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Larry Voth’s work at Bethel is visible all over campus

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Those who knew Larry Voth say he loved raising money, and Bethel College, for one, has benefited in countless visible and invisible ways.

A. Lawrence Voth, a pastor, administrator and Bethel College director of development for 28 years, died Saturday, Oct. 27, at Kidron Bethel Healthcare in North Newton after a long illness. He was 73.

Voth was born in Goessel and graduated from Walton High School. He was a graduate of Bethel College with a B.A. in Bible and religion and earned his bachelor of divinity degree from Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind. In 1956, he married Jane Nyce of Pretty Prairie, a graduate of the Bethel Deaconess School of Nursing and Bethel College. The Voths’ three daughters also went on to graduate from Bethel.

From 1957-73, Voth served in several pastoral and church leadership roles. While he was finishing his degree at Bethel, he was assistant pastor of First Christian Church in Newton, and while he was studying at Mennonite Biblical Seminary, he also served as assistant pastor of Broadway Evangelical United Brethren Church in South Bend, Ind.

From 1961-73, Voth was pastor of Community Mennonite Church in Markham, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. During some of those years, he was also pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Markham. In 1964, Voth organized the Mennonite Voluntary Service unit in Markham, whose workers helped to staff the children’s day care center that Community Mennonite had started. Trinity UCC hosted a sheltered day care program for adults from state hospitals.

Voth received credit in no less than the Chicago Sun-Times (June 25, 1972, article) for being a key player in sparking community growth and neighborhood development in Markham. In addition to the two day care programs, under Voth’s direction projects in housing rehabilitation, family counseling and senior services were started, for which he proved to be a very successful fund raiser and grant writer.

During his years in Markham, Voth served on the Peace and Service Committee (part of the time as chair) and the Executive Committee of the General Conference Mennonite Church, as well as a term as president of Central District Conference of the GCMC.

Voth came to Bethel as director of development in July 1973. At the time of his retirement in 2001, it was estimated that he had raised more than $50 million for Bethel College’s annual fund and various capital campaigns. He was responsible for securing funding for at least eight major construction or renovation projects on campus, including the addition of Mantz Library to the existing library (now the Mennonite Library and Archives); Thresher Gymnasium; Schultz Student Center; Kauffman Museum’s building; Goerz House renovation; Leisy House renovation as the Admissions Welcome Center; Krehbiel Science Center; and Voth Hall residence.

The latter building was completed and dedicated in fall 2000 and was known simply as “New Residence Hall” until, in March 2002, the Bethel College Board of Directors acted to name it Voth Hall in honor of Larry Voth and his tireless fundraising efforts on behalf of the college. At that time, Bethel President Doug Penner said, “Larry developed personal friendships and deep loyalty for Bethel among people across the country, spending countless hours traveling and visiting in homes. Larry dreamed lofty dreams for Bethel and helped to make those dreams a reality.”

“Larry almost single-handedly raised funds for Bethel year after year,” said Sondra Bandy Koontz, Bethel vice president for advancement. “Much of Bethel today – buildings, programs, scholarships – reflects the hard work of Larry Voth. Everyone in the development office is proud to follow in his footsteps. He taught us well.”

In convocation Oct. 29, Director of Church Relations Dale Schrag noted Voth’s passing two days earlier. “We don’t usually mention the death of a grandparent of Bethel College students [Jordan and Justin Regehr] in convocation,” Schrag said. “But every one of us here has been a direct beneficiary of Larry Voth’s service to Bethel College.”

Voth is survived by his wife, Jane, North Newton, and three daughters, Laurie Regehr, Halstead, Leslie Stephan, Haven, and Linda Mueller, North Newton, three sons-in-law and five grandchildren, as well as a brother, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and several nieces and nephews.

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 was the highest ranked Kansas college in the national liberal arts category of U.S. News & World Report’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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