Chad Guenther’s life is best described as a series of contradictions: The 6’2″ natural athlete was unable to compete, and had a great sense of humor despite living with a terminal illness. He was diagnosed at 10 with Ebstein’s Anomaly, a malformation of the tricuspid heart valve, and not expected to reach 30.
Chad enrolled at ISU briefly before opting to work at State Farm Insurance Company, then took on risky jobs such as high-rise construction in Chicago.
In his early 30s, Chad became symptomatic and began medication. He suffered a massive stroke at 38 and was unable to talk or walk. He recovered and later underwent surgery followed by therapy at Northwestern Hospital’s Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. There he met Mennonite College of Nursing (MCN) graduates, whose encouragement allowed him to make a near complete recovery.
His health, however, could not be sustained. Chad died of another stroke on May 3, 2016.
His parents, Hank ’70, M.S. ’71, and Joan (Love) Guenther ’69, endowed the Chad Henry Guenther Scholarship to help MCN students. Gillian Buendia ’19, a nurse in the Neuro/Surgical Intermediate Unit at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, is the first recipient.
“We didn’t want to only memorialize Chad,” said his mother Joan, “but also emphasize the spirit of encouragement nurses embody and the need for young people to step up in the field of nursing.”
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