Any former Amish Entrepreneurs out there?

We’ve spent a lot of time engaging with former Amish students on their academic ambitions but today we’d like to hear from those of you who have left the Amish and started your own business. Since I’ve started working in business finance, I realize that good business practice starts with honesty, integrity and some common sense. I think that’s the reason that many former Amish people have been successful in starting their own companies. I know some people who have built very successful businesses on an 8th grade education and they’ll make a lot more money than I ever will with my Masters degree.

I never saw my education as a way to make more money,  but simply as a learning tool to quench my serial curiosity. There are people who chose to get an education and then start their own business, while others go straight into the latter. I recently met someone who did it the other way around – he started a few companies and has now decided to pursue his college degree. The point I’m trying to make is that there is no wrong or right way to go about it. You have to know your own self and what your strengths and weaknesses are and what you want to do in life.

Someone recently brought my attention to which is a branch off Kiva, doing a pilot test for entrepreneurs who need to borrow a bit of money to get started. I wanted to share it with you because it’s actually interest-free loans. The money comes from charitable lenders who aren’t looking to make any money, but help someone get started with a small business. I think it’s a beautiful way of helping people take that first step that might not otherwise be available to them.

The site has trustees who meet with the entrepreneur and help raise the money for them on the site. If there are any former Amish people out there who are interested in starting or expanding their own business, but they need an upfront loan – I’d be interested in being your trustee. Just contact me directly at and we can discuss.

Whatever you all choose to do in all aspects of your life – I hope you find joy in it and remember to help those younger Amish people who first leave the community. I’ve met a lot of people doing so and it’s a wonderful way to pass on the community values that we were taught. The world can be a lonely place when we step out of our homes and communities to start a life of our own, so small acts of kindness go a long way.

Posted in Latest News

Pursuing a Lifelong Dream with a Heart Full of Gratitude

Lisa YoderMy name is Lisa Yoder and I’m married with three children. I was the recipient of a scholarship from the Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund in 2013. I’m currently in my junior year of college, working on my Bachelors of Science degree in Registered Nursing. I grew up in an ultra-conservative Swartzentruber Amish church in central Ohio. I came from a large family and growing up we were poor but generally speaking we had what we needed at the time, and  what we didn’t have we didn’t miss. My family was very close and I never thought I would leave the Amish, but time has a way of changing and re-shaping the way we view things. Sometimes circumstances in our lives shift and clarify our view and our destiny and sometimes those circumstances serve to change our views and we, in turn set out on a path to discover who we are and what our purpose is. In looking back, I have gone from one end of that road to the other as I continue to search for my own purpose.

My husband and I met when we were young. There had been some issues within the church early on and as a result we had left the Amish before we got married. Eventually we returned, rejoined the church, and got married. We had three children within six years. For a couple of difficult and indecisive years, we tried to live within the parameters set by the church and had the constant struggle of coming too close to the “fence of the ordnung” which always resulted in some form of disciplinary action as determined by the church. Because there were no Biblical reasons for the “ordnung” issues we eventually made the difficult decision to leave the Amish church so we could raise our children based on Biblical principles rather than the ordnung of the church. Our youngest was six month old when we left again — this time for good. This was a very difficult decision but looking back I don’t regret making it when we did. Two of my brothers had left previously and since then two more brothers and one of my sisters have left as well.

My educational pursuits began in 2008 when with only my eighth grade education from twenty some years prior, I took classes at the local community college and earned my GED. At that time my husband and I owned our own construction business and I thought I would go into accounting to expand my knowledge and improve my ability to do our own books with the hope of expanding the business. Then the housing market took a nosedive, our business struggled and after two years of losses we closed the business and my husband took a payroll job and is now a supervisor for another construction company. It was at the beginning of this down turn that I made the decision to go into nursing; accounting had made sense before but now I decided to choose something that I was passionate about but had never thought of as a real possibility.

