Memorial Hall (2007)
|Mennonite Church USA|
|President||Jon Gering |
|Campus||Rural, 90 acres (36 ha)|
Founded in 1887 and conferring its first four-year degrees in 1912, Bethel is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Starting in 1874, thousands of Russian Mennonites began arriving in Kansas. In 1882, having a century of experience running their own schools, they opened Emmental, a training school for teachers, between Newton and Goessel, Kansas. The school was moved to Halstead, Kansas, in 1883. A better site was found in North Newton, Kansas, and the cornerstone of the main building was laid on October 12, 1888. This structure, the current Administration Building, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Administration Building has been on the Historic Register since March 16, 1972.
The Halstead school was closed for the 1892-1893 school year while it was relocated to the new site and reopened as Bethel College in 1893. Bethel College became the second institution of higher learning associated with the General Conference Mennonite Church (now known as the Mennonite Church USA), replacing Wadsworth Institute which had closed in 1878.
During the 1880s, Kansas cities and towns competed with one another to create, build, and construct many institutions and buildings including colleges. On May 11, 1887, representatives of the Newton community and the Kansas Conference of Mennonites signed a charter for Bethel College to be built on a plot of about 120 acres (0.49 km2). Over a year later on October 12, 1888, around 2,500 people gathered on the property to lay the cornerstone of what is today the Administration Building of Bethel College. The building project took around five years to fully complete. The fund-raising to create the institution was slow, but on September 20, 1893 there was a service of dedication held for the building to be opened, and classes began.
Cornelius H. Wedel, a young teacher, was made Bethel College's first president. There were 98 students - 77 men and 21 women ages 13 to mid-30s - living on the west end of the main floor and the ground floor of the Administration Building. Wedel and his family lived on the east end of the Administration Building's main floor. The classrooms, chapel, and library of 600 volumes were located on the second floor. In those days, the students were up by five in the morning and in bed by ten at night. Each student worked two hours a day at a campus job. Student conduct was strictly monitored. Men and women were not allowed to be in the library during the same evenings; they alternated each evening. Five men, including the president, made up the first faculty. They taught classes in the Bible, church history, German, English, mathematics, science, and music. Bethel College was a bilingual college until early 1918, when the U.S. entered World War I. German was removed from the curriculum, but later reinstated: as of the 2011-2012 school year, two years of German were offered.
Bethel College Administration Building
Bethel College Administration Building
|Location||Bethel College campus, North Newton, Kansas|
|Area||1.5 acres (0.61 ha)|
|Architect||Proudfoot, Willis T.|
|NRHP reference No.||72000505|
|Added to NRHP||March 16, 1972|
The Administration Building was the main campus structure until 1925 when the Science Hall was completed. The cornerstone for Memorial Hall was laid in 1938, and the building was completed in 1942. The Art Center has also been in place for many years. In 1952 the Mennonite Library and Archives was built. In 1979, the current student center/cafeteria was built. The newest building is the Thresher Stadium in the Thresher Sports Complex. The Krehbiel Science Center was completed in 2002.
There are three student residence halls located on campus. They are Haury Hall (completed in 1958 and expanded in 1963), Warkentin Court (completed in 1966), and the newer Voth Hall (completed in 2000).
The Luyken Fine Arts Center includes the Krehbiel Auditorium and Prairie Sky Stage for stage performances, lectures and events; the Robert W. Regier Art Gallery which hosts exhibits by local, regional, national and international artists, including Bethel alumni, in all types of media; and houses the music, drama and communication arts departments.
As of 2019the college president is Jon Gering.
Bethel's curriculum is founded on a general education program in the liberal arts and sciences, and is geared toward students of moderate to high academic ability. There are requirements for the study of religion, and a cross-cultural experience.[clarification needed] The college offers majors in the traditional liberal arts disciplines and selected career areas, and accredited professional programs in nursing, social work, athletic training, and teacher education.
The Higher Learning Commission issued a public notice in November 2019 because it determined that the institution was at risk of becoming out of compliance with the Commission's standards for accreditation in three areas. The Commission will reevaluate the college in 2021 to determine if it meets accreditation standards.
Bethel College teams are nicknamed the Threshers. The college is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and competes in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC). Men's sports include basketball, cross country, football, golf, soccer, tennis and track & field; while women's sports include basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field and volleyball.
In the 2006-07 season, three of Bethel's coaches were named conference Coach of the Year. The Threshers have won more than 55 conference titles. In 1998-99 six of the ten Thresher teams won conference championships. At Bethel College the athletes also compete academically; 89 student athletes have been named American Scholar Athletes.