Mark Schowalter '79

My best anecdote of my four years at Lakeland was a Friday afternoon in the spring of 1978. Lakeland College was flooding due to a 5-day period of torrential downpours. The sanitary facilities behind the Campus Center were being threatened. Most of the fraternity and sorority people banded together, along with other students, and started filling sandbags. A dike was built around the entire complex and for the time being...saved it! A keg of beer was produced in celebration of the project's completion. As the beer flowed, it became a party. Soon, folks were being pushed, tossed, and shoved into the deepening water. The next morning brought another torrential downpour and the facilities were lost to flooding.


That  same weekend, Lakeland was host to a 300-member gathering. They held their assembly in Flounders Auditorium and ran through the rain to the Campus Center for meals. Lakeland provided a sit-down banquet for that group--despite the fact that we were working on limited emergency lighting! Richard Preuhs had farmed the cooking out to many of the resident cook's kitchens and used several nearby church kitchens to make all of the food. With college vans, Joel Schuler and I drove through the rain, gathering the food to be served. We ended up using disposable dinnerware for the project. This left a huge pile of garbage to be burned. The following Sunday, my roommate, Rex Beebe, and I were on our way back from Chapel services and decided to stop off in the incinerator room to get started on the process. We stoked the fires and piled in the garbage. A wandering television news team from Milwaukee appeared, shooting scenes of the flooding. They asked if Rex and I would take one of the canoes out on the lawn towards the Chapel. We did. Later that evening, I received a telephone call from my mother wanting to know why I was canoeing in my 3-piece suit. "I dunno?"


Lakeland provided me the opportunity to explore who I was as a person and what I could be as a professional. I entered college as a pre-seminary major. I left with a double major in both religion and music liberal arts. Because of the small number of students there was plenty of opportunity to try just about anything. Prof. Thiessen caught me in the lunch line one day and invited me to band practice. I tried to argue that I had left my trumpet at home and wasn't interested. He informed me that he had one I could use. That afternoon I was in band along with another freshman, David Fotsch, and we became the best of friends. One band class, before everyone had gotten in place, we found some Dixieland songbooks. We shared them with the necessary instruments and what do you know? A Dixieland band was formed! We would play for many basketball games at the Sheboygan Armory, many 5th quarters for home football games, and a few Alumni & Church Relations events around the area.


AJ Kunde invited me to read a part in a faith-based script titled "Christ in the Concrete City". I never saw myself as a performer, yet received a part. We later toured that play in some 20+ churches throughout the state of Wisconsin. While at Lakeland,  my spring breaks were spent on a bus with the a capella choir. There was usually some touring by the band during the year. I befriended many of my fellow students while on these trips; many are still some of my dearest friends thirty years later!


Professionally, I became a pastor. I took one year off from academics, during which time I lost my eyesight due to diabetes. My four years at Lakeland gave me the confidence to adapt to my loss of sight, along with the energy and determination to be the first totally blind student to attend United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, a sister institution of Mission House/Lakeland. In receiving my masters of divinity,  I was ordained. In the past 25 years, I have served 5 congregations in Wisconsin and Iowa in the United Church of Christ.


I have also authored a book titled "From Eagle to Chicken and Back". The book is a semi-autobiographical collection of short stories written to show that, no matter what ails you, you can adjust and adapt and live life to the fullest.


In the different communities I have lived, I have been an active member in local Lions International Clubs, worked closely with local funeral homes in providing care for grieving families who were not church-connected, done volunteer hospital chaplaincy, been a chaplain for the local fire and rescue department, and participated in crisis-counseling for public school systems.


For many years, my wife, family, and I have bred dobermans as candidates to be dog guides for the blind through Pilot Dogs, Inc. of Columbus, Ohio. I  myself use a doberman dog guide for independent mobility. I am currently on my 5th dog guide. Breeding and raising these dogs for their profession is both time consuming and highly rewarding.


When it is time to relax, you can find me sailing on either Lake Michigan or Lake Superior, doing woodworking projects in the shop, camping, or simply listening to hours of music in just about every medium imaginable. I have audio recordings of Lakeland's acapella choir tour from 1978 & 79. I compose and arrange some selections and I have worked with another talented musician in creating Christmas pageants for churches.

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