I have met many challenges and difficulties along the way and have had to overcome more of my own fears than I ever realized I had. When I started out, I qualified for financial aid and scholarships as business owners and due to the income bracket we were under at the time, we had few difficulties paying for tuition. That changed when my husband became employed. We faced financial difficulties unlike anything we had faced before and I began to fill out applications for grants and scholarships and the ADSFund was one application that I came across. I mailed it in, all the while thinking there are others who are deserving of the help and quite possibly need it more than I do. In the meantime, I received my account statement from the university and due to my husband’s change in employment status, there was a sizable deficit as I no longer qualified for the financial aid we had counted on. I thought I was done and this was the wall that would stop my pursuit of higher education. I had also been struggling with the time college required and having less and less time with the family. I had to quit my part time cleaning job, which strained our finances further, and I began to seriously question how the cost of continuing could possibly be worth it. I had become more discouraged than ever and was almost looking for reasons to quit school.

After much prayer and discussion we decided to try for one semester because at the end of that semester I would have the qualifications to work as an STNA (state tested nurses’ aid) and see if perhaps I would receive any amount from the scholarship applications I had submitted. Thankfully I received a generous scholarship from the ADSFund, which renewed my faith that I am on the right path. I went forward with confidence and by the end of the semester qualified for the deans list.

Lisa Yoder 2To anyone reading this and contemplating higher education, my advice is ask questions, lots of them. And if it sounds like something you would like to do; go for it! You will never know unless you try. If you need help, there is help available. Allow yourself to dream, then don’t let fear of the unknown stand between you and your dreams.

I thank all who contribute to this fund and all who invest their time and efforts to make it happen: Emma U. Miller, Saloma Furlong, Naomi Kramer and everyone behind the scenes, thank you so much. To the sponsors who donate to make the fund possible — thank you! Please know I’m blessed every day by your generosity. I have another year before I graduate and additional tuition expenses in the meantime, but I cannot wait to help others on their journey to realizing their dreams. God Bless you all!

Lisa Yoder

Posted in Scholarship Winners

A Rewarding Journey

Fannie Miller

My name is Fannie Miller. I grew up in the Geauga County Amish community in Ohio. My childhood was simple and we were quite poor. I was second oldest in a family of fifteen children. My dad was a hard-working man who loved his family. He was generally a happy, kind, and jolly person. He was intelligent, loved to read, and loved to tell stories.  I attribute my love for learning in large part to my father’s example. My mother was kept very busy with her pregnancies, newborns, and the work of raising her large family. She often struggled to keep up with all her duties. I remember her as taking time with her children, making crafty things with us, helping us create playhouses, stocking our book shelves with reading books, and letting us be children. We loved each other. In my younger years, I thought of home as being the one place where all was right.

My longing for acceptance became a stumbling block for me in my teenage years. My family was not highly respected in our community. I came to believe that if our family would all just conform to what the Amish community wanted we would be more respected.

I took up the position of teacher’s helper soon after I graduated from eighth grade. I continued teaching in Amish schools for five years.

I got married and my husband did not try to fit in to the Amish expectations either. In looking back, I now see this lack of acceptance by the Amish people as a vehicle that ended up making it easier for me to leave the community.

I then took a position as a teacher’s aide in the local public school.

At age 26, I sensed a deep longing for something more. I became a Christian and I was quite vocal about my new-found faith and ended up causing quite a stir in my family and Amish community. I wanted to leave but also felt the urge to stay and tell my story so that other Amish could find the peace I had found. A few of my best friends and eleven of my siblings eventually made an exodus from the Amish community, both before and after I took the step to move on.

Soon after leaving the Amish, my husband and I became foster parents, providing care for infants and toddlers. We adopted three sons. I became interested in nursing as I observed the home health care nurses who came to our house to provide needed care to my medically fragile foster babies. I remember thinking that nursing would be such a fulfilling job. However, like most people who leave the Amish, I really did not give thought to trying to get a degree. I would have loved to go to college years before I did, however, in my mind it just was not a possibility.

When my marriage ended, I suddenly had to consider my future earnings status. My financial future appeared bleak. My brother and his wife suggested that I consider college. That was the first time someone presented me with the thought that college was an option. I was fifty-two by then and gave momentary thought to maybe being too old to start college. I had the wisdom to override those thoughts with my deep sense of knowing that it is never too late to choose to turn toward a more desirable and advantageous path. I immediately responded by setting in motion the process of applying to our local college, Kent State University, (KSU) Trumbull with the plan to pursue a degree in Nursing. KSU has a Nursing program rated as fourth in the nation.

