May 17th, 2022
William Eash, D.M.A., drew his inspiration from topics familiar to those who know him – birds, stars, shoulders – when he spoke at the 129th commencement May 15 in Memorial Hall.
Before the speaker and awarding of degrees to 81 seniors, Robert Milliman, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, presented the Ralph P. Schrag Distinguished Teaching Award to Peter Goerzen, assistant professor of Bible and religion.
Eash, retiring professor of music spoke on “Of Birds, Stars and Shoulders.”
He was inspired, he said, by conducting John Rutter’s arrangement of “For the Beauty of the Earth” earlier this spring, and by the Bethel College seal with its words from I Corinthians, including faith, hope and charity (love).
Eash said he learns about faith by watching birds, such as the migrating goldfinches that come to his backyard feeder.
Goldfinches live in large groups, and “remind me of the joy of our Bethel College community, the pride of well-delivered presentations or concerts, the success of athletic teams, and support and encouragement when things don’t go as planned.”
He continued, “I learn about hope from observing and wondering about stars. I usually get up at 4:30 a.m., make coffee and head outside.
“Life is a continuum. Remember the past people who saw the same stars in the heavens: the founders of Bethel College; the Kaw and the Wichita [peoples]; the very earliest people on earth. There is hope in this continuity of life.”
Eash said, “I learn about love by being in community – I stand on the shoulders of my teachers, colleagues past and present, family and many more.
“Build your own community. Let others stand on your shoulders. Work so all can flourish and grow.”
He concluded, “May you find your own birds, stars and shoulders. May your lives be hymns of praise. Thank you for being part of my journey, part of my joyful hymn of praise. Congratulations, and alleluia.”
Earlier in the day, three graduating seniors told “stories of hope and resilience,” the theme of the baccalaureate worship service: Jadin Kaltenbach, Wichita, Antonino Mangiapane, Solingen, Germany, and Landon Barnes, Ashland City, Tenn.
Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel ranks at #15 in the Washington Monthly list of “Best Bachelor’s Colleges” and #31 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest, both for 2021-22. Bethel was the only Kansas college or university selected for the American Association of College & Universities’ 2021 Institute on Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation, and has been named a TRHT Campus Center. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu