Presidential Legacy – The Rev. Ray P. Pannabecker, D.D. (1913-2001)
The Rev. Ray P. Pannabecker became the second president of Bethel College. A former pastor, he began at Bethel as its first business manager, while also teaching Bible, public speaking, and social studies. Before he took on the role as president in 1959, he served as a Missionary Church’s district superintendent and editor of the denomination’s publication, The Gospel Banner. As president, Pannabecker acquired 27 additional acres and built the Middleton Hall of Science, the Oakwood-Slater Residence Hall, and a maintenance building. Pannabecker also ushered in Bethel’s intercollegiate athletic programs. In 1970, a revival sparked by the Holy Spirit moved students to pray in the auditorium for hours. The next year the college achieved full accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. Pannabecker handed out 1,201 diplomas to graduates during his tenure. A friend to all on campus and many across Michiana, he visited Missionary Church congregations frequently with student Gospel Teams. Asbury Theological Seminary awarded him the Doctor of Divinity in 1964. Upon leaving office, he was named president emeritus; he then became the first director of services at the Missionary Church Headquarters in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was also instrumental in the founding and development of Hubbard Hill Retirement Community and became its chaplain. He died in Elkhart, Indiana, at age 87.