Mayor Copeland Honors MNU Icons

Mar. 11, 2014 - by Katy Ward

Mayor Copeland Honors MNU Icons

 
March 11, 2014
Mayor Copeland Honors MNU Icons

Olathe mayor and MNU alumnus Michael Copeland (’94) honored icons of MNU history at the recent State of the City luncheon March 7, 2014. Mrs. Marge Smith and the late Dr. R. Curtis Smith, first president of MidAmerica Nazarene College, and Drs. Paul and Connie Cunningham, received the Cathedral Builder Award. 

The following are Copeland’s remarks as he bestowed the awards. 

"In Olathe, we believe in sacrificing on behalf of others, and dreaming for every resident, because we want to honor the commitment of those who have dreamed and sacrificed for us. Today, with a deep sense of appreciation, I’m honored to present the Cathedral Builder award to recognize several people who have done exactly that. 

Throughout Olathe’s 157 year history, there have been singular leaders who have not only shown us the value of having a cathedral builder mindset, but who’ve also been instrumental in actually constructing the foundation on which our great community would grow and thrive. Those beloved leaders are very special and rare, and today we honor four of them, beginning with Dr. Curtis and Marge Smith.

As the late first president of MidAmerica Nazarene College, Dr. Smith and his lovely First Lady, Marge, were truly modern-day pioneers. They came to Olathe in 1966 for the adventure of a lifetime and began the historic work of locating and building a Christian liberal arts college in Olathe.

Side by side, they worked and served faithfully together, watching their dreams unfold and laying the foundation for a great institution that would forever help shape the direction and future of our city.

Olathe was a bustling community of about 11,000 when Curtis was inaugurated as MidAmerica’s first president in 1968. The challenges great that year when the college opened its doors with an enrollment of 263 students. But the deep faith and dreams that would sustain Curtis and Marge throughout their lives kept them focused on their vision. MidAmerica Nazarene College graduated its “Pioneer Class” in 1972 and, in less than 20 years, would become the largest private college in the State of Kansas.

Throughout those miraculous years, the Smiths’ visionary leadership and love for our community guided our hometown university from its humble beginnings on the Olathe prairie to its stature as one of the finest private liberal arts colleges in America.

Mayor Copeland Honors MNU IconsFrom Left to Right: Mayor Copeland, Mrs. Marge Smith, and Drs. Paul and Connie Cunningham

The growing pains and setbacks of those early days never deterred Curtis or Marge, who was a constant source of support and encouragement to her husband. They were wholly devoted to each other, to their mission and to the students they called family. 

Today, MidAmerica Nazarene University’s rich history and proud heritage are woven throughout the very fabric of our city, and the Smiths’ dreams and pioneering spirit live on. Nearly 50 years after its founding, MidAmerica remains committed to excellence in higher education, building upon the Smiths’ great legacy of faith and service to others, here and around the world.

I can think of few people as deserving of the Cathedral Builder Award. What a great honor it is for me to recognize the remarkable lives and many contributions of Dr. Curtis and Marge Smith to MNU and our community.

Please join me in welcoming MidAmerica Nazarene University’s founding First Lady, Marge Smith.

In 1964, a young and passionate seminary graduate by the name of Paul G. Cunningham accepted the call to pastor a Nazarene church in Olathe at the corner of Lee and Wabash. The church was small and struggling, but Paul and his wife, Connie, a nurse and the daughter of missionaries, had strong faith and great dreams in their hearts.

They dreamed of building a liberal arts college in Olathe and a thriving, vibrant church on its campus. And they became a vital part of the team that worked with local banker R. R. Osborne and other community leaders to make that dream a reality.  But it was Paul who was that team’s heartbeat and inspired visionary.  I ask each of you to think about our community.  Think about our schools, our hospital.  Think about every corner of Olathe and find something that hasn’t been impacted by our university.  MNU simply would not be here without Paul Cunningham’s strength, courage and vision.  Those same values are felt through our community today. 

Following the International Church of the Nazarene’s approval of plans to build MidAmerica Nazarene College, Paul and Connie’s congregation voted to build at a new location adjoining the college campus. The new church became known as College Church, and was completed in time for the opening of the college in 1968.

Serving together, Paul and Connie watched their congregation and outreach in our community grow, and an additional church sanctuary was added in 1972. A few years later, the church unveiled plans for a new building, and a sanctuary – seating 4,000 – opened in 1981. 

