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Outstanding Alumni Award: Janzens' lifetime collaboration has spanned the globe

September 11th, 2017

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. ' The winners of the 2011 Outstanding Alumnus Award at Bethel College, John and Reinhild Kauenhoven Janzen, have spent a life in collaboration around the globe.

John Janzen graduated from Bethel College in 1961 with a B.A. in social science and philosophy ' as well as a Thresher Award that recognized his skills in photography, which has played an important role in his vocation since. He earned a Certificate in African Studies from the University of Paris (Sorbonne), and both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Chicago.

John has taught at Bethel and at McGill University in Montreal, and has been on the faculty of the University of Kansas, where he is professor of medical and socio-cultural anthropology, since 1972. He has held visiting professorships at American University in Cairo, the University of Cape Town, Harvard University's Center for Population and Development, and the Medical University of Vienna.

John has devoted much of his career in anthropology to research on health, sickness and healing in central and southern Africa, earning an international reputation in the fields of African studies and medical anthropology. His best-known published work from this setting is The Quest for Therapy in Lower Zaire (University of California, 1978), for which he was recognized with the Wellcome Medal and Award by the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.

John's involvement in post-war and genocide relief work under the auspices of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Rwanda, Burundi and eastern Zaire/Congo, 1994-95, afforded him the opportunity to see another dimension of African healing at work. In the 1990s and early 2000s, he wrote a number of commissioned pieces for encyclopedias, anthologies and specialized works on comparative medical and scientific traditions of the world. He also published a textbook, The Social Fabric of Health: An Introduction to Medical Anthropology (McGraw-Hill, 2002).

John has served on the Joint Committee for African Studies of the Social Science Research Council/American Council of Learned Societies (including two years as chair, and co-chair of a research planning committee on society and health in Africa); on the executive committee of the Society for Medical Anthropology; as editor-in-chief of the University of California Press series Comparative Studies in Health Systems and Medical Care; as director of the African Studies Center at KU; and two terms on the Bethel College Board of Directors.

From 1983-92, John and Reinhild worked together to lead Kauffman Museum. Working with the Museum Association and many others, they helped to develop the museum that the college and south central Kansas community know today, including conceptualizing the museum's permanent exhibit 'Of Land and People,' raising funds to build it and developing an exhibition program.

Reinhild Kauenhoven Janzen has a B.A. in education from the Paedagogische Hochschule, Goettingen, Germany, and earned her M.A. in art history from the University of Chicago and both her M.Phil. and Ph.D. in art history from the University of Kansas. John and Reinhild met at Bethel College in 1960-61 when John was a senior ' recently returned from two years of PAX work in Congo ' and Reinhild a junior. She was a scholarship student from Germany with a year-long work-study assignment as an assistant to Cornelius Krahn in the Mennonite Library and Archives.

Reinhild has been a lecturer at Dawson College in Montreal and has served as an adjunct professor at Bethel College, Newman University and Wichita State University. She was a lecturer and assistant professor at various times at the University of Kansas and has been on the faculty of Washburn University, Topeka, where she is professor of art history, since 1996.

Reinhild has devoted much of her professional energy to museum work. In addition to her position at Kauffman Museum, she has also been a research associate and adjunct curator at the KU Museum of Anthropology and interim director of the Mulvane Art Museum at Washburn University.

Reinhild has particular interests in the visual arts of Africa and the Northern European Renaissance; Mennonite visual culture; and the role of the visual arts in healing settings, both historical and contemporary. She has traveled, collected art and done research in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Egypt, Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Senegal and Sudan. She has studied major collections in Paris, London, Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Lisbon and since 1975 has regularly taught courses and presented public lectures on African art.

Reinhild's other art emphases have led to research and travel in Austria (particularly Vienna), Brazil, Canada (particularly Manitoba), France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Paraguay, Poland and Russia in addition to the United States. Among her awards and grants have been the first Preservation Award from the Newton/North Newton Preservation Commission; the Seaton Award of the Kansas Quarterly; Fritz Thyssen Foundation research support grants for studies in Brazil and Paraguay and in the Orenburg region of Russia; and an Institute of Museum Services grant to inventory African art collections in Kansas.

