Alumni of the Year is presented yearly to alumni who recently have made a significant contribution through service in their community, profession, family or church. Recipients are selected from nominations made by LM alumni, Alumni Association, faculty, board of directors and other friends of LM.


Ernie and Lois met while attending school together at Lancaster Mennonite High School. They had mutual friends and attended youth meetings at local churches where they spent time together. Lois shares, “In the fall following graduation, Ernie injured his hand in a farm accident. I seized the opportunity to catch his attention and mailed him a get well card. That expanded the friendship.” They have two adult children, Phil Hess ‘87 and Audrey Hess ‘90, and four grandchildren. They are active members of East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church.



Ernie’s life has been dedicated to education and service both locally and around the world. For 31 years, from the late 1960’s to 2000’s, he rode his bicycle daily to LM where he served in various roles as Teacher, Administrator, and Guidance Counselor/Director. An educator by profession, he worked in schools from Lancaster to Africa, including terms in Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia through Eastern Mennonite Missions and Mennonite Central Committee as a Teacher and Principal. He also served as the General Secretary for Lancaster Mennonite Conference, Bishop/Overseer for the New Danville District of Lancaster Mennonite Conference, and most recently as a part-time customer service staff member at Mennonite Life Visitor Center. After retiring as a teacher, he has continued to impact the lives of students as a substitute teacher at LM and in the Lampeter-Strasburg School District. 

Ernie’s commitment to following in the ways of Jesus has also been put into action as he served as a volunteer in various capacities. These acts of service took him to the Nazareth Hospital in Israel, Service Opportunities for Older Persons (SOOP) programs in Arizona, Michigan and Georgia, Mennonite World Conference assemblies in India, Zimbabwe and the U.S. He also served on Eastern Mennonite University’s Board.

He has enjoyed traveling, gardening, hiking, camping and backpacking. God has led Ernie to many places that have stretched him and helped him grow in his faith.


Lois HessService to others has been a common thread throughout Lois’ life. Her commitment to caring for others as a response to Christ’s love and service is apparent in the way she lives and demonstrates her faith in action.

Lois worked as a nursing assistant at Willow Valley Communities, administrative assistant for a professor and Nobel Prize Winner at Cornell University, and stenographer for an attorney in Lancaster. 

She has brought joy and encouragement to many through the volunteer time she has given in her local community. She has regularly volunteered at LGH, Lancaster Helpline, Hospice of Lancaster County, and her congregation. She supported newly arriving refugee families to the community with friendship, transportation and tutoring, and was the Coordinator of weekly community meals at East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church for several years. During Ernie’s years as a pastor, she was an important part of this ministry work – assisting with visitation and meeting with congregational leadership. While in Africa she taught English at Meserete Kristos College in Ethiopia, tutored students at Rosslyn Academy in Kenya, and was secretary to Bishop Zedekiah Kisare of the Tanzania Mennonite Church. 

She has enjoyed backpacking, hiking, running, camping, bread-baking, and spending time with family, visiting them in places where they have lived, including El Salvador, Alaska and Montana. 

She and Ernie have completed significant hiking trails together, including Mr. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, The Jesus Trail in Israel, The Appalachian Trail, and The Camino in Spain.

Join Us to Celebrate

This year, our Alumni of the Year presentation will be held during our World Changers Gala. Come celebrate LM and show your support for our young world changers.  To learn more about the event and register for the Gala click the link below