Alumni Dinner Honors Award Recipients

During the 2013 alumni dinner — a part of alumni weekend — four recipients were presented with awards. These included (from left) Steve Baker ’85 (Professional Achievement Award), Dodie Beyler (Honorary Alumnus Award), Dr. David Smith, ’81 (Alumnus of the Year) and Sara Stewart ’09 (Professional Achievement Award). Read below to learn more about the professional and personal lives of these outstanding individuals.


David A. Smith, M.D. (Alumnus of the Year)
, a pediatric surgeon, graduated from Bethel College in 1981 with a B.A. in chemistry and mathematics and earned a doctorate in medicine in 1987 from the Indiana University School of Medicine. During his five years in general surgery residency at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., his extensive research resulted in two patents regarding adult cardiac cell culture and proliferation. He is currently the president and owner of Great Lakes Pediatric Surgeons, Inc., Great Lakes Properties, LLC and Ramp Technology Group, Inc. He practices as a pediatric general surgeon in Fort Wayne, Ind., and is in the top 1 percent of his field, specializing in the surgical care of children from birth to 18 years of age. He has performed over 20,000 surgeries in his career. Dr. Smith decided to dedicate his life to minister healing to patients at home as well as those in majority world countries. He has served with Health Care Ministries in Albania during the war in Kosovo, participated in a mission study tour to Papua New Guinea and Australia, worked in hospitals in Israel and Kenya, and completed a two-year Pediatric Surgery Fellowship at a children’s hospital in Canada. Dr. Smith has been a professor with the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Medicine – Peoria Campus and the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. He and his wife, Carolyn (Blocher ’81), reside in Fort Wayne, Ind., and have two children, Ethan and Ariel.

Since graduating from Bethel in 1985, Steve Baker (Professional Achievement Award) has worked in the Bluffton- Harrison Metropolitan School District in various capacities. He currently is at Bluffton High School, where he has been principal for the last 14 years. Under Baker’s leadership, Bluffton High School has earned an “A” grade from the Indiana Department of Education for the last four years. Only three other high schools in the state share that distinction. He is on the board of directors for the Indiana Association of School Principals and serves as the IASP liaison to the Indiana Department of Education. In November 2012, Baker was presented with the Indiana High School Principal of the Year award. He was recently selected to serve on the Indiana Accountability System Review Panel, which will review school performance standards. He has been a member of Hope Missionary Church in Bluffton for 28 years, serving as a deacon for 23 years. He has been a volunteer for Youth for Christ since 1986, and has served on the Wells County Chamber of Commerce Education Committee for two years. Baker and his wife, Loni (’84), reside in Bluffton, Ind. They are the parents of Nathan (’12) and Amy (a senior at Bethel).

Sara Stewart (Professional Achievement Award) graduated from Bethel College in 2009 with an MSN after receiving a BSN from DePauw University. She serves as the executive director of Unity Gardens, a nonprofit organization she started in 2008. Unity Gardens began as an initiative to feed hungry people; now with over 57 gardens, Stewart and her organization have been able to provide fresh food and classes to St. Joseph County. This year, the organization received a carport, the first one of its kind in Indiana, so food can be grown year-round. Stewart works with the garden manager, facilitating garden coordination and direct management of the LaSalle Square Unity Garden. She has served over 16 years in business administration in the community health setting, specializing in third-party health care reimbursement and Medicaid. Her recent role as a professor of community health nursing at St. Mary’s College, in conjunction with her research focus on the culture of socio-economic status and poverty, facilitates her entry into a variety of cultures. Congruent with her role as a public health nurse, she assesses the systems that will promote the health of the community and intervenes through the gardens to assure public access to fresh produce. As the Unity Gardens motto states, “Growing Food, Growing Health, Growing Community,” she is growing social capital for those in need. She resides in Walkerton, Ind., and has four children.

Dodie Beyler (Honorary Alumnus Award) is a 1975 graduate of Arizona State University, where she received a B.A in education. After graduation, Beyler lived in numerous states across the country and participated in traveling choirs, spreading the gospel of Christ through song across the world, in countries such as India, Ukraine, Switzerland, Poland and Haiti. Her soft spirit and calling from God led her to Bethel College as she began as a volunteer in August 2009. She has served every week for the past four years and has given over 1,400 hours of volunteer time to numerous departments on Bethel’s campus. She attends Crossroads Evangelical Free Church where she volunteers on the junior and senior high staff and leads a women’s Bible study. Beyler and her late husband, Ray, were married for 57 years. She resides in Walkerton, Ind., and has four children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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