Bethel’s seventh president, Vernon H. Neufeld, died July 18 in Bakersfield, Calif., after a brief illness.
He was born April 11, 1920, in Shafter, Calif., one of six children of Nicolai and Justina Neufeld, and raised on the Neufeld family farm west of Shafter. He graduated from Wasco Union High School in 1939 and married Ruth I. Neumann Nov. 17, 1940.
After working the farm for a few years, Neufeld decided to pursue a college education. He and his family moved to North Newton in 1946, where Neufeld studied at Bethel, graduating in 1949 with a bachelor of arts in music. They returned to the Shafter farm for a year before moving to Chicago in 1950, where Neufeld attended Mennonite Biblical Seminary, earning a divinity degree in 1954.
Before he completed his divinity degree, Neufeld moved the family to Donnellson, Iowa, where he served as pastor of Zion Mennonite Church, commuting to his seminary classes in Chicago. In 1955, the family moved to New Jersey, where Neufeld earned masters and doctoral degrees at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1957 and 1960, respectively.
In 1959, Neufeld was hired as faculty in the Bethel College Department of Bible and Religion and the family moved back to North Newton. After one year of teaching, Neufeld accepted the position of president of Bethel College, serving from 1960-67.