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Retiring professor of music to speak at commencement

May 11th, 2022

William Eash, D.M.A., retires from Bethel at the end of this school year.

Bethel’s longtime director of choral activities will be the speaker for this year’s commencement ceremony, which takes place Sunday, May 15, at 4 p.m.

Eighty-one seniors are scheduled to take part in the 129th commencement in Thresher Stadium, with Memorial Hall as a bad-weather contingent.

The Baccalaureate worship service, May 15 at 10 a.m., will take place in Memorial Hall.

Both events will be available to view via livestream.

The commencement speaker is William Eash, D.M.A., professor of music and director of choral activities, who will retire from Bethel at the end of the 2021-22 school year.

The title of his address is “Of Birds, Stars and Shoulders.”

Eash came to Bethel as director of choral activities in 1999. In that position, he has been responsible for three choirs, as well as the annual Masterworks concert with orchestra and mass choir, and more than a dozen musical theater productions, most recently Bright Star (March 2022).

He has also taught conducting and music history, and has been a frequent leader of First-Year Seminar.

His large choir, the Bethel College Concert Choir, has been recognized often for its excellence, having received an Emmy® Award for a documentary soundtrack, sung at various statewide music events, participated as a guest choir with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and been a featured choir at the regional convention of the American Choral Directors Association.

Eash graduated from Bluffton (Ohio) College, now University, with a bachelor’s degree in music performance (voice and string bass), then studied voice at the Hochschule für Musik and darstellende Kunst in Vienna.

Eash’s first teaching position was at Iowa Mennonite School in Kalona (now Hillcrest Academy). He completed his master’s and doctoral degrees in choral conducting at the University of Iowa.

Eash was director of choral activities at the University of Evansville, Ind., and, before coming to Bethel, director of music and director of athletics at Newman University, Wichita.

He received one of the highest faculty honors, the Distinguished Teaching Award, at both Newman and Bethel.

As a church musician, he has served in Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist and Mennonite settings. He has prepared choruses for orchestral performances with Alfred Savia, Michael Luxnor, Margaret Hillis and Daniel Hege.

The Baccalaureate theme is “Harvest Time: Stories of Growth and Resilience.” The service will take place in Memorial Hall.

Music will be by members of the small a cappella ensembles Woven and Open Road, the Bethel College Concert Choir and the Bethel Worship Band.

Graduating seniors Jadin Kaltenbach, Wichita, Antonino Mangiapane, Solingen, Germany, and Landon Barnes,  Ashland City, Tenn., will offer reflections.

The commencement program will begin and end with music by the Thresher Brass Quintet, an alumni group.

President Jon C. Gering, Ph.D., will introduce the ceremony and later confer the degrees after the graduates are presented by Robert Milliman, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty.

Milliman will also give the Ralph P. Schrag Distinguished Teaching Award to a faculty member.

Four graduating seniors will also participate in commencement by offering prayers at the beginning and end of the ceremony – student chaplains Matthew Hernandez, Chanute, Kan., Kayla Newman, Halstead, Kan., Natalie Graber, Divide, Colo., and Sam Wilson, Cary, N.C., and North Newton.

The Baccalaureate Planning Committee is graduating seniors Trae Gehring, Drannon Lennox, Rachel Miller, Linda Moyo, Marvin Phillips and Jensen Roth, with Campus Pastor Michael Unruh.

The Commencement Planning Committee is Matthew Hernandez, representing the Class of 2022; Rosa Barrera, assistant to the president; Grant Bellar, technical support; Marcia Miller, registrar; Oscar Gonzalez, Institutional Communications design consultant; Brad Schmidt, alumni relations; and Michael Unruh.

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

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.