June 29th, 2021
Jon C. Gering, Ph.D., has been appointed to a second term, this one for five years, as Bethel College president.
Gering began serving in the role Jan. 29, 2018. He was appointed in a unanimous vote effective July 1, 2021.
Gering is a 1994 Bethel honors graduate in biology, with master’s and doctoral degrees from Miami University of Ohio, and spent 17 years as a faculty member in the Department of Biology and as an administrator at Truman State University, Kirksville, Mo., before assuming the Bethel presidency.
“The board enthusiastically renewed President Gering’s contract for five years – a direct result of the confidence we have and value we place in his leadership,” said Lori Schmidt-Harrison, Santa Barbara, Calif., vice chair of the Bethel Board of Directors.
“He has met every challenge during these unprecedented times in higher education with thoughtfulness, tenacity and an eye to the future. The Bethel College community is significantly stronger because of it.
“President Gering has an important, strategic vision for Bethel College,” she continued. “The board looks forward to working with him in continuing to take the college we love to new heights of financial strength and mission-centric relevance as we serve students.”
In his first three years, Gering has a long list of accomplishments to his credit.
Under his leadership, the college is operating with a balanced budget. It is nearing completion of a capital campaign, Engage the Future, which launched in the fall of 2018, just months after Gering took office, and was Bethel’s first broad-scale capital campaign in seven years.
The college is already seeing evidence of the campaign’s success: two of the highest years of annual fund giving in Bethel history; completion of a new softball clubhouse; and major gifts to academic programs and the Wellness Center (a campaign centerpiece).
Gering has overseen the development and approval of new mission, vision and values statements for Bethel. He is currently spearheading a new strategic planning process.
Rewriting the college’s mission, vision and values brings increased relevance to Mennonite higher education and helps “make good on higher education’s social contract with society,” Gering said.
He added that this has led to renewed interest in Bethel by prospective students and the broader Newton and Wichita communities, as seen in sustained growth in the student population in the three years since Gering took office.
Reasons for increases in student numbers include more sophisticated uses of technology, excellent coaches and faculty, and the addition and approval of new programs, both academic (most recently, Software Development) and athletic (e.g., women’s flag football).
Gering is also engaged in the local community through serving on the board of Harvey County Economic Development.
Bethel now has Offices of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Career and Leadership Development, the latter staffed by Megan Kershner, who was recently named one of 21 Wichita-area “Women Who Lead in Education.”
The ODEI’s first director helped secure Bethel’s place as the only Kansas college to have a team participate in the 2021 Institute on Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Centers, under the auspices of the American Association of Colleges and Universities.
The college also added a Human Resources Office, which streamlined hiring practice, and developed a comprehensive Compliance and Ethics Program – unusual for colleges of Bethel’s size – that the board then adopted.
Gering faced a major challenge a year into his first term when the Higher Learning Commission, in its routine every-10-years accreditation process, flagged a handful of issues concerning budget and assessment, and put the college “On Notice.”
Perhaps Gering’s most remarkable accomplishment has been to manage the process of returning Bethel to full accreditation (no longer “On Notice”) in the midst of COVID-19 while navigating the road of keeping students learning, faculty teaching and programs progressing.
“It is accurate to say that the college is on solid financial footing, and enjoying a better enrollment trend, following unanticipated challenges related to accreditation and the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Gering said. “The college has experienced steady growth in the endowment and enrollment.”
He continued, “I am grateful for the support of the Board of Directors and the Bethel College community. I am looking forward to the next five years at Bethel.”
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 #14 in the Washington Monthly list of “Best Bachelor’s Colleges” and #26 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest, and earned its third-straight NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star Gold Award, based on student service and academic achievement, all for 2020-21; is Zippia.com’s highest ranked Kansas small college with the highest earning graduates; has the #10 RN-to-BSN program in Kansas according to RNtoBSN.com; and is #57 among 829 U.S. colleges and universities named by lendEDU.com as “Best for Financial Aid,” as well as #23 “Safest College Towns in the U.S.,” ranked by lendEDU.com for 2020-21. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu