Remembering Thane Chastain
We’ve created a Thane Chastain Memorial Fund.
Learn more and contribute.
The Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) mourns the heartbreaking loss of a transformative staff member. Thane Chastain, director of virtual learning and engagement and a dynamic force for leadership and innovation, died unexpectedly in his sleep at home in Wichita on Saturday, February 25, one month before his tenth anniversary with KLC. He was 62 years old.
“Whether they’d met him or not, Thane’s work touched the lives of thousands, in Kansas, across the country, and around the globe,” said Julia Fabris McBride, interim president and CEO and chief leadership development officer of the Kansas Leadership Center. “He encouraged everyone on the KLC team to aim high with the quality of our media and technology. His creativity and expertise expanded the reach of our curriculum beyond anything we could have dreamed of without him.
“Thane led with love and embodied the KLC leadership framework in everything he did. Though wrenched from us without warning, he leaves an indelible stamp on our organization. Thane’s singular combination of skill, energy and spirit is impossible to replace. We will miss him profoundly and cherish his memory.”
Work at KLC
First hired to administer faith-based leadership initiatives in 2013, Thane quickly demonstrated a remarkable flair for audio visual technology. To harness his unique abilities, a new position—director of creative technology—was created for him. Wielding that title, and subsequently as director of virtual learning and engagement, Thane went on to play a pioneering role in the delivery of Kansas Leadership Center courses, exponentially increasing the reach and transforming the impact of the organization.
He managed presentation and participation technology to provide high quality interactive learning experiences for programs at KLC headquarters. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Thane quickly developed virtual experiences on Zoom and streaming platforms that combined participatory elements of in-person experience with the unique reach of distance learning. Anticipating the needs of a growing organization, he built and trained a technology team to support both in-person and virtual programs, at times scheduled nearly round the clock and spanning four continents.
In addition to these contributions, he administered KLC’s online bookstore as well as Your Leadership Edge.com, a self-paced, online training course based on the book of that name. Thane was also an adroit teacher, facilitator and long-time host of the alumni discussion series, On the Balcony.
Contribution to organizational culture
Inspiring as these professional achievements may be, Thane’s contributions to KLC culture were no less abundant or abiding. He was a pillar of the “Social Club,” helping to organize and the first to arrive at social hours following monthly all-staff meetings. On Friday afternoons at 4:30 PM, he introduced the tradition of “4:30 (W)Rap,” taking requests and blasting a hip-hop, R&B or other classic pop tune to cap the week and send-off colleagues for the weekend. At the annual in-house Halloween parade for KLC kiddos, Thane rivalled College Hill lawn displays with his wizard’s cloak and hat, workstation decorations and teeming candy jars. And at Thanksgiving staff potluck luncheons, Uncle Thane’s Potatoes (a Mennonite Community Cookbook recipe for funeral potatoes) were both fixture and favorite.
Perceiving a link between the anxiety of adopting new technology and the experimental mindset required to exercise leadership on adaptive challenges, he trained staff, teachers and coaches to embrace new technologies for the sake of learning outcomes, recognizing their efforts with the presentation of “A/V Award” trophies at monthly all-staff meetings. Seizing on the notion of “teachable moments” that inform the KLC curriculum, he kept a call bell at his desk, ringing it regularly to mark instances of collective discernment – an institutional milestone, a mike drop moment of group learning, even a witty comment or riposte.
Thane’s bell has fallen silent; no one yet has the heart to ring it for him.
Civic participation and life outside of KLC
As a man who exercised leadership in many aspects of life, it comes as no surprise that he took on important civic roles in his community. A self-avowed “PK” or son of a United Methodist pastor, he ran audio visual ministry for Calvary United Methodist Church, working alongside his brother Shawn, music coordinator for Calvary UMC. He served for many years as a volunteer and consultant for the Tallgrass Film Festival, most recently as Education and Outreach Manager. He was a long-serving volunteer with American Legion Jersey Boys State, most recently as Dean of Special Projects. Finally, he was a devoted son, brother, uncle and dog owner. You could set your watch by Thane’s noon-time trips home each day to visit his beloved Jackson.
Prior to his work at KLC, Thane enjoyed a varied and respected career, working by turns in youth ministry, sales, radio, television, and at the college and university level in teaching and administration. A proud son of Pratt, Kansas, he soon displayed his leadership gifts at school in speech class and forensic competitions. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in history and communication from Bethel College and a Master of Arts in mass communication from Wichita State University.
Thane was preceded in death by his father, Reverend Phillip E. Chastain. He is survived by his mother, E. Jane Chastain, brother and sister-in-law, Shawn and Debbie Chastain and their children Lindsey, Eric, and Elsie. Read Thane’s obituary.
Visitation will be from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, March 3, at the Cozine Life Events Center, 11500 E. 21th St. N., and a Celebration of Life Service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 4th, at Wichita First United Methodist Church, 330 North Broadway. The church will livestream Saturday’s service on Facebook and YouTube. Thane’s graveside service will be at noon, Monday March 13th, at White Chapel Gardens (1806 N. Oliver).
Thane’s Tallgrass family paid tribute here.
Contribute to the Thane Chastain Memorial Fund
At the request of the family of our beloved Thane Chastain, we have created a memorial fund. If you would give a gift in honor of Thane’s legacy, we and his family would be honored. Funds will be used to support the mission of the Kansas Leadership Center in a way that is reflective of who Thane was and that carries his memory forward. To donate, go here to give online, or mail a check to the Thane Chastain Memorial Fund, 325 E. Douglas Ave. Wichita, KS 67202. Thank you for honoring our friend and colleague in this way.
