NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A long-time staff member and popular columnist for The Wichita Eagle who recently became executive director of the Kansas African-American Museum will address graduating seniors, their families and friends at Bethel College’s 116th Commencement, Sunday, May 24, at which 119 diplomas will be awarded.
Mark McCormick, Wichita, will speak on “The caring economy.”
Last year, Bethel moved its Commencement ceremonies outside for the first time ever, from Memorial Hall to Thresher Stadium, and this year there will be an additional change – the event will take place later in the afternoon to give those in the stands more shade to sit in.
The 2009 graduation ceremonies will begin with the baccalaureate service at 10:30 a.m. (also later than in past years) in Bethel College Mennonite Church. The formal Commencement ceremony will start at 4 p.m. (Mem Hall in case of inclement weather) with the traditional Walk around the Green. Both Baccalaureate and Commencement are open to the public.
Commencement speaker Mark McCormick, a Wichita native, graduated from the University of Kansas in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism/news and editorial. He then went to work for The Louisville Courier-Journal from 1990-95, including three years as religion writer, covering religious institutions, trends and leaders.
He came home to work at The Wichita Eagle in 1995. He started out as a general assignment reporter, covering race, gender and family issues, and over the years has served as Communities team leader; day news editor and Enterprise team leader; Crime and Safety team leader; and, starting in March 2004, Metro columnist and Editorial Board employee representative, writing weekly columns on local issues and contributing to board discussions and endorsements.
Earlier this year, the board of the Kansas African-American Museum, located in Wichita, named McCormick as its executive director, citing him as “a homegrown talent who promotes diversity,” someone who “has demonstrated community leadership and an appreciation for black history.”
McCormick has received more than 20 state, regional and national awards and honors including a first-place award from the Kansas Press Association for “Best Columns,” two gold medals from the Kansas City Press Club and five Wichita Eagle Knight-Ridder Excellence Awards. Poynter Online named him “one of the nation’s best unheralded columnists.” Community honors have included the Champion of Respect Award from the Wichita/Sedgwick County Domestic Abuse/Sexual Assault Coalition, the Greater Wichita Business and Professional Women’s first “Man of the Year” award and the Golden Eagle Award from Sigma Gamma Rho “for influential civic and social standing.”
McCormick is credited with helping Wichita State University acquire the works of writer, photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks. McCormick co-wrote, with his lifelong friend, football star Barry Sanders, the New York Times bestseller Barry Sanders Now You See Him. . .His Story in His Own Words (Emmis Books 2003).
The baccalaureate service begins at 10:30 a.m. (prelude music, featuring members of the class of 2009, starts at 10 a.m.), with the theme “My life flows on in endless song.” Seniors Allison Boehm, Prairie Village, Joshua Chittum, Wichita, and Max Wedel, Tucson, Ariz., will give reflections, along with Brett Dewey, assistant professor of Bible and religion, Wayne Wiens, professor of biology, who is retiring after nearly 50 years teaching at Bethel, and Aaron Chappell-Deckert, vice president of Student Life, who will leave Bethel in June to take an assignment with Mennonite Central Committee in Colombia with his family. Special music is by the Bethel College Concert Choir under the direction of William Eash, professor of music.
The service will conclude with the traditional blessing for and candlelighting by seniors. The Baccalaureate planning committee includes seniors Sarah Buller, Lenexa, Jean Butts, Cleveland, Ohio, Joel Linscheid, North Newton, Candace Perisho, Olathe, Brittany Scogin, Derby, and Max Wedel.
The Commencement program will include music by the Epic Brass Quintet, organized by Timothy Shade, assistant professor of music. Rev. Michael Chittum, pastor of First Congregational Church of Salt Lake City and father of graduate Josh Chittum, will give the invocation and Rev. Rigoberto Negrón, pastor of Iglesia Menonita del Cordero, Brownsville, Texas, and father of graduate Moraima Negrón, will offer the benediction.
Other Alumni and Commencement Weekend events open to the public are the nurses’ pinning ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday in Krehbiel Auditorium and the senior art exhibit Saturday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center gallery, including the reception from 3-5 p.m. Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center will have special hours Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and Sunday noon-4 p.m. Kauffman Museum invites everyone to the current special exhibit, “Considering the Commonplace,” photographs by Professor Emeritus of Art Bob Regier, both Saturday and Sunday 1:30-4:30 p.m.
Bethel College classes of ’34, ’39, ’44, ’49, ’54, ’59, ’64 and ’69 will hold reunions May 22-23. The first event is a Friday evening dinner in the Schultz Student Center cafeteria, followed by an evening at Kauffman Museum.
On Saturday, retired faculty and staff will join reunion class members at a breakfast buffet. Classes observing reunions of 50 years or more will be guests of Bethel College president Barry C. Bartel and his wife, Brenda, for coffee on Saturday morning at Goerz House. All classes will meet for reunion luncheons at various locations on campus.
The annual Alumni Banquet for graduating seniors, alumni and friends will be held Saturday evening in Memorial Hall. The Alumni Association will honor two alumni at the banquet and the Bethel Deaconess Hospital/Bethel College Nursing Alumni Association will honor one. J. Harold Moyer, North Newton, a 1949 graduate, is the recipient of the Outstanding Alumnus Award. Howard Brenneman, Lenexa, a 1963 graduate, will receive the Distinguished Achievement Award. Gregg Schroeder, Goessel, a 1992 graduate, will receive the BDH/BCNAA Outstanding Alumnus Award.
To make a banquet reservation, visit or phone Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center at (316) 284-5205, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Fri. The price is $19 per person, with a cut-off date of May 15.
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.