While studying mechanical engineering at Purdue, De La Salle Collegiate alumnus Steve Veryzer, Class of 1998, took a year off to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. That experience led him to join the Peace Corps after graduation; he spent 2003-2006 in Tanzania, in eastern Africa.
Today, Steve is still in Tanzania, and is married and the father of three; he serves as the Area Director for the Maryknoll Lay Missioners in Tanzania, Kenya, and South Sudan.
DLS Influences Future Path
Steve attended the Grosse Pointe Public Schools before heading to De La Salle.
“My uncle Harry was DLS Class of ‘61,” Steve said. “But my dad’s family had moved to the Mt. Clemens area, and so he did not get to attend DLS. My dad really wanted me at De La Salle.”
Steve’s younger brother, Daniel, graduated from DLS in 2013.
Steve’s path to the other side of the world began with his De La Salle education.
“More than I realized, the De La Salle focus on social justice and service was very strong,” he said. “I took that with me to Purdue.”
He was also part of a mission trip to Nicaragua, through the college’s Newman Center.
After the Peace Corps, Steve earned a graduate degree in management through the School for International Training in Vermont.
But the lure of Tanzania drew him back.
He met his wife, Loyce, in 2004, while they were teaching at neighboring schools in Mwanza, in northwestern Tanzania on the shores of Lake Victoria.
“Mwanza is called ‘Rock City’ for the beautiful granite formations dotting the area, and Lake Victoria is one of the ‘Great Lakes’ of Africa,” Steve said.
His children - Abigail, Justin, and Claire - attend the local international school, taking classes in English, and following a British curriculum.
Steve and his family return to Michigan every two to three years.
“I was so curious about the rest of the world, and had limited experiences,” he said. “My kids enjoy the opportunity to spend time with family and friends, and do lots of activities.”
While visiting his Michigan family this summer, Steve’s son Justin attended the DLS soccer camp.
Joining Maryknoll Lay Missioners
Steve has worked for various nonprofit organizations (NGOs) over the years, and was recruited in 2018 by the Maryknoll Lay Missioners. His primary focus is education - he teaches part-time, but he also helps new missioners and supports them with transitions into and out of their missions.
“I had thought of pursuing the priesthood as I entered the Peace Corps, but later stumbled on the lay missions option,” Steve said. “The Maryknolls are one of the few mission organizations that accepts families. A lot of the programs are short-term. We can take people with different skill sets and backgrounds. We have a missioner in his 80s and others in their early 20s. Contracts are for three years.”
Steve finds his role very rewarding. “For me, seeing former students go on to serve the community in different ways and develop as a teacher, is a transformative experience.”
Tanzanian Sign Language
During COVID, with time on his hands, Steve began learning Tanzanian sign language, and teaches mathematics classes to deaf students at a boys’ technical school in Mwanza.
“The Tanzanian sign language is based on Swahili. Very few teachers in the country know sign language,” Steve said.
His goal is for the deaf students to be appreciated as differently abled in the community and to live lives of dignity. He’s also looking to collaborate with the limited number of math and science teachers to develop and share technical vocabulary for Tanzanian Sign Language.
“America is a great place to live. I haven’t found work that is as rewarding or satisfying. This is a way to live your faith.”
Photo: Dan Veryser '13 (at far left) and Steve Veryser '98 (second from right).