Why We Give: Ashley (Braun) Gendek ’09 and Chris Gendek ’10

Hometown – Celina, Tenn.
Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing
Master’s Degree in Writing and Publishing from DePaul University in Chicago

Hometown – Henderson, Ky.
Bachelor of Science in Corporate Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations/Marketing

Why do you give?

We feel very strongly about giving back to an institution that has given us so much. As recipients of scholarships from Wesleyan, we recognize the importance of the General Scholarship Fund. If our contributions can help at least one student while attending Wesleyan, then we have succeeded in our goal. We also believe in the four tenets of the Wesleyan Way, especially “We Support Each Other.” What better way to support current and future Panthers than by giving. 

Why do you encourage others to give?

Giving can come in several capacities. Not only do we give to the General Scholarship Fund and the Panther Athletic Fund, but we also give our time. Any chance we get, we attend sporting, alumni and campus events. We strongly believe that alumni support encourages current students to remain involved after graduation. Ashley teaches at Wesleyan and serves as the faculty advisor for several campus organizations, and Chris is a committee chair on the Alumni Association Board of Directors and is the public address announcer for the football team. We are living proof of the saying, “Once a Panther, always a Panther. 

How did you meet?

Chris and I are Wesleyan sweethearts! We met at Wesleyan but were just friends until senior year. 

Tell us about your careers.

Ashley: I am currently an assistant professor of English at Wesleyan. I am also a sports writer for a newspaper in Tennessee where I regularly cover all Tennessee Titans’ home games. 

Chris: I am the assistant general manager for LinGate Hospitality, locally based in Owensboro. I oversee the day-to-day operations of the Owensboro Courtyard Marriott and assist other properties within our portfolio. I previously held positions with Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, the Sheraton Grand Nashville Downtown, and the Westin Snowmass Resort in Snowmass Village, Colo..

What are special memories of your Wesleyan years?

Ashley: As a student at Wesleyan, I created so many lifelong memories, but I must admit the memories created with my Kappa Delta Sorority sisters will always hold a special place in my heart. We still get together and reminisce about the past quite often! 

Chris: We were both scholar-athletes and enjoyed supporting Wesleyan athletics in any way we could. I especially remember going to sporting events and cheering on the Panthers from the rambunctious student section, filled with painted bellies and fat head cutouts.  

Who mentored you during your years as a student?

Ashley: My biggest mentor was definitely Professor Kelly Moffett. Writing has always been my passion, but as a young adult I didn’t realize I could actually make a career out of something I simply perceived as a hobby. As my professor, Kelly offered constructive feedback and believed in my creativeness even when I didn’t believe in myself. Later, as my advisor, she encouraged me to pursue a career doing what I love and helped me on the path to success after Wesleyan. It’s because of her lasting impact both inside and outside of the classroom that I wanted to continue her legacy and hopefully encourage other students to find and follow their passion with writing.  

Chris: I credit majoring in corporate communications to Dr. Randy Vogt. My sophomore year I took one of his classes as an elective and decided to change my major the first day of his class. The way he engaged his students and showed a genuine interest in their success made a lasting impression. From sophomore year to senior year with Dr. V, his drive to help students succeed both in and out of the classroom remained at the forefront. 

How did Wesleyan prepare you for life?

Ashley: I was super involved on campus. I immersed myself in leadership positions in clubs and organizations to meet more people because I had moved almost four hours away from my hometown to a place where I knew no one. With classes, soccer, and student organizations, I quickly had to learn how to manage my time. Time management is pertinent in most careers but especially as a teacher and as a writer. I credit my ability to balance teaching, grading, sports writing, and personal writing to my experience managing my campus involvement responsibilities. 

Why did you choose Wesleyan?

Ashley: I chose Wesleyan because of the small student-to-teacher ratio. It was important for me to choose a school where I could build relationships with my professors rather than just be a number in a lecture hall. I graduated high school with 44 people and knew I needed an environment in college that mimicked the atmosphere of my close-knit hometown in Tennessee. That is exactly what Wesleyan is; a close-knit community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni who are proud of their college.  

Chris: I chose Wesleyan because Coach Todd Lillpop gave me a chance to play college baseball. It was also important for me to choose a college that allowed me to remain close to my family in Henderson, Ky. Unlike Ashley, I graduated high school with over 550 people, but I longed for that personal connection that a small, Christian college like Wesleyan can offer.