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Bethel College Administration Building
Photographer: Jon Harder
Source: Wikipedia Commons

Contents

[edit] 2013 Article

[edit] Introdution

Bethel College, located at North Newton, Kansas, is a Mennonite liberal arts college. Founded in 1887, it is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA (originally with the General Conference Mennonite Church). Bethel celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2012.

[edit] Early History

Bethel owes its origin to the desire of the Mennonites who emigrated from Russia, Prussia, and other areas of Europe to Kansas in 1874 and the years following to maintain and perpetuate their heritage. The preparation of their own teachers and church workers was considered a necessary prerequisite to the achievement of this end. The study of the English language was urged from the very beginning, both as a means of social intercourse with their American neighbors, and as a prerequisite for doing religious work among the English-speaking population. Within three years after the arrival of the first major immigrant groups in this country repeated calls were issued in Zur Heimat for a conference of schoolteachers, religious teachers, and elders to consider school matters. Such a meeting was held on 15 November 1877 in a rural schoolhouse in the Alexanderwohl community – near the present-day town of Goessel – about 10 miles (16 km) north of Newton, Kansas. This meeting adopted a set of resolutions the most important of which "recognized the necessity of establishing a Zentralschule in which capable young men . . . could acquire the necessary training for teachers."

The movement resulted in the establishment of the Emmatal school. This was conducted in a private schoolhouse in the Alexanderwohl community during 1882-1883 with H. H. Ewert as teacher, and under the control of the school committee of the Kansas Conference of Mennonites. Thirty students attended the school during the eight-month term. Its purpose was stated to be the preparation of candidates for rural schoolteachers' examinations. However, unsatisfactory housing conditions and a limited curriculum proved serious handicaps. It was evident from the very beginning that, unless more satisfactory facilities could be provided, the future held little promise for the school.

The school was transferred the following year to Halstead, Kansas, where the Halstead College Association, had erected a building which was placed at the disposal of the Kansas Conference rent free for a period of five years. The curriculum was expanded, an additional teacher, P. J. Galle, was employed, and school opened 20 September 1883. It was officially called "Mennonitische Fortbildungsschule"; its English designation was "The Mennonite Seminary." Seventy-two students attended the school the first year. Its main objectives were: the preparation of rural public school teachers, German parochial school teachers, and church workers. Regarding the third objective, special emphasis was placed upon the preparation of workers for the foreign mission field. As in the case of the Emmatal school, Halstead admitted only men students the first year (1883), but women were admitted tentatively early that same year and coeducation became the accepted practice.

The improved facilities attracted a larger attendance and soon proved inadequate, but expansion was impossible, primarily because of the lack of funds. It was then decided to incorporate the Halstead school under the name of Bethel College and to solicit a fund of $100,000. One half of this fund was to be used for endowment, the other half for the erection of suitable buildings.

While these matters were under consideration the city of Newton made a large offer of $100,000 ($15,000 in cash and land valued at $85,000) to the Kansas Conference if the school would be located at Newton. A special meeting of the conference, held at Halstead on 27 April 1887, was not ready to accept the Newton offer, but authorized David Goerz, Bernhard Warkentin, and John J. Krehbiel to form a private corporation which could incorporate, build, and control the proposed Bethel College in all details.

Such a corporation was quickly formed. A charter was drawn up, which was signed by 33 persons (all Mennonites except for three Newton boosters); and it was approved by the Secretary of State of Kansas on 23 May 1887. The corporation was called "The Bethel College of the Mennonite Church of North America at Newton, Harvey County, Kansas," and the governing body was defined as a board of nine members, three to be elected annually for a term of three years. Although the charter specified that only Mennonites could be members, three Newtonians, not Mennonites, served on the board for the first year. The sponsoring Mennonites were affiliated with the Kansas Conference and the larger body, the General Conference Mennonite Church denomination.

