Presidential Legacy – Norman V. Bridges, Ph.D. (1938-2010)
Norman V. Bridges, Ph.D. (University of Michigan), guided Bethel College from a well-kept secret to national recognition during his presidency. He had graduated from Bethel with a B.A. in English Education magna cum laude in 1960, returning next to serve variously as dean of students, professor of history and education, and as vice president for administration (1966-1976). He was named Alumnus of the Year in 1975. As president, Bridges increased the annual operating budget from under $3 million to approximately $30 million. The school more than tripled in enrollment to some 1,850 students. More than 40 academic programs were added, with innovative majors such as sign language interpreting. The rising academic reputation boosted Bethel from fourth to first-tier rankings in U.S. News & World Report. Lasting changes occurred during periods of intense revival in 1991 and 1994. Landmark building projects included Founders Village, the Davidhizar Nursing Wing, the Dining Commons addition, the Everest-Rohrer Chapel/Fine Arts Center, the Taylor Memorial Chapel, the Shiloh Prayer Chapel, the Wiekamp Athletic Center, the Sailor Residential Center, the Miller/Moore Academic Center, the Jenkins Baseball Stadium, the Morey Soccer Field, and the Bethel Bookstore. Upon retiring from Bethel, Bridges was cascaded with honors, from the first Festschrift ever compiled for a Bethel academic, to “Sagamore of the Wabash” by Governor Joe Kernan of Indiana, to president emeritus of Bethel. He passed away at the age of 72 in Mishawaka, Indiana.