Certain words are used so often that we can forget their impact. At DC, we often talk about community because it matters so deeply to us. Speaking with Linda (Hanenburg) Baumgartel (recipient of this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award) was a wonderful reminder of what community is and how it impacts our lives long after our school years are over.
When we asked Linda (class of 1985) to reflect on her time at Denver Christian, community was the first thing she mentioned: “When I look back at my time at Denver Christian School, I think about the people-connections which are such a gift from God. Today we are still so blessed by this community of God’s people.” One relationship that stands out most to Linda is her lifelong friendship with Vonda (Rosendale) Meisner. Classmates since kindergarten but bonding in 8th grade, Linda remembers how the two of them were paired for a science project: “We had a lot of fun,” she says, “maybe too much laughing and fun for the teacher.” While in high school, Linda talked Vonda into joining the cheer team, and the two of them had “a blast” together. Even now they continue to love and support and pray for each other through ups and downs. Vonda even introduced Linda to her husband, Jeff! Linda says, “I think this kind of friendship embodies what I love so much about DC. The connections I have to staff and families today are the legacy of what makes DC so special.”
Linda also remembers the teachers who had an impact on her life. Karl Neerhof, her high school Bible teacher, stands out. Not only could Mr. Neerhof relate to students, but he wove an element of fun into every day. He had no shortage of team spirit, either! “Anyone who attended DC basketball games would remember that the students would chant, ‘Neerhof! Neerhof!’ and he would bound out onto the court at a time-out or half-time. He would start on his knees and shout, getting the crowd fired up.” Beyond the laughter, Mr. Neerhof challenged Linda and her classmates in their faith, encouraging them to think deeply. Watching her two children attend Denver Christian, Linda has seen the same care from their teachers: “I have been witness to my sons enjoying teachers and staff that have impacted them and made them think deeper!”
Linda has spent her career at Johns Manville (an insulation manufacturer). When she first started out in Customer Service, she thought she would get a few years of business experience and move to the next thing. From there, Linda worked in IT and as a people manager. Linda deeply loves her work and the opportunity it provides for her to help others grow in their careers. Through her years of faithful service, Linda has come to see Johns Manville as a second home. Linda has even hired a few Denver Christian alumni who are thriving in their work. Throughout her career, Linda has realized how every interaction can glorify God. She says, “God has shown me that you can use your influence and talents in the most unlikely places and situations.”
The greatest gift in Linda’s life is her wonderful family. She and Jeff have been married for 31 years and have two sons, Max (Class of 2016) and Sam (Class of 2025). Both of their sons will have attended Denver Christian from kindergarten through graduation. After taking a couple of gap years, Max attended Dordt University, where he will graduate in December. He will also be getting married in December!
The Baumgartel family is a huge blessing to Denver Christian. Linda’s husband, Jeff, is a passionate MS track coach and assists Coach Butte with the high school cross country and track teams. Linda served on the Board of Trustees during a critical time for DC, and was part of the hiring process of our Head of School, Matt Covey.
Linda says, “DC is not the building or even the beautiful campus we now enjoy. The face of the school is the teachers and the staff. ” We are immensely thankful for the alumni, parents, and volunteers (or people like Linda who are all three!) who give our community its spirit.