Memories from our staff
|I wouldn’t be at KLC without Thane. From the very first face I saw when I walked in the building, to interviewing and hiring me, to being the most extraordinary boss and supervisor I could ask for. He had a wealth of information to deposit, and we didn’t have nearly enough time. Thane was my advocate, my mentor, my confidant, my friend. He taught me so much in the short few months we had together, and fought for my success and joy every day. The way he loved others unconditionally and unapologetically embodied his faith in a God who loves the same. He believed in and championed people, and his optimism seemed to have no limit – I pray this is his legacy that we continue.|
|– Neha Batawala, Program Technology Associate|
|What a gift it was to have a colleague and friend in Thane! He had a knack for making people feel included and a sense of belonging. Some of my favorite memories with Thane took place in recent months as we were working through buddy coaching hours for KLC’s Coach Intensive. He was dreaming big and exercising leadership until the very last days.|
|– Maren Berblinger, Journal Engagement Manager|
|– Brianna Griffin, Program Associate|
|I was lucky enough to know and work with Thane for 10 short months, which is just enough time to understand how big a loss it will be that I don’t get to work with him for the next 10 years. Thane always seemed to help us see our work with a sense of humor and curiosity, I’m going to miss that energy.|
|– Chris Harris, Senior Director of Growth & Strategy|
|– Tyrena Judie, Director of Finance|
|My favorite memory is Thane’s bell and all the times he would ring it when all of our quad members were present at our desks in the staff area and how it caused such a stir (and competition) for other quads to have their members present at their desks so they could ring a bell too.|
|– Ashley Longstaff, Program Manager|
Thane was my first friend at KLC. Not a coworker, but a friend. On my first day, he flipped a customary IT-tech-initiation into a warm conversation about ourselves. I was instantly comfortable in his presence. At my first KLC happy hour, I was quiet — self-conscious and shy from being the new girl — when Thane sat next to me. Immediately, I felt soothed by his company. He shared many stories from his past with me, including highlights from his radio broadcast days at Bethel College, his alma mater. Before I left, he thanked me for coming… even though I felt like I just sat there awkwardly smiling at others. He still thanked me. He made me feel seen. Notable. Looked after.
My relationship with Thane was only a few weeks old but it took mere minutes to be fond of him. He was bright, warm and thoughtful. I’m so sad he’s gone. I’m so grateful to have known him. May he rest in peace.
|– Stefania Lugli, Civic Engagement Reporter|
What I will remember most about Thane was how he loved and cared for people so well. I first met Thane almost 10 years ago when he joined the KLC team. We quickly became close through a peer coaching group that spanned several years, challenging and supporting one another through work and personal situations and cheering each other on. I was always struck at how Thane seemingly always had the perfect question to help dig deeper, and he could challenge and push back in such a powerful yet caring way.
I then married into a family that had been the beneficiary of Thane’s mentorship and love for more than three decades. The stories he could tell (but didn’t :blush:)! Over the years, we celebrated graduations, birthdays, weddings, and new babies, and we navigated death and grief together, too. Getting to work alongside Thane every day was just icing on the cake. When my husband and I asked Thane to be a reader at our wedding, and gave him the freedom to choose what he would read, he chose 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8; yet another reminder to us to love each other and love well.
|– Jamie Moeder, Chief of Staff|
|Thane was just “good people.” He went out of his way to make me feel welcomed during my early days at KLC. He checked in and seemingly provided me with “cliff notes” to all the KLC insights. I soon came to realize that he wasn’t just doing that for me. He did it for everyone, every day. He was “good people” and he was good TO people!|
|– Kaye Monk-Morgan, Chief Impact Officer & Teacher|
|Thane often posted quotes about mindfulness and inner-peace on his Facebook stories. I have a screenshot of a post of his from May 21, 2021 – a Ram Dass quote that reads: “We are sitting under the tree of our thinking minds, wondering why we’re not getting any sunshine!” Thane understood that while thinking is great tool, it only gets us so far – and then comes the raw experience of life that isn’t filtered through our concepts and judgements, but through all of our capacities to take in the world. Thane emanated that spacious curiosity and full presence. He knew how to sit in the sun.|
|– Lucy Petroucheva, Civic Engagement Manager|
I just loved his heart and how big of a giver he was- it every aspect of the word. He was always the first to donate to a baby/wedding/going away joint gift and was very generous. He always said yes when I asked him for help planning/setting up for anything… room sets, retirement parties, social hours, Thomas’s race etc. I just knew I could always count on his help.
He was 100% invested in everyone on staff- newer and more tenured. He wanted to know everyone and make them feel like they belonged and helped to make the culture of KLC a family. I have many funny memories, but I feel like the overall thing I want to remember is his spunky, giving, loving, “ring-the-bell” personality and spirit.
|– Shannon Pope, Event/Operations Manager|
|Thane was one of the nicest, gentlest, and calmest individuals I’ve ever known. His smile and his laugh lit up a room, and his presence always made you feel welcome and supported. He offered help genuinely, and I so appreciated his willingness to take an idea and do everything he could to make it a reality. Thane was the reason my oldest son attended Boys State. His passion for the program was contagious, and when Louden attended, I told him to make sure to introduce himself because I knew Thane would make him welcome. And of course, he did just that. His loss leaves a gaping hole that will be difficult to fill, but I hope those who loved him will ensure his spirit lives on by loving and supporting each other and in laughing more together.|
|– Teresa Schwab, Coach|
|Being new to the KLC family, you’d think I wasn’t blessed enough to be touched by the force Thane was…but it’s most definitely the opposite. Feeling like a bother to him almost every day, he made sure I understood his servant leadership, and reassured me constantly that I could always come to him. Thane modeled what it means to be placed here on Earth to make an impact to others, and not just for ourselves. I’m blessed to have gotten a brief, yet treasured experience with him and my prayers extend to his family, as well as those most touched by his spirit.|
|– Camille Scott, Program Associate|