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Bethel’s oldest living president celebrates 99 years

Bethel College, the oldest Mennonite college still operating in North America, has another distinction: eight of its 13 presidents are still living.

The oldest, D.C. Wedel, has now completed almost a century of life, turning 99 on March 16. David C. Wedel was the pastor of First Mennonite Church in Halstead (he served the church from 1936-1946) when then Bethel president Edmund G. Kaufman invited him to come to the college to serve as acting dean while the current dean took a sabbatical. Following that, Wedel went to Denver to get his doctorate in Christian education from Iliff School of Theology. He wrote his dissertation on “The contribution of C.H. Wedel to Mennonite education.” C.H. Wedel, no relation, was Bethel’s first president.

In 1952, D.C. Wedel succeeded E.G. Kaufman, becoming Bethel’s sixth president. He served until 1959. Every president after Wedel is still living as well — Vernon Neufeld (1960-66), Orville Voth (1967-71), Harold Schultz (1971-91), John Zehr (1991-95), Doug Penner (1995-2002), E. LaVerne Epp (2002-05) and Barry Bartel (2006- ).

Bartel and several other Bethel staff and administrators went to Bethesda Mennonite Home in Goessel with cake and ice cream to celebrate with Wedel a few days early. Wedel is a Goessel native, but until recently was still living on his own in North Newton, where his neighbors still remember his regular walks and his beautiful gardens.

Three alumni to be honored in May

The Bethel College Alumni Association will honor two alumni and the Bethel Deaconess Hospital/Bethel College Nursing Alumni Association (BDH/BCNAA) will honor an alumna at the annual Alumni Banquet on May 19.

Cynthia (Alexander) Doyle Perkins ’77, Indianapolis, will receive the Outstanding Alumnus Award. She is being honored for outstanding work and leadership in the field of education and in sports administration. Perkins graduated from Bethel with a degree in health, physical education and recreation.

Roy D. Unruh ’57 of Cedar Falls, Iowa, and Hesston, will receive the Distinguished Achievement Award. He is being recognized for exemplary work in science and mathematics education, particularly in physics education. Unruh graduated from Bethel with a major in natural science and a minor in education.

BDH/BCNAA will honor Lynn Unruh ’73, Orlando, Fla. She will receive the Outstanding Nursing Alumnus Award for exceptional work in that field. Unruh received a diploma and license in nursing from the Bethel Deaconess Hospital nursing program.

Bethel hosts national teleconference

Bethel College was one of six locations in south central and eastern Kansas to host a national satellite teleconference, held in Krehbiel Auditorium on March 22. The Wichita-based Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice planned the 14th annual Hospice Foundation of America event. The topic was “Living with Grief: Before and After the Death.”

Nine Bethel alumni participated: Lauren (Gillis) Baldwin ’05, McPherson; Joan (Goering) Brubacher ’70, North Newton; Larry Friesen 67, Newton; Marilyn (Gunther) Koehn ’01, Newton; Rosemary Reimer ’78, Newton; Christy Schunn-Sebes ’92, North Newton; Carol (Graham) Stucky ’94, Moundridge; Martha Unruh Szambecki ’82, Newton; and Debra Voth ’77, Hesston.

Voth was part of the local panel for the teleconference. Friesen is professor of social work at Bethel. This is the fifth year that Bethel has participated in the teleconference.

National symphony players teach students at Bethel

When the National Symphony Orchestra from Washington, D.C., was in the Wichita area in late March, two of its musicians offered master classes to students at Bethel College.

Matthew Guilford, trombonist, and Ed Carbarga, bass clarinetist, were on campus March 26. They worked with students from Bethel and from Hesston High School, including Ben Harder, Bethel freshman from Hesston on trombone; Joel Linscheid, Bethel junior from North Newton on alto saxophone; and individual students and a saxophone quartet from Hesston High School.

Museum to offer two events in April

Kauffman Museum will host a Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum presentation at 3:30 p.m. on April 1. Von Hardesty, curator in the Aeronautics Division of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C., will present “A Bogus Artifact at the Smithsonian.” The “Milestones” gallery of the National Air and Space Museum features the Wright Flyer, Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, John Glenn’s Freedom 7, Apollo 11 and one replica--the Sputnik artificial satellite. Hardesty will look back at the story of the “real” Sputnik, which was launched 50 years ago this year on October 4.

On Sunday, April 22, museum personnel will host an Earth Day Adventure Walk from 2-4 p.m. Participants are to meet at the Sand Creek trailhead, located near Memorial Grove at the northeast corner of the Bethel campus. The walk will include activities and a scavenger hunt along Sand Creek Trail (only on the east side of K-15). Dress for the weather. All ages are welcome.

Both of the events are free and open to the public.

Alumni banquet and class reunions to be held in May

All alumni and friends of Bethel are invited to the Alumni Banquet at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, in Memorial Hall. The annual event honors this spring’s reunion classes, graduating class and alumni award recipients. Music will be by the popular student men’s vocal ensemble, Open Road.

Cost is $16.00 per person. The deadline to make reservations is Wednesday, May 9. Visit or phone Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center at (316) 284-5205. Payment or credit card information is required when the reservation is made. Those attending receive a personalized nametag at the door, which serves as their ticket. Cancellations will be accepted through Friday, May 11.

The following reunion classes are invited to special meals and coffees on Alumni Weekend, Friday and Saturday, May 18-19: 1932, 1937, 1942, 1947, 1952, 1957, 1962 and 1967. Class members who have not received an invitation should contact the alumni office, (316) 284-5251, alumni@bethelks.edu.

Alumni fun in London 2008

Alumni and friends of Bethel are invited to enjoy a 10-day trip to London in June 2008. The tour will be hosted by John Sheriff, executive vice president for institutional development and Ernest E. Leisy professor of English. During his years teaching English at Bethel, John led 10 Interterm trips to London. Dave Linscheid, director of alumni relations, will also help host the group.

Date of departure will be Saturday, June 7, with the return trip on Monday, June 16. Cost for air fare, lodging, breakfast and selected events is yet to be determined. Up to 40 travelers may participate on a first-come, first-served basis.

To indicate your interest in participating and receive more information in the future, contact Office of Alumni Relations, (316) 284-5251, alumni@bethelks.edu.

If you never had a chance to go to London while at Bethel, or want to go again, plan now to join the alumni fun in 2008!