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Epp to leave Bethel College in November

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- Bethel College president E. LaVerne Epp has told the college’s Board of Directors he plans to step down effective Nov. 15, 2005. The board, meeting on campus March 10-12, accepted Epp’s decision with regret, and expressed deep appreciation for his collaborative leadership in re-energizing the college around its core strengths.

The board also approved the appointment of Vice President for Academic Affairs John Sheriff as interim president, following Epp’s departure.

Dee Gaeddert, board chair from St. Paul, Minn., said, "When we called LaVerne to this role, he talked much more in terms of what he wanted to accomplish than how long he wanted to be in the role. The skills and experiences that LaVerne has brought us are precisely what Bethel College needs at this point in time."

Gaeddert added, "We are so pleased that Dr. John Sheriff has accepted the call to serve our college as its interim president, beginning in November ’05. John has served alongside LaVerne during his presidency, and has provided excellent leadership."

Epp, a native of Henderson, Neb., is a 1972 Bethel College honors graduate in history, and earned a law degree from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 1976. He took office as Bethel’s 12th president on Aug. 1, 2002.

"These last three years have been a time of significant change and energy," Epp said. "We have looked carefully at ourselves as a college, and have rediscovered our core strengths--the things that, when applied, tangibly and intentionally make us distinctive. Together, we have rejuvenated and reenergized admissions, advancement and communications, and recommitted ourselves to our students by making changes in personnel, housing, curriculum and a renewed focus on spiritual life.

"From the beginning, I wanted my time here to be about targeted, achievable results, not about lengthy tenure. This is a normal cycle of leadership for a healthy institution like Bethel that embraces change."

Epp added, "As an alumnus and loyal friend of Bethel, I will never truly ‘leave.’ I look forward to serving the college in other ways and helping to achieve Bethel’s goals."

During its spring meetings, the Bethel College board will name a chairperson for a presidential search committee.

"After additional work and focus, next fall will be a good time for us to move into another phase of building this college," Epp said. "My only plans for the next eight months are to work aggressively to position the college for that phase, working with John [Sheriff], the administrative team and the faculty to prepare for it."

Sheriff has been at Bethel College for 35 years. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma and is Ernest L. Leisy Professor of English. Since 1997, he has been vice president for academic affairs.

"Faculty, staff and administrators working together will make this a dynamic transition rather than an interruption in the life of Bethel College," Sheriff said.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and in 2004 was named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report for the 7th straight year. For more information, see the Bethel web site at

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