From Bethel to NASA isn’t a stretch.
Explore how some alumni have turned their degree into success in space, on the stage, in athletics, on addressing world issues. Consider how you can reach new heights with your Bethel degree.
Become one of the countless graduates who achieve great things in all different arenas.
- NASA scientist
- Broadway star
- Symphony conductor
- International business leader
- Pro football CFO
- Hasbro engineer
- Critical care transport CEO
- Global women’s advocate
- International entrepreneur
- New York Philharmonic musician
- Memory research psychologist
- National sports game changer
- Investment entrepreneur
- Haitian health advocate
- International stage performer
- National Audubon Society conservationist
- Political change maker
- Nonprofit marketing business founder
- Victims’ advocate and Oprah consultant
- Disaster psychologist
- Big 10 Athletics assistant A.D.
- Interfaith bridge builder
- Bug doctor
- Nonprofit CEO
- Software Engineer
- NOAA Weather Nerd
- Royal Illustrator
- Mass General Chief Resident
- Law and Peace Mentor
G. John Dick ’61
G. John Dick grew up in eastern Montana, majored in math and physics at Bethel and got a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California-Berkeley. From 1986 until he retired in 2008, John worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Among John’s NASA projects: technology for the Deep Space Network, which communicates with and enables space science experiments – for example, with the Cassini mission that brought back photos of the rings of Saturn; developing a cryogenic clock that uses synthetic sapphire as the resonating element; and working with the Low Temperature Microgravity Physics Facility, being built to take experiments to the International Space Station.
John is well-known in the field of frequency standards (clocks) for predicting a noise process that has been named the
Dick Effect and is now recognized as a primary performance limitation for state-of-the-art frequency standards.
It’s important to have the vision of ourselves as a human race that is probing the frontiers, both physical and scientific.
Rachel Kasper Fitzsimons ’88
With Bethel’s main drama professor and voice instructor at the time as her parents, it’s no wonder Rachel de Benedet (née Rachel Kasper) considered the Krehbiel Auditorium stage her playground and was singing as soon as she could talk.
After majoring in fine arts at Bethel, Rachel made her Broadway debut in 1998 as
the third nun from the left in The Sound of Music. She later played Baroness Schraeder in the national touring production opposite Richard Chamberlain’s Captain Von Trapp.
Among Rachel’s music theater credits on Broadway: Nine, with Antonio Banderas, Chita Rivera and Jane Krakowski, which won a Tony for
Best Revival of a Musical; The Addams Family with Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth;
Muriel in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, with both John Lithgow and Jonathan Pryce; and
Paula Abagnale, a role she created and for which she was nominated for a Fred Astaire Award, in Catch Me If You Can.
Off-Broadway roles Rachel has created include
Lureena in Adrift in Macao (which garnered her a Barrymore Award for Best Actress in the original Philadelphia Theatre Company production) and
Lily in Tommy Tune’s Turn of the Century, opposite Jeff Daniels at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre.
Being in a Broadway show is amazing and exciting and something to strive for, but it doesn’t make you a different person. You’re still you, you’re just you in a Broadway show.
Daniel Hege ’87
Music and History
After learning discipline, consistency and a work ethic growing up outside Denver and later on a farm in Aberdeen, Idaho – where he made his first profound discoveries about music – Daniel Hege brought a passion for music to Bethel, the place he learned to channel that passion.
Dan credits his parents with encouraging his many interests, ranging from music to sports to academics, and Bethel faculty for allowing him to keep exploring – which led to his
conducting epiphany one day when he was asked to direct a choir rehearsal.
Dan’s first orchestral post came after he won a prestigious competition, following graduate school: music director and principal conductor of the Young Musicians’ Foundation Debut Orchestra in Los Angeles.
He went on to associate and resident conductor positions with the Kansas City Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony, respectively. In 1999, Dan became music director and principal conductor of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. In 2010, he assumed the same positions with the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.
Bethel had great musical training for me and also allowed me to be involved in many things, including earning a history major. It led me to a window where I was able to look out and see what was possible.
Rick McNary ’95
Bible and Religion
A self-described late bloomer, Rick McNary started college at age 29, after working as a carpenter and then being called to pastor a Disciples of Christ congregation.
A hungry little girl in Nicaragua, whom Rick met on a mission trip, changed the course of his life. From that moment on, he knew he wanted to feed as many hungry people as he could and get as many people in the United States as possible to help.
