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Special convocation focuses on academic achievement

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The final two convocations of the school year recognize student achievements in academics and athletics at Bethel College.

The May 10 Awards Convocation also noted faculty transitions and included presentation of the Helping Hand Award to a staff person or faculty member. The Champions of Character Awards convocation May 14 will highlight athletic achievement.

In his opening remarks May 10, Vice President for Academic Affairs Brad Born said, “Today we celebrate and enact values that are central to a Bethel College education, by honoring those who exhibit excellence in academics and exemplify service to others.

“These embody a third ethic – integrity,” he added, “and a holistic education at Bethel that connects spirit and mind, faith and learning, and individual and community.”

An annual highlight of the Awards Convocation is presentation of Thresher Awards to seniors who make outstanding contributions in their academic fields. The 2010 Thresher Award recipients were Kyle Claassen, Andover, for mathematics and physics; Evan Fast, Goessel, for business; Meredith Lehman, Bluffton, Ohio, for Bible and religion, German and history; and Aimee Siebert, Topeka, for psychology.

Lisa Thimm, assistant professor of mathematics, presented Claassen with his Thresher Award. “As a department, we are pleased with the enthusiasm with which Kyle has pursued his education,” she said, adding that already in his freshman year, Claassen presented at the Kansas section meeting of the Mathematical Association of America, and he has participated in the Putnam competition four times, scoring points on a test where the median score is zero.

Allison McFarland, professor of business and economics, in presenting the Thresher Award to Fast, noted his wide involvement outside his major discipline, including Concert Choir, jazz ensemble and Student Activities Committee. The combination of academic achievement and active participation in a number of areas, she said, “leaves no room for doubt that this award is … merited.”

Mark Jantzen, associate professor of history, presented the Thresher Award to Lehman, pointing out that it was based in large part on her two major seminar papers, one for history and advanced religious studies and one for German. The former, entitled “Fragile Bonds and Global Fellowship: The Ninth Mennonite World Conference in Curitiba, Brazil, 1972” has already won awards and been published. “After observing how carefully you have documented reconciliation in the global Mennonite fellowship,” Jantzen said, “we look forward to seeing how you will help to shape its future.”

Presenting the Thresher Award to Siebert, Dwight Krehbiel, professor of psychology, said, “We will always remember Aimee for her great love of learning. This passion has been apparent throughout her time at Bethel, evidenced by her enthusiasm for whatever she happened to be studying at the time, from literature to mass media to statistics to philosophy to neurobiology to, of course, psychology.”

Another high point of the 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 2010 winner was Royce Flaming of the maintenance staff. Krishna Phifer, junior from Humble, Texas, nominated Flaming.

Chad Childs, vice president for student life, who presented the Helping Hand Award, noted that “Krishna’s essay described an active, living example of true servant leadership. Krishna describes [Royce] as a ‘parent figure’ who supports her at athletic events, helped her with her car, supported her in finding employment, assisted in moving her in and out of the dorms and helped her become a better person.

“The Helping Hand Award selection committee received and reviewed several nominations this year,” Childs added. “These nominations represent the strength of relationships developed by students, faculty and staff here at Bethel College, and I thank every student who submitted an essay for consideration.”

An outstanding math student receives the Gerald Schrag Award in Mathematical Sciences, given this year to Greg Shelly, senior from Lenexa, while Ruth Wiens, Newton, received the CRC Press Freshman Chemistry Achievement Award.

Nathan Bartel, assistant professor of English, presented the Dorothy Wedel Kaufman Honor Scholarship in Literary Studies, given to support and encourage the pursuit of excellence in the discipline, to three students: junior Alex Stucky, Moundridge, senior Monica Schmidt, Mount Hope, and, for the third year in a row, Mayeken Kehr, senior from Goshen, Ind. Kevin Leary, sophomore from North Newton, received the 2010-11 Writing Fellowship Award for the position of writing consultant in the Center for Academic Development.

David Long, associate professor of art, presented the second Gail Lutsch Art Scholarship, introduced last year, to be given to an undergraduate art major and named for Professor Emeritus of Art Gail Lutsch, who officially retired at the end of the 2009-10 school year. Lacey Parker, junior from Lone Tree, Iowa, was the scholarship recipient for 2010-11.

Four outstanding language students, one from each year, receive Goethe Institute German Language Awards. Merle Schlabaugh, professor of German, presented them to freshman Laura Dueckman, Abbotsford, British Columbia, sophomore Taylor McCabe-Juhnke, North Newton, junior Terra Wiens, Newton, and senior Meredith Lehman. Schlabaugh also presented an award to Mika Patron, a high school student from North Newton, for excellent work in four semesters of German language study at Bethel.

Instructor of Nursing Nancy Lugo-Baez introduced the 2009-10 senior inductees into the Sigma Theta Tau nursing honors society: Malick Baruti, Mwanza, Tanzania; Manisha Bhandari, Andover; Sandra Bobbitt, Wichita; Miranda Crile, Mount Pleasant, Iowa; and Michelle Love, Whitewater. Crile also received the Iota Chi Excellence in Nursing Award, given to the graduating senior with the highest GPA.

Larry Friesen, professor of social work, announced the recipients of the 2010 Undergraduate Research, Innovation and Creative Activities (URICA) Summer Research Grants: Sonia Barrera, junior from Newton, in psychology; Erica Buller, sophomore from Lenexa, in art; Sierra Pryce, junior from North Newton, in psychology; Ami Schumacher, sophomore from Newton, in psychology; Alan Skinner, junior from Clay Center, in biology; Alex Stucky, junior from Moundridge, in literary studies; Andrew Voth, sophomore from Topeka, in music; and Nathaniel Yoder, senior from Kalona, Iowa, who received a Mennonite Contributions Grant for his research in conflict studies.

Gary Flory, director of the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR), recognized the Bethel College winners of the C. Henry Smith Peace Oration competition. Jon Huber, junior from South Hutchinson, placed first, Naomi Graber, sophomore from Elkhart, Ind., second, and Taylor McCabe-Juhnke, third.

Allison McFarland gave the Ray and Betty Funk Prize for Entrepreneurship to a team of four students for their business plan for an online music service, “Coffeehouse Media”: Jordan Bartel, senior from Lakewood, Colo., Benjamin Histand, senior from North Newton, Hannah Reber, junior from Newton, and Graham Unruh, junior from Newton. The J. Lloyd Spaulding Prize in Business and Economics was awarded to Kristina Graber, senior from Sioux Falls, S.D., for “commitment to academic excellence.”

Chad Childs presented the Resident Assistant of the Year award to Will Peterson, senior from Bonner Springs, an RA in Haury Hall.

At the close of the convocation, Brad Born recognized John Sheriff, interim president and Ernest E. Leisy professor of English, for 40 years’ service to Bethel College; Mary Regier, assistant to the director of development, for 30 years; and for 25 years, Mike Ratzlaff, maintenance, Chuck Regier, Kauffman Museum curator of exhibits, Merle Schlabaugh, professor of German, Ada Schmidt-Tieszen, professor of social work, and Barbara Thiesen, co-director of libraries.

Sheriff noted two faculty retirements: Don Lemons, professor of physics, after 23 years of teaching at Bethel, and Richard Zerger, professor of chemistry, after 15 years at Bethel and 36 years of teaching overall (also at McPherson 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’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

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