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Annual awards convocation honors some of Bethel’s best

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The annual awards convocation held each spring at Bethel College recognizes students who excel academically in various disciplines, notes faculty transitions and includes presentation of the “Helping Hand” award to one staff or faculty member. This year’s event took place May 12.

As he opened the convocation, Vice President for Academic Affairs Brad Born noted that the awards convocation emphasizes “values that are central to our identity as an academic community” – service, integrity and academic excellence.

“In our celebration of noteworthy individual awards, may we be mindful of the many unnamed but nevertheless worthy expressions of scholarship, service and integrity that we have witnessed in others this year,” Born added.

One highlight of the convocation is the presentation of Thresher Awards to seniors who make outstanding contributions in their academic fields. This year, four Threshers were given, one in theater, one in music and two in art.

The 2008 Thresher Award recipients were Kate Larson, Clay Center, and Kimberly Schmidt, Wichita for art, Caitlin Buerge, Kansas City, Mo., for theater, and Aaron Linscheid, North Newton, for music.

David Long, associate professor of art, presented Schmidt with her Thresher Award. “Kim embodies what it means to be an artist,” he said. Schmidt excelled in ceramics due in large part to the immense amount of time and effort she put into her work, Long said. He noted that after the kiln destroyed some of Schmidt’s work for a recent ceramics project, she spent hours in the studio redoing the project – even though she had already earned credit for it – until she was satisfied.

“There’s a good chance that if you are in a studio class and you go to the art room, you’ll find Kim there working,” said Long.

Gail Lutsch, professor of art, presented Larson’s Thresher Award, citing her excellence in her chosen medium of painting and emphasizing Larson’s ability to use both brush and scraper to create dynamic artwork, especially through color and texture. Larson used her artistic ability not only in the studio but also in helping to create sets for several Bethel theater productions.

“Kate has done a great job as gallery assistant,” Lutsch added. “For the past two semesters, Kate and Kim Schmidt have worked in their respective media, painting and ceramics, with the now-achieved goal of an integrative effort in the senior show.”

John McCabe-Juhnke, professor of communication arts, recognized Buerge’s “passion for theater” and “superb stage performances” throughout her four years at Bethel. She played diverse roles, from Sister Helen Prejean in Tim Robbins’ stage adaptation of Dead Man Walking to the playwright Lisa Kron in this spring’s production of Well.

“Caitlin has demonstrated a dedication, maturity and depth of understanding about the craft of making theater,” said McCabe-Juhnke. “She’s one of the rare performers who cares more about respectfully bringing forward the character’s story than about spotlighting her own acting prowess. Caitlin is an amazingly selfless performer.”

Richard Tirk, assistant professor of music, presented a Thresher Award to Linscheid for his “superior work in jazz trumpet performance and academic prowess in the classroom.” Linscheid contributed to the music department through his participation in the Bethel College Wind Ensemble, Chamber Orchestra and Concert Choir and the men’s octet Open Road.

Linscheid was awarded the Jazz Ambassador Scholarship and will attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music to pursue a degree in jazz studies next fall. “Congratulations, Aaron, for your fine achievements in the world of jazz on the instrument of kings,” Tirk concluded.

Another highlight of the annual awards convocation is recognition of a faculty or staff member nominated by one or more students to receive the J.O. and Esther Schrag Helping Hand Award. The Schrags, of North Newton, are both 1938 graduates of Bethel College.

The 2008 winner was Wayne Wiens, professor of biology, nominated by his advisee, junior Brent Stutzman, Hutchinson. In his winning nomination essay, Stutzman said of Wiens, “[He] has an ability to challenge without eradicating the integral curiosity of seeking knowledge. For this reason, I was swayed towards biology and declared it my major with Wayne as my advisor.”

Aaron Chappell-Deckert, vice president for student life, presented the Resident Assistant of the Year award to Sharayah Williams, sophomore from Kalona, Iowa, an RA in Haury Hall.

Allen Jantz, associate professor of education, presented the Dean R. and Hulda G. Stucky Endowed Scholarship to an outstanding student in teacher education, Dakota Sorensen, senior from Crestone, Colo.

An outstanding math student received the Gerald Schrag Award in Mathematical Sciences, given this year to Paul Regier, senior from Newton, while Andrew Wiederholt, North Newton, received the CRC Press Freshman Chemistry Achievement Award.

The Dorothy Wedel Kaufman Honor Scholarship in English, given to support and encourage the pursuit of excellence in English, went to junior Michael Voth, Topeka, as well as sophomore Mayeken Kehr, Goshen, Ind. The 2007-08 Writing Fellowship Award for the position as writing consultant in the Center for Academic Development went to Aimee Siebert, junior from Topeka.

One outstanding language student from each year receives a Goethe Institute German Language Award. Merle Schlabaugh, professor of German, presented the awards to Ben Stucky, Moon Township, Pa. (freshman), Austin McCabe-Juhnke, North Newton (sophomore), Meredith Lehman, Bluffton, Ohio (junior), and Miriam Regier, Newton (senior).

Eighteen students received the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Daktronics All-America Scholar-Athlete Award, given to those who have attained at least junior status and a 3.500 GPA: Jordon Regehr, Halstead, and Brent Stutzman, Hutchinson (men’s basketball); Dana Rathbun, Bennington, and Brittany Scogin, Derby (women’s basketball); Jeff Buller, Inman, Beau Cox, Weskan, Omar Hasan, Halstead, and Michael Unruh, Peabody (football); Nathan Schmidt, Tribune (golf); Jordan Penner, Reedley, Calif. (men’s soccer); Kacy Canady, El Dorado (women’s soccer); Tyler Doerksen, Prescott Valley, Ariz. (men’s tennis); Jana Jensen, Prescott Valley, Ariz., and Katie Robertson, Lawrence (women’s tennis); Robyn Larson, Wichita, Heather Palmateer Kindall, Topeka, Dana Rathbun, Bennington, Kristen Schrag, Moundridge, and Kari Thimm, Beatrice, Neb. (volleyball).

