For the Birds


Bob Kroese’s lifelike wooden sculptures have won international awards and been displayed in Maryland’s Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art.

An avid outdoorsman, Bob Kroese ’77 doesn’t just admire the beauty of nature; he recreates it. His keen attention to the natural world inspires him to transform a block of wood with exacting detail into the graceful curve of a neck or a beak tucked gently under a wing.

“Sometimes art is a loose interpretation of the subject. It can be abstract. I’m not abstract,” says Kroese, who is CEO of Pella (Iowa) Regional Health Center. “Each part must fit the bird, even down to the coloring and the habitat.”

A wood sculptor for nearly 20 years, Kroese has earned Best of Show in state and international competitions. At last year’s world championship, his pair of blue-winged teals won second place in their class—the most elite competition in wildfowl carving.

Each work of art begins with extensive research on the species. Then in his basement studio, Kroese cuts the rough shape with a bandsaw before refining it with specialized tools. Once the shape is perfected, Kroese delicately brushes lifelike coloring on his creation. It’s a painstaking process, but he allows each piece to emerge over time.

“If I feel I’m rushing it, if I’m getting impatient, it’s good to let the piece sit,” Kroese says. “When I come back to it, it’s amazing what I see.”

Food for the Soul


Lisa Tomkins (center), food services manager at Chicago’s Olive Branch Mission, and her colleagues seek to serve their guests with compassion, dignity, smiles and hope.

It’s 5 p.m. at Olive Branch Mission (OBM) on Chicago’s South Side, and dinner is about to be served. Men file in from the cold and are greeted by the smell of baked chicken, fresh bread, sweet potatoes and green beans.

Lisa Tomkins ’89, food services manager, calls through the hall, “Good evening gentlemen! Good to see you!”

Tomkins, an urban ministry veteran with a degree in social work, has spent nine years at OBM. In her current role, which also includes heading up volunteer services and in-kind donations, Tomkins coordinates the preparation and service of about 450 meals per day.

“A lot of organizations that work with the poor have the mindset that ‘beggars can’t be choosers,’—in other words, you’re going to get what you get,” she says.

Tomkins thinks differently and provides nutritious meals that look and taste more like a catered dinner than standard soup kitchen fare. She also aims to feed the soul by offering a warm, friendly dining room and compassionate service with a smile.

As dinner wraps up, patrons stop Tomkins to express thanks.

“We don’t need the gratitude; we would do it anyway,” she says. “But I believe because we take so much care in doing it, we’re helping change people’s hearts. It changes the way they feel when they come in the door.”

Fulbright Scholar


Justin Pannkuk is Northwestern’s second Fulbright Scholar in two years. Psychology professor Dr. Jennifer Feenstra was awarded a Fulbright for research in Romania during 2011–12.

Gabrielle Giffords was one. And author Joseph Heller. So were 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, 43 Nobel Prize winners and 78 Pulitzer Prize honorees.

Justin Pannkuk ’09 recently joined this impressive list of Fulbright Scholars and is spending the 2012–13 academic year at the University of Göttingen in Germany conducting research on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In addition to biblical texts, the Dead Sea Scrolls also contain extra-biblical documents written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Pannkuk, who reads those languages as well as Syriac and classical Ethiopic, hopes his study of texts not canonized in the Hebrew Bible will lead to new insights about early Judaism and the development of Christianity.

“I’m struck by the diversity and complexity of early Jewish literature and history,” he says. “The texts I’m studying present differing perspectives on important issues—such as the problem and origins of evil, sources of religious and theological authority, and beliefs about the Messiah and resurrection from the dead.”

A May graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, Pannkuk credits religion professor Dr. James Mead, his undergraduate adviser and the author of a recommendation to the Fulbright Scholarship board, with playing a role in his successful application. “I’m proud of the education I’ve gotten from my alma mater,” he says, “and indebted for all the support I’ve received over the years.”

Classic Comments

All comments are moderated and need approval from the moderator before they are posted. Comments that include profanity, or personal attacks, or antisocial behavior such as "spamming" or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our terms of use. You are fully responsible for the content that you post. Comments posted do not reflect the views or values of Northwestern College.