File:Bethel-memorial-hall.jpg
Memorial Hall
Photographer: Jon Harder

The new corporation gained permission to solicit funds within the Mennonite congregations, although the change from conference to corporation (i.e., private) control did not meet with universal approval; the doors were left open for the resumption of conference control. An aggressive financial campaign was undertaken, building operations for a Main Building were begun, the basement was completed, and the cornerstone laid on 12 October 1888. Because of insufficient funds, progress on the building was slow, so slow in fact, that the unfinished walls gained the derogatory nickname: "Monument of Mennonite Stupidity." The date of October 12 has become historic for special occasions, such as inaugurations of presidents and for building operations at Bethel College; the cornerstones of Science Hall, Memorial Hall, and the Library were laid on the corresponding dates of 1924, 1938, and 1948 respectively. The dedication of Krehbiel Science center took place 12 October 2002.

The Main building, at last ready for use, was dedicated on 19 September 1893, and school opened the next day. Five teachers were employed and the total enrollment for the year was 98. No courses of college rank were offered in the first year; in fact, much of the work was on the elementary level.

It had been planned originally to continue the Halstead Seminary as a preparatory school for Bethel College, but the new institution took over the teachers and much of the equipment of the Halstead school and the latter was closed permanently on 7 June 1893. The first curriculum of Bethel College consisted of a preparatory course, an academic course, and a prospective college course, each three years in length. There were no electives.

[edit] Expanding the Program

The new institution was beset with difficulties from the very beginning. The enlarged faculty and the expanded curriculum were inadequate. Library facilities were meager and laboratory facilities were entirely lacking. In the early years, much of the instruction was in German, but English rather quickly prevailed, except for classes of the German department. Abandonment of German was hastened by anti-German sentiments in Kansas during World War I.

Extracurricular activities were left entirely to student initiative. There was constant pressure from the student body for further expansion. The curriculum underwent repeated revisions in the effort to meet the needs of Mennonite youth and the Mennonite Church, and at the same time keep abreast of modern educational trends. The scope of the curriculum expanded to include applied arts and sciences and to allow for awarding the B.A. and B.S. degrees. The first college degrees were conferred in 1912 (previously the college offered only lower degrees). Bethel College has also occasionally conferred honorary degrees in recognition of distinguished service rendered.

In 1916 Bethel gained accreditation from the Kansas state board of education. In 1938 it received North Central Association accreditation (the first Mennonite college to achieve this).

The 1887 charter specified that being a Mennonite was required for membership in the college board of directors and the corporation. A charter change in 1961 took a broader perspective by allowing persons other than Mennonites to serve on the board and have corporation membership. Likewise, student attendance at Bethel was coeducational and open to persons of all religions and walks of life. From the earliest years Bethel attracted some students of color, including Native Americans (Philip Rabbit, a Cheyenne or Arapaho student, attended 1897-99); in the twentieth century African-Americans from Newton and elsewhere attended, and during World War II Bethel had a few Nisei students.

In spite of some concern from supporting church groups, Bethel early added extracurricular sports activities, such as intercollegiate football (1914), basketball (1914), and there were also a good many music and forensic programs.

Maintaining the Mennonite stance as a college, especially the traditional peace principle, has at times, come at a price. During times of war, the peace stance of the college generated considerable displeasure from the surrounding Kansas communities. In 1918, during World War I, the college had to abandon German instruction because zealous patriots demanded that Bethel drop all German classes and even abolish the department of German (reinstated after the war). There was renewed pressures during World War II and especially during the Vietnam War, when student anti-war activities were common.

College symbols and emblems include: the seven-pointed threshing stone (the official school symbol), school colors of maroon and gray, the college seal, the Bethel bell, and the Alma Mater song ("Maroon and Gray, Oh Fairest Colors"). Bethel’s athletic teams, formerly called the Graymaroons, are now called the Threshers.

Enrollment grew over the decades of the twentieth century, going beyond 800 in the 1980s, and then receded somewhat. Enrollment was 564 in 1990; 506 in 2000.

[edit] Mennonite Higher Education

As the oldest college of its denomination, Bethel pioneered in the area of Mennonite higher education. Not long after Bethel’s beginning, however, other Mennonite conferences established colleges, and all developed their own programs. Kansas was well supplied with three Mennonite-sponsored colleges, Bethel, Hesston, and Tabor. The original Bethel plan was to operate both a high school (academy) and a college level program. The high school level academy was discontinued in 1927; however, during World War II, Bethel briefly revived it with the name Mennonite Bible Academy.