I started classes in the fall of 2009. I have done very well. I have had to work extremely hard because I had determined from the beginning that I wanted to finish knowing I had given my very best. I am employed on campus as a student assistant and nursing tutor in the Academic/Accessibility Services Department. I have just taken a second job as a resident assistant at an assisted living facility. I also do volunteer work. Along with school, work, and volunteering, I am the sole provider of physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial support for two of my sons.

I have applied and received many scholarships for which I am thankful. I am especially proud of having been chosen as a recipient of the Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund. The financial support from the ADSF and other scholarships has given me the opportunity to be more focused on my coursework and less concerned about my finances.

Fannie MillerI am scheduled for graduation in May, 2014 with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing and will graduate with honors. I plan to begin my nursing career while I continue my educational pursuits with a Masters Degree in Public Health. I have an interest in Geriatrics, hospice care, newborn intensive care, and AIDS/HIV care. My future looks exciting to me and I hope to make a difference in the world around me. Although I have always loved life and the various endeavors with which I have been involved, my aim is to make the second half of my life be the most fulfilling and rewarding yet. Earning my degree is like a dream come true. I am grateful to the ADSFund for helping me to realize this dream.


Posted in Scholarship Winners

Emma Miller: Founder of Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund

About a year ago, I wrote a blog post about the founder of the Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund on my own blog. I am updating and reposting that here. I think Emma’s story is such a wonderful example of someone who is committed to helping others embark on their journey to education. For those young people who leave the Amish and need a role model for finding their way to college, they have their very own Malala Yousafzia. I have made this point in a recent blog entry, Malala’s Message.

I am passionate about education. At many of my book talks I have made the remark that if there was one thing I could change about the Amish culture, it would be that they educate their children beyond the eighth grade. The gap between an eighth grade education and a high school education with technology training has grown. The retention rate in Amish communities overall has grown to around 90 percent. I hope this is because young people want to join their communities, but my concern is that at least some of them don’t believe they can make it on their own — this education gap can feel just too daunting.

About a year ago, I was trying to figure out how I can reach out to other young people who have left the Amish to help them find their dream of getting more education and along came this vivacious, intelligent, committed young woman named Emma Miller who conceived of the idea of an Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund on the day of her graduation. She and her cousin, Naomi Kramer implemented the idea.  Allow me to introduce Emma Miller in her own words:

emmaI speak from personal experience when I say leaving the Amish community is frightening. I left at the age of 16: young, vulnerable and completely naïve to the ways of the world outside of my sheltered upbringing. Of course at that age, I thought I knew everything but today I look back with a thankful heart, clearly seeing some of the dangerous situations that I sidestepped.

Initially, I just focused on staying afloat, working in a restaurant and cleaning houses. I had dreams of getting my GED and going to college, but they were quickly swept under the carpet with the sheer effort of making ends meet. After a few years, I managed to get my GED, but even then it was almost impossible to squeeze college into my schedule. Three years after I left the Amish, I finally started taking classes part time at the community college, working all day and going to class at night.

It took me almost 6 years to get my Bachelors degree, but I appreciated the opportunity every step of the way. My education empowered me and became my source of confidence in a world without parental guidance. It taught me to think for myself and to make good choices. It was in the classroom where I learned to value myself and every other human being on the planet.

On my graduation day, I experienced the most bittersweet moment of my life. I was so proud and so happy, but I saw all the families together and mine wasn’t there. When they asked us to stand up and give a special thank you to our families who had supported us along the way, I started sobbing. I looked up in the audience and saw that some of my friends were crying with me.  My parents didn’t even know I was graduating.


I’m very grateful that I managed to go to college, but it’s not fair that it is so hard for those of us who leave the Amish. Even getting financial aid or government loans is a challenge for any former Amish student under the age of 24. While filling out the FAFSA, students are required to provide their parents’ financial information and signatures, but Amish parents aren’t likely to provide it since they don’t agree with their choice to go to college.

We live in a country where education is supposed to be available to everyone, yet I was forbidden to go to high school when I was 13. A 16-year-old Amish boy contacted me recently and said he has just left the Amish and he decided to go to high school. He lives with a few other former Amish boys who decided that they’re too old to go, but they would help him since he’s the youngest. They contacted the local high school and were told that he can’t enroll without his parents’ permission. That story broke my heart. By the time he turns 18 and is allowed to start school, he will have been out of school and working full time for almost 5 years.


