Awards recognize senior achievement in several disciplines

Five students in front holding their Thresher Awards, with presenting faculty standing behind them

Five graduating seniors received Thresher Awards, in art, forensics and theater, journalism, music and social work, at Bethel’s annual end-of-year Awards Convocation.

The Thresher is the highest academic award at Bethel, given to a graduating senior who has demonstrated outstanding work overall as well as in their senior thesis or senior project.

Hayden Honomichl, Great Bend, Kan., received a Thresher in theater and forensics. Honomichl graduated from Bethel May 12 with a degree in communication arts with education certification.

Damon Klassen, director of theater, noted that Honomichl had been in at least six different drama and musical productions during his four years at Bethel, including a role as “the most Festery Uncle Fester I’ve ever seen” in The Addams Family: The Musical in fall 2023.

“[Hayden’s] passion for theater seems to have no limit, and that creative drive has been an inspiration to others in the department, and even to me,” Klassen said.

Dr. Cristy Dougherty, director of forensics, added, “Hayden is an embodiment of the spirit of forensics. He is intelligent, a healer, a natural born leader, dependable, dedicated and a social justice advocate.”

Eli Regier, Newton, received a Thresher in music. A saxophonist, Regier graduated from Bethel May 12 with a degree in music, and when he completes student teaching next fall, will be certified in education.

“Eli is an outstanding student who works hard and thinks deeply about music,” said Joel Boettger, assistant professor of music. “His work ethic, attention to detail, leadership skills and care for people will serve him

well as a teacher and leader in the arts.”

Rachel Geyer, Oxford, Iowa, received a Thresher in art. Geyer graduated from Bethel in May 2023 and completed her degree in art with her senior show this past December.

“Rachel made outstanding contributions to our department throughout her years as a Bethel student,” said Dr. Rachel Epp Buller, professor of visual arts and design. “She brought energy and enthusiasm, curiosity and determination to each of her projects. She is a master at using found materials to make something new,” adding, “Rachel’s senior art exhibit was a truly outstanding achievement.”

Cristobal Goldberg, Santiago, Chile, received a Thresher in social work. Goldberg graduated from Bethel in May 2023 and in December 2023 finished the requirements for a double major in business and social work.

In her citation, Dr. Jennifer Chappell Deckert, associate professor of social work, noted Goldberg’s facility in bringing together his studies, skills and interests in business, human services and soccer in his final project and paper for his social work degree.

She shared this from one of Goldberg’s internship supervisors: “He is able to connect to the population we serve, and is nonjudgmental in his approach. I believe he will be an asset to the profession of social work.”

Brett Esch, Carrollton, Texas, received a Thresher in journalism. Esch graduated from Bethel May 12 with a degree in communication arts.

Dr. Christine Crouse-Dick, professor of communication arts, cited Esch “for exemplary leadership in revitalizing, revamping and elevating the Bethel College student newspaper, The Collegian, and for unwavering commitment to connecting the campus community through student-run journalism.”

She continued, “[Brett’s] commitment to these ideals defined his leadership approach, and enabled The Collegian to thrive as a respected news organization that local professional news organizations revealed they look to for story ideas and story angles.” 

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel ranks at #23 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of “Best Regional Colleges Midwest” for 2023-24. Bethel was the first Kansas college or university to be named a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center, in 2021. For more information, see