Letter from the President
This fall marks the beginning of Bethel’s 70th academic year. The college was born in the cultural, political, and technological cross-currents of the 1940s. Travel back with me and take it in.
Drive by cinema marquees and see features for Bambi, Pinnochio, and Dumbo. Flip on the radio – it’s Frank Sinatra crooning love songs.
In your barber shop chair, read with astonishment how the Brooklyn Dodgers just drafted Jackie Robinson, integrating Major League Baseball for the first time.
Newsstands advertise life-altering techologies every few months: television, Velcro, the microwave oven, a jet propulsion aircraft and indoor plumbing.
Meanwhile, an evil empire stalks Europe and Americans feel terrorized by a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. They rush to church in record numbers (43 percent attended before WWII, 69 percent after). Billy Graham’s tent revivals capture headlines. Within a couple of years, 300,000 people become members of the Southern Baptist Convention; Catholic churches swell and one million babies are baptized each year.
Fifty percent of college students in Indiana attend private colleges, and the GI Bill makes college accessible to veterans.
Then something stirred. Opportunity.
A very small group of Mennonite Brethren pastors sat in a camp meeting cabin and dreamed big. Rather than add another single purpose institution like Bible college or seminary, they thought, what about training an army of faith-integrated professionals for every marketplace and calling where these technological and social developments occurred? They dared to pencil down audacious phrases for this project, like “preparing leaders for the church and entire world” (which is still in our mission statement)!
Woodrow Goodman, the first president, had $6.75 to his name. Quinton Everest, the first board chairman and an international radio evangelist to 40 countires, dumped in all he had, overdrafting his account. District Superintendent Warren Manges stuck his neck out, plunking down $6,000 in inflation-adjusted money to hold land in escrow until other pastors might join this cause. Today, $7 extends seven decades, with alumni calling 59 nations home.
In this issue, we see God’s strategic use of Bethel College to reveal and clarify a student’s vocational calling. That’s been the family business since 1947. Won’t you help us multiply our efforts in this 70th year?
"The Bethel College of 1947 was a place of eager anticipation for students and faculty alike. In the very first year of the college’s existence, the enrollment for the first semester was a mere 87 brave young people becoming a part of history."