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Academic achievement is focus of annual awards convocation

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The annual Awards Convocation held each spring at Bethel College recognizes students’ academic excellence, notes faculty transitions and includes presentation of the “Helping Hand” award to a staff or faculty member. This year’s event took place May 11.

In his opening remarks, Vice President for Academic Affairs Brad Born said, “In gathering today we celebrate and enact values that Bethel’s mission considers central to your education – academic excellence, an ethic of service to others, and integrity, that recognizes and sustains fundamental connections between spirit and mind, faith and learning, and individual and community.”

Noting that “we do not learn alone,” Born added, “In naming individual awards and persons, may we be mindful of the many unnamed yet commendable expressions of scholarship, service, integrity and faith-inspired discipleship that we have witnessed in others this year.”

One highlight of the convocation is the presentation of Thresher Awards to seniors who make outstanding contributions in their academic fields. The 2009 Thresher Award recipients were Jennifer Regier, Elbing, and Michael Unruh, Peabody, for biology, and Joel Linscheid, North Newton, and Andrew Toews, North Newton, for music.

Jon Piper, professor of biology, who presented the two Threshers in biology, noted that both Regier and Unruh have spent extensive time studying in Costa Rica, both are musicians who sing in the Bethel College Concert Choir, and play in the college Wind Ensemble and the praise band Lost in Lights, respectively, and both will be going to Mennonite Voluntary Service assignments after graduation.

James Pisano, assistant professor of music, presented the Thresher Award to Linscheid, announcing that he will be going to graduate school at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Timothy Shade, instructor of instrumental music, gave the Thresher to Toews and noted that he will be entering a graduate program at Indiana University in Bloomington. Linscheid, who plays saxophone and has been studying clarinet, and Toews, a trombonist, are both graduates of Newton High School who have played music together since they were middle school-age.

Another high point of the annual awards convocation is recognition of a faculty or staff member that one or more students nominated for the J.O. and Esther Schrag Helping Hand Award. The Schrags, of North Newton, are both 1938 graduates of Bethel College.

The 2009 winner was Karl Friesen, assistant professor of computer science. As he presented the award, Clark Oswald, associate director of admissions, noted that the two students who nominated Friesen “both wrote essays that detailed how [he] went above and beyond [his] normal work duties to aid in academic help and to indirectly teach [both students] lessons about life.”

The two students also pointed out “[Karl’s] involvement in our Bethel community,” Oswald added. “Whether it is religiously attending convo and chapel or singing with the Concert Choir for Masterworks concerts, [Karl] has shown care and interest in our community.”

Oswald ended the award presentation with an excerpt from senior Paul Regier’s essay: “Especially at a time of difficult changes at Bethel College, Karl Friesen’s concern and ability in finding creative solutions in concrete ways is inspiring to me.”

Associate Director of Development Toby Tyner introduced a new award, the Gail Lutsch Art Scholarship, to be given to an undergraduate art major, named for Professor of Art Gail Lutsch, who retires at the end of this school year after 28 years teaching at Bethel College. Tyner praised Lutsch for “taking seriously the role of a mentor and empowering [student] belief in themselves because she first believed” in them. Lutsch presented the scholarship to Kelsie Miller, a junior art major from Goshen, Ind., working in mixed media and photography.

An outstanding math student receives the Gerald Schrag Award in Mathematical Sciences, given this year to Kyle Claassen, junior from Andover, while Trent Baalman, Wichita, received the CRC Press Freshman Chemistry Achievement Award.

The Dorothy Wedel Kaufman Honor Scholarship in English, given to support and encourage the pursuit of excellence in English, went to junior Bradley McKellip, Newton, as well as, for the second year in a row, Mayeken Kehr, junior from Goshen, Ind. The 2009-10 Writing Fellowship Award for the position of writing consultant in the Center for Academic Development was also a repeat, going to Aimee Siebert, junior from Topeka, for the second consecutive year.

Four outstanding language students, usually one from each year, receive Goethe Institute German Language Awards. Dan Quinlin, professor of languages, presented them to Zach Metzler and Allison Schrag, both from Newton and tied for the freshman award; Austin McCabe-Juhnke, North Newton (junior); and Meredith Lehman, Bluffton, Ohio (senior).

