Three Generations of Alumni

Leaving a Spiritual Legacy

 

Siemens family

The Walt and Margaret Siemens family lineage has been intertwined with JBU for over half of the university’s nearly 100-year existence. For 52 consecutive years, from 1966 to the spring of 2018, a member of the Siemens family has been either a JBU student, faculty or staff member.

In fall 1946, Walt Siemens ’49, a tall German Mennonite from Kansas who had just come back from serving as a medic in World War II, met Margaret Walton ’47, a soft-spoken, musically-gifted Methodist from South Dakota.

Margaret was a senior applied music major who was top of her class and often sang in the JBU musical group Triple Trio. Walt, an athletic, humorous extrovert, used the GI Bill to major in Bible so he could become a preacher.

“I did say to some of the girls as we were discussing [a group of veterans], ‘I kinda like that big ugly guy,’” Margaret said. “I had observed him singing lustily at the evangelistic meetings that Dr. John E. Brown Sr. always conducted at the beginning of the school year or semester.”

Walt & MargaretThe two married on Sept. 1, 1947, and started their family, having nine children that would all attend JBU: Don ’71, Walta Hattaway ’72, Rosanne Redditt ’75, Dan ’76, Lyn Spencer ’79, Doug ’80, David ’85, Jan Kimball ’86 and Dwight ’88.

For the Siemens children, growing up had its challenges and rewards. The house was always busy, loud, full of singing, laughter, and, at times, plenty of bickering. Excitement came when a new baby arrived.

“I remember being kind of selfish as a kid though thinking if we didn’t have so many siblings, I’d get my own bicycle,” Rosanne said. "Otherwise we had to share. But there was nothing wrong with that.”

Walt and Margaret were frugal, always looking for ways to 
fully utilize their resources, Doug recalled.

“Most girls especially want to dress as other girls do,” Margaret said. “When our daughters asked for something special, I tried to never say, ‘We can’t afford it.’ Instead I asked 
them to help me see if we could sew something like it, and we usually could.”

The Siemens family moved every two to three years to small towns in Kansas as Walt was a school principal and Margaret was a homemaker who also taught piano lessons.

Living in small towns sometimes meant not having the best access to churches. But Walt and Margaret didn’t leave the spiritual development of their kids to the church. They sought to provide their kids with a good foundation, Dan said.

Walt and Margaret lived out their faith daily. Their commitment and dedication to walking with the Lord permeated every aspect of their lives, modeling their spiritual walk for their children.

“One of my favorite memories of [my dad] was him getting up in the morning when it was dark, and I would see him in the living room reading his Bible by lamp light,” Walta said. “That was very meaningful to me.”

Lyn also remembers her mom, who was surely tired with 
nine children, spending time 
in her prayer closet rather 
than napping.

In summer 1968, the Siemens family moved to Siloam Springs, where Walt became a JBU professor of teacher education.
At the time, Don and Walta were already a junior and sophomore at JBU.

WaltFrom 1972 to 1982, Walt was the head of students and student affairs and then the director of student relations. Affectionately known on campus as “Uncle Walt,” he fit best in this administrative role, as he loved and had a deep heart for people. Even though the position required enforcing the rules, Walt tried to understand students and the reasons behind their actions, often diffusing difficult conversations with bad humor. A humor Doug says he inherited.

The impact Walt made on students was far and wide. Don recalled a basketball player who went to apologize to Walt. “I’m sorry, would you forgive me?,” the basketball player asked. Walt said, “Hey, I forgave you a long time ago, before you even asked.” This still impacted that student’s life years later.

Walt’s work at JBU also enabled all nine children to receive a faculty scholarship.

“Dad being at JBU was God’s way of providing college for all 
of us,” Walta said. “We will 
never be able to thank God enough for that.”

Walt passed away from his second heart attack in 1985, having served his last three years as assistant to John E. Brown III. Jan was a senior and Dwight was a sophomore, the last of the nine children to graduate from JBU.

Siemens familyAlthough all nine attended JBU, none felt they had to go. 
It was a choice that, looking
 back, proved to be an 
influential decision.

Don, an engineering major, became a JBU professor of math and physical science until he retired in 2012.

Walta, an elementary education major, taught elementary and middle school for 31 years, taking time off in between to rear her four daughters.

Rosanne, a business education major, also taught until retirement with a span of years where she stayed at home with kids.

Dan, an elementary education major, served as a school principal in Oklahoma and Arkansas for over 35 years.

Lyn, a physical education major, taught PE for 17 years, after a break from teaching to raise her kids. Now, she teaches pre-K.

Doug, a broadcasting major, worked in a variety of positions in radio, sales, public relations, marketing and customer service.

David, an accounting major, is vice president of finance at Hudson & Associates.

Jan, a business education major, taught for a while until she started homeschooling her children. She now cares for Margaret and does volunteer work.

Dwight, an accounting and business administration 
major, is an accountant for Tyson Foods.

As the century turned, the next generation of Siemens descendants began to graduate from JBU — eight of the 34 grandchildren: Erich ’00 and Brach Siemens ’01 (sons of Don), Rebecca Wood ’01 and Sarah McGregor ’04 (daughters of Walta Hattaway), Libby Redditt ’10 (daughter of Rosanne Redditt), Kyle Spencer ’08 (son of Lyn Spencer), Lee Siemens ’14 (son of Doug) and Acadia Kimball ’18 (daughter of Jan Kimball).

Every grandchild has some fond childhood memory of visiting JBU, whether for Homecoming or during a visit with their grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins. In fact, Sarah and Rebecca got a taste of college life when they visited their Aunt Jan in Mayfield.

“She had dragged a mattress from some other room, and we slept there for the night,” Sarah said. “It was a fun slumber party with our aunt! So, when I became a student it was quite special to stay in the same dorm as my mother, aunt and sister (and I'm sure other aunts as well).”

But the best legacy within the Siemens family is not the school listed on their diploma, it is 
the consistent spiritual- 
minded perspective that has permeated the family.

“When I see my aunts and uncles, it’s a heart thing,” Kyle, a worship arts alumnus, said. “Christianity isn’t generational, but it is a relationship with Christ and a deep faith that has been passed down.”

Libby saw this first hand when she lived with Margaret for three semesters while an international business major at JBU.
“She would get up early every morning, and I would hear her already in the kitchen,” Libby said. “She would have her Bible open and had a huge prayer list of people to pray for every day. She would be singing her hymns. She would have cans of food in each hand and be doing
 her exercises.”

Though there are no Siemens’ family members at JBU now, the spiritual legacy of Walt & Margaret continues to play 
out at JBU through the impact of the Walt and Margaret Siemens Endowed Scholarship. Established in 2011 by Don 
and his wife Cindi, the scholarship assists deserving athletes and missionary kids who 
attend JBU.

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