Stanley and Betty Kennedy Menking, class of 1954, have the distinction of being one of the first married couples to sing in the Centenary College Choir. The couple was engaged when they enrolled at Centenary College in 1952 upon their completion at Lon Morris Junior College in Jacksonville, Texas. “The choir is the main reason we decided to attend Centenary. I auditioned for the choir with Director Cheesy Voran, and I told him, well I am engaged to this lovely woman who is a soprano and wants to come to Centenary too. Cheesy was able to work it out so that Betty was able to sing in the choir too,” Stanley explained. The couple was married on June 3, 1953, honeymooning in Chicago at a Rotary convention where they performed with the Centenary Choir. “We didn’t ask permission,” Stanley noted with a smile in his voice. “Tenors were hard to find, so I didn’t think they’d kick us out for being married.”
Their time with the Centenary College Choir and Cheesy Voran made a significant impact on both of their lives. “During winter break we would always tour through Texas and Louisiana, singing at churches. Local families hosted us while we were performing. Those trips impacted my life in two ways,” Stanley laughs. “First, I stopped drinking coffee. When you went to South Louisiana and were given a cup of coffee, you discovered it was South Louisiana coffee! I haven’t drunk coffee since. The second thing is that Betty and I stayed with a family who had a daughter named Bonner. We liked the name; so, when our first child was born, we named her Bonner.”
Stanley went on to note the impact Cheesy Voran had on his life. “Cheesy Voran was a great showman. He knew how to put on a great concert. One thing we learned from Cheesy, which we have used our whole lives, is the importance of showing gratitude. He required us to write thank-you notes to any families who hosted us or anyone who donated money to the choir. It was a marvelous experience for us all.”
During his senior year at Centenary, Stanley was appointed to serve two churches in Pelican, Louisiana. “Cheesy was such a wonderful man,” Betty noted. “He loaned us a trailer to move our things when we were moving to Pelican. He was always willing to help anyone. He could be demanding musically; we couldn’t be sloppy,” she added with a laugh.
After his appointment in Pelican, Stanley continued his education at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. He went on to become a pastor and founded Respond, Inc, a ministry in Camden, New Jersey, which is still active. Years later he and Betty both returned to Drew University where Stanley was the associate dean in the seminary and Betty handled facilities for the university. The couple retired to Poconos, Pennsylvania in 1997 where they can remain close to their three children and all their grandchildren. They are highly active in their church and community. Stanley is currently serving as a Democratic committee chairperson.
The Menkings have been loyal supporters of the Centenary College Choir for decades. Stanley explains, “The choir was a significant life experience for us. We were able to attend Centenary because other people provided support for students who were in the choir. When we were able to start making donations, we knew that we wanted to make it possible for other students to be able to be in the choir and get an education at Centenary. We wanted to honor what had been made possible for us.”