Luke Gascho

 

Executive Director, Merry Lea 

Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, Nova Southeastern University, 1999
M.S. in Christian School Administration, Grace Theological Seminary, 1982 
B.S. in Biology/Secondary Education, Eastern Mennonite College, 1974 
 
Contact Information
 
Office: In the Learning Center building at Merry Lea
Phone: (260) 799-5869
 
How I became an executive director
My career has focused on using my gifts of teaching and leadership. I appreciated being selected to lead groups while in high school, which allowed me to test my leadership abilities. My first employment after college granted me the opportunity to teach and administer in a K-12 school. I am grateful for the experiences in that setting, which helped me further explore the use of my gifts. To strengthen my skill sets, I pursed formal training in administration and educational leadership. After 20 years of successful leadership in the formal educational setting, I looked for ways that I might use my administrative abilities in other venues. In particular, I was interested in working in higher education. My position at Merry Lea has more than fulfilled the hopes I had in changing jobs.  Working at Merry Lea has allowed me to use my administrative skills, to engage in environmental stewardship, and to be engaged with collegiate work.
 
Ideas that matter to me
• I believe that thinking and planning for future generations is an important responsibility. This is essential in areas of values, faith, family, environmental health, and in local and global relationships.
• Being curious about the world (from natural history to human interactions) is part of who I am. I appreciate opportunities to explore, observe, and then think about the interconnections from multiple perspectives.
• I feel it is important to not only look at individuals, but also systems. I am drawn to the benefits of systems thinking. I believe understanding ecosystems can be an excellent model for gaining insights into human systems and in finding solutions for challenges/conflicts in systems.
 
Servant leadership is the pattern that I most admire and desire to practice.
I find it important to increase my knowledge of the relationship between my space (earth) and God’s space. I believe this understanding (and personal relationship) forms a compelling case for why I should be a faithful keeper of the earth.
 
My role in Merry Lea’s graduate program 
• I have guided the development of the master’s program in Environmental Education and helped lead it through the accreditation process. I am involved in the ongoing work of implementing the program and recruiting students and I teach one course. 
• I participate regularly in conversations concerning the development of the undergraduate programs at Merry Lea and their intersection with the environmental science program at Goshen College.
 
The classes I teach and how I teach them
I teach the course titled “Leadership for Environmental Education Programs and Centers,” which is part of the curriculum for the master’s in environmental education program. The course is designed to engage students in practical learning activities about topics that are essential to effective leadership in a variety of settings where environmental education programs are delivered.
 
Research Interests
While I do not have a formal research project, I continue to read, study, and engage in conversation on the following topics: leadership, environmental issues, creation care theology, strategic and academic planning, system thinking, and church dynamics. I frequently speak on these topics to churches and community groups. 
 
Presentation topics and selected publications: 
 
• "Green Building: Why Should a Board Care?" in Stepping Up, a publication by Mennonite Education Agency for board members of Mennonite institutions.
• Creation Care: Keepers of the Earth. MMA Stewardship Solutions, 2008. This Christian Education curriculum is available from the Everence Bookstore. 
• Living in and as God's Creation, series of essays for Adult Bible Study, Faith and Life Resources, 2006. Available upon request. 
• "A Gateway for the Future," Bulletin: The Magazine of Goshen College, Vol. 91, #3, 2006.
• Sustainable Building Design and Redesign
• Building Green in Indiana: A Case Study of Rieth Village
• Regenerative Stewardship of God’s Creation
• Sustainability, Stewardship and Spirituality
• Systems Thinking as a Framework for Strategic Planning
• Encountering God in Nature
• Faith, Hope and Creation Care
• Ecological Leadership: Patterns in Nature as a Design for Leadership
• General Presentations on Merry Lea
 
Personal Interests
I enjoy woodworking, gardening, native landscaping and photography. Recently, my wife and I added enough solar panels to our garage roof to power our home. I have enjoyed monitoring our energy usage and the system's output. 
 
Did You Know?
• Rieth Village's three cottages were the first buildings in Indiana to earn a platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. 
• Merry Lea is among the best-assembled private land preserves in the state of Indiana. According to Marion Jackson's The Natural Heritage of Indiana, it would be impossible to put together a 1,200-acre nature preserve of the quality of Merry Lea's ecosystems today.
• The word “stewardship” comes from the Old English term “stigweard,” which means “keeper of the house.”