Submitted by: Tim Fahndrich
My Western story starts when I was almost 4 years old. My family had moved back from Mexico, where my parents had been missionaries for six years, and when school started that year my oldest brother Dave went to Western as a freshman in the fall of 1970. My dad, Richard, also began working on campus as the maintenance man.
Some of my earliest memories were being able to hang out with my dad, and of course my big brothers, as my brother Dan started attending the following year. Our family lived “through the woods” from the soccer field, so it was really close to campus. I remember spending time with my dad and being his little helper around campus, as well as being a little rugrat hanging around my brothers and their friends. In those days, the school newspaper was called The Breezes, and one month I was the subject of an article. In the article there was a picture of me at the snack shop with my brother Dave (if my memory is serving me correctly), and I was quoted as helping my dad carry around a “lil’ bwak box” I have no idea what that little black box was, but those were some of my first memories of Western, and it really was a magical time for me.
Later my mom, Luella, taught cake decorating classes as part of a home economics class. I’ve had many people over the years tell me that she taught them how to decorate a cake.
Fast forward to 1978. My brother Ben was a junior, and he and his teammates on the Pioneer boys basketball team had made the state tournament in Pendleton for the first time in school history. I remember to this day when I found out that they had won and were advancing to the state tourney, and how exciting it all was. As an aspiring basketball player, I took in all the excitement during the tournament. While they didn’t do as well as they had hoped, they made it back the next year as well, along with the girls team for the first time in school history. That experience turned out to be a huge inspiration to me and others to get back to Pendleton someday as a player.
Fast forward to 1985. I had attended Western since my freshman year, and was now a senior. Our basketball team was doing well, and were striving to make a return trip to Pendleton for the first time since 1979. Well, we made it. The dream had come true and we we’re heading back to the Pendleton Armory once again, but this time as players. We ended up finishing in 3rd place, the highest finish in school history. Again, what a magical time for us a team and a community. Little did we know at the time our success would be part of the inspiration for the next generation of players. Coach Gary Hull came to Western a year after I graduated, and has been leading teams to Pendleton ever since (including the last 11 years in a row).
As a student, I was incredibly grateful for my Western experience. Having attended a four years, I created life-long friends who I still have great relationships with today. I was grateful for great teachers and staff, and their spiritual and academic guidance. I was grateful for my coaches in soccer and basketball, who provided mentorship both athletically and in other ways. I was grateful for the Western community, that supported the school in so many ways. When I graduated in 1985, as the youngest of 5 brothers who had all attended Western, I completed a string of fourteen years in a row that a Fahndrich brother had attended the school.
Fast forward to 1991. My future wife had just come out to Western to volunteer in the dorm. I am eternally grateful that God called her that summer day via then principal Brian Stauffer. You can read more of her story here.
Fast forward to 2007. Our daughter was enrolling at the school as a 6th grader. I was asked if I would be interested in the head boys soccer coaching position, to which I accepted. I had also just quit my job to start our own business (right as we were heading into the great recession, which was not a great time to start a new business). For the next seven years, I was blessed to be the head soccer coach, with my brother Steve as my assistance coach (Steve and I had played one year together at Western when he was a senior and I was a freshman). We made the state playoffs 4 out of the seven years, but more importantly I was able to work with a whole bunch of great young men during that time. I think I learned more from them than they learned from me, but I thoroughly enjoy running into them now and seeing what they are doing with their lives.
Fast forward to 2014. I stepped down from coaching as our daughter was going into her senior year. By that time our son had also been attending Western since the 6th grade, and was now a freshman. During the time I was coaching soccer, I did not get to see many of my daughter’s volleyball games, nor my son’s soccer games, so I decided it was time to focus on my own kids.
That year our daughter and her basketball teammates crowned a spectacular 3 year stretch with a state championship, once again at the Pendleton armory. They had finished 3rd (the same as our team in 1985) her sophomore year, finished 2nd her junior year, and won the state championship for the 1st time in any girl’s sport in school history. This added to the boys’ state championship a couple of years earlier (the first in school history). As a parent and former player, my heart was full, and it is certainly a highlight of her time at Western. I also learned that during this time, the girls’ coach used our 1985 team’s experience and season record (we went 14-0 in league) to challenge the girls, and they ended going 14-0 as well in league.
Our daughter graduated as one of six valedictorians in 2015, and is now attending Corban University in Salem. Our son is a junior, and is now playing soccer for my brother Steve, who took over the head coaching position when I stepped down. They have made the state playoffs for the last two years in a row.
I guess my Western story doesn’t truly begin with the “lil’ bwak box”. My Western story actually starts when my dad and my aunt attended Western in it’s early days. Our kids are 3rd generation Pioneers. God has guided this little school for generations. I am so grateful for His provision of a vision of faith, for the sacrificial giving of so many, and for this community we call Western.
My brother Dave shared with me recently that his tuition was paid for that first year, in full, by an anonymous donor. Otherwise he would not have been able to attend. Due to the generosity of others and student grants, our kids were able to attend during a time that we wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise as we were starting our business. This kind of sacrificial and generous giving has been in place since the school started.
Our family has been blessed tremendously by Western Mennonite School. My prayer is that Western can continue to impact students and families for generations to come. Will you join me in the #wmstogether challenge? Your support, and your prayers, will go a long way.