So Rick founded Numana Inc. in November 2009 – which turned out to be almost exactly two months before Haiti suffered a massive earthquake Jan. 11, 2010. The Salvation Army dropped the first packaged high-protein meals, put together by Numana volunteers working in the El Dorado (Kan.) Civic Center, later that month.
Now, Numana staff travel across the country to organize thousands of volunteers who have packaged tens of millions of meals for starving people around the world.
Numana is not me but it’s God working through me.
International Business Leader
Economics and Business Administration
As a teenager, Toshihiro Fukudome dreamed of leaving rural Japan to study in the United States. He wanted to perfect his English and pursue a career as a professor or a politician.
His English teacher, a graduate of Freeman (S.D.) Junior College and Bethel, connected Hiro to both institutions. At Bethel, Hiro’s admiration for his professor J. Lloyd Spaulding led him to earn a degree in economics and business as his early dreams of academia and politics gave way to international business.
Hiro’s first job out of college was with Sanrio, associated with Hallmark Cards and perhaps best known for its Hello Kitty brand. After completing an MBA, Hiro held management positions with the Japanese subsidiaries of Polaroid, Tupperware and Mattel Toys and finally became president of ACCO Brands-Japan, an office products and supply company.
Hiro’s immersion in Japanese and American culture and his extensive global experience have helped him relate effectively to people of diverse backgrounds.
I prefer challenges to the status quo.
Pro Football CFO
Jeff Goering ’95
Accounting and German
His own sport may have been basketball, but Jeff Goering has made a career out of financial management for the 2012 Super Bowl® champion Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League.
He is now the team’s vice president and chief financial officer, overseeing all functions of the Ravens finance department, including financial reporting and budgeting processes, and serving as the chief financial liaison with the club’s audit/tax advisors and various stadium partners.
He joined the club in 1999, starting out as controller before being promoted to senior director of finance and finally CFO.
After finishing his undergraduate studies in business administration and accounting, Jeff was an audit senior at Ernst & Young, Kansas City, Missouri, during which time he earned his CPA certificate. He then went to the University of Massachusetts for his master’s degree in sport management, working as a consultant in the evaluation and preparation of Boston Red Sox salary arbitration cases and as a graduate assistant for the UMass Athletic Department business office.
Before joining the Ravens, Jeff was a senior consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers, Dallas, for two years, working with a number of sports organizations to prepare financial feasibility studies, market assessments and economic impact analyses for proposed new or expanded facilities.
I could have been an accountant anywhere, but I wanted to take my passion for sports and figure out how to connect that to accounting.
Steve Unruh ’95
Steve Unruh has found a way to infuse his life with music.
He majored in music performance with education certification as an undergraduate, then earned a degree in electrical engineering at the University of Kansas. He was a public school music director for three years and now has completed a decade with the Hasbro Toy Group.
As a senior electronic engineer, Steve has worked with many of Hasbro’s best-known toys, including Star Wars®, GI Joe®, Transformer® and Playskool® items.
I’ve engineered electronics for a large number of products over the past 10 years. I think I’ve designed more than 100 products that made it into production.
Nor has he given up making music – literally, as he builds electric violins for fun. In addition, he’s part of Resistor, a progressive rock band for which he plays flute, guitar and violin in addition to singing.
He has credits on 22 albums (eight of them solo; four with Resistor). One reviewer calls Steve
sickeningly talented, adding,
He is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist in all of these genres [jazz, folk, progressive rock] as well being a great songwriter, engineer and producer … the epitome of a solo musician.
Critical Care Transport CEO
Suzanne Wedel ’76
[Note: Dr. Suzanne Wedel died March 31, 2016, at age 60 after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer.]
No surprise: after majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry, Suzanne Wedel went on to study medicine at the University of Kansas, complete a critical care fellowship at the University of Maryland and eventually take a full-time faculty position in surgical critical care at Boston Medical Center.
However, Suzanne also completed a second major, peace studies.
I had diverse interests and at Bethel I was encouraged to keep my options open, she said. She was accepted into a graduate program at the University of Colorado-Boulder, in political science focused on international relations and peace research, but ultimately chose medicine.
Until the time of her death, Suzanne was CEO of Boston Med-Flight, a critical care transport service (helicopter, jet and ground) for patients in New England, supported largely by the six major teaching hospitals in the Boston area.
