Celebrating Alumni Stories: Ethan Zook ’72

By Andrea Wenger, director of advancement

We celebrate alumni stories to hear each others’ journeys since high school and to be inspired bylives of service, professional contributions, Christian commitment, and community engagement.

Q: What years did you attend EMS? What “brought” you to the school?

I attended 8 – 12th grade from 1967 – 1972. After attending first grade in Belleville, Pennsylvania, followed by grades 2 – 6th at Park School, and 7th at Broadway, Virginia, I was looking forward to a small, Christian school near my home with sports like soccer and basketball, friends from the community and music and theater opportunities. I enjoyed playing JV basketball, varsity soccer and acted in The Taming of the Shrew and the first musical at EMHS. At EMHS, I learned to know many friends in all the grades and was challenged by the academics, and appreciated teachers who allowed me further study, especially in math. Some teachers became lifelong colleagues as I became a school psychologist and supported mental health and special education students at EMHS.

Q. What was your academic and professional journey from EMHS to where you are today?

After completing four years at Eastern Mennonite University in pre-med biology, I worked at improving my medical school application through EMT training and working at Rockingham Memorial Hospital in the Emergency Room. When the medical school door was closed, another door opened as I began and completed graduate studies at JMU in school psychology. With multiple internship possibilities, our family, with a newborn, decided to move to Pendleton County, West Virginia, and begin attending a small, Southern Baptist church that allowed for using many teaching and music gifts. I never expected to be a choir director and direct an Easter cantata at two local churches.

After four years in West Virginia, we moved back to Harrisonburg and I continued working as a school psychologist in Augusta County for nine years, with great memories of teamwork with a Christian social worker and many other teachers, administrators and medical professionals. The next 20 years I worked in Harrisonburg City Schools, mostly at the middle and high school levels. One of my most enjoyable professional roles as a school psychologist for Harrisonburg City Schools was being assigned to provide special education support to EMHS with somewhat strict adherence to the minimal level of services allowed by law. One time, my superior became upset when I became involved in a significant school traumatic experience, but I was convinced God’s plan involved me that day in supporting the students and school.

Q. Any aspect of EMHS that served you well? Anything that was hard?

I believe the academic and sports rigor, and positive social student and adult interactions provided the necessary skills to be successful in my college and graduate school studies, and professional career. My love for sports and many opportunities at EMHS provided skills for a lifetime of enjoyment in basketball, softball and running… Academically, the three years of foreign language (Spanish), was challenging, but later the skills I did retain were invaluable with Hispanic students in the Harrisonburg area.

Q. Involvements that have given you joy in addition to professional work?

All during my professional years, I spent many hours outside of work volunteering at my local church (Park View Mennonite Church), and providing logistical and musical support to the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir.

I became involved in musical theater at Harrisonburg High School when a bass was needed for Bye Bye Birdie, directed by EMHS classmate Stan Swartz. [This] which led to 15 years of building sets and working backstage, assisting with taking a theater troupe to Scotland for the Fringe Festival, and then more recently, assisting with theater construction at EMS.

… [I]n my early 50s, I decided to take up distance running. [S]ince 2007, I have run nearly 70 races, mostly 5K fundraisers for autism and breast cancer, and then in 2009, began running marathons, 7 total, with 3 Boston completions… Running has given me another avenue to build relationships with young people in the community…. I admit I enjoy the competition and running faster than many of the younger racers.

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