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It is the comprehensive Bethel education both inside and outside of the classroom that will have a lasting and profound impact on my future
Josh Chittum ’09

What can you do with a degree from Bethel College?

Here’s just a sampling of what some of our alumni are doing:

Nasa Scientist

G. John DickG. John Dick grew up in eastern Montana, majored in math and physics at Bethel and got a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California-Berkeley. From 1986 until he retired in 2008, John worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Among John’s NASA projects: technology for the Deep Space Network, which communicates with and enables space science experiments – for example, with the Cassini mission that brought back photos of the rings of Saturn; developing a cryogenic clock that uses synthetic sapphire as the resonating element; and working with the Low Temperature Microgravity Physics Facility, being built to take experiments to the International Space Station.

John is well-known in the field of frequency standards (clocks) for predicting a noise process that has been named the Dick Effect and is now recognized as a primary performance limitation for state-of-the-art frequency standards.

It’s important, John says, to have the vision of ourselves as a human race that is probing the frontiers, both physical and scientific.

Broadway Star

With Bethel’s main drama professor and voice instructor at the time as her parents, it’s no wonder Rachel de Benedet (née Rachel Kasper) considered the Krehbiel Auditorium stage her playground and was singing as soon as she could talk.

After majoring in fine arts at Bethel, Rachel made her Broadway debut in 1998 as the third nun from the left in The Sound of Music. She later played Baroness Schraeder in the national touring production opposite Richard Chamberlain’s Captain Von Trapp.

Among Rachel’s music theater credits on Broadway: Nine, with Antonio Banderas, Chita Rivera and Jane Krakowski, which won a Tony for Best Revival of a Musical; The Addams Family with Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth; Muriel in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, with both John Lithgow and Jonathan Pryce; and Paula Abagnale, a role she created and for which she was nominated for a Fred Astaire Award, in Catch Me If You Can.

Off-Broadway roles Rachel has created include Lureena in Adrift in Macao (which garnered her a Barrymore Award for Best Actress in the original Philadelphia Theatre Company production) and Lily in Tommy Tune’s Turn of the Century (2012), opposite Jeff Daniels at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre.

Being in a Broadway show is amazing and exciting and something to strive for, but it doesn’t make you a different person, Rachel says. You’re still you, you’re just you in a Broadway show.

Symphony Conductor

After learning discipline, consistency and a work ethic growing up outside Denver and later on a farm in Aberdeen, Idaho – where he made his first profound discoveries about music – Daniel Hege brought a passion for music to Bethel, the place he learned to channel that passion.

Dan credits his parents with encouraging his many interests, ranging from music to sports to academics, and Bethel faculty for allowing him to keep exploring – which led to his conducting epiphany one day when he was asked to direct a choir rehearsal.

Dan’s first orchestral post came after he won a prestigious competition, following graduate school: Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Young Musicians’ Foundation Debut Orchestra in Los Angeles.

He went on to associate and resident conductor positions with the Kansas City Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony, respectively. In 1999, Dan became Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. In 2010, he assumed the same positions with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.

Bethel had great musical training for me, Dan says, and also allowed me to be involved in many things, including earning a history major. It led me to a window where I was able to look out and see what was possible.


Rick McNaryA self-described late bloomer, Rick McNary started college at age 29, after working as a carpenter and then being called to pastor a Disciples of Christ congregation.

A hungry little girl in Nicaragua, whom Rick met on a mission trip, changed the course of his life. From that moment on, he knew he wanted to feed as many hungry people as he could and get as many people in the United States as possible to help.

So Rick founded Numana Inc. in November 2009 – which turned out to be almost exactly two months before Haiti suffered a massive earthquake Jan. 11, 2010. The Salvation Army dropped the first packaged high-protein meals, put together by Numana volunteers working in the El Dorado (Kan.) Civic Center, later that month.

Now, Numana staff travel across the country to organize thousands of volunteers who have packaged tens of millions of meals for starving people around the world.

Numana is not me, Rick says, but it’s God working through me.

International Business Leader

As a teenager, Toshihiro Fukudome dreamed of leaving rural Japan to study in the United States. He wanted to perfect his English and pursue a career as a professor or a politician.

His English teacher, a graduate of Freeman (S.D.) Junior College and Bethel, connected Hiro to both institutions. At Bethel, Hiro’s admiration for his professor J. Lloyd Spaulding led him to earn a degree in economics and business as his early dreams of academia and politics gave way to international business.

Hiro’s first job out of college was with Sanrio, associated with Hallmark Cards and perhaps best known for its Hello Kitty brand. After completing an MBA, Hiro held management positions with the Japanese subsidiaries of Polaroid, Tupperware and Mattel Toys and finally became president of ACCO Brands-Japan, an office products and supply company.

Hiro’s immersion in Japanese and American culture and his extensive global experience have helped him relate effectively to people of diverse backgrounds. He sums up his amazing professional experience by saying: I prefer challenges to the status quo.

Pro Football CFO

Jeff GoeringHis own sport may have been basketball, but Jeff Goering has made a career out of financial management for the 2012 Super Bowl® champion Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League.

