Emerson Lesher’s ’74 affinity for helping aging adults began when he was a Messiah College student interning at Messiah Home, a Brethren in Christ-sponsored ministry dedicated to serving older adults.
Eventually, Messiah Home moved from Paxton Street in Harrisburg, to Upper Allen Township and became Messiah Lifeways (formerly Messiah Village), and Lesher, following a successful career as a geropsychologist, moved from student intern to president of the organization.
Prior to his presidency at Messiah Lifeways, Lesher spent years studying counseling and psychology and gaining the skills needed to lead an organization.
After graduating from Messiah College, he worked for Messiah Home for a short time and then married and moved to California. In California, Lesher studied marriage and family counseling, receiving his master’s degree from Fuller Theological Seminary and completing his doctoral work in psychology at Saybrook University in San Francisco.
Knowing he wanted to pursue a career in geriatric psychology, Lesher took an internship in Philadelphia and stayed in the city for five years working for Philadelphia Geriatric Center before accepting a position as a geropsychologist for Philhaven Behavioral Health. In that role, Lesher visited patients in nursing homes and retirement communities around the Lancaster/Lebanon area for 13 years.
While on staff at Philhaven, Lesher was approached to join the board of directors at Messiah Lifeways because of his expertise with aging adults. A few years later when a vacancy for president of the organization opened up, Lesher applied and was unanimously selected from a nationwide search. His journey from intern to president came full circle.
“The whole world is aging and issues around aging are going to be significant in the 21st century, not only here, but around the world,” says Lesher. “In this field, we’re helping study and investigate how to age well and helping to address the needs of aging individuals.”
Lesher’s tenure at Messiah Lifeways recently came to a close when he stepped down from his position in June. His replacement, Curtis Stutzman ’80, is also a Messiah College alumnus.
Though enjoying the additional time with his family and more time for research, hobbies and travel, he continues to work with and advocate for aging adults and the communities that support them in a new consultant role with Mennonite Health Services.
“This new role allows me to help faith-based health and human service organizations increase their capacity to thrive and grow,” says Lesher, “which is what I was most looking forward to.”
Beyond his successful career, Lesher is a husband, father of two, volunteer and active community member. He serves on the board of trustees at Messiah College and is president of the Brethren in Christ Historical Society.
Story by Erin Bray `10.