A number of Bethel College athletes received Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Academic All-Conference honors. They were: sophomores Jordan Bartel, North Newton (golf), Natasha Esau, Hutchinson (women’s cross country and track and field), Mayeken Kehr, Goshen, Ind. (women’s tennis and soccer), Nicole Schmidt, Newton (volleyball), and Tyler Schroeder, Goessel (men’s track and field); juniors Cody Cole, Cunningham (men’s basketball), Dana Daugharthy, Iola (football), David Daugharthy, Iola (football and men’s track and field), Patrice Dixon, Fruita, Colo. (women’s soccer), Scott Goering, Pretty Prairie (men’s basketball and track and field), Matthew Hershberger, Clay Center (men’s tennis), Emily Kliewer, Lenexa (women’s soccer), Michelle Love, Whitewater (women’s soccer and basketball), Paige McKinney, Newton (women’s tennis), Lindsey Oliver (volleyball), Katie Robertson, Lawrence (women’s tennis), Andrew Schmidt, Hesston (football), and Greg Shelly, Lenexa (men’s soccer); seniors Jeff Buller, Inman (football and track and field), Kacy Canady, El Dorado (women’s soccer), Beau Cox, Weskan (football), Drew Crosson, Minneapolis (men’s track and field), Tyler Doerksen, Prescott Valley, Ariz. (men’s tennis), Lacy Fyler, McPherson (women’s track and field), Omar Hasan, Halstead (football), Jana Jensen, Prescott Valley, Ariz. (women’s tennis), Heather Palmateer Kindall, Topeka (volleyball), Robyn Larson, Wichita (volleyball), Obiorah Mbawuike, Aba Abia, Nigeria (men’s soccer), Jordan Penner, Reedley, Calif. (men’s soccer), Dana Rathbun, Bennington (volleyball and women’s basketball), Jordon Regehr, Halstead (men’s basketball and track and field), Nathan Schmidt, Tribune (golf), Kristen Schrag, Moundridge (volleyball and women’s track and field), Brittany Scogin (women’s basketball), Kari Thimm, Beatrice, Neb. (volleyball), Sarah Thompson, Newton (volleyball), and Michael Unruh, Peabody (football).

Instructor of nursing Julie Wiens announced the 2007-08 senior inductees into the Sigma Theta Tau honors nursing society: Samuel Bankole, Wichita; Breann Beagley, Wichita; Kemal Bonfoh, Wichita; Rebecca Claassen, Beatrice, Neb.; Chelsea Hahn, North Newton; Amanda Hayes, Canton; Brandi Kaufman, Newton; Rachel Maingu, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania; Patricia Ngigi, Nairobi, Kenya; Rachel Pederson, Hillsboro; Amanda Ratzlaff, Buhler; Sally Thiesen, Goessel, Sarah Thompson, Newton; and Kathlene Young, Hesston. Pederson also received the Iota Chi Excellence in Nursing Award.

The recipients of the 2008 Summer Undergraduate Research, Internships and Creative Activities (URICA) grants were announced: Rebecca Claassen, Moses Lake, Wash.; Grant Hiebner, Hampton, Neb.; Bradley McKellip, Newton; Andrew Schmidt, Hesston; Aimee Siebert, Topeka; Jonathan Nathan, Moundridge; and Darnell Neff, North Newton.

Gary Flory, director of the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR) at Bethel College, recognized the Bethel winners of the C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest. Students from all the Mennonite colleges in North America are eligible to compete, doing so on their own campuses with an overall winner chosen from the first-place finishers. At Bethel, Joshua Chittum, junior from Demorest, Ga., placed first, Aimee Siebert, junior from Topeka, second, and Jonathan Huber, junior from South Hutchinson, third.

The biweekly Bethel Collegian received a silver medal from the Kansas Associated Collegiate Press in the overall Four-Year Private College Newspaper category. Additionally, the KACP recognized four students for excellence in their respective aspects of newspaper production: Caitlin Buerge, senior from Kansas City, Mo. (honorable mention for news writing); Jerel Fast, 2007 Bethel graduate (second place for sports photography); Joel Linscheid, senior from North Newton (second place for news photography); and Jonathan Nathan, senior from Moundridge (honorable mention for interior page design). More than 40 Kansas college and university newspapers competed for awards this year.

The Ray and Betty Funk Prize for Entrepreneurship went to Evan Fast, sophomore from Newton, Brittany Voth, sophomore from Newton, and Jocelyn Forshee, junior from Concordia. The J. Lloyd Spaulding Prize in Business and Economics was awarded to junior Aaron Howard from Halstead.

At the close of the convocation, Bethel President Barry C. Bartel noted three faculty promotions: Gary Histand to professor of chemistry, Martha Peterka to professor of Spanish and Dan Quinlin to professor of languages. Bartel also gave special recognition to Diane Flickner, athletic director and associate professor of health and physical education, and Dwight Krehbiel, professor of psychology, for 30 years’ service at Bethel, and Larry Friesen, professor of social work, for 25 years, and to Verda Deckert, associate professor of nursing, who began her work at Bethel in 1990 and will retire at the end of this school year.

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 has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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