The goal of Bethel is to be a Christian college, based in the liberal arts, and distinctly Mennonite. Over time Bethel, in addition to the traditional liberal arts, added programs in nursing, teacher education, business, social work and other applied areas, all in conjunction with a broad liberal arts foundation. In line with its religious heritage, Bethel also provided programs in peace studies, environmental studies, and overseas development. In cooperative ventures, Bethel was one of the founding members of the Associated Colleges of Central Kansas (ACCK), a consortium of six church-related colleges in the area; it began in 1966.

Bethel’s Mission Statement (1994) declares: "By tradition and by choice, Bethel College continues to base its mission on its Anabaptist and academic identity." Four central values prevail: the ethics of discipleship, scholarship, service, and integrity.

Bethel, along with its typical undergraduate programs, sponsors the campus-based Mennonite Library and Archives and the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution. The college radio station is KBCU (streamed online world wide at http://www.bethelks.edu/kbcu/). The Kauffman Museum, featuring Mennonite history, natural history, and prairie studies, is located adjacent to the campus. It operates with an independent board and receives college support.

[edit] College Publications

Since its beginning the college has published annual or biannual catalogs. Other official publications were the School and College Journal (1896-1903), Bethel College Monthly (1903-1935), Bethel College Bulletin (1935-2002), and Context (starting in 2002). Mennonite Life, an illustrated quarterly of scholarly and popular interest, began in 1946; today it is an online annual journal. Student publications include the campus newspapers Bethel Breeze (1918-1921) and Bethel Collegian (1921 to the present). Echoes was the original name of the yearbook; the yearbook name was changed to the Graymaroon (1915-1959) and changed again to Thresher (1960). There have been two substantial histories of Bethel, The Story of Bethel College (1954) by P. J. Wedel and Bethel College of Kansas 1887-2012 (2012) by Keith Sprunger.

[edit] Campus and Buildings

The heart of the campus is the Main (Administration) Building of 1887-1893, designed by architects Willis T. Proudfoot and George Washington Bird in the Richardsonian Romanesque style; it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Several major buildings surround a circular "Green." These include the old Science Hall (1925), by architect Lorentz Schmidt, now redesigned into the James A. Will Family Academic Center; Memorial Hall (1942); Haury Hall dormitory (1958); the Fine Arts Center (1965), by architect John Shaver; the Schultz Student Center (1979); Mantz Library (1952; enlarged in 1986), and Krehbiel Science Center (2002), the latter by architect Gregory Friesen. The Collegiate Gothic style prevailed until the 1950s. Additional college buildings beyond the Green include Goerz House, Leisy Home, Goering Hall, Warkentin Court, Thresher Gymnasium, Voth Hall, and the Sports Complex (Joe W. Goering football stadium and Herbert R. Schmidt track).

[edit] Kansas College

Bethel College grew up in the settlement days of Kansas, adjacent to the city of Newton. Originally, Bethel was located just northward of the boundaries of the city; the college received considerable support and was recognized as "our college" by Newtonians. In 1938 residents of the college area formed the city of North Newton. A large part of Bethel students are Kansans (74% in 2910); Mennonites of the Great Plains area provide a great part of its support. Increasingly the college has related its program and ethos to the environment of the vast trans-Mississippi plains area. This location offers special opportunities to address issues of sustainability, climate change, and use of natural resources.

[edit] Bibliography

Bethel College. "Bethel College at a Glance ." 2006. Accessed 28 December 2006 <http://www.bethelks.edu/admissions/fact.php>

Bethel College Bulletin (1935-2002).

Bethel College Monthly (1903-1935).

Context (2002-present).

Erster Jahresbericht des Direktoriums der projectierten Bethel College der Mennonitengemeinschaft von Nord Amerika zu Newton, Kansas (1887-88): 3, 6, 15-31, 54.

Erster Katalog von Bethel College zu Newton, Kansas (1893-94): 3.

