Bethel College (Kansas)
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Memorial Hall, 2007
|Motto||Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (I Cor. 3:11)|
|Type||Private Liberal Arts|
|President||Perry D. White |
|Location||North Newton, Kansas,
United States 
|Campus||90 acres (36 ha)|
Founded in 1887 and conferring its first four-year degrees in 1912, Bethel is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Starting in 1874, thousands of Russian Mennonites began arriving in Kansas. In 1882, having a century of experience running their own schools, they opened Emmental, a training school for teachers, north of Newton, Kansas. The school was moved to Halstead, Kansas, in 1883. A better site was found in North Newton, Kansas, and the cornerstone of the main building was laid on October 12, 1888. This structure, the current Administration Building, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Administration Building has been on the Historic Register since March 16, 1972.
The Halstead school was closed for the 1892–1893 school year while it was relocated to the new site and reopened as Bethel College in 1893. Bethel College became the second institution of higher learning associated with the General Conference Mennonite Church (now known as the Mennonite Church USA), replacing Wadsworth Institute which had closed in 1878.
During the 1880s, Kansas cities and towns competed with one another to create, build, and construct many institutions and buildings including colleges. On May 11, 1887, representatives of the Newton community and the Kansas Conference of Mennonites signed a charter for Bethel College to be built on a plot of about 120 acres (0.49 km2). Over a year later on October 12, 1888, around 2,500 people gathered on the property to lay the cornerstone of what is today the Administration Building of Bethel College. The building project took around five years to fully complete. The fund-raising to create the institution was slow, but on September 20, 1893 there was a service of dedication held for the building to be opened, and classes began.
First college president
Cornelius H. Wedel, a young teacher, was made Bethel College's first president. There were 98 students – 77 men and 21 women ages 13 to mid-30s – living on the west end of the main floor and the ground floor of the Administration Building. Wedel and his family lived on the east end of the Administration Building's main floor. The classrooms, chapel, and library of 600 volumes were located on the second floor. In those days, the students were up by five in the morning and in bed by ten at night. Each student worked two hours a day at a campus job. Student conduct was strictly monitored. Men and women were not allowed to be in the library during the same evenings; they alternated each evening. Five men, including the president, made up the first faculty. They taught classes in the Bible, church history, German, English, mathematics, science, and music. Bethel College was a bilingual college until early 1918, when the U.S. entered World War I. German was removed from the curriculum, although it would later return. As of the 2011–2012 school year, two years of German are offered.
Bethel College Administration Building
Bethel College Administration Building
|Location||Bethel College campus, North Newton, Kansas|
|Area||1.5 acres (0.61 ha)|
|NRHP Reference #||72000505|
|Added to NRHP||March 16, 1972|
The Administration Building was the main campus structure until 1925 when the Science Hall was completed. The cornerstone for Memorial Hall was laid in 1938, and the building was completed in 1942. The Art Center is another building that has been present for many years. In 1952 the Mennonite Library and Archives was built. In 1979, the current student center/cafeteria was built. The newest building is the Thresher Stadium in the Thresher Sports Complex. Another newly constructed academic building is the Krehbiel Science Center, completed in 2002.
There are three student residence halls located on campus. They are Haury Hall (completed in 1958 and expanded in 1963), Warkentin Court (completed in 1966), and the newer Voth Hall (completed in 2000).
The Luyken Fine Arts Center includes the Krehbiel Auditorium and Prairie Sky Stage for stage performances, lectures and events; the Robert W. Regier Art Gallery which hosts exhibits by local, regional, national and international artists, including Bethel alumni, in all types of media; and houses the music, drama and communication arts departments.
Organization and administration
The college president is Perry D. White.
Bethel’s curriculum is founded on a general education program in the liberal arts and sciences and is geared toward students of moderate to high academic ability. Distinctive elements include requirements in the study of religion and a cross-cultural experience. The college offers majors in the traditional liberal arts disciplines and selected career areas and accredited professional programs in nursing, social work, and teacher education.
Bethel College teams are nicknamed as the Threshers. The college is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and competes in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC). Men's sports include basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, tennis and track & field; while women's sports include basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field and volleyball.
In the 2006–07 season, three of Bethel's coaches were named conference Coach of the Year. The Threshers have won more than 55 conference titles. During 1998–99 alone, six of the ten Thresher teams won conference championships. At Bethel College the athletes also compete academically; 89 student athletes have been named American Scholar Athletes.
Notable alumni and faculty
- Jacob Ewert, Mennonite socialist, pacifist, and publisher, taught at both Bethel College and Tabor College
- Owen Gingerich – grew up around campus as father taught at Bethel. Former Research Professor of Astronomy and of the History of Science at Harvard University, and a senior astronomer emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.
- Daniel Hege, music director of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.
- Gordon Kaufman (B.A., 1947), theologian, professor, Harvard Divinity School
- Joseph Kesselring, writer and playwright.
- Susan Loepp, mathematician
- Waldo Rudolph Wedel, archaeologist and a central figure in the study of the prehistory of the Great Plains.
- Administration; Bethel College.
- Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) details for Bethel College; United States Geological Survey (USGS); October 13, 1978.
- The cornerstone was laid by Andrew B. Shelly (1834–1913), then president of the General Conference Mennonite Church. (Kaufman, p. 73.)
- Administration Building page of the Bethel College website.
- "Bethel College German Language". Bethel College. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
- Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- History of Bethel College
- Official Bethel Website
- Athletics of Bethel College
- Kaufman, Edmund G. (1973), General Conference Mennonite Pioneers, Bethel College, North Newton, Kansas.
- Pannabecker, Samuel Floyd (1975), Open Doors: A History of the General Conference Mennonite Church, Faith and Life Press. ISBN 0-87303-636-0
- Official website
- Official athletics website
- Bethel College in Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online
- City Town Info on Bethel College