Bethel student-athletes received 47 Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Scholar-Athlete awards while a record-breaking 18 students were named National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics-Daktronics All-America Scholar-Athletes (juniors and seniors with a 3.500 or higher GPA), including four recognized in two sports each: Natasha Esau, Hutchinson, for cross-country and track and field; Scott Goering, Pretty Prairie, for basketball and track and field; Jordon Regehr, Halstead, for basketball and track and field; and Kristen Schrag, Moundridge, for track and field and volleyball. The other NAIA-Daktronics Scholar-Athletes were: Brent Stutzman, Hutchinson (men’s basketball); Laura Stevens, McPherson (cross-country); Dana Daugharthy, Iola (football); Omar Hasan, Halstead (football); Andrew Schmidt, Hesston (football); Nathan Schmidt, Tribune (golf); Greg Shelly, Lenexa (men’s soccer); Emily Kliewer, Lenexa (women’s soccer); Matthew Hershberger, Clay Center (men’s tennis); Mayeken Kehr, Goshen, Ind. (women’s tennis); Paige McKinney, Newton (women’s tennis); Katie Robertson, Lawrence (women’s tennis); Tyler Schroeder, Goessel (track and field); Lindsey Oliver, McPherson (volleyball); and Kari Thimm, Beatrice, Neb. (volleyball).

Instructor of nursing Kulsum Kapacee announced the 2008-09 senior inductees into the Sigma Theta Tau honors nursing society: Laura (Schlabach) Aronis, Wichita; Michelle Baldwin, Marion; Lindsey Elder, McPherson; Peni Ens, Hillsboro; Munna Godfrey, Wichita; Brittany (Wiens) Goertzen, Hutchinson; Amy Hulse, Peabody; Salma Juma, Wichita; Lynnet Maidhi, Nairobi, Kenya; Punyawati Neupane, Wichita; Jane Njagi, Nakumu, Kenya; Lindsey Oliver, McPherson; Sunita Pudasaini, Newton; Breanna Sauerwein, Goshen, Ind., and Newton; Brittany Scogin, Derby; and Jacy Suttlemyre, Salt Lake City. Elder also received the Iota Chi Excellence in Nursing Award, given to the nursing student with the highest GPA.

Paul Lewis, professor of psychology, announced the recipients of the Summer 2009 Undergraduate Research, Innovation and Creative Activities (URICA) Grants: Benjamin Harder, junior from Hesston, in music; Kayla Hiebert, junior from Newton, in social work; Victoria Janzen, junior from Wichita, in history; Meredith Lehman, junior from Bluffton, Ohio, in history; and Kelsie Miller in art. In addition, Lehman will receive a Mennonite Contributions Grant for her research into the role of a Mennonite peace witness at the gathering of Mennonite World Conference in Curitiba, Brazil, in 1972, when the country was under the rule of a military dictatorship.

Lewis also presented Matthew Root, senior from Topeka, with a grant from the Eldon S. and Margaret Rich Endowed Research Fund to help defray costs for Root’s attending a fall conference at which he will present the results of his senior research and thesis in history.

Barbara Schmidt, manager of the Community Mediation Center at the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR), recognized the Bethel College winners of the C. Henry Smith Peace Oratorical Contest. Students from all the Mennonite colleges in North America are eligible to compete, doing so on their own campuses with an overall winner chosen from the first-place finishers. At Bethel, Aimee Siebert placed first, Bradley McKellip second, and Taylor McCabe-Juhnke, freshman from North Newton, third.

For the second year in a row, the biweekly Bethel Collegian received a silver medal from the Kansas Associated Collegiate Press in the overall Four-Year Private College Newspaper category. More than 40 Kansas college and university newspapers competed for awards this year.

The Ray and Betty Funk Prize for Entrepreneurship was split between Sam Gaeddert, junior from Hutchinson, and Sennai Fiseha, sophomore from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The J. Lloyd Spaulding Prize in Business and Economics was awarded to Paige McKinney, senior from Newton.

Mark Smith, Haury Hall resident director, presented the Resident Assistant of the Year award to C.J. Unruh, senior from Perryton, Texas, an RA in Voth Hall. Aaron Chappell Deckert, vice president for student life, gave special recognition to Deanna Wisdom, Voth Hall resident director, who will leave Bethel at the end of this school year after one of the longest RD tenures, six years. Deckert made particular note of Wisdom’s “hospitality to and care for students.”

At the close of the convocation, Bethel President Barry C. Bartel recognized Rachel Pannabecker, Kauffman Museum director, and Dale Schrag, director of church relations, for 25 years’ service to Bethel; Cynthia Beth, administrative assistant to the vice president of advancement, Tony Graber, financial aid director, and John Thiesen, co-director of libraries and director of the Mennonite Library and Archives, all for 20 years; and Gail Lutsch and Wayne Wiens, professor of biology, who also retires at the end of this school year, after almost 50 years teaching at Bethel College.

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.

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