First Annual Report of the Board of Directors of Bethel College (1887-88): 6-7, 10-15.

Gesamt-Protokolle . . . westlichen Distrikt-Konferenz, 1877-1900. Newton, 1910: 5, 59, 169.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 211.

Katalog der Mennonitischen Fortbildungsschule (1892-93): 2.

Monatsblätter aus Bethel College (1903-1917).

Peters, H. P. History and Development of Education Among the Mennonites in Kansas. Hillsboro, KS:, 1925.

School and College Journal (1896-1902).

Sprunger, Keith L. Bethel College of Kansas 1887-2013. North Newton, KS: Bethel College, 2013

Wedel, Peter J. The Story of Bethel College. North Newton, KS: Bethel College, 1954.

Zur Heimat (15 August 1877), (15 October 1877).

[edit] Additional Information

Address: 300 East 27th Street, North Newton, KS 67117

Telephone: 316-283-2500

Website: Bethel College website

Cornelius H. Wedel, 1st College President

Presidents of Bethel College

PresidentYears
Cornelius H. Wedel 1893-1910
Jacob H. Langenwalter 1910-1911
John W. Kliewer 1911-1920
John Ellsworth Hartzler 1920-1921
Jacob H. Langenwalter 1921-1924
Administrative Committee 1924-1925
John W. Kliewer 1925-1932
Edmund G. Kaufman 1932-1952
David C. Wedel 1952-1959
J. Winfield Fretz (interim) 1959-1960
Vernon Neufeld 1960-1966
Orville E. Voth 1967-1971
Harold J. Schultz 1971-1991
John E. Zehr 1991-1995
Douglas A. Penner 1995-2002
E. LaVerne Epp 2002-2005
John K. Sheriff (interim) 2005-2006
Barry C. Bartel 2006-2009
John K. Sheriff (interim) 2009-2010
Perry D. White  2010-present 

[edit] Original Article from Mennonite Encyclopedia

Copied by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 304-307. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.

Bethel College Post Card

Bethel College, affiliated with Mennonite Church USA (formerly the General Conference Mennonite Church), is an institution of higher learning located at North Newton, Harvey County, Kansas. It owes its origin to the desire of the Mennonites who emigrated from Russia to Kansas in 1874 and the years following to maintain and perpetuate their special heritage. The preparation of their own teachers and church workers was considered a necessary prerequisite to the achievement of this end. The study of the English language was urged from the very beginning, both as a means of social intercourse with their American neighbors, and as a prerequisite for doing religious work among the English-speaking population. Within three years after the arrival of the first major immigrant groups in this country repeated calls were issued in Zur Heimat for a conference of schoolteachers, religious teachers, and elders to consider school matters. Such a meeting was held on 15 November 1877 in a rural schoolhouse in the Alexanderwohl community about 10 miles (16 km) north of Newton, Kansas. This meeting adopted a set of resolutions the most important of which "recognized the necessity of establishing a Zentralschule in which capable young men . . . could acquire the necessary training for teachers."

The movement resulted in the establishment of the Emmetal school. This was conducted in a private schoolhouse in the Alexanderwohl community during 1882-1883 with H. H. Ewert as teacher, under the control of the school committee of the Kansas Mennonite Conference. Thirty students attended the school during the eight-month term. Its purpose was stated to be the preparation of candidates for rural schoolteachers' examinations. However, unsatisfactory housing conditions and a limited curriculum proved serious handicaps. It was evident from the very beginning that, unless more satisfactory facilities could be provided, the future held little promise for the school.

The school was transferred the following year to Halstead, Kansas, where a group of brethren, the Halstead College Association, had erected a building which was placed at the disposal of the Kansas Conference rent free for a period of five years. The curriculum was expanded, an additional teacher, P. J. Galle, was employed, and school was opened 20 September 1883. It was officially called "Mennonitische Fortbildungsschule"; its English designation was "The Mennonite Seminary." Seventy-two students attended the school the first year. Its main objectives were: the preparation of rural public school teachers, German parochial school teachers, and church workers. Regarding the third objective, special emphasis was placed upon the preparation of workers for the foreign mission field. As in the case of the Emmetal school, only men students were admitted the first year, but girls were admitted tentatively early in the year and coeducation soon became the accepted practice.

