Published: February 9, 2022
By Annette Brill Bergstresser
ELKHART, Indiana — Dee McOwen, Administrative Assistant to the Registrar and Education Database Manager for Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana, retired at the end of December 2021, concluding nearly 20 years of service to the seminary.
Since she began at AMBS in July 2002, McOwen has played a crucial role behind the scenes, working steadfastly to ensure the accuracy of the seminary’s student records. Scott Janzen, MDiv, Assistant Dean and Registrar and Director of Retention, described her as a “cornerstone — solidly preserving the integrity of the Registrar’s Office.”
He noted that McOwen spearheaded the transitions in software used by the Registrar’s Office not once but twice — managing the monumental changes from paper- and DOS-based student record systems to a Windows system in 2005 and then to cloud-based software in 2016. He also praised McOwen’s and longtime volunteer Dot Smucker’s “tireless efforts to carefully audit student records from decades past and bring them up to par.”
“Those are really big jobs that go on mostly behind the scenes, but which are really important,” he said.
What has struck Janzen most about McOwen, though, is that more than anything else, she strives to serve students well.
“She has connected with students closely throughout the years and helped them both on campus and off,” he said. “She is a great listener, and someone students appreciate speaking with. And when they would sometimes apologize for interrupting her work, she would always say, ‘It’s no problem at all; we’re here to serve students, and you come first.’ For me, that is the anthem of her legacy at AMBS.”
While McOwen served both the Admissions and the Registrar’s offices in her early years at AMBS, after the conversion to the Windows student record system in 2005, she shifted to working solely in the Registrar’s Office to manage the new system and clean up data that had not converted correctly. She continued to work closely with the Admissions Team, though, to achieve a smooth transition from applicants to admitted students. She also has been instrumental in designing, maintaining, and continually improving digital forms for processes that need tracking.
McOwen said she believes strongly in AMBS’s mission to prepare leaders for ministry. She cherishes the many close relationships she developed with both employees and students over the years, describing AMBS as “like having an extended family.” She expressed gratitude for Smucker, who has volunteered in the Registrar’s Office for more than 18 years and continues to do so.
Suzanne Huffman, Business Office Manager, described McOwen as “a wonderful mentor — someone I could ask for guidance or wisdom or to read through an email I’d drafted.”
“Her patience, attention to detail and compassion toward students have been indispensable for her role in the Registrar’s Office,” she said. “Over the years Dee’s contributions to AMBS have extended beyond her work with students to include contributions to AMBS community life. Her smile and warm presence on campus will be dearly missed.”
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