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Board authorizes $11.8 million capital campaign at spring meetings

April 12th, 2018

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Authorization of an $11.8 million capital campaign for Bethel College highlighted the annual spring meeting of the college’s Board of Directors, held on campus April 5-7. The meeting was the first for newly appointed president Jon Gering, who assumed office Jan. 29.

Approval of the three-year effort to fund a new activity and wellness center, information technology upgrades, academic program initiatives and annual giving was based on an exhaustive feasibility study by long-time Bethel fundraising consultant James Dodson. Dodson was originally asked to assess a $10 million campaign, but came back with the $11.8 million recommendation based on “the high level of gift indications; the excitement and enthusiasm for the new president; [and] the success of previous campaigns.” Solicitation of major gifts will be the first step, to be followed by the development of a more public phase of giving.

Board sessions kicked off with a special “Jubilee” dinner April 5 recognizing 50 years of service to Bethel by John Sheriff. Former students, colleagues and friends offered tributes to Sheriff as faculty member, academic dean and three-time interim president of the college. Approximately 200 people attended the dinner in Memorial Hall, which was sponsored by contributions from board members.

In general sessions April 6-7, President Gering outlined his plans for a strategic consideration of the college’s future.  Using an illustration from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Gering noted that the college can no longer afford to keep doing “the Red Queen’s race” – that is, running ever faster, like the character in the story, just to stay in the same place. “We have to change the race,” Gering said, “and there is urgency about that.”

In other financial actions, the board also approved a budget for fiscal year 2018-19, based on a 2.98 percent increase in tuition, and including a 2 percent cost-of-living salary increase for faculty and staff.

In personnel actions, the board approved promotion and tenure recommendations for four faculty members.  Soyoun Chun, assistant professor of music, was promoted to associate professor; associate professors Siobhán Scarry (English) and Yanxu Liu (business and economics) were granted tenure; and Assistant Professor of History Kip Wedel was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor.

Additionally, the board voted to continue working with Mennonite Church USA and the Mennonite Education Agency to develop a mutually acceptable “Statement of Arrangement” between the church and the college. Acknowledging the efforts already made by the joint Higher Education Future Church/School Relations Committee, and the board’s own Higher Education-Church Committee, chair Brett Birky affirmed the board’s ongoing commitment to the process. “Bethel’s relationship to the Mennonite church was foundational 130 years ago, and remains so today,” he said.  “We want to be sure we take the time to get it right.”

The board’s next scheduled meeting will be Oct. 4-5, immediately preceding Bethel’s annual Fall Festival and the formal inauguration ceremony of President Jon Gering.

Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Kansas private college listed in the analysis of top colleges and universities, the Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section and the National Liberal Arts College category of U.S. News & World Report, all for 2017-18. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.