Lisa Heinz (right), CFO and senior director of operations of Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) is retiring December 31, 2021, after over 23 years of service.
Michael Danner, MEA's CEO and executive director, praised Heinz' work. "Lisa has provided steady leadership for over 2 decades at MEA. True to Lisa's character and work ethic, she has approached her transition with the health and future of Mennonite education in mind. She is leaving MEA in the strongest financial position it has enjoyed in its history."
In addition to Heinz' oversight of MEA's finances, she also provided critical administrative support for the MEA Investment Fund, a fund that serves various Mennonite schools, congregations, Mennonite church conferences and other education-related programs within Mennonite Church USA (MC USA). During Heinz' tenure, the fund, which includes endowments, scholarships and other financial assets, has grown to over $211 million in value.
Dick Thomas, chair of the MEA Board of Directors, praised Heinz' work with the fund. "Stewarding the MEA Investment Fund was an important part of Lisa's many contributions to Mennonite education. The fund included investments from many Mennonite schools and is an important value-added service provided to the schools by MEA. It met and exceeded expectations. Because of the fund's size, it enabled opportunities that would not have been available to individual schools. A plus is that the outstanding returns were achieved using socially responsible investing based on Anabaptist values of peace, justice, environmental sustainability and fair treatment of labor. Lisa has made a huge contribution to Mennonite education and we are grateful for her years of vision and leadership, always done with a gracious and positive spirit."
Chad Horning, chair of the MEA Investment Committee, echoed Thomas, adding, "Lisa has been instrumental in helping MEA deliver this unique, pooled investment fund that supports academic programs at a range of Mennonite educational institutions while reflecting the values of the agency," Horning said.
Heinz also provided administrative support for the Mennonite Educators Benefit Plan (MEBP), a self-funded health insurance plan. Six Mennonite institutions, including MEA, participate in the plan: Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Bluffton University, Eastern Mennonite University, Goshen College and Hesston College. The plan offers comprehensive health insurance coverage and a wellness plan for over 1,300 employee participants. The institutions benefit from the Mennonite hallmark of mutual aid by sharing claim risks.
Heinz reflected on her time with MEA, saying, "I have been very fortunate to work with Mennonite education for so many years. I am a believer in the value of Mennonite education and am grateful for the experiences I have had with my own education, with my children's education, and in my support of Mennonite education here at MEA. I will miss my co-workers but am happy knowing that MEA and the Investment Committee will be in very capable hands."
Heinz' steadfast belief in the value of Mennonite education is demonstrated by the 3-generation legacy she and her husband Bryan have created. Heinz is a graduate of Goshen College, and their two adult children, Erica and Justin, are alumni of Bethany Christian Schools. Justin is also a graduate of Goshen College and currently serves on the faculty. Heinz has four grandchildren, one of whom attends Bethany Christian Schools. The Heinzes live in Goshen and attend Berkey Avenue Mennonite Fellowship.
MEA has named Janice Eigsti Miller to succeed Heinz. Eigsti Miller will begin as CFO and senior director of operations on January 1, 2022. She transitioned to MEA after serving in an interim controller role at Goshen College. Prior to that, she worked in public accounting for RSM and as the business manager at Bethany Christian Schools. She holds an accounting degree from Goshen College.
Eigsti Miller reflected on joining the MEA staff, saying, "Mennonite education has had a positive impact on my life and I believe has a lot to offer the church and our communities. I look forward to helping support the programs and places of learning connected with MEA."
Like Heinz, Eigsti Miller and her husband Brian also bring a personal commitment to Mennonite education. Both graduated from Goshen College, and their two sons currently attend Bethany Christian Schools. The Millers live in Goshen and are members of Walnut Hill Mennonite Church.
Taylor Caouette of Everence Financial will be assuming Heinz' role as the MEA Investment Committee facilitator. Caouette is a graduate of Goshen College with a degree in accounting.
Heinz' retirement marks the end of an era at MEA. Over the past three years, two long-term MEA leaders retired: Carlos Romero and Elaine Moyer. Romero served as MEA's executive director and CEO for 17 years, retiring in 2019. Moyer retired as senior director of MEA in 2020 after 11 years of service. Two long-term interim leaders also completed their work: Dr. Tom Stuckey served as executive director and CEO for 26 months, and Dawn Y. Graber filled Moyer's position since May 2020.
"You always lose institutional memory when long-time leaders retire. That is certainly true when you consider the collective legacy of Carlos, Elaine, and now, Lisa," said Danner. "But in the midst of loss, there is also an opportunity to reimagine how MEA can best serve the education needs of Mennonite Church USA members, congregations, conferences and educational institutions."
With three new staff in leadership roles, Danner is enthusiastic about MEA's future. "The appointments of Shana Peachy Boshart and Janice Eigsti Miller are excellent additions to the MEA staff." Danner said. "Our plan is to build on existing strengths found in our current MEA staff and educational institutions."
Mennonite Education Agency is headquartered in Elkhart, Indiana, and partners with Anabaptist Mennonite educational institutions and programs to provide resources, networking, and support to school administrators, faculty, and staff. As the education agency of Mennonite Church USA, MEA ties church and school together in a complementary and cooperative way to ensure students receive a high-quality education from a distinctive Anabaptist Mennonite perspective.