NORTH NEWTON, KAN.– The name of James A. Will of Halstead, and his extended family, is now front and center at Bethel College, which recently named the newly renovated Academic Center for them.
James Will’s seven-figure estate gift will also be contributing to Bethel in less visible but equally important ways through establishment of the Will Family Scholarship Fund.
The Will Family Scholarship of $5,000 per year for up to four years will be awarded to one student annually starting with the 2013-14 school year.
The first priority for the scholarship will be a graduating senior from Halstead High School – James Will’s alma mater – who is enrolled at Bethel College and has demonstrated solid academic achievement and strong commitment to community service.
If there is no such qualifying student attending Bethel College in a given year, next priority will be a graduating senior from any high school in Harvey County that the college selects, who enrolls at Bethel College and meets the other established criteria.
Bethel named the Will Family Academic Center in appreciation for a seven-figure gift from the James A. Will Estate. Including the word “family” in the academic center name memorializes Will, who died in November 2011, as well as his parents, Henry Gustav and Helen Elizabeth (Mueller) Will and brother, Ernest “Ernie” Will (all of whom predeceased him) and also recognizes the Will extended family.
After graduating from Halstead High School, James Will completed two years at Bethel College before finishing his degree in business at the University of Kansas.
He began his career at an accounting firm in McPherson before opening his own business on Main Street in Halstead and working as an accountant at Halstead Hospital. He was an officer for the Bentley State Bank and then a vice president at the Halstead Bank until his retirement.
Larry Williams, chair of the Halstead Bank, was the person who first hired Will at the Bentley Bank, which Williams also owned. He told the Wichita Eagle that during Will’s nearly three-decade-long tenure as a loan officer and credit analyst at the two banks, he was active in local and civic groups.
Will never married and had no children, which allowed him more time to devote to civic affairs, Williams said.
Will was a member of First Mennonite Church in Halstead as well as many civic clubs and organizations. These included the board of directors for the Kansas Learning Center for Health, Halstead; Pine Village Endowment Foundation, Moundridge; Halstead Chamber of Commerce; Halstead Housing Authority; and Halstead Lions Club. He also served as Halstead city treasurer.
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.