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Outstanding alumni called 'role models of nursing'

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The Bethel Deaconess Hospital/Bethel College Nursing Alumni Association has named Marie and Martha Voth of North Newton its Outstanding Alumnus Award winners for 2011-12.

The sisters grew up 14 miles north of Newton in the Goessel community. Though now retired in North Newton, they are lifelong members of and still attend Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church in Goessel.

They graduated in from the Bethel Deaconess Hospital School of Nursing in 1962 and from Bethel College in 1965 with bachelor’s degrees, majoring in nursing and minoring in psychology.

The Voths spent their nursing careers in hospitals, including Bethel Deaconess Hospital and Newton Medical Center, Martha as a head nurse on the medical floor and Marie as charge nurse on evenings and surgery. They also spent two years as volunteers with Mennonite Central Committee at Grenfell Mission Hospital, St. Anthony, Newfoundland.

Phyllis Miller, Bethel’s director of nursing, says, “They are remembered as nurses who always worked quietly and efficiently. I worked for a summer on the medical floor and I remember them and their strong sense of professionalism and what role models of nursing they were.”

Verda Deckert, retired Bethel nursing professor, remembers that, with the Voths being identical twins, “there was the inevitable – when they worked back-to-back day and evening shifts, patients would remark that ‘she is really working long days!’”

The sisters have remained active as volunteers since they retired from nursing. “They love flowers and have been faithful volunteers at area gardens, including Botanica in Wichita, Kauffman Museum and Bethel College,” says Geri Tyrell, Bethel assistant professor of nursing. “They have also worked for the Kidron Bethel Auxiliary to raise funds for the needs of health-care residents, and have generously supported the Bethel nursing program over the years.”

The sisters may be best known these days for their work in wheat marquetry – three-dimensional small pieces and framed images made from wheat straw. They have created more than 100 pieces, some of which have gone to other countries while much of it hangs in Newton homes and businesses.

“I remember their image of the Liberty Bell,” says Miller, “that was on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., for a while and is now at the Mennonite Historical Museum in Goessel.”

The Voths enjoy traveling and have been to more than 50 countries and every continent but Antarctica. Deckert says they would come and share about their trips with former co-workers, which “everyone greatly enjoyed.”

The BDH/BCNAA Outstanding Alumnus Award is given on the basis of dedication to the nursing profession, demonstrated leadership ability and creativity, and outstanding professionalism, to an alumnus who has promoted and elevated the general nursing image and is held in high regard by peers and the community.

There was a special recognition for the Voths during 2011 Fall Festival last October, and they will be honored along with other alumni award winners at the annual Alumni Banquet Saturday, May 19, at 6 p.m. in Memorial Hall.

Price for the banquet is $21 per person. To make a reservation, visit or phone Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center at 316-284-5205. Payment or credit card information is required when the reservation is made. No refunds can be given after May 11, since after that Alumni Office will have been charged for reserved meals.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2011-12 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2011-12. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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