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Bethel College commencement emphasizes service, recalls community

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College graduates are among the elite.

That was according to the speaker for Bethel’s 113th Commencement, retired professor and sociologist Galyn Vesey of Wichita.

“That doesn’t make you better than anyone else,” he told the 101 graduates, their families and friends gathered in Memorial Hall on Sunday, May 21. “It just means you have a special advantage, and a responsibility to those less intellectually and economically advantaged.

“There is a need for educated young adults, here and now, to stand for [ethical behavior] and social justice,” Vesey continued. “One of the finest things you can do with your life is to commit to serving others.”

Later, when introducing the class of 2006, interim vice president for academic affairs Brad Born noted that at least five seniors were “honoring a long-standing Bethel tradition” by planning to go into voluntary service soon after graduation.

While Vesey emphasized graduates’ call to serve, earlier in the day the three senior speakers at the Baccalaureate service referred to the importance of community in their Bethel experience.

Joel Hesed, an English major from Albert, called Bethel “a college committed to community, no matter how much it hurts.” Dawn Lindsay-Benson, a social work major from Newton, talked about the various “communities” that had been important to her.

Among them were “[Director of church relations] Dale Schrag and my Basic Issues of Faith and Life class,” with whom studying 1 Corinthians 12 on spiritual gifts (the theme Scripture for Baccalaureate) made the text “become part of my heart.” She also thanked professors and social work classmates, as well as her family.

Lindsay-Benson, a non-traditional student with three children, suffers from dyslexia. She said that through her years of study, her family “has been my ears, eyes and voice, like during weekends in Topeka when my mom and my sister would read to me for hours.”

Joel Krehbiel, a mathematics and physics major from Moundridge, compared the class of 2006 to a choir, in turn a reflection of 1 Corinthians 12.

“We’ve all failed [at some point]—academically, athletically, socially and spiritually,” Krehbiel noted. “But that gave a chance for teachers, peers and mentors to help us, and we’ve all grown in the process.

“Go from here, sing your part, make the music God gave you to make,” he concluded.

Krehbiel’s mother, June Galle Krehbiel, was part of the Commencement service, giving the benediction. Jerry Kaiser, pastor of Inman Mennonite Church and father of music major Matt Kaiser, offered the invocation.

Two faculty members were given special recognition during Commencement. Karen Bauman Schlabaugh, professor of music and instructor in piano, received the Ralph P. Schrag Distinguished Teaching Award while Diane Flickner, director of athletics and associate professor of health and physical education, received the Julius and Agatha Dyck Franz Community Service Award.

The class of 2006 consisted of 68 women and 33 men from 13 states and at least three other countries, including Azerbaijan, Kenya and Uganda. Seventy-four of the graduates were from Kansas, with three or more from Colorado and Texas.

The class of 2006 set a new record of 77 members signing the Graduation Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility, which states: “I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work.”

The pledge movement began in 1987 at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., and is now managed at Manchester College, a Church of the Brethren-affiliated school in North Manchester, Ind. This is the sixth year that graduating Bethel seniors have had the opportunity to sign the pledge, which is managed by the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Sidebar: Azerbaijani student builds a legacy of friendship

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Zeynal Ismayilov represents a different kind of legacy at Bethel College.

He came to south central Kansas from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, five years ago as an exchange student at Wichita East High School. His hosts were the family of Bill Racer and Jan Mullinix.

It was Zeynal’s second exchange program, and he knew he wanted to continue studying in the United States. His host “brother,” Jon Mullinix, was a student at Bethel.

“I would come to visit Jon at Bethel,” Zeynal says. “My host family said, ‘This is a very good school, with a good science department,’ and I was interested in medicine.”

Bethel was the only place he applied, he says. He walked across the Memorial Hall stage during the May 21 Commencement exercises, and will receive his diploma, with a major in natural sciences, in July.

He says one thing he appreciated was the community he found at Bethel. “There were times of missing home, of trying to find my place here, but friends, good people and experiences, made up for the hard parts.”

At Commencement, Zeynal’s parents, Ismayil Ismayilov and Farida Ismayilova, came to see their son at his college for the first time. They moved to Toronto last fall, six years after first applying for visas to emigrate. They had not tried for visas to visit Zeynal, figuring it would be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain them.

At the annual senior breakfast, the family presented the college with a traditional Azerbaijani tapestry, which will be displayed in one of the administrative suites. And when it came time for friends and relatives to stand as “their” graduate crossed the stage, Zeynal had members of both his families, Azerbaijani and American, getting up to cheer.

Sidebar: Education stays all in the family

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – In this day of commuter schools and on-line degrees aimed at non-traditional learners, it may not be so unusual for a mother and daughter to graduate from college at the same time.

However, it’s still out of the ordinary at a small liberal arts college like Bethel.

On May 21, 2006, Angela Carriker received her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work. Her mother, Doña, came immediately after to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

And this wasn’t even the first time—two years ago, both of them earned Associate of Arts degrees from Colby Community College in their hometown.

Both knew they would be going on for four-year degrees. “We began looking for a college that offered both social work and nursing,” says Doña. “My other daughter Amanda [Miniard] had gone to Bethel one semester, so that’s how we knew about it.”

For the past two years, they have lived together in an apartment across the street from campus. “It was cheaper than living in the dorm,” Angela says. “It’s not for everybody, but it can work.” In their senior year, she says, they actually saw very little of each other—Doña would leave early in the morning for clinical rotations and Angela would come home late at night from play practice.

They have enjoyed being able to support each other in their studies and work and even to borrow each other’s makeup on occasion, says Angela, even though it wasn’t easy to leave husband/father Gene Carriker and other family members behind in Colby. The whole family showed its commitment to helping Angela and Doña finish their undergraduate education by showing up four generations strong for the nurses’ pinning ceremony on May 20 and Commencement exercises the next day.

Doña first began nursing studies years ago when her children were small, but decided that she would rather raise her family first. She home schooled Amanda, Anthony, Angela and Andrew.

Now, however, Angela says she is “really proud that [Mom] is doing something for herself.”

Mother and daughter will return to Colby for the time being. Doña has been accepted for active duty in the Army Nurse Corps and will go to officer basic training in San Antonio later this summer. In the fall, Angela will enter the deaconess program at Concordia, a Lutheran seminary in St. Louis, to study for a master’s degree that will better equip her to work in church settings. “I’ve wanted to do church work since I was little,” she says.

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