For 19 of the past 21 years, Twila King Yoder has served at Eastern Mennonite University as assistant to the president, including most recently, to the university’s newest one. Yoder helped Dr. Susan Schultz Huxman, who started in January 2017, navigate her first year on the job.
At a retirement reception in December, Yoder’s long service and insightful guidance were honored by many in attendance, as well as by Huxman, who offered a warm parting tribute.
“Twila trained three presidents,” Huxman told the gathered crowd in the Campus Center, which fittingly included some other beneficiaries of Yoder’s gentle tutelage.
Yoder has actually worked with six men and women who occupied the role, some for many years and others for interim terms.
Beginning in June 1999, she worked with Joseph Lapp (1987-2003), then Loren Swartzendruber(2003-2016), and since January, Huxman.
Additionally, however, three interim presidents kept the business of the university moving forward: Beryl Brubaker (May-December 2003); Fred Kniss (May-August 2013 for Swartzendruber’s sabbatical), and Lee Snyder (July-December 2016).
With all of these presidents, interim and permanent, Yoder enabled smooth functioning at the highest levels of the university. Among her duties, she “schedules all of the president’s meetings; serves as corporate secretary to the Board of Trustees; aids in the development of numerous administrative documents, such as board policy manuals; and serves as a representative of the president’s office on numerous committees including the crisis management preparedness team and the facilities task force, among other duties,” according to an October 2015 Weather Vane profile.
Over the years, Yoder equipped her office on the third floor of the Campus Center with symbolic reminders of positive operating procedures in the “pressure cooker, roller coaster world of the university president,” Huxman said, referencing Yoder’s “Top Ten List” of how to deal with disgruntled callers and two stones marked strength and joy.
Yoder occupied her role with “purpose, positivity, patience and perspicuity,” Huxman said, elaborating on this last word by praising her colleague’s ability to “see clearly, deeply, reverently … with insight.”
From anticipating sensitivities of various campus constituencies to holding confidentiality on a range of subjects to informing the community of births and deaths, “Twila has put her master’s degree from our seminary to very good use,” Huxman said.
Yoder is a 1998 graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary. She and her husband Steve Yoder ’78, SEM ‘98 have four adult children, three of whom graduated from EMU.
In a recent interview, Yoder shared that she looks forward to time with family and another “chapter” of meaningful work.
“It has been an incredible blessing to serve an institution I love in a role that has been so life-giving for me. I will miss all the people that give life to this incredible place,” she said.