Please help us right this inequality. I’ve teamed up with some other former Amish to start the Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund (ADSF) to offer emotional and financial support to those with an Amish background who wish to further their education. The media has been having a field day with the plight of Amish youth, but no one has reached out to help them. Please donate what you can and help us spread the word; the donations are tax-deductible and every dollar you donate will go towards a scholarship for someone in need. We have just awarded our first scholarships to Ruth and Marietta who are both struggling to get their education. You can read about their stories here.

To learn more about ADSF and its founders, please visit our website or send me an email at If you are from the Amish and are interested in going to college, please send me an email with any questions or concerns you might have. You are not alone!

I would like to offer a special thanks to Saloma for joining us in our effort and for the help she has extended to other former Amish people in need. No one knows the challenges these young people face when choosing a life away from the Amish community better than she does. And there is no better guide through turbulent waters, than someone who has already been there. Thank you for your strength and your help, Saloma. We’re excited to welcome you to ADSF.

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Posted in Latest News

The Profile of a Philanthropist

I find serving on the committee for the Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund is both interesting and rewarding. I meet such dynamic and exciting people. I am so proud of my fellow former Amish friends and acquaintances. I love working with the founders of the committee, Emma Miller and Naomi Kramer. They are both kind and dedicated and it is a great honor to be working with them. Emma just cycled from London to Paris to raise money for the Fund. Please see her post here.

Emma wrote about the winners of the scholarship here. We had tough choices to make, with our pool of impressive and deserving candidates this year. At some point, we will be writing about each of our winners. But before we do that, I wanted to thank someone who has been very generous to the Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund. His name is Leon Hostetler and he is himself a student enrolled in college. He left the Amish when he was eighteen. He redesigned this website and blog and refused to accept compensation for it. After much encouragement, he applied for a scholarship, but as soon as he learned that there were others who needed the aid more, he asked to postpone his application until he starts attending a four-year university in a year or so.

Leon Hostetler


Leon grew up in a family of five children. Until he was ten, his family lived in Guthrie, Kentucky, in a New Order Amish community. Then his family moved to Rexford, Montana, where he spent his adolescence roaming the mountains of Montana.

When Leon was eighteen years old, he left his Amish community. He is the only one in the family who has left. He had not yet become a member of the church, so his family is not shunning him.  He has a good relationship with them, even though they don’t agree with his life choices.  He stays in touch with his family , though he doesn’t see them very often, given he lives in Florida and they live in Montana. I asked Leon several questions about leaving the Amish and his life now.

Did you have people supporting you in your exodus out of the community?

I had two very good friends that left the Amish right around the time that I did. We moved into a mobile home, and together we figured things out for the first several years. We had a few non-Amish friends but no one that helped “guide” us out. 

What were your reasons for leaving?

I felt that the Amish lifestyle (and belief system) was intellectually and culturally restrictive, and I yearned for the freedoms, adventures, and opportunities of the outside world. I wanted to be a movie star, an astronaut, the next Jackie Chan, and the next Einstein–forgive my adolescent arrogance–but I couldn’t do any of those as a member of the Amish community. I found the atmosphere of anti-intellectualism to be stifling and incompatible with my curiosity and love of learning. My choice to leave, as such, wasn’t the result of discrete events, but rather the result of a discontent that increased over a number of years. The clincher was the realization that I would never be able to reconcile some of their fundamental beliefs with the things that I could discern about life and the universe with my own eyes.

What made you decide to pursue higher education?

I began pursuing a higher education long before I left the Amish. My early “higher” education consisted almost entirely of the contents of my parents’ library. It wasn’t a large library, but the encyclopedia sets allowed me to explore almost any subject that interested me–and there were a lot. After I left the Amish, I discovered the greatest achievement of mankind–the internet. It was like a dream come true. I taught myself everything from basic accounting to computer programming. I didn’t become an expert at any of them, but I learned enough to build websites, program rudimentary software, and hold a bookkeeping job.

For a long time I had wanted to get a formal education and a college degree, but I kept putting it off due to time and financial constraints. Fortunately, the growing realization that I was in a career rut, the fact that my personal life was in sort of an upheaval, and encouragement from several new friends forced me to ask, “Why not now?”

What were the obstacles (if any) in the way of you enrolling in college?