As it turns out, Suzanne said,
I’m in a very political arena, very competitive in some parts of the country. One thing I learned at Bethel – you always invite everyone to the party. From all our game theory discussions, I learned how to get everybody [into a position] where they can all win.
At Bethel, everyone can succeed and be recognized in something. At a larger institution, you’re not always able to do that. I developed the skills I needed to succeed.
Global Women’s Advocate
Palwasha Kakar ’99
Bible and Religion
Palwasha Kakar was born in Seattle to medical-student parents – father from Afghanistan, mother from south-central Kansas. She chose her maternal grandmother’s alma mater and did her undergraduate work in global studies, and Bible and religion.
Since 2010, Palwasha has been on the staff of the Asia Foundation, where she is currently director of women’s empowerment and development programs, based in Kabul.
Palwasha earned a master’s degree from Harvard University in gender, religion and politics. She’s now considered an expert in managing programs in an Afghan context – for which she calls on skills learned through the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR) at Bethel and in which she focuses particular energy on environment, education and social justice issues that affect women.
Her experience includes managing a small grants program under the auspices of the United Nations in Afghanistan’s civil society initiatives and serving as program manager in charge of establishing the Gender Studies Institute at Kabul University.
Afghan society is very interesting, says Palwasha (who is fluent in Arabic, Dari and Pashtu).
The war, almost three decades long, has caused many traditional societies to come apart – and resulted in opportunities to include and incorporate women’s rights.
Po Shin Chang ’58
Economics and Business Administration
His friendship with a Mennonite mission worker helped Po Shin Chang achieve the dream of many ambitious young people in Taiwan in the 1950s – a U.S. college education. After completing his business major, he went on to earn an M.A. in economics at the University of Tennessee, where he also did post-graduate work.
When family obligations called him back to Taiwan, Chang brought his experience working with ENESCO Corp. in Chicago, an importer/distributor of housewares, giftware and tableware from Japan, Hong Kong and Europe. ENESCO was in at the beginning of the Precious Moments® collectibles phenomenon while Chang still worked with the company.
At home, Chang started his own import/export firm.
I returned to Taiwan at the right time [mid-’60s], when the economy was just taking off, he says.
He founded two more companies that operated in investment, construction and importing luxury cars and high-end European fashion apparel and leisure-wear for wholesale and distribution in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao and all over China.
He also went into the family business – banking. His father retired as chairman of the board of Chang Hua Bank in 1972, the same year Chang became an executive member. He assumed the chair from 2000 until retirement in 2007, during which time he restructured and re-engineered an institution more than 100 years old into a bank for the 21st century.
New York Philharmonic Musician
Arlen Fast ’74
Arlen Fast didn’t touch a bassoon until he was in high school and didn’t play a wooden one until his senior year.
At Bethel, Arlen explored
what I was interested in. A few life detours later, he finally ended up in a college music program and with his first professional music job, second bassoon in the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.
Arlen went on to spend 17 seasons with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra and San Diego Opera, where he first took up the contrabassoon –
two times as long as a bassoon with twice the problems, Arlen says.
In 1995, Arlen won the job of his dreams: contrabassoonist for the New York Philharmonic.
But it didn’t stop there. After figuring out that the contrabassoon’s problems had to do with the register key system – essentially unchanged for a century – Arlen set out to solve them.
Arlen played his
Fast System contrabassoon in its American debut in Brahms’ German Requiem, performed in memory of the thousands who died in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. There are now Fast System contrabassoons in orchestras and symphonies across the nation and the world.
Though Arlen has come far from a farm in Moundridge and a small Kansas college, he credits Bethel with being the place that first
began to expand my view of the world.
Memory Research Psychologist
Angela Troyer ’88
Angela Troyer came to Bethel from Denver with an interest in health sciences.
Bethel gave me a good head start in the sciences. [As an undergraduate,] I was getting graduate-school experience, working closely with professors, doing research.
She went on to earn both masters and doctoral degrees in clinical neuropsychology. A practicum on memory testing with older adults changed the course of her intended Ph.D. research.
I got really interested in memory and aging. There’s a lot known, but a lot that we still have to learn, she says.
In 1994, a postdoctoral fellowship took her to Baycrest, a system in Toronto that combines care for aging patients with one of the world’s top research institutes in cognitive neuroscience. That led to a job where in addition to her administrative duties, she has an active research program in assessment and intervention for memory changes associated with normal aging and early cognitive disorders.
