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Claassen establishes endowed chair in business administration at Bethel

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College Professor of Business and Economics Allison J. McFarland is the first recipient of the Walter C. and Helen E. Claassen Endowed Chair in Business Administration. Barry Bartel, president of Bethel College, announced the appointment and will present McFarland with a commemorative chair at a ceremony Oct. 27.

Endowed by gifts from Walter Claassen and his late wife Helen, the chair will fund the salary of an outstanding scholar and teacher in the business and economics department.

Claassen attended Bethel College and graduated from the University of Kansas in 1939 with a bachelor’s degree in business. He then went on to the Harvard Business School, where he received a master of business administration.

After completing his education, Claassen worked in Chicago before serving for four years in the U.S. Navy. In 1946, he returned to Newton to work in the Kansas State Bank, which his grandfather had helped start. From 1962-82, he served as bank president.

Walter Claassen has a long history of service to the Newton community. He has served on numerous boards including the Bethel College Board and the United Methodist Youthville Board. In his retirement, he has stayed busy with church activities, civic organizations and voluntary service. Helen Claassen was also active in church and community, serving on the Newton Public Library Board, the Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra Board and the Newton Community Theater Board.

“[Walter Claassen’s] wealth of life experiences, coupled with his lifelong commitment to education, faith, community and service, provide a benchmark for business faculty and students at Bethel College,” says McFarland, adding that she is inspired by Claassen’s legacy. “Accepting this award in his name is motivational, challenging and meaningful for all facets of my work at Bethel College. I look forward to building on the Claassens’ tradition of excellence.”

McFarland says she appreciates the dedication of the Claassens. “Their gift is an extraordinary example of commitment to Bethel College and the surrounding community,” she says. “I consider it a tremendous privilege and responsibility to help prepare the next generation of business leaders who will follow in the footsteps of Mr. and Mrs. Claassen.”

McFarland's selection as the recipient of the Walter C. and Helen E. Claassen Distinguished Chair honors her achievements in scholarship and teaching, says Brad Born, Bethel College vice president for academic affairs. “Her own education demonstrates admirable breadth and depth, including an undergraduate teaching certification degree in language and creative arts, an M.S.Ed. degree in management of sport, an M.B.A in strategic management and a Ph.D. in higher education administration,” he says. “She has brought to Bethel a wealth of higher education teaching experience, having earned tenure at both a private Christian institution – Eastern University – and a public research university.”

In addition to teaching, McFarland has stayed involved in her field of study, Born adds. “She has sustained an active, productive life of scholarship, having published many peer-reviewed and invited journal articles in her field, especially during her years of teaching marketing and management in the Sport Management Graduate Program at Western Michigan University. Since arriving to Bethel three years ago, Dr. McFarland’s record of teaching has been outstanding, and in her leadership of the Bethel business program she has modeled the kind of excellent management she seeks to teach her students.”

Teaching at a small, liberal arts college like Bethel, it can be “challenging to stay current with research, trends and innovations within multiple disciplines,” McFarland says, but adds, “The personal reward of this challenge is the privilege of life-long learning.”

McFarland received a bachelor’s degree from Geneva College and earned her master’s degree and doctorate at the University of Kansas. She also received a master of business administration degree from Western Michigan University. McFarland joined the Bethel College faculty in 2006 as professor of business and economics and currently chairs the department.

The Oct. 27 ceremony conferring the distinguished chair is open to the public. It will take place at 4 p.m. in the chapel of the Bethel College Administration Building with a reception following.

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 only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’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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