What is a Thresher?
The official mascot of Bethel College, the Thresher is named after the threshing stone, a wheat harvesting device used by the early Russian Mennonite settlers who brought winter wheat to the Kansas plains in 1874, just a few years before Bethel College was founded. Pulled by horses, the threshing stone was used to separate the head of a stalk of grain from the straw, and then further separate the kernel from the rest of the head. The threshing stone preceded industrial threshing machinery, including the modern combine.
As a reminder of the college’s beginnings, Bethel has incorporated the threshing stone into its legacy symbol, which represents the threshing process in motion. Ken Hiebert, designer of the symbol and creator of Bethel’s current graphic identity program, says this of the threshing stone:
As the stone is usually presented it has a rather forlorn look, unmoving, its yoke lying disconnected from the source of its motion. Its essential meaning, however, is dynamic — historically as a symbol of the agricultural transformation of the plains — but more transcendently or timelessly, as a metaphor for the separation of the grain (valuable inner) from the hull (outer). As such it also has to do with the spirit of discernment. In this sense, the threshing stone is a humble reminder and symbol of the sorting process that is education, here given a connection to the whole teaching and learning enterprise, and more relevant than ever in a world of information overload. Threshers are thus not just playing volleyball or running the relay; they are scientists, musicians, poets, nurses, social workers — in short, persons of any discipline — each bringing a powerful value system to bear on their professional development. … The threshing stone honors our legacy and reminds us of the key qualities that shape leadership — moral, spiritual and professional.
A threshing stone sits in front of the historic Administration Building on Bethel’s campus, and several examples can be viewed at Kauffman Museum, an affiliate of the college. Today – as a reminder of the college’s rich history – Bethel students, alumni, friends, faculty and staff are known as Threshers.