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Limericks, artwork bring Bethel lore alive in new alphabet book

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by Melanie Zuercher

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – In 2012, Keith Sprunger’s comprehensive new history of Bethel College rolled off the press in time for Fall Festival. This year, Bethel life and lore will appear in a form to appeal to other parts of the brain.

Oct. 4, Berneil Rupp Mueller of North Newton, Susan Bartel of Newton and Valerie Klaassen of Whitewater will introduce, for the Bethel College Women’s Association, A BC ABC, first in convocation at 11 a.m., and that evening at 5 in Mojo’s Coffee Shop.

Several years ago, when BCWA was trying to think of a special way to celebrate Bethel’s 125th anniversary in 2012, Mueller had the germ of an idea, expressed in a cardboard model of a book she had put together.

When set upright, the model looked like a threshing stone. She consulted with several Bethel alumni in the Newton-North Newton area about what a book in that format would cost to produce.

“It would have been very expensive and very labor-intensive,” Mueller said. “We looked at several different [options]. Then Susan had this brilliant idea.”

“The cardboard model had 14 pieces, 28 sides,” Bartel said. “Twenty-six pages, plus two for the cover – an alphabet book.”

Mueller, Bartel and Klaassen formed a BCWA Book Committee to figure out how to involve a number of alumni writers in the project, and to talk about possible artwork.

Eventually, the plan for a book of 26 limericks, with illustrations by 26 different alumni artists, was born.

They put out the call for limericks. “We tried to select them based on coverage of a wide range of Bethel activities, [different] years at Bethel, Bethel experiences,” said Bartel, “the breadth of Bethel College.”

After the first round of submissions, said Mueller, “we still needed several letters, so we extended the contest” – during which time Ami Regier, professor of literary studies, hosted a limerick-writing party at Mojo’s for students.

Then for the artwork, which Bartel called “the magical part.” Emeritus art faculty Bob Regier and Gail Lutsch, along with Rachel Epp Buller, assistant professor of art, came up with a list of alumni artists – 26 plus an alternate for each.

However, of the first choices, only one had to decline because of schedule.

“It was amazing,” said Mueller. “They were all very excited. The artwork has been wonderful.”

Artists and writers come from the length and width of the United States and one from Canada, from East to West Coast, representing “a wonderful range of ages, geography and professions,” said Mueller. Class years range from 1947 to 2014. Most are Bethel alumni although there are some contributions from “Bethel friends, staff and former faculty.”

Audra Miller, Hesston, who will graduate in 2014 as a fifth-year senior, designed the book and book cover.

Altogether, the book includes work by 17 writers and 28 artists.

The original artwork is already on display at Mojo’s. The convocation Oct. 5 at 11 a.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium will introduce four of the limericks, with statements from the eight different writers and artists.

At the book launch party, beginning at 5 p.m. in Mojo’s, several of the limerick writers will read their work, accompanied by Rich Toevs of Newton, improvising on the piano. Raylene Hinz-Penner, Topeka, is the emcee.

In addition to A BC ABC being for sale, a supplement Mueller created will be available. It contains every limerick submitted for the project – more than 180 of them, including limericks that people wrote simply to encourage others to submit alphabet-related limericks for the book.

“We’re just amazed at the creativity of Bethel people,” Bartel said.

The book will also be for sale at the BCWA Market on the Green on Fall Festival Saturday, Oct. 5, with all proceeds going to support Bethel College through BCWA.

For a complete Fall Festival schedule, go to, where you can view and print a festival program.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2013-14 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 2013-14. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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