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Bethel lectures on college’s history help mark 125th anniversary

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN.– The celebration of Bethel College’s 125th year continues with the 2012 Menno Simons Lectures, Oct. 28-30 at Bethel.

Keith L. Sprunger, author of the newly published Bethel College of Kansas 1887-2012, will be this year’s speaker for four sessions, Sunday, Oct. 28, Monday, Oct. 29, and Tuesday, Oct. 30, all at 7:30 p.m., as well as Oct. 29 at 11 a.m. for convocation.

All lectures are in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center and are free and open to the public.

Sprunger’s book is the first book-length history of Bethel to be published since 1954. His first lecture in this year’s Menno Simons series is entitled “Bethel, the ‘Light in the West’: The 19th-century Origins of the College.”

The next two lectures will focus on pieces of Bethel history not covered in the previous book, The Story of Bethel College, written by Peter J. Wedel and edited by Edmund G. Kaufman. On Monday morning, Sprunger will speak on a topic likely to be of special interest to a mostly-student audience: “Listening to Students’ Voices: Postcards, T-Shirts and ‘Underground’ Opinions.” That evening’s lecture is on “Bethel in the 1960s: The Crucial Decade.”

In his final presentation, Sprunger recognizes the publication of two other Kansas Mennonite college histories in the past five years. Rather than following strict lecture format, the Oct. 30 session, titled “Writing the History of Kansas Mennonite Colleges – Comparative Views” is a panel discussion with Sprunger, John Sharp of Hesston College and Richard Kyle of Tabor College. Bethel President Perry White will moderate.

Sharp, a member of Hesston College’s history faculty, authored A School on the Prairie: A Centennial History of Hesston College, 1909-2009. Kyle, Tabor College professor of history, was one of four co-authors of Tabor College: A Century of Transformation, 1908-2008, along with Peggy Goertzen, Lynn Jost and David Peters.

Opportunity for questions and discussion will follow the presentation of each lecture. For more information, call 316-284-5354.

Keith Sprunger is Oswald H. Wedel Professor Emeritus of History at Bethel College, where he taught from 1963-2001. Sprunger grew up in Berne, Ind. He received a B.A. from Wheaton (Ill.) College and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. In 1972, he won the Danforth Foundation E. Harris Harbison Award for Gifted Teaching.

Among Sprunger’s areas of scholarly interest have been Puritanism in the Netherlands and Anabaptist-Mennonite studies, with a particular focus on the history of printing and publishing by both groups. He is the author of The Learned Doctor William Ames: Dutch Backgrounds of English and American Puritanism (University of Illinois, 1972), Dutch Puritanism: A History of English and Scottish Churches of the Netherlands in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Brill, 1983) and Trumpets from the Towers: English Puritan Printing in the Netherlands, 1600-1640 (Brill, 1997), as well as numerous articles in scholarly journals.

He also has long-standing interests in Mennonite history, oral history and historic preservation. He is a collector of antiquarian books and Bethel postcards.

Sprunger has been dedicated to local history through such roles as organizer and advocate for the Kansas History Day programs, presidency of the Kansas History Teachers Association, leadership in the Harvey County Historical Society and author of a history of Bethel College Mennonite Church, Campus, Congregation and Community: The Bethel College Mennonite Church 1897-1997.

During the 2012 Bethel College commencement ceremonies, Sprunger received the Julius A. and Agatha Dyck Franz Community Service Award, given periodically to a faculty member “judged to have made an especially important contribution to the college community beyond the normal expectations.” In his citation, President White pointed to Sprunger’s “nearly half-century of [doing] history.”

Keith is married to Aldine Slagell Sprunger. They live in North Newton and are the parents of three Bethel graduates – David, Mary and Philip – as well as proud grandparents.

The John P. and Carolina Schrag Kaufman family established the Menno Simons Lectureship Endowment to promote research and public lectures by recognized scholars relating to Anabaptist-Mennonite history, thought, life and culture, past and present. Since 1997, the family of William E. and Meta Goering Juhnke has also contributed substantially to the endowment. Both families have their roots in the Moundridge area.

Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the 2012-13 Forbes.com analysis of premier colleges and universities in the United States and ranks in the top five “Best Baccalaureate Colleges” in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2012-13. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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