After leaving the Amish and no longer being able to blame them for my lack of opportunities, I became my greatest obstacle. In the past, my attention span was about two years long. I would throw myself wholeheartedly into something new and challenging, but two years later I would be bored with it. The idea of a four-eight year commitment frightened me. It doesn’t scare me anymore.

Secondly, I kept erecting the false belief that I needed to be financially comfortable before pursuing a college degree. For some reason I kept telling myself that I would need enough money to be off of work for four to eight years while I studied for my degree.

Lastly, I allowed too many “opportunities” to distract me from my long-term goals. While challenging and financially interesting, after several years, I was always left with the gnawing realization that I was no closer to achieving my long-term goals. I had always viewed the opportunities as nothing but stepping stones, but eventually, all I saw anymore were stepping stones.

Do you have people supporting you in your pursuit of a college education?

My fiancée is very supportive of my dreams. She puts up with my constant distractedness (since I’m studying almost nonstop) and lack of time. If not for her, I’d be on my own if it wasn’t for organizations such as the Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund and its encouraging advocates.

Do you have favorite area(s) of study? If so, what are they?

Almost everything I study improves some skill and/or increases my understanding of our universe. As such, I don’t find it difficult to take a deep interest in everything I study. That being said, I prefer math and science courses because, perhaps unwisely, I’m far more interested in how the universe works than in improving my job skills.

What would you like your life to look like ten years from now?

In ten years, I see myself as a physicist at a research institute or engineering facility. Physics is filled with exciting and challenging areas of study, and the one I choose to specialize in will be determined during my ongoing studies.

How does your education support this vision?

I’m currently earning a two-year A.A. degree to take care of the prerequisite courses. After transferring and finishing a four-year physics degree, I will be positioned to pursue a few different options. At this point, I’m looking forward to and planning for grad school after my bachelor’s degree.


I wish Leon Hostetler the very best in all his endeavors. He is obviously brilliant and will no doubt make great contributions to society. I hope the kindness he has shown to others will come back to him many times over. Whatever goodness and generosity that came out of growing up in his Amish community have not been exorcised from him. I think this is the challenge for those of us who have left the Amish: that don’t reject all aspects of the culture in which we were raised — there is always some good that we can adopt into our lives. May we all learn from Leon’s generosity. I thank him on behalf of all those who are benefitting or will benefit from his kindness and help.

To make a contribution to the Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund, you can click here. Many, many thanks!

Posted in Latest News

Cycling from London to Paris for ADSF

Tomorrow morning I’m setting out with two friends on the greatest physical challenge of my lifetime. We are cycling from London to Paris, a distance of close to 250 miles.I’m doing this for my birthday to raise money for the AD Scholarship Fund. We were able to give away $12,000 in scholarships this year so I’ll work on raising some money to re-fill the pot.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 07.17.38The first day, we’ll cycle down to the UK coast which is around 70 miles and full of hills. That will be the most challenging day. We spend the night down there, close to the port and then hop on a ferry the next morning. The ferry is four hours long and we lose an hour so we won’t be able to get much cycling in the second day, but that will also give us some time to recover.

Most of France will be lovely, quiet country roads and small villages to cycle through. We’ll spend the second night in Forges-les-Eaux and hopefully by the third night we’ll be fairly close to Paris. Saturday is my birthday and if all goes as planned, we’ll be cycling up the street to the Eiffel Tower that morning, our final destination!

One night in Paris and we’re back on a train to London and for that trip – our bikes get to ride too!

I’ll post photos when I get back. If you’d like to sponsor our ride, please donate through our website. Thank you very much for your contribution!

Posted in Latest News

Announcing our 2013 Scholarship winners!

What a difficult time we had choosing who should get the scholarships. We had such incredible applicants and of course – we just want to help them all! We ended up giving away $12,000 instead of $10,000 to stretch it a bit further. A hearty congratulations to the winners listed below. Please join us in wishing them the best as they move forward on various stages of their college education.

Lisa Yoder, Katie Borntreger, Sarah Borntreger, Lydia Miller, James Schwartz, Emma Gingerich, Barbara Gingerich, and Fannie Miller all received scholarships of various amounts. We will try to do blogposts about all of them in the future so you can learn more about them.

