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Bethel College announces three Board appointments

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College has announced the appointment of three new members to the college’s Board of Directors.

Donovan Nickel, Windsor, Colo., will represent Mountain States Mennonite Conference, a first-time appointment for MSMC. Colorado constituency was formerly represented on the Bethel Board through Western District Conference. This changed when, following the organization of Mennonite Church USA, WDC congregations in Colorado decided to join with the congregations of the former Rocky Mountain Mennonite Conference of the Mennonite Church to form MSMC. Bethel then changed its bylaws to shift one seat on the board from WDC to MSMC.

Nickel grew up in Moundridge and is the son of Bethel graduates, including a former Bethel Board chair. After attending Bethel two years, Nickel graduated from Kansas State University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering. He went to work for Hewlett Packard, where he has now been for more than 25 years. He also has a master’s of business administration, with emphasis on technology business management, from Lehigh University.

Donovan and Jewel Nickel have three daughters, including Andrea, a 2008 Bethel graduate now in a doctoral program in computer science at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. The Nickels are members of Greeley Mennonite Church.

The second Bethel Board appointment is Joe Friesen, Towanda, representing Mennonite Education Agency, another new position, formed with the Bethel Board’s restructuring as of January 2009.

Friesen is a businessman whose interests range from investments to farming. He is the owner of Friesen Tool Company, Wichita, and his wife, Lois (Weaver) Friesen, is part owner of Faith & Life Bookstore, Newton. The Friesens are strong supporters of Bethel College’s Kauffman Museum, with Lois Friesen currently serving on the board. They are members of Zion Mennonite Church, Elbing.

Friesen is a post-World War II immigrant to the United States from Germany. He attended Bethel College for two years, 1956-58, while learning English. The Friesens have two sons, both Bethel graduates – Karl, assistant professor of computer science at Bethel, and Kurt, owner of an internet business.

The third appointment is Debbie Schmidt, Newton, for Western District Conference, to fill the unexpired term of James Voth, who resigned as pastor of Grace Hill Mennonite Church in rural Newton to take a position at Bethesda Mennonite Church, Henderson, Neb.

Schmidt is lead pastor of First Mennonite Church, Hutchinson. She recently announced her resignation effective in June after almost 14 years at the church.

Schmidt and her husband, Don Schmidt, are Bethel graduates, as are their three sons, Phil, Matt and Mark, and three daughters-in-law, Marla, Amy and Emily.

Schmidt has a B.S. in elementary education from Bethel College and her R.N. degree from Hesston College. She worked at Bethel Deaconess Hospital and then for 13 years in cardiac rehab at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, before earning her M.Div. at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary. Don Schmidt taught in the social work department at Bethel for several years and has spent most of his professional life as a therapist at Prairie View in Newton.

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’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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