One recent project was a new online memory test comprising a series of exercises and an almost instant final score. This
brain thermometer could help with early detection of problems but also hopefully reassure people that not every memory lapse is worth fretting about.
Even though we hear a lot about Alzheimer’s disease, not everybody gets it, Angela says.
National Sports Game Changer
Cynthia Doyle Perkins ’77
Health, Physical Education and Recreation
Cynthia (Alexander) Doyle Perkins has played the game – and she knows the game.
As a Bethel student, Cynthia was a member of four championship volleyball teams. In her senior year, the Threshers went 26-0 and Cynthia was named KCAC 1st Team.
Cynthia was also on the track team, completing her career holding part or all of 13 KCAC women’s track and field records (some still stand). She was inducted into Bethel’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004.
With her degree from Bethel and a master’s in guidance and counseling from Lamar University, Cynthia became an administrator within the National Federation of State High School Associations. She helped high schools across the nation handle everything from Title IX enforcement to transgender athletes to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In addition to being the editor of multiple sport rule books, Cynthia was also responsible for advances that increased safety measures in a variety of high school sports. She currently serves as a school administrator in the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township in Indianapolis.
Diversity isn’t about being comfortable with every aspect of everyone’s culture. It’s about establishing a standard, when there’s a difference, that’s acceptable to both cultures.
Christine Jantz ’78
What can you do with a degree in mathematics? If you’re Christine Jantz, you can co-found Jantz Management – an investment firm for which she built a quantitative model for stock selection that outperforms the S&P 500.
While completing her math degree at Bethel, Christine got hooked on probability theory. She went on to earn two graduate degrees – in statistics at the University of Iowa, plus an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
She met future company co-founder Sean Morgan at MIT and they began imagining the application of system dynamics, a methodology for studying and managing complex feedback systems, to investment.
Christine gained great job experience in an array of positions and companies, but realized that if she wanted to build investment models she was going to have to start her own company.
Once she did, she could finally concentrate on what really excited her: creating and testing models, combining system dynamics and other quantitative methods with fundamental financial principles and her own observations. Christine is currently president and portfolio manager at Jantz Management, Boston, responsible for the business strategy and investment process, as well as portfolio management, research and development.
It’s much more fun to run your own business than to work for someone else.
Haitian Health Advocate
Wildy Mulatre ’94
Wildy Mulatre, a native of Haiti, took a course in accounting following high school. But he dreamed of more.
In 1990, he successfully applied to the Peace Scholarships program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which took him to Kansas to earn his college degrees.
I am grateful to Hesston College and Bethel College, Wildy says,
because if I am what I am, it is firstly due to God and second to these two Mennonite colleges.
Wildy’s goal was always to return and give back to his community. Since 1996, Wildy has worked as a public health administrator in Hinche, Haiti – planning, organizing and implementing community health projects such as vaccination campaigns and malaria eradication, and working with partners to oversee different hospitals, dispensaries and clinics in more remote areas.
He regularly hosts groups of Bethel students who come to Haiti to serve and learn, and he recently completed his studies for a law degree.
I can say my dreams came true, because I feel happy in my job.
International Stage Performer
Arthur W. Marks ’93
Music and Social Work
Arthur W. Marks’ off-Broadway credits are numerous – perhaps most notable, his role as the Ugly the Duckling in HONK!, winner of the 2000 Olivier Award for
Best Musical. Arthur appears in the first American cast recording of HONK!, with Music Theatre of Wichita.
Even before graduating from Bethel, the native of Kansas City, Kansas, made his professional singing debut with the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra. He went on to solo with orchestras in Baltimore, Des Moines and Wichita, and to perform on stages and classical venues in Rome, London, Berlin, Leipzig, Paris and Vienna.
I find, more and more, as I direct and choreograph pieces, now as I get older, that I use a lot of my social work skills in handling different crises that may come up during the course of a production, Arthur says.
A lot of those tools I learned are what I do in my performing and musical theater life as well. It’s really quite extraordinary.
Little did I know that my experiences and the people surrounding me at Bethel would have such a profound effect on my career path and choices.
The many lessons I learned not only came from being in the arts, but also in the other disciplines offered on campus. Thank goodness for the liberal arts.
