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MLA achieves $1 million for endowment to ensure stable future

March 16th, 2020

John Thiesen and Dale Schrag with the Erasmus Bible

It took a bit longer than expected, but the Mennonite Library and Archives achieved a major financial goal that helps stabilize its future.

At the end of February, John Thiesen, co-director of libraries at Bethel and archivist in the MLA, sent an e-mail letter to MLA supporters announcing completion of a $1 million goal for an endowment to support the MLA.

“In fact,” Thiesen said, “we now have $1,037,413 in hand for the endowment.”

Mennonite Church USA ended its subsidy to the MLA in 2017, but even before that, volunteer fundraiser Dale Schrag, North Newton, retired campus pastor and director of church relations, had agreed to head up the effort to raise the endowment.

Schrag says he didn’t expect it would take three years to complete the goal, but that there were pleasant surprises along the way, including some anonymous donors who were determined to ensure the MLA’s future.

“There are some incredibly generous people out there who care a great deal about the Mennonite Library and Archives,” Schrag said.

“I am grateful to the many donors who allowed us to build this foundation for the future of the MLA,” Thiesen said. “We will continue adding to the endowment to ensure the collection remains a resource for the community and to create new opportunities for research.”

In his letter, Thiesen reported on some recent projects in the MLA, including providing photos of Hope men imprisoned at Alcatraz in the 1890s for an exhibit at the San Francisco Public Library; helping a local woman who was trying to get her driver’s license renewed and hit a snag because of a typo on her birth certificate and needed to see church records to help prove her birth year and verify her identity; and employing volunteer photo digitizer Weldon Schloneger of North Newton with plenty of material, including the Anna Hirschler Linscheid photo albums of Native American mission work, and oversized photos in the MLA collection.

“Thank you for supporting the MLA as we help people answer their questions about the Mennonite past,” Thiesen concluded.

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 is the highest ranked Kansas private college, at #12, in Washington Monthly, Top 200 Bachelor’s Colleges; ranks at #23 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest; is’s highest ranked Kansas small college with the highest earning graduates; stands at #57 among 829 U.S. colleges and universities listed by lendEDU as “Best for Financial Aid”; has the #10 RN-to-BSN program in Kansas according to; and earned its second-straight NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star gold award, based on student service and academic achievement, all for 2019-20. For more information, see  

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.