A few interesting stats about the applicants. 75% were women and the majority of them are studying nursing. It speaks to the caring nature of our culture to see so many women move into the nursing field. It’s also interesting that many of the applicants were women. Perhaps it’s easier for the men to make a living when they leave the Amish. All of them had very impressive stories, overcoming all sorts of hardships to seek their own life outside of the community and getting a higher education. Reading their stories made our efforts to raise this fund feel so worth it. We are inspired to work harder and reach even more people who need assistance. Hopefully someday we’ll have the ability to help them all.

Thank you very much for all your donations and encouragement. It’s been a wonderful journey so far and we couldn’t have done it without you.


Posted in Scholarship Winners

Apply Now for 2013 Scholarships

Thanks to our generous donors we have $10,000 of scholarships to give away this year and we are now accepting applications. If you grew up Amish and are pursuing a college education, please apply before August 10th to be considered.

Now, we’re all ex-Amish ourselves and we know it’s not part of the Amish culture to ask for help, but please apply for this scholarship if you qualify.  Every time we read of another student that overcame the challenges and started the journey of a higher education, we are inspired to work harder. And please spread the word to other ex-Amish students that you know. Not everyone can win the scholarship, but you have a very good shot. Scholarships will be between $1,000 and $5,000 and we’ll also be getting in touch with your financial aid department to see if they can offer you a tuition waiver. We can’t promise they will offer it, but it’s worth a try!


To learn more about the scholarship criteria and how to apply, please go to our website. Don’t forget to mail the hard copy of your application to the address provided and also email the soft copy to the email address.


In order to qualify for the scholarship you will have grown up Amish and your parents are still Amish or against you continuing your education. We feel those who don’t have parental support are the ones who need the help the most.

You will need to be registered in a university or a community college, with the aim to transfer on to a four year degree. If you are unsure if your studies qualify, please shoot us a quick email at If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to send us an email for that as well.


We are still looking for donors to ensure that this fund will stay in place for years to come. Our goal is to raise from 250-500k in the next few years so we can pay the interest income as scholarships and the fund will be sustainable for generations to come. To learn more about donating, please visit our website.

Thanks very much for your support and well wishes. We’re so lucky to have all of you!




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Posted in Latest News

An Example of What Is Possible

Freeman Miller, M.D.

Freeman Miller, M.D.

Today I am very honored to be introducing Freeman Miller, M.D. who is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Du Pont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware. His curriculum vitae is impressive. After he received his Bachelors at the University of Colorado, he entered medical school (also at the University of Colorado). He did his post-doctoral training at the University of Colorado, the University of Virginia, and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. He has held faculty positions at Thomas Jefferson University and the University of Delaware. He worked as a physician at Goshen and Elkhart General Hospitals before taking his current position at Du Pont Children’s Hospital. He received a lifetime achievement award for contributions to caring for children with disabilities from the Royal College of Surgeons of Scotland.

All this came out of Freeman Miller’s humble beginnings of being born and raised in an Amish family and community. He is a shining example of what is possible, even for those of us who leave the Amish with only an eighth grade education. In fact, he makes a good point, that our Amish upbringing affords us certain advantages (see interview below).

Not all of us are going to make such a difference in our world as Dr. Miller has made. However, we can certainly make whatever contributions our talents allow. For some, acquiring more formal education is important in following their dreams and realizing their potential. Now Dr. Miller is helping to make that possible by giving generously to the Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund. Not only is he accomplished in making a difference in the lives of the children he treats, but he is now reaching out to those who have left the Amish and are in the beginning of their educational journey. With grateful hearts, we thank him wholeheartedly for his kindness and generosity. I would also like to give a hearty thank you to Dr. Miller for taking the time on his flights back from India recently to answer several interview questions. Here is the interview:

1. I understand you grew up Amish. In which community were you born?
Yes I grew up in the Wayne-Holmes County, Ohio community, with my father’s family mainly being in Holmes County and my mother’s in Wayne County.

2. How many siblings did you have, and where are you in the birth order?
I am the oldest in my family of seven with three brothers and three sisters. My youngest sister is 18 years younger then I am and my youngest brother is 15 years younger then I am. I have a good relationship with all my siblings.