National Audubon Society Conservationist
Stanley Senner ’73
Environmental Studies and Biology
The theme of service that runs strong at the college left a deep mark on Stanley Senner.
Dwight Platt, professor of biology, pointed me to environmental conservation as a career, and stewardship of God’s creation as a lifelong form of Christian service.
That commitment led him to positions with The Wilderness Society, the U.S. House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries and the Ocean Conservancy. He has worked a total of 15 years with the National Audubon Society, where he is now vice president for bird conservation-Pacific Flyway, working from Alaska to California and south to Chile.
As staff for The Wilderness Society, Stan worked to secure passage, in 1980, of the federal Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. In his 10 years as Audubon’s Alaska state office executive director, Stan worked to balance oil and gas development and wildlife habitat protection in the Arctic.
He was chief restoration planner and then science coordinator for the state-federal Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council in Alaska, and he led Ocean Conservancy’s restoration science team following the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Dwight and other faculty members embodied the ideal of living simply and in ways that are consistent with our values and faith, Stan says.
Both these themes – service and simple living – have been guideposts throughout my career and life.
Political Change Maker
Matt Watkins ’99
As treasurer of the Kansas Democratic Party, Matt Watkins says,
my name has been on more than half a million pieces of mail in the past four years. This is what he calls
my real passion – working for change by helping candidates and communities through politics.
Matt started working on the local level by serving as a member of the Wyandotte County Democratic Party, holding almost every position in the organization, from precinct committeeman to chair.
He came to Bethel from Lawrence on a basketball scholarship and is no stranger to leadership roles. While here, he served four years in the Student Senate, including as student body president his senior year. In addition,
I was fortunate to work closely with President Doug Penner on institutional advancement projects.
Following graduation, Matt moved to Kansas City for a job as a money manager and a stockbroker selling bonds. And then 9/11 happened.
The bond market went to zero, he says.
I transitioned into real estate after that.
Matt credits his liberal arts education for helping to ease the transition. He’s now focused on commercial real estate as a specialist in the Kansas City, Kansas/Wyandotte County market for Reece Commercial Real Estate.
It’s quick-paced, and different every day, with flexibility to stay involved in politics, Matt says.
My education and skills learned at Bethel continue to help my career. A passion for community was instilled by the thoughts and actions of great teachers like Jim Juhnke, Keith Sprunger and Doug Penner.
Nonprofit Marketing Business Founder
Cara Kliewer ’97
Cara Kliewer graduated from Bethel in 1997 and jumped right into a marketing role for a Kansas City-area business. However, she quickly realized her path was leading her away from the
A move to the Kansas Health Foundation two years later allowed her to use traditional marketing techniques for social good, which continued in her nearly a decade with Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters.
During Cara’s tenure, KBBBS grew to serve more than 6,500 children each year and earned recognition as the #1 Big Brothers Big Sisters in the country.
Cara, who now lives in Wichita, started her own business, CK Communications, in 2012 specifically to serve nonprofits and small businesses.
Many [of these] can’t afford a full-time marketing staff, she says.
I have found this to be a great solution for organizations that need an experienced marketing professional in a cost-effective form.
As a business administration major (communications emphasis), Cara knew early on that she wanted to pursue a career in marketing. But Bethel’s focus on community service also proved to be formative.
I thoroughly enjoyed volunteering for various organizations on campus, in my church and in the larger community, and it was great preparation for what I would do later in life.
No wonder the Wichita Business Journal recognized Cara in two consecutive years – in 2013 as one of
40 Under 40 and in 2014 with a Woman in Business Award honoring the area’s top 20 businesswomen.
Victims’ Advocate and Oprah Consultant
Diana Schunn ’87
Diana Schunn was the first nurse in Kansas to specialize in taking evidence of sexual assault and is still considered by many to be the best.
Her involvement with sisters who were longtime victims of sexual abuse by family members resulted in her being part of a segment of The Oprah Winfrey Show during which Oprah interviewed the girls.
They decided I needed to be in Chicago, to be available for the girls and to consult with the producers about how to prepare the audience for hearing this difficult story. Because you can be sure there will be other victims of sexual assault in that audience, Diana says.
Diana came to Bethel from Henderson, Nebraska,
to be a nurse and play volleyball.
Her experience with compromise, teamwork and time management has stood her in good stead.
My grades were actually better when I was playing volleyball. I had to be very disciplined during the season to get everything done.
