2008 Lifetime Service Award
Dr. Dennis '50 and Dorothy (Salzman '50) Epp
Retired physician, active volunteers
The Lifetime Service Award is Bluffton University's highest honor and is granted to a former graduate who has dedicated his or her life to serving people, community or the church.
Not everyone would retire early from a successful medical practice in rural South Dakota to spend his time providing care in third-world countries, but that's just what Dr. Dennis Epp did. With the blessing of his wife, Dorothy, of course, who was involved in many community organizations. Together, the Epps continue to prove that age—both are 80—really is a state of mind and that volunteerism is a lifestyle choice.
After 35 years of practicing family medicine, Dennis retired at age 62, but he didn't leave medicine. Instead, he opted to help people thousands of miles away. The couple's three-month stint in Belize became the first of many service trips that they would make to help others in need.
Working volunteer assignments with nongovernmental and Catholic organizations, the Epps spent three to six months at a time in locations such as South Africa, Central America, Brazil, Jamaica, St. Lucia and American-Indian reservations in the Dakotas. Dennis administered medical services at clinics while Dorothy tutored individuals in English and worked in the clinics' pharmacies.
While they travel less these days, the Epps have spent the past few winters in Pharr, Texas, where once a week, they traveled across the border to provide medical services in a free clinic in Progresso, Mexico. They also spent two winters in Carlsbad, N.M., working with Mennonite Mission Network's SOOP program—Service Opportunities for Older People.
The Epps continue to volunteer their time and resources in Freeman at the Bethany Mennonite Church food pantry and the community arboretum, planting shrubbery and trees and doing stone-masonry work on the amphitheatre. Dennis also spends time improving and maintaining the local campgrounds.
Dennis and Dorothy spend their spring and fall months in Freeman, and their summer months in Lake County, S.D. They have four grown sons and eight grandchildren.