NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A Bethel College football player received the 2008 Dr. Ted Kessinger Champion of Character Award from the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) even as the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) named Bethel College a Champions of Character institution for the eighth straight year.
Omar Hasan, a senior chemistry major from Halstead, who played as a guard on the offensive line for the Threshers and currently serves as student body president, was named the fifth recipient of the Kessinger award, which honors the legendary football coach who retired from Bethany College, Lindsborg, in 2004 as one of the most successful coaches in NAIA history. In his 28 years at Bethany, Kessinger never had a losing season.
Hasan was the fifth winner of the award, established upon Kessinger’s retirement and meant to honor what he considered his most important responsibility: to instill moral values and character into his players.
The goal of the NAIA’s Champions of Character program is, likewise, to instill an understanding of character values through sports, focusing on five core values: respect, responsibility, integrity, servant leadership and sportsmanship. Bethel has received the Champions of Character distinction every year since the program’s inception in 2000.
To be considered, schools must complete a form as well as demonstrate how the campus incorporates the program in five specific areas: athletic contests, public service projects, established policies related to behavior in practice and game situations, athletic and academic environment, and character education.
“The formal outline of the initiative enabled Bethel’s athletic department to clearly define goals and expectations for coaches, student-athletes, spectators and others associated with the athletic program,” explains Diane Flickner, Bethel College athletic director. “The objectives are used to promote professional and personal growth of all involved. We believe the vision of the initiative serves immediate benefits and assists the student-athletes to develop and maintain those benefits beyond their playing careers.”
As part of this initiative, Bethel athletic teams host free sports clinics for area youth or, in the case of golf, volunteer as counselors for Kids Across America, a Christian sports camp for inner-city youth in southern Missouri.
In addition, the sports teams are involved in a wide range of service projects, adds Flickner. Athletes help with elementary reading programs, assist at homeless shelters and work with mentoring programs, Kansas Kids Fitness Day and Special Olympics.
The Champions of Character program is devoted to the idea that character is a choice and that being a champion is not just about winning but also consistently making good decisions in daily life. Bethel built on these objectives when developing their own Champions of Character mission statement, emphasizing “scholarship, service through community involvement, cultivation of authentic faith, and leadership development – all of which are central to Bethel College’s broader educational mission,” says Brad Born, Bethel College vice president for academic affairs.
“Athletics is the single largest co-curricular activity at the college,” continues Born, “so in emphasizing this vision for Bethel athletics, and in urging our student-athletes to embody these values throughout their lives, the Champions of Character program can play a vital and an integral role in providing our students a distinctive Bethel education.”
Hasan was also named to the 2008 Honorable Mention team by the KCAC. Other conference football honors went to defensive lineman James McCartney, junior from Hesston, Co-Defensive Player of the Year and First Team Defense; offensive lineman Dakota Sorenson, senior from Crestone, Colo., First Team Offense; defensive back Scotty Yerges, senior from Medford, Ore., First Team Defense; and punter Lee Voth-Gaeddert, freshman from Hesston, First Team Special Teams. Running back Beau Cox, senior from Weskan, was named Second Team Offense, and linebacker Curlee Bishop, senior from Sacramento, Calif., was named Second Team Defense. In addition to Hasan, Honorable Mention went to quarterback Brett Clow, senior from Heath, Texas; defensive back Reed Hammond, junior from Hesston; defensive lineman Joel Maple, junior from Umatilla, Fla.; offensive lineman Albino Quinones, junior from San Antonio, Texas; tight end Matt Regier, sophomore from Whitewater, linebacker Zach Towns, senior from Mount Hope; and Voth-Gaeddert in the wide receiver position.
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 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.