She began her nursing career on an orthopedics/surgical floor, then moved to the emergency room, where she began to encounter victims of sexual abuse, and where her vocational trajectory changed. She eventually trained in sexual assault examination, death investigation and forensic nursing.
She moved into administration and has been executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County since 2008.
Aimee Voth Siebert ’10
Psychology and Communication Arts
Aimee arrived at Bethel sure she wanted to study psychology. An “Aha!” moment in Christine Crouse-Dick’s Media Analysis Class turned her onto her second major.
“I thought: ‘This is it,’” she recalls. “Communication is both the bridge that connects and the fog that obscures how we share our internal experiences.”
As staff for The Bethel Collegian, Aimee traveled to Greensburg after one of the most powerful tornados ever recorded destroyed the small western-Kansas town in spring 2007. That experience made her “really interested in community resilience and post-traumatic growth,” she says. “Only 10 percent of the town was left, but they chose to stay, rebuild and rebuild greener.”
All this, combined with Aimee’s interest in working internationally (cultivated through a high-school immersion course in France and travel courses at Bethel), caused her to look for the kind of graduate program she eventually found at the University of Denver. She earned a master’s degree in international disaster psychology, and is a disaster behavioral health specialist in Colorado’s Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response.
“I started the job right after the wildfires of summer 2012 took off,” Aimee says, “literally a trial by fire. And there was the Aurora theater shooting that July.” In September 2013 came flooding in 20 Colorado counties following rainfall of historic proportions, and in 2015, Aimee deployed to Sierra Leone with the Centers for Disease Control, responding to the Ebola outbreak. “I’ve gotten a serious introduction to all kinds of disasters.”
Big 10 Athletics Assistant A.D.
Tim Allen ’86
Health and Physical Education
Tim came to Bethel to play football for his former high school coach and to get an education he hoped would help him fulfill a dream of coaching himself.
When Tim’s collegiate playing career ended, he became a Bethel admissions counselor and joined Kent Rogers’ football coaching staff – meaning he was part of the Threshers’ legendary 1984 season, when they went undefeated and won the conference championship.
He’s convinced having that on his resume helped him “move up,” to the University of Kansas Jayhawks football program, following graduation from Bethel. Eleven seasons later, the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers hired Tim as assistant athletic director for football operations.
Since 2008, Tim has been assistant athletic director for football operations at Michigan State University. In the last six years, the Spartans have won three Big Ten titles (including a Rose Bowl championship in 2014), played in back-to-back Cotton Bowls and reached the College Football Playoff Final 4 (2015). In all, Tim has been part of 18 post-season appearances, starting with Bethel’s NAIA playoff in 1984.
Bethel prepared him for where he wanted to go, Tim says. “I owe every opportunity I have received in this business to Kent Rogers and Bethel College,” he says.
“One thing I learned at Bethel is the ability to persevere, to hang in there and not quit – and to set your goals as high as you possibly can.”
Interfaith Bridge Builder
Aziza Hasan ’03
History and Social Science
Aziza spent the first years of her life in Jordan, one of four children of a Christian mother from the Midwest and a Palestinian Muslim father. The family later moved to Halstead, Kansas – where Aziza’s senior English teacher noticed something she hadn’t: her interest in conflict resolution. “You should consider Bethel College – they have a conflict resolution program,” the teacher said.
At Bethel, Aziza studied and worked with professors who became mentors she considers important to this day. At the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR), she not only earned a certificate in conflict resolution but organized the Peace Lecture series, coordinated the Peace Oration contest and was the driving force behind the Pledge of Social and Environmental Responsibility that KIPCOR offers graduating seniors each year.
Aziza continued to hone her skills in conflict resolution, organizing, leadership development and interfaith dialogue (with which she was intimately familiar from growing up in a multicultural, interfaith family) – leading her to where she is today, executive director of NewGround: Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change.
“I’m constantly asked ‘What’s the point of interfaith dialogue?’” she says. “It’s not about rhetoric, but action.”
“My parents were constantly putting their faith into action, and when I was at Bethel, I saw the same thing. It wasn’t just talk, it was also service. At NewGround, part of engaging with the community is serving the community.”
Aziza’s service will now have a wider impact – in 2016, Barack Obama appointed her to the President’s 3rd Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Brian Stucky ’02
Brian had made a hobby out of computers by the time he came to Bethel, and he didn’t have another clear direction, so he decided to make computer science his academic discipline. “I liked the classes, and I kept taking them,” he says.