He is now the team’s vice president and chief financial officer, overseeing all functions of the Ravens finance department, including financial reporting and budgeting processes, and serving as the chief financial liaison with the club’s audit/tax advisors and various stadium partners.

He joined the club in 1999, starting out as controller before being promoted to senior director of finance and finally CFO.

After finishing his undergraduate studies in business administration and accounting, Jeff was an audit senior at Ernst & Young, Kansas City, Mo., during which time he earned his CPA certificate. He then went to the University of Massachusetts for his master’s degree in sport management, working as a consultant in the evaluation and preparation of Boston Red Sox salary arbitration cases and as a graduate assistant for the UMass Athletic Department business office.

Before joining the Ravens, Jeff was a senior consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers, Dallas, for two years, working with a number of sports organizations to prepare financial feasibility studies, market assessments and economic impact analyses for proposed new or expanded facilities.

I could have been an accountant anywhere, Jeff says, but I wanted to take my passion for sports and figure out how to connect that to accounting.

Hasbro Engineer

Steve UnruhSteve Unruh has found a way to infuse his life with music.

He majored in music performance with education certification as an undergraduate, then earned a degree in electrical engineering at the University of Kansas. He was a public school music director for three years and now has completed a decade with the Hasbro Toy Group.

As a senior electronic engineer, Steve has worked with many of Hasbro’s best-known toys, including Star Wars®, GI Joe®, Transformer® and Playskool® items.

I’ve engineered electronics for a large number of products over the past 10 years, Steve says. I think I’ve designed more than 100 products that made it into production.

Nor has he given up making music – literally, as he builds electric violins for fun. In addition, he’s part of Resistor, a progressive rock band for which he plays flute, guitar and violin in addition to singing.

He has credits on 22 albums (eight of them solo; four with Resistor). One reviewer calls Steve sickeningly talented, adding, He is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist in all of these genres [jazz, folk, progressive rock] as well being a great songwriter, engineer and producer … the epitome of a solo musician.

Critical Care Transport CEO

Suzanne WedelNo surprise: after majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry, Suzanne Wedel went on to study medicine at the University of Kansas, complete a critical care fellowship at the University of Maryland and eventually take a full-time faculty position in surgical critical care at Boston Medical Center.

However, Suzanne also completed a second major, peace studies. I had diverse interests and at Bethel I was encouraged to keep my options open, she says. She was accepted into a graduate program at the University of Colorado-Boulder, in political science focused on international relations and peace research, but ultimately chose medicine.

She is now CEO of Boston Med-Flight, a critical care transport service (helicopter, jet and ground) for patients in New England, supported largely by the six major teaching hospitals in the Boston area.

As it turns out, Suzanne says, I’m in a very political arena, very competitive in some parts of the country. One thing I learned at Bethel – you always invite everyone to the party. From all our game theory discussions, I learned how to get everybody [into a position] where they can all win.

At Bethel, everyone can succeed and be recognized in something. At a larger institution, you’re not always able to do that. I developed the skills I needed to succeed.

Global Women’s Advocate

Palwasha KakarPalwasha Kakar was born in Seattle to medical-student parents – father from Afghanistan, mother from south-central Kansas. She chose her maternal grandmother’s alma mater and did her undergraduate work in global studies, and Bible and religion.

Since 2010, Palwasha has been on the staff of the Asia Foundation, where she is currently director of women’s empowerment and development programs, based in Kabul.

Palwasha earned a master’s degree from Harvard University in gender, religion and politics. She’s now considered an expert in managing programs in an Afghan context – for which she calls on skills learned through the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR) at Bethel and in which she focuses particular energy on environment, education and social justice issues that affect women.

Her experience includes managing a small grants program under the auspices of the United Nations in Afghanistan’s civil society initiatives and serving as program manager in charge of establishing the Gender Studies Institute at Kabul University.

Afghan society is very interesting, says Palwasha (who is fluent in Arabic, Dari and Pashtu). The war, almost three decades long, has caused many traditional societies to come apart – and resulted in opportunities to include and incorporate women’s rights.

International Entrepreneur

Po Shin ChangHis friendship with a Mennonite mission worker helped Po Shin Chang achieve the dream of many ambitious young people in Taiwan in the 1950s – a U.S. college education. After completing his business major, he went on to earn an M.A. in economics at the University of Tennessee, where he also did post-graduate work.

When family obligations called him back to Taiwan, Chang brought his experience working with ENESCO Corp. in Chicago, an importer/distributor of housewares, giftware and tableware from Japan, Hong Kong and Europe. ENESCO was in at the beginning of the Precious Moments® collectibles phenomenon while Chang still worked with the company.

At home, Chang started his own import/export firm. I returned to Taiwan at the right time [mid-’60s], when the economy was just taking off, he says.

He founded two more companies that operated in investment, construction and importing luxury cars and high-end European fashion apparel and leisure-wear for wholesale and distribution in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao and all over China.

He also went into the family business – banking. His father retired as chairman of the board of Chang Hua Bank in 1972, the same year Chang became an executive member. He assumed the chair from 2000 until retirement in 2007, during which time he restructured and re-engineered an institution more than 100 years old into a bank for the 21st century.