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Bethel officially launches construction, renovation for new Academic Center

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – One of the special events of this year’s Alumni Weekend was a groundbreaking for the renovation of Old Science Hall into the Academic Center.

Bethel students, faculty, alumni and friends gathered Saturday afternoon, May 21, on the building’s east side, where the absence of the fire escape stairs, and the presence of construction vehicles and piles of material inside a recently erected temporary fence showed that “tear-down” in preparation for the extensive renovation had already begun.

Julia Huxman, senior from Wichita and the 2010-11 Student Senate president, said in her remarks: “My grandmother used to tell me ‘good things come to those who wait.’ While I believe there is a time and a place for those words of wisdom, and that this old Science Hall has definitely waited long enough to see renovations, I also believe that if you want something bad enough, you have to go after it with all your energy.

“I am so thrilled that Bethel College decided that renovating Old Science Hall is a priority deserving of that kind of energy,” she continued. “The last few weeks of school, students had to walk by the site every day on their way to and from the dorms, and believe me when I tell you that this loud, dusty, unattractive construction site is a beautiful addition to our campus – because it represents a healthy institution, one that is expanding and willing to take the measures necessary to uphold its standards of academic excellence by providing its students with excellent facilities.

“It is important for students to see that their campus is innovative, thriving and competitive. Breaking ground on this Academic Center is exactly the step Bethel College needed to take. These are the kinds of changes that energize students, turning them into [volunteer] student ambassadors for Admissions, the kind of changes they go home and tell their friends and family about – that Bethel has some vibrant things going on on its campus.”

Huxman thanked, on behalf of her fellow students, “every single person who played even the smallest part in making this Academic Center a reality for us. I don’t think students often realize how lucky they are to be surrounded by such concerned and caring community members, donors, alumni, faculty and staff who are willing to make a financial investment to enhance our academic experience. We will put it to good use.”

Along with Huxman and Student Senate Vice President Naomi Graber, senior from Elkhart, Ind., representing the Bethel student body, those wielding shovels at the Academic Center groundbreaking were Perry D. White, Bethel president; Allen Jantz, associate professor of education, Allison McFarland, professor of business, and Patty Shelly, professor of Bible and religion, all faculty who will have departments and offices in the Academic Center; Larry Friesen, just-retired professor of social work, and Keith Sprunger, professor emeritus of history, representing two more departments that will be housed in the building; Mel Goering, Santa Fe, N.M., board chair, and Joe Friesen, Towanda, for the Bethel College Board of Directors; Becki and Gary Dick, Baldwin City, and Milton Claassen, Newton, representing the many donors who have contributed or pledged to the project; Sondra Bandy Koontz, Bethel vice president for advancement, and Fred Goering, director of development; and Duane Hickerson and Rudi Sauerwein, the project architect and contractor, respectively.

Also speaking were McFarland on behalf of the faculty and President White, with Shelly offering a prayer.

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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