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Bethel welcomes former president as 2013 commencement speaker

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A former president returns to Bethel College as the speaker for the 2013 commencement.

Doug Penner, Topeka, has titled his address to the Class of 2013 “You want to move a heavy boulder?”, to be given Sunday afternoon, May 19, in Thresher Stadium. Penner was president of Bethel College from 1995-2002.

Penner recently retired, in fall 2012,  as president of the Kansas Independent College Association and Fund, a position he had held since fall 2002.  

He began his academic career teaching undergraduate psychology at Bethelfrom 1972-87. In 1984, he spent a sabbatical year teaching English and lecturing in psychology at Sichuan Teachers’ College and Sichuan University in Chengdu, China.  

Penner also spent four years each as a consultant with Growth Associates, an organizational development division of a community mental health center, and as executive director of the Associated Colleges of Central Kansas, a consortium of six independent liberal arts colleges.  

During his service as president of the KICA & F, Penner was the presiding officer of the membership of the Foundation for Independent Higher Education and a member of the board of directors of the Council of Independent Colleges.

His B.A. is from Bethel College in psychology and sociology and he earned masters and Ph.D. degrees in social psychology from the University of Kansas.

He is married to Bethel alumna and former Bethel faculty member Raylene Hinz Penner, who recently retired after nine years teaching in the Department of English at Washburn University, Topeka.

The 2013 graduation ceremonies begin with the baccalaureate service May 19 at 10 a.m. in Bethel College Mennonite Church. The formal commencement starts at 4 p.m. with the traditional Walk around the Green. Both baccalaureate and commencement (which will be in Memorial Hall in case of inclement weather) are open to the public.

Baccalaureate prelude music features members of the class of 2013. This year’s baccalaureate theme comes from a poem by Wendell Berry, “A Spiritual Journey.”

Four graduating seniors will offer meditations: Aaron Rudeen, Whitney Steingard, David Tedone and Natasha Orpin. Special music is by the acoustic duo The Sirens, seniors Maggie Goering and Allison Yoder, and the Bethel College Concert Choir under the direction of William Eash, professor of music.

The service will conclude with the traditional blessing for and candlelighting by seniors. The baccalaureate planning committee includes seniors Ariane Bergen, Amber Blount, Laith Hasan, Mariah Hostetler and John Watson, BCMC pastor Ruth Harder and four  members of the Bethel faculty and administration.

The commencement program begins with music by the Epic Brass Quintet, organized by Timothy Shade, Bethel associate professor of music.

Greg Gaeddert, Leawood, former Bethel board chair and father of graduating senior David Gaeddert, will give the invocation. Graduating senior Joseph Creiglow, El Centro, Calif., will offer the benediction.

There will be a faculty award for teaching excellence presented at this year’s commencement.

Other Alumni and Commencement Weekend events open to the public are the senior art exhibit, including a reception in the gallery area from 6-8 p.m. May 17 and, May 18, the nurses’ pinning ceremony at 2 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium.

Both the bookstore and Mojo’s Coffee in Schultz Student Center will be open extra hours during the weekend (bookstore 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, 12-2 p.m. Sunday; Mojo’s 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday). Kauffman Museum invites everyone to the current special exhibit, “Art of the commonplace: Prairie towns through the lens of Bob Regier.”

Bethel College classes of ’38, ’43, ’48, ’53, ’58, ’63, ’68 and ’73 will hold reunions May 17-18. The first event is a Friday evening dinner in the Schultz Student Center cafeteria, followed by a walking tour of campus. The evening concludes with an ice cream social.

On Saturday, retired faculty and staff will join reunion class members at a breakfast buffet. Classes observing reunions of 50 years or more will be guests of Bethel College president Perry D. White and his wife, Dalene, for coffee on Saturday morning at Goerz House. All classes will meet for reunion luncheons at various locations on or near campus.

The annual Alumni Banquet for graduating seniors, alumni and friends will be held Saturday evening in Memorial Hall. The Alumni Association will honor two alumni at the banquet: G. John Dick, Claremont, Calif., will receive the Distinguished Achievement Award, and Justina Neufeld, North Newton, the Outstanding Alumnus Award. Special music is by the women’s a cappella ensemble Woven.

For alumni activities, contact the Office of Alumni Relations at 316-284-5251. A complete schedule for Alumni Weekend is online at

Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the 2012-13 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

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