What I’ve learned from Jim Yoder

by Curtis Oesch, Sophomore

Upon arriving at Hesston, Jim Yoder’s legacy was not unbeknownst to me. Having been a professor in the early ‘90s when my parents were here I heard stories from my dad about Jim’s ability to make chemistry easier to grasp and, at times, even entertaining. When I learned that I would take General Chemistry I & II from Jim during my first year I knew I was in good hands. As the year progressed Jim’s passion for the material never wavered. He always came to class eager to help students find similar passion in what he called, “the central science”. Concepts that were extremely confusing when I learned them in high school became clear and simple as Jim filled the blackboard with diagrams and definitions. Something that, only two years earlier, brought feelings of dread and apprehension now became one of my favorite classes. Soon my friends and I began to pick up on some of Jim’s favorite phrases and jokes which never failed to bring smiles and laughter for us both in and out of the classroom. It was clear that Jim enjoyed what he was doing.

Toward the end of my first semester at Hesston I began to hear rumors that Jim Yoder may be retiring at the end of the year. I began to get nervous as I thought about having to take Organic Chemistry with a new professor the following year. Having so thoroughly enjoyed my year with Jim, I dreaded having to adjust to a new style of learning and knew that I would be much more successful with his guidance. Jim’s teaching style was, and still is, one that coordinated very well with my style of learning. Soon, the rumors of retirement were phased out by conversation of  “a fiftieth year”. “Wow! Fifty years!” I thought. “What, other than true passion and love, could keep someone in one place for half a century?!” When I entered the classroom the following year for my first lesson in Organic Chemistry I found myself in a rather unusual setting: a class with only two students. This uniqueness was amplified in the second semester when I became the only student in Organic Chemistry II. Despite these small classes, however, Jim’s desire to see his students succeed has never ceased. His patience through countless questions about homework assignments and long hours in the lab motivated me to strive for excellence.

Where some teachers’ lessons may end when you leave the classroom, Jim continues to be a teacher beyond the academic realm. His involvement within the community and his willingness to share his experiences and knowledge (which are extensive to say the least) has helped me grow in many more areas than just my area of study. While he may not realize it, his example has helped strengthen my faith and provide clarity in places that were previously unknown, and I am confident in saying that I am not alone in this feeling.

Thanks, Jim, for your unwavering passion and encouragement! You will be greatly missed.


Jim Yoder in the lab. Photo by Larry Bartel, Hesston College Marketing and Communications



by Joel Krehbiel, Professor of Physics and Engineering

Jim Yoder clearly loves Hesston College. He exhibits a passion for teaching and for his own learning. But Jim recognizes that even as work is important, relationships are essential. When he was department head, Jim would make sure that during our department meeting each faculty member shared how we were doing. He welcomed me into the science faculty as an equal, not as the inexperienced teacher that I was. Countless times Jim has invited faculty or students over to his house to socialize. Perhaps you have had pizza or cookies with Jim. You know that Jim cares.

Many students enter science classes with a negative attitude, but Jim shows students the beauty and excitement in science. His eyes glisten as he discusses distant galaxies in Astronomy. The world is out there and Jim wants to know more about it! When he knew that there was going to be a total solar eclipse on the first day of school this year, he rallied students and faculty to see this incredible spectacle. As the moon passed in front of the sun, students gazed with wonder, their eyes shining with a new-found appreciation for science.

For just as Oxygen wants to share its electrons in a covalent bond, Jim wants to share his love of science with everyone.

Jim models the liberal arts lifestyle as well as anyone I know. His work day begins with a detailed discussion of chemical compounds in Organic Chemistry. His lunch hour often includes a game of racquetball with friends. He then returns to teaching in General Chemistry before discussing the depths of the universe and theological implications of Astronomy. His evenings are just as likely to include watching Hesston College athletics as attending play practice. Jim does it all, and he does it all well. If I could give him Lark of the Year, I would.

Early in my first year of teaching, Jim mentioned that he never felt pleased with his chemistry experiments until he had taught 10 years. This eased my burden during my first year of teaching. I didn’t have to have everything perfect in one year. Furthermore, Jim continues to develop the labs even now. Students will extract a new compound in Organic Chemistry or use new equipment in Astronomy. Jim does not settle for good enough.

As Jim retires, I think about the possible ways professional athletes leave their sport. Some have mediocre careers and eventually step away without anyone noticing. Others leave their sport at the pinnacle of their career, championship trophy and MVP in hand. Jim leaves Hesston College as a champion. He has molded Hesston College into the excellent institution it is today, and Jim is still an excellent teacher, advisor, and friend. Jim, we will miss you!

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