Fifty years ago, Bethel had just inaugurated its seventh president (Vernon Neufeld ’49), students, faculty and staff were trying to decide between Nixon and Kennedy for president of the country, and Herman Bubbert first appeared on campus.
Herman Bubbert is a fictitious perennial Bethel student, now known primarily for the campus pranks attributed to him and for giving his name to the college’s annual student film festival, the “Bubbert Awards.”
Herman’s first documented appearance on the Bethel campus seems to have been sometime in 1960. It was part of the “pooka phenomenon,” according to the Diggers Oral History Group, a 1970s Bethel student organization. The pooka phenomenon originated in old Celtic mythology and involves a fictitious character that -- according to a paper the Diggers wrote in 1975 -- is a “wise but mischievous creature” that “appears here and there, now and then.”
“Herman Bubbert” derived from a Herman Goering who lived in Moundridge. At that time, because so many families in Moundridge shared last names, many were given distinguishing nicknames. This particular Goering family’s was “Bubber,” which somehow became “Bubbert.” However, few Bethel students knew who Goering was or made the connection between the two.
Though the specifics of Herman Bubbert’s emergence are unclear, Monte Zerger, a 1966 Bethel graduate and mathematics major, is thought to have had a major hand in Herman’s creation.
“Monte was responsible for everything,” says Arnold Wedel, professor emeritus of mathematics.
“Monte, in the early ’60s, started talking about Herman Bubbert -- it might have even been going on before I knew about it.”
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Richard Rempel recalls that Herman began to be known the year Rempel came to Bethel as a student.