3. How would you characterize your childhood?
My memory of my childhood is very positive with a lot of family activities. My mother had only two sisters and one did not get married but took care of the grandparents till they passed. I had happy times with my aunt and grandmother and step-grandfather. My parents had to work hard on the farm and my father worked at the carpenter trade when the farm work was slow. Since I was the oldest, I was expected to help a lot around the farm. Although I never enjoyed the farm work much, I did have a sense my parents appreciated my help. I could also appreciate how hard they worked to get ahead. After I finished eighth grade, I gradually was able to explore other work and after a year I got a job in a cheese factory, which I enjoyed and my parents supported me in having this job. I completed eighth grade in a public school and very much enjoyed school. I would have liked to attend high school, however I knew that was not possible. My parents allowed me and paid for me to enroll in a correspondence high school program, which I did. It was very basic and I am not sure it added much to my education but I also enjoyed reading almost all materials, especially things related to science and math. In our home we always got the daily newspaper.

4. Why did you leave your Amish community?
When I was 18 years old I was drafted by the military but I had obtained the 1-W status as a conscientious objector. After receiving my draft notice, this was during the Vietnam War before the lottery; I choose to go to Denver, Colorado because I had the idea that I wanted to travel. Although my family would have liked me to stay closer to home they were supportive of my choice. So I went to Denver and worked in the emergency room at the University of Colorado Hospital. There I found that I really enjoyed medicine.

5. Did any of your other family members leave also?
All my other brothers and sisters are still with the Amish church, my middle brother is a Bishop. All are respected members of the community.

6. How old were you when you first entered college?
After I worked at the hospital for a year and I found medicine interesting, I decided to try to take some classes at the University of Colorado. Since I worked for the University, I could get a reduced rate, so I took the SAT and had a better then average score on Math, Science and General Knowledge, however my English score was very bad. I applied to the University and received a letter saying I could come and sign up for classes. So I went to sign up, however the person in admissions told me since I had not really gone to high school, a fact they missed on my letter of acceptance, and based on my SAT it was questionable if I could read well and write well enough to be in the University, he did not want to let me enroll. This was the time though when there were riots on the campus, students were burning tires outside the admissions office and all the administrators was very anxious. Students were trying to close down the university, so here I was loudly protesting, holding my letter that I had been accepted, and I want to sign up for classes. More negotiation ensued and finally we agreed that I could take two classes, one had to be an English class and I had to get at least a B in each class. I took a science class, which I found relatively easy, but the English literature class with the writing required was hard. At about this time I had started to date a secretary who also worked in the emergency room and she volunteered to help me with English. While I was working in the cheese factory for four years, I was mostly speaking a combination of Pennsylvania Dutch, Swiss and English with Germanic grammar, this on top of the fact that English was not my strong class in grade school.

7. Will you describe your path to higher education, including mentors or people who encouraged you along the way?
After I took the classes at CU and got my A and B, I decided I wanted to stay in medicine but the idea of college, medical school and residency seemed too much, so I decided to enroll in Physician’s Assistant program which was a new program started at a community college in cooperation with the University of Iowa. This was a program design to provide an opportunity for vets returning from the military, and although I was not in the military I fit the same experience they were looking for. I entered this program, which I found relatively easy but I also became more convinced that this would not satisfy me and I decided to return to Colorado and complete my BA degree and apply to medical school. In the meantime I married Lois Lind who was the secretary who helped me with my English. After completing college and applying to medical school, I took the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and again I had this issue with English however this was also the time when there was a focus on admitting minorities, and although I could not qualify as minority, I did make a point to tell the admissions committee that English is my second language and convinced them that I could manage with English. They were willing to accept this and I got admitted to medical school. The issue of high school did not arise after the initial registration since I was then a transfer student and they look at the transfer record only.

8. What challenges did you need to overcome to acquire your education?
My main struggle has been with English as I noted above and clearly my wife has been the main tutor in this area, helping me use correct grammar. This is no longer an issue but I still get asked where I’m from as I don’t sound like a standard American. On the other hand I am frequently told by non-native English speakers that they can understand me better then most Americans.

9. Will you describe a pinnacle moment (or moments) in your education?
This is a hard question. I was definitely happy to graduate from medical school but it is such an evolutionary process that it did not seem like a pinnacle. As my career advanced I have developed a good international reputation and two years ago I received a lifetime achievement award for contributions to caring for children with disabilities from the Royal College of Surgeons of Scotland. I was very honored to get this award and being made a member of the Royal College, which includes all the British commonwealth countries.

