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Following His Lead: Family Establishes Endowment Honoring Influential Husband, Father & Coach
Brad Yantis (’83) was an educator, coach, athlete, youth mentor, husband, father, son and friend. Above all, Brad was a Christian with a strong faith that saw him through more trials than most people will ever endure. During his 59 years, Brad dealt with a new cancer diagnosis six times from 1999 to 2020. Early on, it looked as if Brad beat the disease and he had many excellent years ahead. Eventually, though, cancer took his life. But Brad would not want you to remember that. As his wife of 37 years will tell you, Brad would want you to remember to be generous with your time and talents.
Brad and Edianna (Carlson ’83) were married one week after graduation from MidAmerica Nazarene College (now MNU) in May 1983. They had both come to college as freshmen. He was an athlete from Iowa, and she had been on the cheer squad at her high school in Colorado. They met in physical education class. Neither was particularly impressed at first, but by their sophomore year, they were dating.
Brad’s high school counselor in Marshalltown, Iowa, had told him he probably was not college material. But Brad was a natural athlete and earned a scholarship to play football for the Pioneers in their debut season in 1979. He played tight end and he also ran track. It only made sense to major in physical education with hopes of becoming a teacher and coach. That dream became a 37-year career and was where he went on to have success and incredible influence.
As a youth, Brad was very involved in church, where the roots of his deep faith were established. He would later attribute his spiritual growth to his parents, who taught him about God, prayed daily for him and took him to church every time the doors were open. He gave his heart to Jesus in elementary school and was baptized at age 11. He continued to follow Christ and was a witness to many throughout his life.
Brad and Edianna moved to Colorado after graduation. He taught history, physical education and health, as well as coaching in junior high and middle school. She was a substitute teacher. In 1991 they returned to Olathe for Brad to complete his Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction at MNU. They planned to return to Colorado with their two children, daughter Micah and son Brady, after graduating. During his master’s program, Brad served as a graduate assistant coaching football and basketball at MNU. Then he landed a teaching position in the Olathe School District teaching PE. He continued to be an assistant basketball coach at MNU for four years.
The couple joined College Church of the Nazarene where they mentored youth and served in various volunteer positions over the next 30 years. Edianna recalls the conversation they had about attending College Church in 1992.
“We hadn’t planned on attending such a big church,” Edianna says. “But Brad said he wanted us to go to College Church because the MNU students he coached went there. He wanted to continue to make an impact in their lives, beyond coaching.”
Life was good as the Yantis family settled down in Olathe. Edianna was a homemaker and substitute teacher. Brad taught PE, coached athletics, sponsored FCA and mentored youth. During summers, his part-time driver’s education business went full-time. In this, and every part of his life, he strove to be a positive influence.
“Brad’s goal was to teach kids integrity,” Edianna says. “Those one-on-one driver’s ed sessions sometimes allowed him to share his faith. That’s where his love was. He just wanted to influence others.”
Edianna cherishes the notes and cards from past students and their parents, telling how much Coach Yantis meant to them. Toward the end of Brad’s life, when Edianna relayed one of those messages to him, Brad responded with, “It’s not the man, it’s Jesus.”
Since Brad’s passing in August 2020, the outpouring of love led Edianna, Micah and Brady to wonder how they should memorialize Brad’s legacy and the heartfelt donations received in his name. After much consideration, they decided on establishing an endowment at MNU to provide scholarships in Brad’s name. Its proceeds will help students like Brad, who are skilled athletes and need additional financial assistance to receive a Christ-centered education.
According to Tim Keeton, associate vice president for university advancement, what is unusual about this endowment is that it was fully funded so quickly largely by a wide network of individuals whose lives were positively impacted by Brad.
“Endowments are a great way to honor a loved one’s legacy,” Keeton says. “The investment earnings can then be distributed for scholarships or programs making it a gift that impacts lives for years to come. Endowments are not just for the very wealthy,” Keeton asserts. “Gifts to an endowment can be funded over a period of years and donors can encourage others to contribute to it.”
That’s what happened in the case of the Brad Yantis Endowment. In addition to the memorial gifts Edianna and her children received when Brad passed, Brad’s longtime friend, Larry McGraw, turned his family’s Thanksgiving tradition into a way to give more to the endowment. For nearly 10 years, the McGraws
had put on a 5K fun run for friends and family each Thanksgiving. They were not trying to raise money, just having fun being active together for a holiday. The Yantis clan joined in every year.
Last November, Larry and his wife, Rhonda, decided to honor their friend by changing up their event. The Coach Yantis Fund Run was held on Thanksgiving Day 2020. Previously, the McGraws had as many as 35 at their neighborhood event. Last year, through social media promotion, the fundraising effort attracted 85 individuals, with many family members and friends from the community. Still others contributed to the fund.
Larry says Brad encouraged him even as the two said their goodbyes just days before Brad passed. Staying positive during his suffering, Larry and Brad still laughed together. They also talked about faith in God. Through it all, Larry remembers Brad never stopped saying his favorite phrase, “God is good.”
As time became short before he passed, Edianna relates that Brad told her, “Edianna, I want you to be generous.” She says he was not talking about anything specific and could not have known how many friends, family and acquaintances would choose to honor him with memorial gifts that would result in the endowment.
“The number of people honoring his memory is a testament to just how giving Brad was,” Edianna says. “It shows how much influence he had in our community. We are just following his lead.”
ESTABLISHING AN ENDOWMENT
Endowments are one of the financial pillars of the university. Rather than used for immediate needs, endowed funds are invested. The earnings on these investments then provide a reliable, ongoing source of funds for scholarships, academic programs, professorships, operations and other important areas of campus life.
- Named endowments may honor an individual, a family, or create a lasting memorial that will influence generations to come.
- Endowments provide annual income to MNU enabling more students to achieve a Christian education.
- An endowment enables one’s goals and values to live on in the form of ongoing charitable support in perpetuity.
Endowments can be funded with multiple contributions over a period of years. The endowment can be added to by the original donor(s) or anyone wanting to support that cause. When the endowment reaches $20,000 investment earnings are utilized for scholarships or other campus needs according to the provisions established by the originator.
Establishing an endowment fund at MNU can be accomplished by contacting 1-877-496-8668 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit mnu.edu/giving for more giving opportunities.