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Home Again

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bySarah Moser
A heart for students and athletics brings an alum back to campus

Brandon ClassenFor Brandon Classen (’00), accepting a job at MidAmerica Nazarene University was like coming home—a second time.

Classen joined the MNU team in August 2021 as assistant director of operations and facilities in the athletic department. He was familiar with this department because football brought Classen to MNU the first time. The community he found here, among his football team and the rest of the campus, kept him here those four years. And during that time, he came to call MNU home.

When he first arrived on campus in 1997, he says those early days here were super exciting. His time was filled with a lot of activities, new student orientation, and football training. But shortly after that, the homesickness hit. He finished out his freshman year, went home for the summer, then started missing the community he’d experienced on campus.

“Coming back my sophomore year, I knew this was home and where God wanted me to be,” says Classen. “Here, I was surrounded by like-minded people, and I didn’t have to fight as many of the peer pressures as one might experience in a public high school setting.”

Upon graduation, Classen married Stephanie (Purdue, ’01), and the two soon headed to Waco, Texas, to be closer to her family. He found a job in the financial and life insurance business, but deep down he longed to coach and work with students.

“I started teaching high school business classes and coached football as a way to do more of what I love,” says Classen. He also earned his master’s in sports management from Baylor University and started the hunt for a coaching position at a small Christian college.

“Those positions are few and far between,” he says.

Thankfully, Classen kept in touch with a number of people from his days at MNU. Eventually, a spot opened up at MNU. After 18 years away from Olathe, the Classen crew took the leap.

“Coming home was a great challenge,” says Classen. “I dreamed of being back, but it meant uprooting our family after 18 years, leaving a community where we had developed strong connections. We had people in Waco who poured into our lives and kids’ lives. My wife knew it was a dream and a passion for me to work with young adults and sports, so we decided to take that leap.”

The Classens plugged into a home church, reunited with friends they’d known in college and made MNU and Olathe home once again. Stephanie is a marriage and family counselor. They have three boys, Blake, Everett, and Isaac, who quickly found a church home and friends and feel settled into the area. Classen says having established friendships in the area made the move easier.

“Now I see some professors around campus and it feels a little weird! Now we are peers. We compare stories, talking about the growth we’ve experienced over the years. And I’m happy to now be in a role to do stuff for students that these people did for me all those years ago.”

Classen’s role includes handling all game day events, fan engagement, operations, scheduling, and maintenance related to athletics.

“I had a great time as a student at MNU. A lot of people made an impact on my life,” he says. “I want to pass that on to these students, using athletics as a tool to reach a lot of kids.”

Classen and his wife often invite athletes over for a meal and let them be a part of their family. Athletic Director Todd Garrett (’94) says Classen has had a passion for higher education and athletes for decades, and his obedience to God’s calling has finally given him a place to use his gifts at MNU.

“Brandon has a tremendous work ethic and heart that contributes to our MNU community,” says Garrett. “We love his pursuit of providing an exceptional experience for student-athletes, especially on game days.”

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