Inspired with a Desire to Serve
STORY BY ERIC MORSE (US’90) AND KRISTIN MANKER (US’13, C’17)
Some fight fires. Some mend wounds. Some welcome the displaced and destitute. They are unique, but not alone; for across the country and in all corners of the earth, Principia alumni are real-world examples of individuals who are “inspire[d] with a desire to serve.” (Education at The Principia, p. 57)
THEY CAME TO PRINCIPIA AT DIFFERENT TIMES, FROM DIFFERENT PLACES, FOR DIFFERENT REASONS. They made diverse friends, were inspired by distinct educators, and pursued divergent interests. The alumni profiled here demonstrate a common drive to help—to light the way for others. This pursuit is private yet passionate; quiet but unquenchable. They represent thousands of Principians past and present who are sacrificing self, dedicating their lives, and, as written in Principia Policy 10, “leveraging their technical skills and intellectual attainments for the betterment of humanity.”
The Magic of Community
MARJIE (WOHLFARTH) LONGSHORE (US’89, C’93)
Founder, Executive Director, Family Leadership Center
Any chat with Marjie (Wohlfarth) Longshore is likely to include the word “community.” It’s the defining thread in a career that has brought her to three continents, the upper echelons of academia, and the founding of her own nonprofit.
Community brought her to France, the U.K., then Germany. A master’s from Harvard led to a job developing systems thinking for large organizations. “It was all about community work and how you build community. That’s my passion.”
While rethinking large organizations, Longshore noticed an important informal organization—the family unit—was largely overlooked. “There wasn’t a collective conversation happening about parenting, so I started a small group.”
When life took her to Washington, DC and then Ecuador, she continued the work—leading overflowing parenting classes. Upon returning to the States, Longshore founded the Family Leadership Center, a parenting resource centered around—you guessed it—community. “We start the groups and people pick them up and start their own community,” she says, describing the decentralized approach that enables her work to spread nationwide.
“People want to thrive and they want their kids to thrive, but they don’t know where to start. The magic is that it starts in a community built around dignity and respect for all.”
"People want to thrive and they want their kids to thrive . . . It starts in a community built around dignity and respect for all.”
We’re All a Part of This Global Village
CHIOMA (DINOBI) BISHOP (C’04)
President and Founding Member/Sister, ASIKE
For non-profit president and co-founder Chioma (Dinobi) Bishop, community isn’t something restricted to her neighborhood. And for African Sisters for Information Knowledge and Empowerment (ASIKE), a helping hand can extend across the globe. The nonprofit aims to be a leading resource for women of African descent in the metro-Atlanta area, and partners with grassroots African organizations to support children’s education—particularly the education of young girls. “I want to be useful,” says Bishop. “We created ASIKE so we could change the things we were complaining about.”
ASIKE’s reach is wide, meeting needs through education on a variety of topics. Real estate investment, ballot comprehension, hair, religion, social media management, and mental health have all been topics of discussion in recent years. And when others have already started the conversation, ASIKE is quick to support.
“We’ve been very intentional about partnering with other organizations so that we’re not replicating what other people are doing. Nigerian organizations, Liberian organizations, if they’re doing something we’ll support them. We’re all a part of this global village.”
Responding to a Call Within the Movement
ALAINA CARLSON (C’16)
Co-Director, Christian Science Nursing Department, Tenacre
“I feel called to do this,” says Alaina Carlson, as she recounts her path into Christian Science nursing. There was the dramatic physical healing her senior year at Principia College, when the phrase “Christian Science nurse” suddenly resounded in her thought. Then there was the Wednesday evening testimony meeting when the first reader announced “tonight’s readings are on the ministry of Christian Science nursing.”
Three days after graduation, Carlson embarked on Christian Science nursing training. Over the course of six years at the Chestnut Hill Benevolent Association, she graciously answered the call—whether the need was for an on-site Christian Science nurse, a visiting Christian Science nurse, or a supervisor.
The next call came from New Jersey. Now the Co-Director of the Christian Science nursing department at Tenacre, Carlson oversees 50–60 Christian Science nurses—the largest such staff anywhere in the world. “It was hard to leave the Benevolent Association, but it didn’t feel like a choice,” she says. “I feel I’m responding to a call within the Movement. We all want to see our guests have spiritual healings and understand their relationship to God better.”
Every Interaction Makes an Impact
ISAHN SHOEMAKE (C’88)
Mental Health Rehabilitation Specialist
In a high-turnover industry, Isahn Shoemake disrupts the pattern. After three decades as a Mental Health Rehabilitation Specialist (MHRS), a role some consider thankless, Shoemake feels he is being blessed by blessing others.
As an MHRS, he provides therapeutic behavioral interventions and skill-building strategies to emotionally troubled children and their families. In simpler terms, he helps children increase their level of functioning, while also enabling their parents to regain control of their households.
“In working with families with a variety of challenges, I always find something positive to grasp onto,” Shoemake says.
Shoemake has helped over 1,000 children and their families during the course of his career. And now he’s teaching other specialists how to lead with love. “It’s all about building and establishing relationships. I feel like every interaction makes an impact. I try to make most of them as positive as I can.”