The improved facilities attracted a larger attendance and soon proved inadequate, but expansion was impossible, primarily because of the lack of funds. It was then decided to incorporate the Halstead school under the name of Bethel College and to solicit a fund of $100,000. One half of this fund was to be used for endowment, the other half for the erection of suitable buildings.

But while these matters were under consideration the city of Newton made an offer of $15,000 in cash and land valued at $85,000 to the Kansas Mennonite Conference if the school would be located at Newton. A special meeting of the conference, held at Halstead on 27 April 1887 was not ready to accept the Newton offer, but authorized David Goerz, Bernhard Warkentin, and John J. Krehbiel to form a private corporation which could incorporate, build, and control the proposed Bethel College in all details.

Administration Building or "Main Hall" at Bethel College, ca. 1894
Source: Mennonite Church USA Archives - North Newton Photo Collection 2005-0100

Such a corporation was quickly formed. A charter was drawn up which was signed by 33 persons, and approved by the Secretary of State of the State of Kansas on 23 May 1887. The corporation was called "The Bethel College of the Mennonite Church of North America at Newton, Harvey County, Kansas," and the governing body was defined as a board of nine members, three to be elected annually for a term of three years.

The most important change in the charter to 1953 was the increase in the membership of the board of directors to 13, seven of whom were elected by the corporation from nominations made by the Western District Conference and the Pacific District Conference. The bylaws contained specific details pertaining to the board of directors, the faculty, students, curriculum, memberships in the corporation, and relations of the corporation to Mennonite conferences.

The new corporation was given permission to solicit funds within the Mennonite congregations, although the change from conference to corporation (i.e., private) control did not meet with universal approval and the doors were left open for the resumption of conference control. An aggressive financial campaign was undertaken, building operations were begun, the basement was completed, and the cornerstone laid on 12 October 1888. This date has become historic in building operations at Bethel College, and the cornerstones of Science Hall, Memorial Hall, and the new library were laid on the corresponding dates of 1924, 1938, and 1948 respectively. The new building was dedicated on 19 September 1893, and school opened the next day. Five teachers were employed and the total enrollment for the year was 98. No courses of college rank were offered; in fact, much of the work was on the elementary level.

It had been planned originally to continue the Halstead Seminary as a preparatory school for Bethel College, but the new institution took over the teachers and much of the equipment of the Halstead school and the latter was closed permanently on 7 June 1893. The first curriculum of Bethel College consisted of a preparatory course, an academic course, and a prospective college course, each of three years in length. There were no electives.

The new institution was beset with difficulties from the very beginning. The enlarged faculty and the expanded curriculum soon proved inadequate. Library facilities were meager and laboratory facilities were entirely lacking. Extracurricular activities were left entirely to student initiative. There was constant pressure from the student body for further expansion. The curriculum underwent repeated revisions in the effort to meet the needs of both Mennonite youth and the Mennonite Church, and at the same time keep abreast of modern educational trends. The scope of the curriculum was expanded to include applied arts and sciences. Curricula then offered led to the B.A., the B.S., and the Th.B. degrees. The first college degrees were conferred in 1912. Bethel College also conferred honorary degrees in recognition of distinguished service rendered.

The library in 1953 contained more than 30,000 volumes, and received more than 200 magazines regularly. A new library building was completed in 1952. Alumni Hall, erected by the alumni of Bethel College in 1913, housed the Kauffman Museum, which contained a large and valuable collection of articles covering a wide field and arranged under three major divisions, historical, natural history, and art. Science Hall, erected in 1924-25, provided modern facilities for instruction in the natural sciences. Memorial Hall, dedicated in 1942, provided the facilities for indoor physical training. The kitchen and dining facilities were also located in this building for many years. Its auditorium had a seating capacity of approximately 3,000. The Franz General Shop, erected in 1947, housed the facilities for industrial arts and general shopwork.

