NORTH NEWTON, KAN.- E. LaVerne Epp, 30 years after his graduation from Bethel College, was inaugurated as Bethel College’s 12th president Oct. 13 during afternoon ceremonies in Memorial Hall. More than 1,000 people attended the inauguration, including 31 delegates from colleges and other schools of higher education in a dozen states. Dee Gaeddert, St. Paul, Minn., chair of the college’s board of directors, presented Epp with a medallion bearing the official seal of the college and officially installed Epp as president of Bethel College. On the seal, with symbols to represent faith, hope and charity, is the college’s motto: "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (I Cor. 3:11)
"LaVerne Epp, may God give you the strength, wisdom and grace necessary for you to discharge your duties as president of this college in the spirit that the seal of the college imparts," Gaeddert said.
Epp presented his inaugural address, "A Splendid Torch."
Among those in attendance at the inauguration were four of the college’s 11 former presidents: Douglas Penner, Harold Schultz, Orville Voth and D.C. Wedel.
Retired history professor Keith Sprunger, who introduced Epp, described him as "the man of the hour" and noted that Epp was the only Bethel College president who had served the college as an admissions counselor. Epp, a 1972 history major who graduated from Bethel College with honors, was one of Sprunger’s students.
Louise MacClanahan, president of the Newton Ministerial Alliance and chaplain at Newton Medical Center, offered the invocation.
David Ambler, vice chancellor emeritus at the University of Kansas, was one of seven individuals who gave greetings. Representing all Kansas institutions of higher education, he commented on the important partnership between public and private colleges and universities and offered words of encouragement. "If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing. Under President Epp’s leadership, Bethel College will sing and dance as it has never before," Ambler said.
Others offering greetings were Lee Snyder, president of Bluffton (Ohio) College, who represented Mennonite colleges; Vern Preheim, Newton, moderator of the Western District Conference of Mennonite Church USA; Randy Pankratz, Newton, a partner in the Adrian and Pankratz law office, who offered greetings from the Newton community; Cynthia Jantzen, Wichita, president of the Bethel College Alumni Association; Karen Bauman Schlabaugh, chair of Bethel College faculty; and Aziza Hasan, senior from Halstead and president of Bethel College Student Senate.
Rosalind Enns Andreas, chair of the Mennonite Education Agency Board of Directors and also associate dean at the University of Vermont, described the inauguration as an historic event for Mennonite Church USA because Bethel’s was the first inauguration of a college president since the new conference was formed.
"As you bear the torch, you are helping to develop leaders for the church, congregations, agencies, for the world," she said after hearing Epp’s address and before offering a commissioning prayer.
Weldon Martens, pastor of Bethesda (Neb.) Mennonite Church where Epp was baptized, gave the benediction.
Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra Ensemble and Brass Ensemble and Bethel College Concert Choir presented musical selections.
The inauguration capped Bethel’s Fall Festival weekend activities, which included Saturday’s dedication of Krehbiel Science Center and Sunday morning’s inauguration worship service.
By June Krehbiel, Bethel College News Service