Another of his many interests was insects – he’d maintained a collection through high school. Working full-time at Bethel for Information and Media Services and as an assistant forensics coach, he started thinking about graduate school – and those insects. He began to collect again, especially cicadas.
Understanding that natural history and biology were clearly a passion, Brian decided to go for it – a doctoral program in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “I finally felt like this was something that if I didn’t do it, I’d always regret it,” he says.
Since then, Brian has done research at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, discovered a new species of cicada in New Mexico, and garnered a post-doctoral position at a major U.S. research facility, the Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida.
The encouragement of Bethel professors, who told him he’d do well in a graduate school environment, and the rigor of his computer science courses prepared him well, he says.
Most of all, at Bethel he was able to cultivate his curiosity.
“People sometimes think we’ve pretty much found everything there is in biodiversity, and are shocked to find out how little we actually know, especially when it comes to insects,” Brian says. “I’m just trying to fill in some of the millions of blanks.”
Miriam Krehbiel ’83
Miriam counts herself lucky to be part of the extended family of Adolph Goering, for whom Bethel’s Goering Hall was named. Her uncle never married, but he helped make it financially possible for his nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews to attend Bethel.
“I always wanted to be a nurse,” she says. “My mother once showed me a paper I wrote in 2nd grade where I declared that’s what I would be when I grew up.”
When she began to practice nursing, however, she discovered she was not as excited about the hours as about other aspects of the work. She moved from managing a clinic at Baylor University in Dallas to VP of operations for a temp agency in Los Angeles, and then president and CEO of Century City Chamber of Commerce. She headed Kern County United Way, Bakersfield, for almost a decade before taking her current position as president and CEO of United Way of Greater Topeka (Kansas).
“At Bethel, I learned more than I ever imagined possible, and expanded my mind in ways I hadn’t expected,” Miriam says. “I formed amazing relationships with people not like me. I sang in the Gospel Choir and got to go places I never would have otherwise.”
“Bethel pushed me outside my comfort zone, and I realized I was OK there,” she adds. “That has made it possible for me to do what I do, and I’m forever grateful.”
Jonathan Rich ’76
Math and Physics
Jonathan Rich traveled around the world and ended up in Silicon Valley.
Until he was 12, Jonathan and his siblings were Bethel campus kids. Then the family moved to Japan. When it was time for college, Bethel seemed like home. He already knew many of the professors, and friends from elementary school were among his classmates.
Two years after graduating from Bethel, Jonathan and a fellow physics major started an around-the-world trip. Jonathan ended up in Thailand, got a job working for the International Rescue Committee – and stayed for almost 11 years.
When he came back home for graduate school, his performance on a nationwide math exam called the Putnam, taken at Bethel under the careful tutelage of Professor Emeritus of Math Arnold Wedel, made Jonathan’s application to Northwestern University stand out. He earned a Ph.D. there.
In 2000, his best friend invited him to jump into the tech start-up world in northern California, just as the dotcom boom was beginning.
“When I was at Bethel,” Jonathan recalls, “there was a teletype machine in the basement of the Ad Building, connected to a central computer in McPherson. We could play computer games on it. I became fascinated with UNIX and LINUX [operating systems] – and that knowledge got me the job I have now.”
Which is, after passing through several start-ups, working for a former one called Vudu, an internet movie-streaming service, recently acquired by Walmart. Jonathan is a software engineer, working in quality assurance (QA).
“I love my job. I consider myself a key player at Vudu and do a multitude of varied tasks that are always changing and never boring.”
NOAA Weather Nerd
Kate Becker ’04
Math and Physics
As long as Kate Becker can remember, she has been going to the Kansas Cosmosphere – visiting with her parents, attending Space Camp. As long as she can remember, she has been paying attention to volatile Kansas weather along with her professional pilot dad, Bob. And yes, at one point she dreamed of being an astronaut.
At Bethel – the only place she ever considered going, she says – she played basketball, volleyball and soccer, sang in the Concert Choir as a senior and, as club president, instituted “sharing our mathematical joys and concerns” into the Math Club agenda.
Her life took a turn when she decided to pursue a seminary degree, completing an M.A. in theology and ethics. She eventually earned a second masters, in international science and technology policy, at George Washington University. “Policy,” she says, “is really about bringing science and ethics together.”
