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McPherson College Honors Alumni


By McPherson College


McPHERSON, Kan. (April 26, 2024) — The McPherson College Citation of Merit award recipients for 2024 are Ron ’60 and Rita (Smallwood) ’61 Harden; Larry ’65 and Sandee (Hoover) ’65 Kitzel; and Sigrid Wagner Horner ‘70. These recipients exemplify the college’s mission of Scholarship, Participation, and Service through their lifelong commitment to the values they developed as students at McPherson College. The college honored this year’s recipients at a dinner on April 26 at the Community Building in McPherson.

The McPherson College Citation of Merit is the highest award recognizing the most distinguished alumni for lifetime accomplishments in service to profession, community, church, and to McPherson College. The recipients are recommended by the Alumni Awards Committee and are approved by the College Board of Trustees.

Ron and Rita (Smallwood) HardenRon ’60 and Rita (Smallwood) ’61 Harden

Ron and Rita (Smallwood) Harden met at McPherson College and will be married 64 years in August. They spent most of their married life in Loveland, Colo., where Ron practiced dentistry from 1968 until he retired in 2005, and Rita was an elementary school teacher for more than 34 years. They have two daughters, Kristin and Kit.

Both Ron and Rita have been active volunteers. Ron’s interest in ornithology led to 50 years of volunteer service in local, state, and National Audubon Society chapters. He conducted annual breeding bird surveys for the United States Geological Service for 50 years. He was a volunteer member of the Interpretive Staff at Rocky Mountain National Park, where his duties included guiding nature walks, environmental education, the Junior Ranger program, and working at the visitor’s center information desk. He also served on the Boy Scouts of America regional council’s Committee on Eagle Advancement for over 20 years. Rita was active in the Philo Club, a local women’s service organization, for 54 years, serving as treasurer, president, and on many committees. She was active in local school board elections and served on various boards during her daughters’ school years. They are 56-year members of the First Baptist Church of Loveland, where Rita was active in the junior high youth group and children’s education for 40 years. She serves on the governing board, is a choir member, and was part of the pastor search team, and past moderator. Ron has also been involved in the music and worship committee, board of deacons, and was a moderator, and liaison to the church’s Korean Baptist Church.

Ron graduated from McPherson College in 1960 with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Business Administration. He earned his DDS in 1967 from the University of Missouri in Kansas City. Rita graduated from McPherson College in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and earned a master’s degree from the University of Missouri in Kansas City.

Larry and Sandee (Hoover) KitzelLarry ’65 and Sandee (Hoover) ’65 Kitzel

After long and successful careers, Larry and Sandee Kitzel spent their first year of retirement serving in Virginia, Nebraska, and Ohio as part of the Brethren Volunteer Service. They then spent another 11 years in locations across the country, serving in the Brethren Disaster Ministries a week to a month at a time. Today, their volunteerism is focused around Arriba, a small town in Eastern Colorado, near their daughter, Erika (Kitzel) Saffer ’95 and her family Kevin ’94, Nate ’23, and Kendyl ’24.

After graduating from McPherson College in 1965, Larry began teaching band and choir, and Sandee taught math in Bruning, Neb., and later in Tecumseh, Neb. In 1970, they moved to McPherson, where Sandee worked as an accountant, and Larry taught in the music department at McPherson College. He completed a Master of Music degree in 1973 at Wichita State University and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 1985 at the University of Oklahoma. He taught large and small ensembles, instrumental methods, conducting, music history, and music appreciation at McPherson College for 34 years before retiring in 2004. Sandee graduated from the Brethren Academy of Ministerial Leadership in 1994 and served as the Monitor Church of the Brethren pastor for 10 years before retiring.

While in McPherson, Sandee served on The Cedars board of directors for eight years, the Western Plains Church of the Brethren District Board for six years, was a member of Music Club, and played bassoon in the community orchestra. She also offered private music lessons in piano, bassoon, and oboe. She recalls hosting many McPherson College students in their home and altering many band uniforms. Larry, with the Kitzel Brothers Summer Band, played for service organizations in the community and performed and conducted a community orchestra and brass choir. He helped with Mac Sprokettiers, the community bike club, and with Mac Trax, a model train club. He also offered private lessons and tuned and moved pianos and pipe organs in Central Kansas. At the college, Larry directed the college community bulletin board cable channel for nine years. His students filmed and edited May Day parade videos for the channel. He also booked and hosted off-campus programs in Brown Auditorium for 10 years. He served as a KSHSAA adjudicator.

Larry’s involvement in music continues today with the Eastern Colorado Trombones and High Plains Brass ensembles that perform in parks, nursing homes, at Memorial Day programs, and at the annual Colorado Trombone Festival in Colorado Springs. Sandee leads a community Bible study group, coordinates the Sunrise Service, offers piano lessons, and volunteers with the after-school program in Arriba. They are both active in the Bethel church of the Brethren near Arriba.

Sigrid (Wagner) HornerSigrid (Wagner) Horner ‘70

Sigrid (Wagner) Horner served on the McPherson College Board of Trustees from 1993 to 2001 and was on the Alumni Board for seven years, serving as president for one year. She also served as class agent for the Class of 1970.

Sigrid graduated from McPherson College with a bachelor’s degree in German and earned a master’s in German Studies from the University of New Mexico in 1997. She taught German and English to high school students in Kansas and Colorado and was a substitute teacher, including two long-term German class assignments, for 13 years in the Lincoln School District in Nebraska. She volunteers at Ten Thousand Villages in Lincoln and serves as the volunteer language director of the German-American Society in Omaha, overseeing programming to further German language and culture and substitute teaching in the adult and children’s German classes. She received the Joseph Meschede Award of Excellence for service to the German-American Society in 2023.

With her husband, Charles ’66, they managed Camp Colorado and helped direct camp, counsel, and cook for Camp Mount Hermon and Camp Colorado. She retained membership in the Church of Brethren even when there were no churches nearby and remains active today at the Antelope Church of the Brethren as a Sunday School teacher, singing in the choir, and serving on various boards, including serving as chair of the church board. She was a delegate to the Annual Conference several times and served on the Western Plains District nominating committee. She and Charles served as Brethren Ministries leadership from 2007-2011 and worked on a project in 2022.

Sigrid was born in Herford, Germany, and moved to the United States in 1956 with her parents through the Church World Service’s refugee resettlement program. They were sponsored by the Ullom family and the Church of the Brethren in Wiley, Colo. She became a U.S. citizen in 1968.

A recording of the Evening of Recognition Awards dinner and program can be found at


About McPherson College

McPherson College is committed to its mission “To develop whole persons through scholarship, participation, and service,” in a career-focused liberal arts environment. It’s been recognized nationally by US News & World Report, Money Magazine, and the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Great Colleges to Work For.” Its Automotive Restoration program is the first four-year degree program of its kind and was awarded the prestigious industry supporter of the year by International Historic Motoring. Learn about all of its programs at