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Commencement speaker will tell students to choose values well

April 30th, 2018

Francisca Mendez-Harclerode

Bethel College will celebrate the Class of 2018 with baccalaureate and commencement Sunday, May 20, at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on campus.

At Bethel College, Francisca Méndez-Harclerode is probably best known for two things – how hard she works, and her seemingly bottomless bowl of “yum-yums” (chocolate on offer to students and anyone else). 

As chosen by the senior class, Méndez-Harclerode, associate professor of biology, is the 2018 commencement speaker at Bethel. The baccalaureate service and commencement ceremony take place May 20 on campus.

That work ethic is at the heart of her speech, which she titled, “Guard your heart: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Those who don’t recognize the reference to Luke 6 and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount will probably know its place in the seventh book of the Harry Potter series, Méndez-Harclerode says.

“At Bethel, we want our students to be successful, but they [also] need to be happy, to value happiness.

“What I want to tell the students is, the world will ask for your soul. And when you spend time on a costly endeavor, it starts to become your identity. You tell yourself, ‘It’s worth it – it has to be, since I’m giving so much.’

“That doesn’t mean you don’t pursue it, but that you [need to] go into it knowing who you are and why you want this. Wherever you spend your time and energy is where you’ll start to invest your love. Be choosy about what you value.”

Sometimes, she says, telling herself “I’m doing this because I love God” is the only thing that can motivate her to press forward.

Her hope for students: “Whether you believe in God or something else, place your identity in something more lasting than what others think of you.”

Méndez-Harclerode began teaching at Bethel College in 2008. Before that, she was a research scientist and an instructor of research at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Méndez-Harclerode, a native of Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, Mexico, graduated with honors and a B.S. in biology, with psychology and chemistry minors, from East Texas Baptist University, Marshall.

She earned an M.S. in biology from Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, and a Ph.D. in biology from Texas Tech University, Lubbock, where her dissertation was on population genetics of the Southern Plains woodrat.

Her research interests are population genetics, molecular biology, the relationship of pathogenic agents with their hosts, and mammalian systematics. She continues to participate in two projects that involve studying population genetics, of the Southern Plains woodrat (south Texas) and the white-throated woodrat (Arizona).

Méndez-Harclerode has been instrumental in establishing Bethel’s growing collaboration with Universidad de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas (UNICACH, the University of Sciences and Arts, Chiapas, Mexico). She spent her recent sabbatical developing the January interterm course Biological and Cultural Richness of Mexico, and led the first group of Bethel students in the course, which included meeting and working with UNICACH faculty and students, this past January.

Méndez-Harclerode has received numerous honors and awards, including, at Bethel, the Bethel College Women’s Association Annual Lecture Award in 2010, and the John O. and Esther F. Schrag Helping Hand Award (from a nomination by a student or students) and the Ralph P. Schrag Distinguished Teaching Award, both in 2012.

Méndez-Harclerode and her husband, Jerry Harclerode, a software developer, live in Newton.

The 2018 Bethel graduation ceremonies begin with the baccalaureate service May 20 at 10 a.m. in Bethel College Mennonite Church. The formal commencement starts just before 4 p.m. with the traditional Walk Around the Green.

Commencement takes place in Thresher Stadium, or in Memorial Hall in case of inclement weather.

Both baccalaureate and commencement are open to the public.

Baccalaureate pre-service music features members of the Class of 2018. Other music, during the service, is by the Bethel College Concert Choir.

This year’s baccalaureate theme is: “Grow. Go. Give.”

Reflections will be offered by graduating seniors Roderick Williams, Dallas, Kiley Varney, Newton, Jerome Puletapuai, Anchorage, Alaska, and Kimberly Carbonell, Wichita.

The service will conclude with the traditional blessing for and candlelighting by seniors.

Members of the baccalaureate planning committee are graduating seniors Da’Ron Gillis, Balch Spring, Texas, Jeni Reichenberger, Wichita, Austin Regier, Newton (senior class representative), Jalen Sykes, Bakersfield, California, Autumn Walton, Belleville, and Bethel campus pastor Peter Goerzen.

The commencement program begins at 4 p.m. with music by the Epic Brass Quintet.

Goerzen will give the invocation and JDaijon Sumpter, graduating senior from Bonsall, California, will offer the benediction. There will also be a presentation of the Ralph P. Schrag Distinguished Teaching Award.

Other Commencement Weekend events open to the public are the Senior Art Exhibit, including a reception in the Regier Art Gallery area, May 18 from 7-9 p.m., and featuring work by Da’Ron Gillis, Balch Spring, Texas, Zane McHugh, Wichita, and Veronica Ziegler, Hesston; and the nurses’ pinning ceremony and reception, May 19 at 2 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium. The gallery and auditorium are in Luyken Fine Arts Center.

The Regier Gallery, as well as Thresher Shop and Mojo’s Coffee in Schultz Student Center, will be open extra hours during the weekend. Kauffman Museum invites campus visitors to view the permanent exhibits “Of Land and People,” “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture” and “Mirror of the Martyrs” (recently returned from several months of travel). Museum hours are Friday, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 1:30-4:30 p.m.

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.