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Sarah Unruh ’12

At 100, Wedel bridges Bethel history

by Melanie Zuercher

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – At age 100 (as of March 16, 2008), D.C. Wedel is a living bridge of Bethel College history.

When family members and a group of Bethel staff and administrators gathered recently at Bethesda Home in Goessel, where Wedel lives, to celebrate his century mark, he reminisced that he had “shaken the hand of every Bethel president but the first one” (Cornelius H. Wedel, no relation). D.C. Wedel served as Bethel’s sixth president, from 1952-59.

He also recalled being among those who carried the bricks that the mason used to build the walls of Science Hall (now called Old Science Hall). Completed in 1925, it is the second oldest building on campus after the original structure, the Administration Building. The historic Old Science Hall is now the center of a capital campaign that will renovate it into an Academic Center with a three-story addition to the east to house the Department of Nursing.

Wedel, originally from Goessel, was a student at the Bethel Academy in the mid-1920s and graduated from Bethel College in 1933. “There’s no way of estimating the influence Bethel College has had on the Mennonite church,” Wedel said.

Wedel’s daughters, Eleanor Heckendorn of Sun City, Ariz., and Judith Arthur of Russell, were on hand to eat cake and ice cream with him as were Bethel’s 13th and current president, Barry C. Bartel, members of the administrative cabinet and the staff of the advancement and development offices.

Even at 100, Wedel has lost neither his interest in life nor his sense of humor. “The reason I’m still alive,” he remarked, “is because God is afraid of me asking too many questions.”

As he thanked his guests for remembering his birthday, he said, “I treasure interaction with people who come from the college and who challenge me. There are things one can still learn and understand even at 100.”

Founded in 1887, Bethel College, a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA, is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel will be celebrating the 125th anniversary of its founding in 2012.

From left, D.C. Wedel’s daughters Judith Arthur and Eleanor Heckendorn; Wedel; Sondra Koontz, Bethel College vice president for advancement; Barry Bartel, Bethel College president (photo by Lori Livengood).