She’s now a program and policy adviser for the Satellite and Information Service, which provides environmental data from space, for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington, D.C.
“A policy person’s job is really that of a translator,” she says. “There are scientists, lawyers, engineers, marketing people, government ofcials to the Cabinet level, all speaking different ‘languages.’ I sit right in the middle at NOAA, between the government and the private sector, helping all these people understand each other and work together to accomplish big projects.”
"That’s what I learned from my Bethel liberal arts education – to see multiple perspectives and to think critically. You can’t solve any problem without understanding another person’s language.”
Jesse Graber ’00
Art and Education
According to Jesse Graber, all kids do what adults call “art” – singing, dancing, drawing, making music. “Some of us,” he says, “just don’t stop.”
Jesse has been drawing something since he could hold a pencil. Yet one reason he came to Bethel was because he knew he could not only study art, but also explore other things that interested him.
And, most important, "[I learned] how to learn," he says.
Following graduation, Jesse did voluntary service in Indiana, then went to the American Academy of Art in Chicago. “In a lot of ways, it was back to square one to learn how to do art all over again. I couldn’t have done it without that Bethel [liberal arts] education.”
Discovering illustration was a milestone. “Art is a big concept. An illustrator puts a box around it, uses the ‘constraints’ to make it accessible.”
Such as, most recently, general physics, in a book authored by retired Bethel professor Don Lemons. “He wanted ‘simple’ drawings to communicate vast ideas, to make it seem like anyone could draw, for example, ‘the state of the universe.’”
Or drawing the entire Kansas City Royals line-up as animal characters. The team office loved and bought, though ultimately didn’t use, Jesse’s images. Nevertheless, he says, “That was the most fun I’ve ever had.”
One of Bethel’s best gifts was “all the learning in things I wouldn’t have pursued on my own” – not only music (violin and more) but also math and science.
Mass General Chief Resident
Amy Ortman ’96
Although Amy Ortman wouldn’t say she has “always wanted” to be a doctor, there is that family photo of her giving her dad a “shot” with the Fisher-Price® doctor kit she got for her 4th birthday.
After working her way through Bethel, medical school and a residency in obstetrics and gynecology, she nally settled on anesthesiology. “It’s a great t for me. I get to meet lots of people and take care of them during a really important moment in their lives. It is usually pretty routine and straightforward, but it is a specialty where things can happen incredibly fast and I love the challenge of remaining calm and focused while I deal with the problem.”
She chose Boston hospitals for a residency in anesthesiology and a fellowship in cardiothoracic anesthesiology. “I had always wanted to live on the East Coast,” she says. “And I wanted to know if I could be competitive at what are arguably some of the most prestigious medical centers in the world.” In fact, she could, serving as chief resident at Massachusetts General, the Harvard medical school hospital.
Amy currently serves as attending anesthesiologist and assistant professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Amy can pick out some special classes and professors at Bethel – but, she says, “all the professors stand out in that I felt like they cared about me as a person, not just as a student. In talking with friends who attended major universities and colleges, I think that is the biggest difference in our respective experiences.”
“You can get a great education anywhere if you are willing to work hard, but few people will be lucky enough to feel like a valued member of a community during their time in college."
Law and Peace Mentor
Reginal Williams ’89
When Reginal Williams was still in high school in Florida, an older man at his gym became his workout partner and mentor. That man “encouraged me to go to college to expand [myself] and open myself to different things.”
When Bethel football coach Kent Rogers came through on a recruiting trip, Reginal hesitated about going so far from home, among these “Mennonites” of whom he knew nothing.
His mother told him: “You go there, you stay there and you come back here with your education. We’ll support you.” He was the only one of four high school teammates to graduate from Bethel.
With some interest already in pursuing a law-enforcement career, Reginal majored in social work at Bethel and then returned to Fort Lauderdale, where he graduated from the police academy at Broward College.
In 26 years on the Sunrise (Florida) police force, Reginal says that as an ofcer, he was “a general practitioner. [In almost every role], I was working with people who were in crisis in some way.”
“Police work is social work – with enforcement added. If we’re doing our job correctly, we’re connecting people with the resources they need.”
Just retired from policing, Reginal now focuses on making and writing music (he has a YouTube channel, Reggie W Unite) – and on mentoring young men just as he once was mentored.