Bethany College honored Athletic Hall of Honor inductees, Alumni Coach of the Year, and Bethany Athletic Association Award of Merit recipients during the Fall Alumni Awards Recognition during Homecoming weekend.
The three alumni inducted into the Athletic Hall of Honor were Jeff Edwards ’01, Brice Leon ‘73 (awarded posthumously), and Jodi Strathman ’03. The Bethany College Athletic Hall of Honor gives recognition to individuals whose performance on the athletic field during their time at Bethany College was noteworthy and exemplary of high standards for which Bethany College athletics historically have been known.
Current Bethany College Head Softball Coach Janice Esses ’01 was awarded Alumni Coach of the Year. This award was established in order to recognize the individual Bethany College former student or graduate who has directed and coached a secondary or collegiate varsity sport team or teams to a level of performance which is recognized as outstanding by those associated with that particular varsity sport.
The Bethany Athletic Association Award of Merit was awarded to A. John and Carol Pearson and Bud and Cheryl Rothgeb. Each year the BAA gives recognition to active members of the association who have demonstrated meritorious service to youth or their careers.
Jeff Edwards, Clay Center, Kan., is a 2001 graduate who is listed 4th on the basketball career scoring charts with 1,449 points (1998-2001) and holds the Bethany record for most points in one season (580 points in 2001-01). He was a member of two KCAC post-season championship teams and two NAIA National tournament teams. Edwards was named All-Kansas Conference for two years (2000, 2001) and KCAC Player of the Year in 2001. He received honors as an NAIA All-American in 2001 and at that time was only Bethany’s second All-American. He was also an NAIA Academic All-American (1999-2000, 2000-2001) and was voted team MVP for two years. Edwards was recognized as the Bethany College Male Athlete in 2001 and was named Lutheran Brotherhood Lutheran Colleges and Universities 2nd Team All-American. Following graduation, Edwards taught and coached in Osage City for 12 years. He received his master’s degree in education from Baker University in 2008 and now teaches fifth grade and coaches in Clay Center, Kan.
Brice Leon, Topeka, Kan., transferring from Cloud County Community College and graduated in 1973. He played basketball for George Stephens and was named to the All-Kansas College Conference in 1972 and 1973. During his senior year, Leon averaged 21 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. In addition to his scoring, he blocked 17 shots, controlled 10 jump balls, recovered 16 loose balls, and had 77 assists and 8 stolen passes. He received honorable mention on the 1971-72 All-Lutheran College Basketball Squad and was chosen for the 1972 Lutheran Brotherhood All-Tournament Team in Minneapolis, Minn. Leon was named to the All-District 10 Team and won the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-America honors as a senior. His single game scoring of 40 points in 1972 tied the previous record set in 1966 in Hahn Gym, finishing the evening with 19 field goals, 2 free throws, and 17 rebounds. After graduating from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in physical therapy, he directed the physical therapy department at Belleville for 22 years and then joined the physical therapy staff at the Topeka VA Medical Center in 2005. Leon died after a battle with cancer in 2011.
Jodi (Strathman) Green, Fort Collins, Colo., is a 2003 communications graduate. Playing basketball for Bethany, she was named 1st Team All-Conference for four years and All-American for two years. Other honors include being named Co-Freshman of the Year (1999-2000), Co-Player of the Year, and KCAC Conference MVP (2002-2003). Green had over 1,000 career rebounds and over 1,000 career points and was part of 100+ wins in her four years on the court. She was an NAIA All-American Scholar-Athlete in 2002-03 and Academic All American the same year. In 2002 and 2003, she was named Bethany Women’s Athlete of the Year and was the 2002 Homecoming Queen. green moved to Fort Collins in 2004 and has worked with children with disabilities since then. She is currently area director for Young Life in Northern Colorado, a non-profit Christian outreach organization. She was recently married to Jeremy Green.
Janice (Fiene) Esses, Lindsborg, Kan., biology graduate of 2001, has been the head women’s softball coach at Bethany since spring 2002, amassing 302 career victories, three regular KCAC championships, two KCAC tournament championships, and three NAIA Regional Tournament appearances. She led the Bethany women’s softball team to its first ever NAIA National Softball Tournament appearance in 2012 and another in 2013. Esses has coached 37 NAIA All-Scholar athletes, and her squad led the NAIA with the most All-Scholar athletes in 2008 and 2009. In 2011, Esses was the recipient of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Coach of Character Award and was named KCAC Coach of the Year in 2011 and 2012. Esses was a two-sport student at Bethany, playing basketball and softball. In 2000 and again in 2001, she was awarded First Team All-KCAC as a catcher and was selected as the team’s MVP her senior year. She and her husband, Levi Esses, Bethany class of 2002, reside in Lindsborg.
A. John and Carol Pearson, Lindsborg, Kan., are both charter members of the Bethany Athletic Association. John, class of 1959, was the director of public relations at Bethany from 1970 through 1992, and served as director of archives & heritage center and director of sports information from 1992 until 2004. After serving as volunteer director of the archives (2004-2006), John retired. He was the KCAC statistician for four years. John was inducted into the Bethany Athletic Hall of Honor in 2004 and received the 2007 Clarence “Ike” Pearson Award from the NAIA Sports Information Directors Association. He was honored in 2011 by receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the College Sports Information Directors Association. Carol is a graduate of Illinois College and did additional part-time studies at Bethany with the class of 1976. She served as director of summer programs and special events at Bethany and retired as the advertising manager of the Lindsborg News Record. Carol is a member of the Bethany Auxiliary, serving as past president, past treasurer, and member of the cookbook committee. She continues to be in charge of cookbook distribution and sales.
Bud and Cheryl Rothgeb, Lindsborg, Kan., are longtime supporters of Bethany. Bud was a career officer in the Air Force and traveled extensively, visiting nearly all 50 states and more than 20 countries. After over 25 years in the U.S. Air Force, including 11 years in the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Public Affairs in the Pentagon, Bud retired with the rank of Colonel. In 1993, following retirement from the Air Force, Bud served as Bethany College’s director of communications and college relations, a position he held for 11 years. Bud was active in the planning and formation of the Bethany Athletic Association and played a key role in the planning and fundraising for the major renovation of the athletic facilities including the addition of artificial turf surfaces for football and the soccer fields, expanded stadium restrooms, major renovation and expansion of the weight room facilities, new practice areas and space for the dance and cheer teams, and new visitors seating in the stadium. Cheryl worked in the registrar and admissions offices of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where she met Bud. Before arriving in Lindsborg, Cheryl worked for the director of administration at Vandenberg AFB in California, the Pohick Regional Library in Springfield, Va., and Park College at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio. At Bethany she worked in the student life office for a year before serving as the administrative assistant to Bethany’s Athletic Directors George Stephens and Jon Daniels and Head Football Coach Ted Kessinger for 11 years.