“This is an exciting time for Minnehaha Academy. I’m most excited about the new history that will be made--Minnehaha does an excellent job of building from the past, and creating a legacy. These last few years have not been easy--it’s been very hard. But the Lord has blessed MA and brought good from it. Minnehaha has done a great job of bringing new people in through their doors-- thousands of people have been blessed by MA, and that will only continue. It will be great to see how the new building is used. But we should remember that the school is not about the building--it’s the people, the spirit, the community that will continue.”
About a year ago, Preston’s wife Angela (Kron ‘07) was on the faculty at Minnehaha, and she was seeing the internal communications and plans for the construction of the new Upper School. She often passed them on to Preston to share how incredible they were. Preston noticed right away that a few of the old, majestic oak trees would have to be cut down. He thought, “someone should do something with those!”
Preston has been woodworking for a number of years as a hobby, and his side business (prestonmade.com) features handcrafted wood products. Preston got in touch with MA’s construction partner, Mortenson Construction, and learned that another alum, John Ahlquist ‘66, was also interested in using the salvaged wood. “It was great that we had the same ideas!” Preston knew that Rick Siewert ’80 from Siewert Cabinet & Fixture Manufacturing, Inc. and Wood from the Hood did urban milling and soon he was involved, too. After the trees were cut, John and Preston went to Rick’s shop and helped mill the logs. Each of them now has a stack of white oak wood drying at their homes. “It was so cool to see the details come together!”
It takes a while for the wood to dry, and each of them will be working on different projects for the new Upper School. John is building a white oak door for the prayer room and Rick’s business built the custom-made cabinets. Preston is still in discussion with MA on what he will make with the old, beautiful wood that he has.
Preston said of his high school years at MA, “It was an awesome experience. I grew up more in the four years at MA than I did in college. Minnehaha did a better job preparing me for the real world.” He and his wife Angela have done a lot of reflecting on their time at the school. “MA is a cool place--and mission oriented,” Anderson says. “Not everyone is required to be a Christian to go there, but all of the teachers and faculty are Christians. It’s an environment where you are encouraged to live out your faith daily and love others; but what does that look like? What does it look like in the real world to be a Christian every day? To love your neighbor as yourself and live that out?” At Minnehaha, Preston learned to live in a way that is respectful of other people’s opinions--to listen to them and value them--and was also taught to stand firm in what he believed and be fully rooted in the truth and in the Lord.
Preston was largely influenced by his chemistry teacher Mike DiNardo. He took AP Chemistry but wanted to drop because he wasn’t feeling very motivated or enthused about chemistry and wasn’t getting a good grade. Preston remembers vividly that they were in the middle of a drill and Dr. DiNardo said to him, “I’m not going to let you drop chemistry--I’m not going to sign off on that--you are going to be fine!” Preston didn’t drop, and he learned far more than he thought he would. He went on to appreciate chemistry, and even minored in it at Bethel University. He was so thankful that he did not quit. “God used a stubborn Italian in my favor, and I appreciate that!” Preston is thankful for the amazing teachers he had at Minnehaha. “As high schoolers, we often were spinning around in circles. The teachers helped steer you in the right direction. They let you figure out who you are within the context of strong academics, strong faith, and let you explore. They helped me to figure out what is right and wrong in a complex world and set great examples for the students.”