Remembering a modern Renaissance man

Freda and Cal Redekop. As is the case with many entrepreneurs’ partners, Freda did much supportive behind the scenes admin work for Cal.

Cal Redekop, who died in July at the age of 96, will be remembered by many as an academic, author and founder of this magazine.
He was all of those things, plus several other passions and talents rarely found in a single individual. Environmentalist. Serial entrepreneur. Philanthropist. Deeply committed church member, and arguably a prophetic theologian on matters of business ethics and faith.

A few years ago, in the fall of 2019, he was a cordial host to this writer at his Harrisonburg home. He was eager to discuss MEDA and a range of other topics.

Asking insightful questions about MEDA’s commitment to miti- gating the effects of climate change in its programming, he urged that even more be done in that regard.

His interest in solar power, both personally and in business ventures, was initially ahead of its time. But it arose from a deep conviction that humans have misunderstand God’s command to have dominion over the planet.
“The created world is indeed a most generous garden, to be lovingly nurtured and tended so it can be shared, not ravaged or exploited for personal gain,” he said.

Less known is the number of businesses he started or invested in. For many years, he worked on new ventures during evenings and weekends, eventually handing them off to others to run.

Those entrepreneurial efforts might have surprised his early stu- dents. Or people who heard him suggest in Mennonite churches that selfish wealth accumulation was in- compatible with the Christian life.

Cal Redekop with his Nissan Leaf and battery-powered cycle, both of which were fueled by the solar panels on the roof of his duplex [Russ Eanes photo]

Challenged to consider other perspectives, he became a board member and shareholder in Excel Industries. That Hesston-based firm grew to become a leading manu- facturer of premium commercial and residential turf equipment.

His concern for faith and business integration led to the founding of the Church Industry and Business Association. CIBA was based at Goshen College, and he edited their quarterly newsletter. CIBA later merged with another group to form the Mennonite Industry and Business Associates. By 1980 his newsletter had grown into an early version of The Marketplace magazine.

Up until the last few months of his life, he was suggesting new projects. He offered to adapt parts of a book he had written decades earlier for a new article for The Marketplace.

His correspondence included apologies that declining health prevented him from attending MEDA’s annual convention.
In an April email, he wrote that health concerns would mean that he would not “be able to travel, or even exist in November on this tragic yet beautiful planet!!’’

“I would hope the (2022 MEDA convention) theme would include the concept of entrepreneur- ship as being applicable to religion, politics and society (including aca- demics!) They are equally good and bad movers and shakers.”

Rest in peace, Cal. This “tragic yet beautiful planet” is a little poorer after your passing.

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