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Special convocation focuses on academic achievement

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College’s annual Awards Convocation, one of the last two convocations of the school year, recognizes student achievements in academics.

The May 9 Awards Convocation also noted faculty transitions, and included presentation of the Helping Hand Award to a Bethel staff member.

In his opening remarks, Vice President for Academic Affairs Brad Born said, “In choosing to celebrate both scholarship and service in this gathering, we embody a third ethic, integrity – integrity that recognizes and sustains fundamental connections between spirit and mind, faith and learning, and individual and community.”

An Awards Convocation highlight is presentation of Thresher Awards to seniors who make outstanding contributions in their academic fields. The 2011 Thresher Award recipients were Sonia Barrera, Newton, for psychology; Rhonda (Miller) Butler, Hesston, for natural sciences; Benjamin Harder, Hesston, for music; Clint Harris, Manhattan, for theater; Sierra Pryce, North Newton, for psychology; Alison Schmidt-Tieszen, Newton, for social work; and Kyle Unruh, Goessel, for music.

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 2011 winner was Jane Schmidt, admissions activities coordinator, nominated by senior Rachel Gaeddert.

The nomination stemmed from an incident earlier this spring when a pecan pie Gaeddert had baked to take to the Mennonite Central Committee Relief Sale disappeared the night before the sale. Schmidt made another pie on her lunch hour the next day to give to Gaeddert.

Chad Childs, vice president for student life, who presented the Helping Hand Award, quoted from Gaeddert’s nomination: “God has blessed Jane with many gifts to serve others, and she has blessed the people around her by using those gifts to uplift the weary-hearted. She sacrificed her time to give me a free gift that I could pass along to others – she not only helped me bring a pie to the MCC sale, she also helped me see Christ’s love in action.”

An outstanding math student receives the Gerald Schrag Award in Mathematical Sciences. Lisa Thimm, assistant professor of mathematics, presented this year’s Schrag Award to Emilie Doerksen, senior from Newton.

Nathan Bartel, assistant professor of English, awarded the Dorothy Wedel Kaufman Honor Scholarship in Literary Studies, given to support and encourage the pursuit of excellence in the discipline, to three students: Jackie Kamphaus, junior from Clay Center, Katie Malotte, senior from Marysville, and Cassidy McFadden, junior from Elgin, Ill.

Kevin Leary, junior from North Newton, received the 2010-11 Writing Fellowship Award for the position of writing consultant in the Center for Academic Development.

Instructor of Nursing Nancy Lugo-Baez introduced the 2010-11 senior inductees into the Sigma Theta Tau nursing honors society, Anna Quiring, Newton, and Amita Shrestha, North Newton. Quiring also received the Iota Chi Excellence in Nursing Award, given to the graduating senior with the highest GPA.

Ada Schmidt-Tieszen, professor of social work, announced the recipients of the 2011 Undergraduate Research, Innovation and Creative Activities (URICA) Summer Research Grants: Naomi Graber, junior from Elkhart, Ind., for psychology; Abagail Kirk, junior from Minneola, for biology; Taylor McCabe-Juhnke, senior from North Newton, for psychology; Jennifer Rose, senior from Walton, for social work; Allison Schrag, junior from Newton, for social work; Alyssa Schrag, junior from Moundridge, for history; and Louise Zurkee, junior from Andale, for biology.

Schmidt-Tieszen also recognized the students who received travel funds that enabled them to attend conferences in 2011, thanks to the Eldon S. and Margaret Rich Endowed Research Fund: Tim Burns, senior from McAlester, Okla., Cassidy McFadden and Sierra Pryce to the International Congress on Schizophrenia Research in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Miriam Weaverdyck, sophomore from Ann Arbor, Mich., and Amber Anderson, sophomore from McPherson, to the National Conference of Undergraduate Research in Ithaca, N.Y.

Gary Flory, director of the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR), recognized the Bethel College winners of the 2011 C. Henry Smith Peace Oration competition. Brandon Schwager, senior from Lawrence, placed first, with Taylor McCabe-Juhnke and Naomi Graber giving the second- and third-place speeches, respectively.

Brian Becker, instructor of business and economics, presented the Ray and Betty Funk Prize for Entrepreneurship, which recognizes creativity, practicality and potential for success. Members of the winning group, who submitted a business plan for Blue Skies Pet Care, a service developed by Ashley Klein, sophomore from Newton, were, in addition to Klein, Sean Claassen, sophomore from Elmira, Ore., Nathan Knight, junior from Moundridge, and Jacob Maldonado, sophomore from Ft. Myers, Fla.

Allison McFarland, professor of business, gave the J. Lloyd Spaulding Prize in Business and Economics to Garrett Hiebert, senior from Goessel.

Chad Childs presented the Resident Assistant of the Year award to Caleb Regehr, senior from Whitewater, an RA in Voth Hall.

At the close of the convocation, Bethel President Perry White recognized Les Goerzen, director of facilities and technology, and Rodney Schmidt, maintenance, for 35 years of service to Bethel College; John McCabe-Juhnke, professor of communication arts, and Gail Stucky, co-director of libraries, for 25 years; and Dan Quinlin, professor of languages, and Jane Schmidt, admissions activities coordinator, for 20 years.

White also noted that Diane Flickner’s 20 years as athletics director, which she concludes at the end of this school year, would be given special recognition at the Champions of Character Convocation, the last of the year, May 13. He then cited Larry Friesen, professor of social work, who is retiring after teaching in and directing the social work program at Bethel for 28 years.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2010-11 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is in the first tier in its category in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of “America’s Top Colleges” for 2011. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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