers reported that they were presently attending an Anabaptist/Mennonite church (76%). Four reported attending an “Evangelical” church, and four reported attending an “other Christian church.” Twenty-seven reported that they still considered themselves Anabaptist/Mennonite (77%). Five considered themselves “Evangelical,” and three, “other Christian.”
Twenty out of 30 LMH’ers (67%) reported that today, at least one of their children identifies as Anabaptist/Mennonite. But of the 14 graduates who married fellow LMH’ers, 11 had children that today identify as Anabaptist/Mennonite (79%).
This survey showed that LMH trained people well for work in many roles—most graduates worked for years in white- or blue-collar roles.
Graduates demonstrated a high loyalty, both to LMH and to Mennonite/Anabaptist church and belief. Forty percent of the LMH’ers had married fellow LMH’ers. Most of the respondents are now in Anabaptist churches, and most have children identifying with Anabaptist/Mennonite churches.
This study has some limitations. We could not survey 1953 graduates who failed to attend—on balance, those who attended were probably more loyal to LMH and to the Anabaptist movement than those who did not. If respondents had written in some answers rather than merely ticking boxes, more data would have been revealed. For instance, it is not clear which individuals are widowed or never-married. And where people did not answer questions about their children, they may have merely chosen to not answer, or, more likely, they have no children.
Future studies should include:
1. More marriage data—married, divorced, widowed, or never-married.
2. Focus groups or short narratives about the Mennonite/Anabaptist experience of the alumni, to give a deeper picture of graduates’ life experiences.
This survey reveals the amazing journeys of the members of the LMH class of 1953. It provides testimony to the power of an LMH education, to the graduates’ influence down through the years, and to the continuing vibrancy of the Anabaptist/ Mennonite experience.