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Science Hall auction to offer chance to “purchase a memory”

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – As the capital campaign to renovate Bethel College’s old Science Hall into an Academic Center with a wing for the Department of Nursing gets into full swing, a special auction is intended as a chance to reminisce about the building’s history while raising some money.

Alumni and friends of Bethel will be able to “purchase a memory” from the building Saturday, Aug. 9, said Sondra Bandy Koontz, vice president for advancement. An auction of antique furniture and equipment will begin at 9:34 a.m. that day, with Bethel alumnus and local real estate agent Wade Brubacher, North Newton, as the auctioneer. Members of the Bethel College Women’s Association will have rolls, coffee, cold drinks and lunch items for sale.

Among the more than 100 items to be auctioned are old oak lab stools, oak desks and library tables, an antique hall tree, bookcases and a South Bend 9-inch No. 5 bench lathe (metal lathe) with an original company bulletin dated 1934. All proceeds from the sale will go to the maintenance endowment for the new Academic Center and nursing facility.

Science Hall was completed in 1925, making it the second oldest building on campus after the Administration Building. The cornerstone laying for Science Hall came 36 years to the day after that of the Ad Building on Oct. 12, 1888. The Oct. 12, 1924, date was chosen because it was also the date of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Mennonites in the south central Kansas area. The Jubilee Celebration took place in the Newton city auditorium, and between two and three thousand people came from that event to the Science Hall cornerstone laying.

Science Hall originally housed the departments of biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics. Of these, only mathematics remains in the building, which is now home to computer science as well, along with Institutional Communications and Information and Media Services (computer tech support). The other sciences moved, along with the department of psychology, to Krehbiel Science Center in 2002.

According to The Story of Bethel College, the history of the college from its founding through 1953, science enrollments at Bethel increased 100 percent after Science Hall was finished in 1925 (with an overall increase in enrollment of 22 percent).

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

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