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Professor of music honored with Schrag teaching award

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – William Eash, professor of music, received the Ralph P. Schrag Distinguished Teaching Award at this year’s Bethel College commencement May 23.

The vice president for academic affairs presents the award in recognition of an outstanding contribution to teaching, to a faculty member based on recommendations and evaluations from both peers and students. The award’s periodic presentation at commencement “affirms the importance that Bethel College places on excellent teaching by our faculty and meaningful learning by our students,” said Brad Born, academic dean.

As he presented Eash with the award, Born noted that Eash’s teaching “extends beyond his primary work with choral students and music majors.

“As a frequent presenter in [Bethel’s] convocation series, he educates the wider Bethel community. At the spring Masterworks concert each May, Bill conducts an Oratorio Chorus that joins Bethel students with community singers and the Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra. Bill’s commitment to educating people to make music is evident as well in the many congregational singing workshops he has conducted since 2002.”

Following his undergraduate education at Bluffton (Ohio) University, where he majored in music performance (vocal and string bass), Eash did two years of vocal study in Vienna, Austria. He then taught for seven years at Iowa Mennonite School, during which time he completed a Master of Arts at the University of Iowa. He later earned his Doctor of Musical Arts in choral conducting.

As he was completing his DMA, Eash took a position at the University of Evansville, Ind., where he served as both minister of music and director of university choirs. After eight years on the Evansville faculty, Eash moved to Newman University, Wichita, as director of music and performing ensembles for five years before coming to Bethel College in 1999.

Born continued in his citation, “Students give Bill high marks for his energy, humor, intensity and joy. [They] appreciate his ability to create a supportive environment in which they feel motivated to meet his high expectations. A student writes [in an evaluation]: ‘I felt Bill had a great deal of faith in me, sometimes more than my abilities warranted, but ultimately it made me into a better, stronger singer.’ In praising Bill’s purposeful determination in building a group of individual singers into a cohesive choir, one student expressed appreciation for his teaching style this way: ‘I like the football coach mentality!’

“Students also appreciate that Bill’s passion for music is integrated with his faith, a connection Bill himself expressed in a written self-assessment years ago. Reflecting on his service in Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian and Catholic institutions, Bill wrote: ‘The conviction that Jesus Christ is the Messiah has become embedded in my life and my approach to teaching. This conviction firmly shapes my interaction with colleagues, students and community and lends passion to my music.’”

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’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2009 and one of only two Kansas colleges profiled in Colleges of Distinction 2009-10. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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