Student industries were introduced in 1936. These assisted many students in acquiring a college education. Scholarships, assistantships, and loan funds provide additional student aid.

Approximately 20 student organizations and activities in the 1950s provided a wide range of extracurricular opportunities to Bethel College students. In the religious field were the Student Christian Association, Student Volunteers for Christian Service, Student Ministers' Fellowship, and the Student Peace Group. Debate, oratory, and dramatics were open to those interested in speech. International Relations Club, Biology Seminar, Cheminar, and other departmental clubs were supported by many students. Both intramural and intercollegiate athletics were stressed. Among the most widely known college organizations was its a cappella choir, The Mennonite Singers. The Collegian and the Graymaroon were the two student publications. The Memorial Hall Series provided high-class music and lecture numbers not only for the students but also for the constituency within several hours' driving distance from Newton.

The Mennonite Historical Library, established in 1936, was an important center of research for students of Mennonite history. It contained over 7,000 catalogued volumes in 1950, some of them rare and extremely valuable, and a large collection of Mennonite periodicals, reports, yearbooks, diaries, letters, photographs, etc. Constant additions were made to the collections.

The College published since its beginning annual catalogs, reports, the School and College Journal (1898-1902), Bethel College Monthly (1903-1934), Mennonite Life (1946- ), the Collegian, and a number of books mostly printed in the Bethel College Press, which was reorganized in 1949 and known as the Mennonite Press owned and operated by the College and the General Conference Mennonite Church.

There was a fairly steady, though somewhat irregular growth in attendance until 1949, since then a decline. The total attendance to 1949 exceeded 6,700. Of this number, approximately 2,000 served as public or parochial school teachers and in colleges and universities over wide areas. More than 300 entered the ministry and the mission field and more than 125 served as physicians and nurses. The number entering other specialized fields of service in church, state, or nation exceeded 150. The maximum enrollment up to 1953 was reached in 1938-40, when it totaled 525 (in 2006/07 enrollment was 539). The faculty increased from 5 full-time to more than 40 full- and part-time instructors (65 in 2006/07). The academic status of the faculty rose steadily and now ranks high among denominational colleges. In 1916 Bethel College was fully accredited by the Kansas State Board of Public Instruction and in 1938 it was admitted to membership in the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. The College is also a member of the Kansas Council of Church Colleges, the National Conference of Church-Related Colleges, the Association of American Colleges, and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

The most difficult problem that has confronted Bethel College during the years has been the finances. But here, too, a gradual change for the better has taken place, especially in mid-20th century. At the opening of Bethel College in 1893, its endowment fund approximated $60,000, its plant value was $43,000, and the net worth of the institution was $103,000 (Sechster Jahresbericht des Bethel-College-Direktoriums, 1892-93). In 1952 the endowment fund had reached nearly $654,000, the plant value $870,000, and the net worth exceeded $1,577,000. Bethel has no indebtedness at that time.

A revised statement of the aims and purposes of Bethel College was adopted by the faculty and the Board of Directors in 1936, and in 1942 the college adopted the "Statement of Faith of the Mennonite Church of North America," which the General Conference had adopted in 1941, as its own. These were published in the annual catalog.

In accordance with these aims Bethel College sought first and foremost to serve the constituency in its most immediate needs, particularly in teaching, the ministry, and the mission field. But Bethel College also aimed to foster a love of learning and a spirit of inquiry that would lead to further development of native talents and abilities, and thus enable the individual to serve the larger community and in more specialized fields. Bethel College graduates took up graduate work in increasing numbers and found their way more and more into highly specialized fields, the different professions, social service, government service, and research. -- P. J. Wedel, 1955


Author(s) Keith Sprunger
Date Published September 2013


[edit] Cite This Article

MLA style

Sprunger, Keith. "Bethel College (North Newton, Kansas, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. September 2013. Web. 21 Apr 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Bethel_College_(North_Newton,_Kansas,_USA)&oldid=115898.

APA style

Sprunger, Keith. (September 2013). Bethel College (North Newton, Kansas, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 April 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Bethel_College_(North_Newton,_Kansas,_USA)&oldid=115898.




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