2009 Award Recipients
Nat Brown, Alumnus of the Year
For many college graduates, the transition from college to career is often a difficult one, as many struggle to find a job that they both enjoy and that also coincides with their major. But such was not the case for Nat Brown, Bethel College’s 2009 Alumnus of the Year. After graduating from Bethel in 1976 with a degree in Bible Literature, Nat and his wife, Donna, joined the mission agency World Partners as missionary representatives to Ecuador, South America. Though they had been married only a year, the Browns were eager to begin their lives together serving God on the foreign mission field.
Nat was no stranger to missions, having grown up in Nigeria as the son of missionaries. While in Nigeria, Nat sensed God’s call on his life at an early age to do a work similar to that of his parents. Donna had grown up in a Christian home as well, and she also felt God’s calling to be involved in missions in the capacity of a nurse.
After training and preparing themselves for mission work, the Browns moved to Ecuador in 1978 as full-time missionaries. During the next 30 years, Nat would fill many diverse capacities with World Partners, including that of pastor, administrator and field director. He even founded a K-12 school; and built three churches, a camp, mission home and several parsonages. During that time, Nat also graduated with a Master of Arts in World Christianity from Denver Seminary. Throughout all his work, he and Donna raised three children, Maranatha (’00), Charity (’02) and Jeremy (’04), who all graduated from Bethel.
Currently, Nat is serving as World Partners’ representative for both Latin America and the Caribbean. While he is not living in Ecuador, he is still actively involved with the projects and programs he started. This past year he returned to the mission camp to evict squatters who had invaded the compound. The continued threats of invasion, keeps him on stand by to return to Ecuador if necessary.
Through his hard work and dedicated efforts, Nat has expanded his ministry — one that began in a small South American country — to an entire region of the world. And with his willingness to serve God, one can only wonder where the Lord will lead him next.
Tony Natali, Honorary Alumnus
When Tony Natali, Bethel College’s 2009 Honorary Alumnus, first came to Bethel to coach the men and women’s track and field teams, his new job was demanding from the outset. Not only would he face the difficult task of recruiting student athletes, but the challenge would be compounded by the fact that Bethel has no indoor or outdoor track and field facilities. Many coaches would have hesitated to commit to an undertaking with such lopsided odds, but not Tony. He met the challenge head on, and his career at Bethel has become an unparalleled success story. Every record posted has been set since Tony came, all 43 of them, and many have been broken repeatedly since he arrived.
While his undergraduate marketing degree is from Purdue University and his master’s in education is from Bowling Green University, Tony’s love and loyalty belongs to Bethel College. “He bleeds Bethel blue and has recruited hundreds and hundreds of students to Bethel,” says Tim Erdel, associate professor of religion and philosophy at Bethel. In addition to coaching track and field, Tony also serves as the senior assistant coach for the Bethel men’s basketball team, nearly a full-time job itself. Whether scouting out future opponents or visiting potential recruits, Tony possesses an undeniable passion for the game of basketball, but more importantly for his players and their physical and spiritual development.
This passion extends to Tony’s work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He has seen much fruit from his labor for Christ: many athletes can attest to the fact that his godly influence has motivated them to become Christians or dedicate their lives to God’s work.
Indeed, with a range of influence that extends far beyond the exhaustive list of individual and team track and field records and basketball victories to the individual lives he has impacted, Tony is always careful to give God the glory. His godly testimony and influence speak to his humble and devoted attitude, as well as his passion to see his players succeed both on and off the field.
Tim Erdel, Distinguished Professor
Some college professors are just that: professors and nothing more. They lecture, give tests and quizzes and grade papers — all typical things any teacher does. The impact they have on their students is merely academic, and chances are they will be forgotten by their students in the years to come. At Bethel, professors are involved in more than just the academic part of education; many intentionally purpose to impact lives as well. Tim Erdel, associate professor of religion and philosophy at Bethel and recipient of the 2009 Bethel College Distinguished Professor Award is one of those professors that makes an impression on the lives of his students.
Cristian Mihut, Ph.D. (’97) is a former student of Tim’s and now a colleague. "A first-rank theologian and philosopher, Brother Tim has poured his life into educating generations of students for God’s shalom. In him prophetic justice resides harmoniously with gentleness, and wisdom makes a happy home with humility," says Mihut.
Tim’s catalog of academic accomplishments, educational pursuits, publications, professional commitments and awards are too monstrous to list in this document. Both his master’s and doctoral degrees are from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Tim has also written, presented and edited numerous publications. In addition, he is a licensed minister through the Missionary Church and former missionary to Jamaica.
A lifelong student of the Word, Tim also has an incredible mind for detail and is the go-to source around Bethel for any number of statistics. Whether the subject is college sports or campus history, he can rattle off a tremendous number of facts on any given topic. But his goal is not to attain head knowledge alone. He teaches and champions values that he has integrated into his own life.
Tim’s goal is not that every student he mentors walk away from his classes with beliefs and opinions identical to his; rather, he hopes to instill convictions in his students’ lives that will allow them to form their own religious standards. It’s his desire to see his students grown that makes Tim Erdel a truly distinguished professor.