10. Will you describe the path to your profession as an orthopedic surgeon? Did you always know you wanted to be a doctor, or did you decide that after you were in college? Who encouraged or inspired you along the way?
The training is a very long 16-year process from the beginning of college. The whole process takes a lot of “stick to it” which I feel I learned from my upbringing. From the time I worked in the emergency room as an orderly, I enjoyed orthopedics and in college I found I enjoyed engineering, which also fits with orthopedics. I have been an adjunct professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Delaware for 25 years. During orthopedic residency training I was drawn to pediatrics. During my final year in pediatric sub-specialty training I found an interest in working with children with neurologic disorders. After I finished my training, I worked as a general orthopedist in Goshen, Indiana, which I enjoyed. I decided to do this because my wife was enrolled at Mennonite Seminary in Elkhart. However, my real love was children and 25 years ago we moved to Wilmington, Delaware where I could work exclusively with children. For the past 20 years I have worked primarily with children with Cerebral Palsy. I have not had any single mentor, however as my training advanced there was a small group of older doctors who were also primarily interested in the highly sub-specialized area of Cerebral Palsy management, who were very encouraging. Because these physicians were from my parents’ generation, they have now all died. Due to this, I currently make a special effort to reach out to young people in my highly sub-specialized area.

11. What triumphs have you experienced in the life path you chose? What sacrifices did you have to make to take this path?
The best experience in my career is having a long relationship with my patients, although I work in a highly sub-specialized area, I have many families whose children I saw first early childhood who have become young adults. It has been wonderful to have these long relationships and see the children grow and develop. The main sacrifice is the heavy time commitment requiring long work hours. Also because I chose to work in research as well as clinical care, I have had a very heavy travel schedule. I enjoy the travel but it is also tiring, especially as I get older it is harder to fly all night and then return to work in the morning.

12. What advice can you give to someone who has left the Amish with only an eighth grade education and would like to go to college?
My first advice is try to figure out what your goal is, if you are not sure, try to get a job in some context in the area you are interested in. I think it is very important to define attainable goals and then work toward that. When I started initially working in the emergency room as an orderly I had a very poor concept of how medicine was organized and how one got through the system, so for me this work experience allowed me to develop goals that I could attain. If an Amish young person has completed eighth grade in an Amish school, I think it would be wise to start in a community college. You need to learn how to interact with the modern Internet and develop good English skills. I think the English is less of a problem if the person has a good language aptitude. The educational system though is very different from 50 years ago, when I did not find skipping high school was a major problem. A lot of what high school students now learn, I got in the first two years of college. Also it is important to remember that coming from an Amish school, which most likely gave you a less then ideal educational foundation, does not mean that you are the only one with this struggle. There are many thousands of intercity poor schools who have no better educational foundation. I feel the big difference you have growing up in an Amish family and community is you have already learned the importance of hard work, healthy interpersonal skills and good moral judgment. You have this large head start to use the programs, mainly in community colleges, which are directed at helping these young people with poor educational foundations.

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We are overjoyed to announce that we now have $12,000 to award in scholarships this year! Because of generous donations, we can offer awards in increments between $1,000 and $5,000. We hope to build an endowment for the Amish Descendant Scholarship Fund, so that eventually we can use the interest for awards instead of the principle. This year, if there is a portion left over after awarding scholarships based on need, it will go into an endowment.

To our donors: First we’d like to give an exuberant thank you for your generous gifts. Because of you, young people who have left their respective Amish communities with an eighth grade education and have aspirations to go to college will be able to realize these dreams. Thank you for your generosity!

To potential applicants: In the coming days we’ll be posting the particulars about how to apply for these scholarships. If you feel so inspired, sharpen your pencil and write us your story. It will become part of your application.

To everyone: If you know of people who have left an Amish community who need financial support to attend college, please send them a link to this blog and encourage them to apply for a scholarship.

We appreciate all donations to help us realize our goal of building an endowment. Please help us spread the word. If you know of people who are philanthropic and passionate about education, please let them know that we’re here.

Help us to celebrate our gratitude and joy for these gifts. Spread the word!

If you have questions or comments about the fund, you can email Emma Miller:

Thank you for stopping by, and leave us a comment if you feel so moved. Have a joyful day!


Photo used by permission by Rick Robare at
Disclaimer: The use of this image is not an endorsement for any product or service

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