NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College has lost a man who bridged most of the college’s history.
David C. “D.C.” Wedel, 101, Bethel’s sixth president, died Jan. 13, just two months shy of his 102nd birthday, at Bethesda Home in Goessel, Kan.
Wedel once reminisced that he had “shaken the hand of every Bethel president but the first one” (Cornelius H. Wedel, no relation). D.C. Wedel served as Bethel president from 1952-59.
Wedel also recalled being among those who carried the bricks that the mason used to build the walls of Science Hall (now called Old Science Hall). Completed in 1925, the year Wedel graduated from Bethel Academy, Old Science is the second oldest building on campus after the original structure, the Administration Building.
Wedel, originally from Goessel, taught at Heimbaugh County School and coached Goessel High School basketball from 1927-28. He graduated from Bethel College in 1933. He earned a B.D. degree from Colgate Rochester Divinity School, Rochester, N.Y., in 1936. From 1936-46, he served as pastor of First Mennonite Church in Halstead, Kan., with a brief hiatus to be director of the Civilian Public Service Camp in Marietta, Ohio, in 1941.
In 1946, then Bethel president Edmund G. Kaufman invited Wedel to come to the college as acting dean while the current dean took a sabbatical.
Following that, Wedel went to Denver to get his doctorate in Christian education from Iliff School of Theology. He wrote his dissertation on “The contribution of C.H. Wedel to Mennonite education.” D.C. Wedel once said, “There’s no way of estimating the influence Bethel College has had on the Mennonite church.”
Wedel also wrote a history of Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church, The Story of Alexanderwohl, published in 1974 by the Goessel Centennial Committee. He was named Bethel Outstanding Alumnus for 1982.
Following his term as Bethel president, Wedel served as an administrator at Southwestern College, Winfield, Kan., from 1959-67. He then served several years as associate director of development at Bethel.
While most of his career was spent in college administration, Wedel was also either interim or associate pastor at Buhler (Kan.) Mennonite Church; Zion Mennonite Church, Elbing, Kan.; Zion Mennonite Church, Souderton, Pa.; Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church, Goessel; and Ransom-Hamilton Mennonite Church, Ransom, Kan.
In retirement, Wedel was an avid gardener whose beautiful lawn was known all over North Newton. When frail health forced Wedel’s move to Bethesda Home, he lost neither his interest in life nor his sense of humor. “The reason I’m still alive,” he told well-wishers gathered to celebrate his 100th birthday in 2008, “is because God is afraid of me asking too many questions.”
David C. Wedel was born March 16, 1908, in Goessel to Rev. Cornelius C. Wedel and Kathrina Unrau Wedel. In 1936, he married Martha Quiring, who died in 1998. Survivors include two daughters, Judith and Mark Arthur, Russell, Kan., and Eleanor and Arnold Heckendorn, Sun City, Ariz., six grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. 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 2009 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.