Providing “Hope, Encouragement, and Confidence”
LANY (VAN L. MAAS) CLOUGH (US’75, C’79)
Immigration Specialist (Ret.), International Institute of St. Louis
“We all have something to give,” begins Lany (van L. Maas) Clough, before chronicling her three decades of all-consuming, but “so rewarding” work. The job title was Immigration Specialist for the International Institute of St. Louis—which could mean translator, career counselor, immigration expert, non-profit administrator, midnight chauffeur, or life coach.
For thousands of refugees fleeing violence and upheaval, Clough’s was among the first faces they saw on American soil. “These are people who have lost everything and have to start over,” she says. After their legal admittance to an overwhelming land, Clough and co-workers would welcome the refugees at the airport, drive them to their new home, and then help them create new, productive lives. Today she is still greeted on the street by people—some of whom were just children when they arrived—who express their thanks.
The secret to her longevity and success? “They just needed encouragement and hope and confidence in their abilities.” Clough continues, “It was hard work, but so rewarding, and the need was so apparent. This is a way to live the Golden Rule. We all have something to give to others.”
“Helping Others and Problem-Solving” As a Team
MINDY (FRANTZEN) FELDHEIM (US’96)
Firefighter, City of Columbus, Ohio
Mindy (Frantzen) Feldheim loves being part of a team. The camaraderie, collaboration, and mutual commitment drove her to success on Upper School softball and field hockey teams, as a varsity rower at Ohio State, and as a coach at the University of Cincinnati.
So it’s not surprising that, after a former teammate invited her on a fire department ride-along, Feldheim was hooked. “To see the teamwork, the brotherhood and sisterhood—I was drawn to it,” Feldheim recalls. “I wanted to be a part of helping others and problem-solving; your goal is to make whatever situation you’re walking into better.”
Today, Feldheim is a 15-year veteran on a team of four, rotating roles as the driver/pump operator, and is trained in EMS. Her background in Christian Science and degree in Religious Studies keep her grounded and optimistic. “God is already there, using my hands to be the instrument. I’m not the one in control, I’m just there to help. That peace and calm is what gets me through and what gets our crew through.”
Feldheim continues, “Being a firefighter—making a direct impact on Columbus itself and being an asset to people on the street—it’s very personal, very direct.”
A Very Clear Mission in the World
TAMARA (SHEESLEY) BALIS (US’89, C’93)
Head of School, Greenspring Montessori School
When Tamara (Sheesley) Balis set out in her teaching career, she wanted to honor the spirit of each child and support their highest and best selves. Her research led her to the Montessori model, and now, 25 years later, she believes in the Montessori mission more than ever.
Her desire to treat every child with respect and help them feel valued is creating a ripple effect in the community. “I can see the difference we are making, not only in our children’s lives but in the lives of our families,” she says. “I love being able to have a meaningful impact on a community.”
Along with her executive work at Greenspring Montessori School, she and her team have also started the Greenspring Center for Lifelong Learning, an organization designed to elevate and support Montessori educators and schools. You can also hear her on the Voices of Montessori podcast, where she interviews fellow Montessori educators in hopes of elevating and supporting others. “I feel so lucky that I get to have a very clear mission in the world,” she says.
“A Part of This Expanding”
Executive Director, The Link School; Volunteer, Chaffee County Search and Rescue
James Orlet wasn’t sure if he could ever see himself in the field of education. After a decade-long stint at Adventure Unlimited, Orlet placed a call to his old mentor and founder of The Link School, Bobby Lewis, who greeted him with five words: I wondered when you’d call.
Since that fateful phone call, Orlet has filled a number of roles at the school, often overlapping. Despite holding an Executive Director title, Orlet regularly finds himself in the classroom teaching or exploring the outdoors with the students. It’s there he strives to make connections and help students see their own limitless nature. “I want them to feel God’s love,” he says. This trust in Love is something that permeates to his leadership of Link. “Love fills this school, Love staffs this school, Love funds this school, Love leads this school. That’s where I turn to all the time.”
When he’s not wearing one of the many hats involved with the Link School, Orlet volunteers with Chaffee County Search and Rescue in the Colorado Rockies. His uplifted spiritual outlook helps him calmly and confidently navigate the high-pressure conditions of search and rescue missions in the Colorado mountains, and it certainly acts as a bolster when looking towards the future of The Link School. “People like to say Christian Science is getting smaller. No way. Christian Science is on the move. We get to be a part of this expanding. How could the Truth be shrinking?”
“Helping Whoever Needs Me Today”
LEIGH ANN WEATHERS (US’15, C’19)
Student of Veterinary Medicine at LSU
For Leigh Ann Weathers, Veterinary Science has long been a calling. Studying Biology at Principia gave her a love of learning, and internships at zoos and research projects with turtles were way-markers on her journey. “A lot was pointing towards it,” says Weathers. “I just see how much of an impact these veterinarians make on their clients and how much of an integral role they are in the community.”
The defining thread of Weathers’s journey has been persistence. Through an initial rejection from LSU, challenging academics, clinic work, and mental stress, Weathers soldiers on to her goal, leaning on Christian Science as she goes. “I could not do this without having Christian Science on my side, honestly. I’m seeing it in practice every day.”
After graduation, Weathers plans to go into emergency medicine, where she looks forward to helping “whoever needs me today.” “What keeps me going is knowing there's going to be that one case one day in the future where I'm going to make a connection with an owner or a patient and be able to turn someone's life around,” she says.