Reinhild is the author of numerous articles and several books, including the exhibition catalogs Visual Encounters with Paraguay: Celebrating Forty Years of Kansas Paraguay Partnership (Mulvane Art Museum, 2008), Mennonite Household Arts (Mulvane Art Museum, 2000), Of Matter and Spirit: African Art from Kansas Museums (Salina Art Center, 1996) and The Art of Sharing, The Sharing of Art: Responses to Mennonite Relief in Postwar Germany (Kauffman Museum, 1984).

Reinhild and John married in 1963 in Reinhild's home city of Goettingen. In their first 10 years of married life, they lived in 10 different places. One feature that may describe Reinhild and John's distinctive perspective on life is the combination of a highly peripatetic lifestyle with cultivation of ties to home, church and family, all of which is reflected in their scholarly work.

Reinhild was part of a small post-World War II Mennonite refugee community in Goettingen, pastored by Gerhard Hildebrandt, a refugee from Russia, and his Dutch/German wife who had been a student at Goshen (Ind.) College. Reinhild's father, Kurt Kauenhoven, was an acquaintance of Cornelius Krahn and had rediscovered the Mennonite church, finding that his forebears were members of the Danzig Mennonite Church.

John grew up in the Zion Mennonite congregation in Elbing, east of Newton, where he took catechism with Henry J. Dyck and Cornelius Dyck. In later years, John recalls describing his co-pursuit of anthropology and Mennonite church involvement by explaining that scholarly excellence and faith were definitely compatible and that he had full support for both from his parents, pastor and church college professors.

John and Reinhild participated in Mennonite churches wherever they lived or, if there was no Mennonite church, something as close to that as possible. Their worshiping communities have included the Congolese version of a Swedish Covenant mission church; several branches of the Kimbanguist (African Independent) church; a Russian Orthodox church in Paris; a 'Mennonite' Sunday school class in the Westminster Baptist Church and the fledgling Mennonite Fellowship in Montreal; Woodlawn Mennonite Church in Chicago; and Lawrence (Kan.) Mennonite Fellowship, now Peace Mennonite Church, of which they are founding members.

In connection with their extensive travels, John and Reinhild found church homes in the Rondebosh Congregational Church in Cape Town and with the Sufi Republican Brothers in Khartoum, and worshiped in Catholic churches in Rome, Vienna and Kansas and with Quakers in Burundi. John has given messages in Low German from Mennonite pulpits in the Paraguayan Chaco and in former Mennonite colonies in the Orenburg region of Russia. While at their 99-year old country home east of Newton ' named 'Heubuden' in honor of their common roots in the Vistula Delta of Poland ' John and Reinhild worship at John's home church, Zion Mennonite.

In addition to books and articles, John's and Reinhild's self-described complementary collaboration has resulted in three children, Bernd, Gesine and Marike (all Bethel alumni). They are also grandparents of Clara, Max and Hannah, Henry and Emeline, and Calvin and Felix. During their decade of joint work to develop Kauffman Museum, Reinhild and John also researched and published Mennonite Furniture: A Migrant Tradition 1766-1910 (Good Books, 1991). Their service with MCC in Africa resulted in 'Do I still have a life?' Voices from the Aftermath of War in Rwanda and Burundi (University of Kansas, 2000).

In recent years, another focus of John and Reinhild's energies has been Janzen Family Farms, a venture in grass-fed beef and organic grain farming, along with direct marketing of meat, grain, flour and baked goods. Janzen Family Farms, located close to the Janzens' rural Kansas home, has called on the gifts and abilities of extended family members as well.

The Bethel College Alumni Association gives the Outstanding Alumnus Award on the basis of character and citizenship, service to church/community or college, or other outstanding achievements, honors and recognition.

The Janzens and other alumni award winners will be honored at the annual Alumni Banquet Saturday, May 21, at 6 p.m. in Memorial Hall on the Bethel College campus. To make a reservation, visit or phone Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center, Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-5 p.m., 316-284-5205. Cost of the banquet is $18.50 per person if paying by May 6 and $20 per person May 7-11. Payment or credit card information is required when the reservation is made. No refunds can be given after May 13, since the Alumni Office will have been charged for reserved meals by that date. Attenders receive a nametag at the door that serves as their banquet ticket.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2010-11 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is in the first tier in its category in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of 'America's Top Colleges' for 2011. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.