I also have to mention the difference Paul made to our police officers while generously serving as a police department chaplain.  And working alongside her pastor-husband, Connie served as a gifted speaker and counselor, teaching young married couples and helping equip them for lives of greater purpose and service. The Cunninghams continued to lead College Church until 1993, when Paul was elected to serve as a General Superintendent – the highest elected office in the Church of the Nazarene.  Always a team, he and Connie traveled the world as leaders and ambassadors, sharing their message of hope and love with countless people.  They retired in 2009 and came home to Olathe.

Paul and Connie, it is with deep admiration and gratitude that I honor you as Olathe Cathedral Builders. Thank you, and congratulations on 50 years of faithful ministry and distinguished service to our community, our university, and the world. The extraordinary legacy you’ve given us will forever inspire all who follow in your footsteps. You are the reason my family, and thousands of others, came to this wonderful place we call Olathe."

Read the Kansas City Star story now.

 

MNU News

Tuesday, July 28
Recent News
List
Grid
Archives
NYC Scholarship Winner 2015
Scholarship Winner Always Wanted to Attend MNU

Scholarship Winner Always Wanted to Attend MNU

Dania Unruh had given up on her dream of attending MNU. Based on finances the senior from Garden City, Kansas figured she would attend community…

Read More
Pete Robinson
Army Chaplain named Alum of the Year

Army Chaplain named Alum of the Year

Army Capt. Pete Robinson (’04) wanted nothing to do with the military or hospitals when he graduated from MNU with a BA in youth and family ministry. Growing up in a household in which his father,…

Read More
MWROC-LN-072012-0668
Video: Mark Wood Orchestra Camp

Video: Mark Wood Orchestra Camp

It's the sixth year they've come to Olathe and MNU to learn from some of the world's best electric orchestra artists. And they love MNU's Bell Center and the experience they get from the Mark Wood…

Read More
Ranked #1
MNU Number 1 in Kansas in Money's Best Colleges 2015-2016

MNU Number 1 in Kansas in Money's Best Colleges 2015-2016

MidAmerica Nazarene University was named number 1 in Kansas among public and private colleges and universities in Money magazine’s “Money’s…

Read More
BlakeWalker
FCA Huddle Underway at MNU

FCA Huddle Underway at MNU

Assistant Football Coach Blake Walker, says the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) was the bridge for him from a 19-year-old student athlete searching for his place in the world, to a sold-out…

Read More
KCRM
SERVEteams Assist KC Rescue Mission

SERVEteams Assist KC Rescue Mission

MNU SERVEteams Squad'66 and Voices of Praise had the privilege of joining the ministry of the Kansas City Rescue Mission recently for an evening. Voices of Praise lead more than 80 men in worship.…

Read More
Chris Crawford
Professor On Medical Staff for Paralympic Swimming World Championships

Professor On Medical Staff for Paralympic Swimming World Championships

Assistant Professor Chris Crawford (’00) will soon land in Glasgow, Scotland to serve on the medical staff for the 2015 International Paralympic…

Read More
Jeremi Wonch
Alum Wins Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science

Alum Wins Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science

Jeremi (Heiney '88) Wonch is one of two Kansas teachers winning a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Chosen by a…

Read More
Mark Wood
Trans-Siberian Orchestra Founder Kicks Off 6th Annual Rock Orchestra Camp July 12- 19

Trans-Siberian Orchestra Founder Kicks Off 6th Annual Rock Orchestra Camp July 12- 19

International recording artist and music education advocate Mark Wood, one of the founding members of the multiplatinum group Trans-Siberian…

Read More
Sports
MNU Women's Soccer Camps

MNU Women's Soccer Camps

(click title for details)

 
Wade Watkins Joins MNU XC/T&F Program

Wade Watkins Joins MNU XC/T&F Program

MNU Athletics is pleased to announce the addition of Wade Watkins to the MNU Track and Field/Cross Country program as Associate Head Coach...(click title for more)

 
Brittney Kellar Promoted to Assistant AD

Brittney Kellar Promoted to Assistant AD

Brittney Kellar has been promoted to Assistant Athletics Director for Business, Marketing and Event Management...(click title for more)

 
Latest Photos
The early construction of our booth
The early construction of our booth
The early construction of our booth
Our booth was complete with a looping video & prezi about MNU.
The complete booth! Our steel structure was created by local artist and alum David Platter and topped with images of Kansas City and the MNU campus.
With plenty of space to simply hang out, we designed our booth to be an open and welcoming place.