Chamber honors Vonderheide’s community impact


JASPER — Shocked and overwhelmed, Dean Vonderheide of Jasper walked to the front of the crowd at the annual

Dean Vonderheide

Jasper Chamber of Commerce luncheon as attendees at a packed KlubHaus 61 rose to their feet in applause.

Moments before, outgoing Chamber Board of Directors President Brian Hostetter announced Vonderheide as the recipient of the organization’s 2018 President’s Community Excellence Award, an honor given annually to an individual who has generously contributed their time, talents and resources to the Jasper community.

After the luncheon, Vonderheide said he still has much more to do.

“I think we’ve all got more to give than what we can ever dish out,” he said. “This community supported me through my entire life. My family lives here. It’s the best, and I need to give back to the community through the future.”

Vonderheide has served in various leadership positions at Trinity United Church of Christ during his 50 years as a member, and has been a member of the Jasper Common Council since 2016. He has been a member of the Dubois County Contractual Library Board and Jasper Public Library Boards since 2011, and is currently president of the Jasper Public Library Board.

He is also a member of the Jasper LEADS (library, enrichment, arts and downtown) project that has raised more than $4.5 million.

He helped establish a new curriculum for the new Center for Technology, Innovation and Manufacturing at Vincennes University Jasper Campus, and was an industry representative on the VU community advisory committee. As an Indiana University alumnus, he is a Kelley School of Business mentor for junior students at IU Bloomington, and is a member of the I Association Board of Directors and I Association Chairman’s Advisory Council.

He retired from Kimball International in April 2015 after a 31-year career that concluded with him in the chief human resources officer role. He is currently a member and co-owner of White River Hops LLC and Crawford County Outfitters LLC.

Vonderheide, who was raised in nearby Holland but has lived in Jasper most his life, encouraged event attendees to step outside their comfort zones and get involved in the community. Don’t wait to volunteer, he said, because you never know when you’ll run out of time and won’t be able to help. He added that no one is too old nor too young to join in.

“I think we’ve all got something to give back,” he said. “I just chose to do it in these ways.”

He credited his church and family with helping him maintain balance in his life and helping him thrive.

Nominations for the award are judged by a committee drawn from the current Jasper Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. According to a press release distributed at the event, the honor is open to all walks of life and recognizes those who give what they can to make a difference. Past winners include Alvin C. Ruxer, Bob Siebert, Ken Sendelweck, Gervase Schwenk, Joe Rohleder, Dan Fritch and John Seng.

The board of directors for 2018 included president Hostetter, vice president Tom Moorman, treasurer Mark Fierst, secretary Diann Meneilly-Horney, and members Julie Dutchess, Anthony Seng, Tim Gray, Dr. Tim Barry, Opal Sermersheim, Angie Kleinhelter, Sheri Keller, Rachel Levin, Cody Ziegler, Lori Persohn, Bernie Kreilein and Christian Blome.

The chamber also has two staff positions that are held by Nancy Eckerle, executive director, and Janet Beckman, office manager.

Outgoing board members are Hostetter, Meneilly-Horney, Persohn, Dutchess and Seng. New members for 2019 include Mike Horney, Patrick Uebelhor, Mary Leah Siegel, Kate Schwenk and Ted Miller.

NSWC Crane Commanding Officer Capt. Mark Oesterreich was the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s event, and talked about how NSWC Crane is harnessing the power of technology.

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