NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Barry C. Bartel of Lakewood, Colo., will become the 13th president in Bethel College’s 119-year history.
Bartel’s appointment ends a year-long search process, the goal of which was “to recruit a long-term president with proven leadership abilities.” Danielle Goering, chair of the presidential search committee, announced the decision to faculty, staff and students during special sessions on May 2. The campus community was invited to meet Bartel and his family one-on-one during an afternoon open house.
“The search process has been an invigorating time for the presidential search committee,” said Goering. “To complete the search with a candidate of Barry Bartel’s stature is exciting. His passion and dedication will serve Bethel College well as we plan for the future.”
The search committee was drawn to Bartel’s servant leadership style, the analytical and communication skills honed in his legal career, his desire to listen and learn and his interest in higher education, Goering said. The committee was also impressed with his cross-cultural awareness and aptitude, developed through living in Bolivia and Haiti, and his obvious passion for Bethel’s rich heritage as well as its future, she added.
“Bethel’s founders were visionaries when they established the first Mennonite college in North America,” Bartel said. “Bethel’s leadership, faculty, staff, students and alumni continue to demonstrate that true excellence combines achievement and character, innovation and discipline. I am excited to help carry that vision forward.”
Bartel will prepare for the role of president by serving as president-elect, beginning June 1, until his formal inauguration on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2006, during Fall Festival weekend. John K. Sheriff will continue as interim president until that time.
The son of Gladwin and Lois Bartel of La Junta, Colo., both Bethel College graduates, Bartel was born in Newton and grew up in La Junta. He graduated summa cum laude from Bethel College in 1984 with a triple major in mathematics (computer science emphasis), peace studies and Bible and religion. While at Bethel, he earned a prestigious Thresher Award for Bible and religion.
“Bethel shaped my life in many ways, by deepening my faith, challenging my intellect and developing my character. It is an honor to be invited to return to help shape Bethel for the future,” Bartel said.
Following graduation, Bartel and his wife, Brenda (Isaak) Bartel, a native of Aberdeen, Idaho, and also a 1984 graduate, served for three years as rural community development project coordinators for Mennonite Central Committee in Haiti. Upon their return to the United States, Bartel entered law school at Willamette University College of Law in Salem, Ore., where he served as editor in chief of the law review, graduating in 1991. After clerking for Oregon Supreme Court Justice Richard L. Unis for two years, Bartel and his family (including son Jordan and daughter Leah) moved to Denver, where he began his law practice.
By 1998, Brenda and Barry’s passion for the church led them to accept a five-year leadership assignment with MCC in Bolivia, where they directed a multinational staff of 70. As MCC co-director, Bartel said, he became adept at program planning, implementation and evaluation; team building, training and visioning; and personnel selection, orientation, policy development and supervision.
Upon completion of their service term in 2003, the Bartels returned to the Denver area, where Barry resumed his legal career with Holland & Hart LLP. Presently an associate attorney, Barry focuses on complex commercial litigation involving natural resources.
“Although not looking for a career change, I believe Barry was drawn to this opportunity as one which uniquely combines his passion for service with his desire to lead,” said Greg Gaeddert, chair of the Bethel College Board of Directors.
Even when actively pursuing his law career, Barry remains deeply committed to the Mennonite Church and to the principles of Anabaptism. He currently serves as chair of the leadership board and moderator of the new Mountain States Mennonite Conferences as well as chair of the Glennon Heights Mennonite Church. He is also on the boards of the Mennonite Urban Ministries in Denver, the Colorado chapter of MEDA, and the Denver Conflict Center.
“Barry exemplifies the type of servant leader for which Bethel is known. He is intelligent, articulate, humble, caring and passionate about what he believes,” Gaeddert said.
Barry’s wife Brenda, also a 1984 Bethel graduate, is an elementary school music teacher. Barry and Brenda are the parents of two children, Jordan, who will be a Bethel College freshman next year, and Leah, who is a high school freshman.