Nearly 200 guests joined Bethany College to break new ground on May 18 on the amphitheatre lawn and celebrate the new Bud Pearson Swedish Chapel and J.E. and L.E. Mabee Welcome Center and the education initiative called Bethany Pathway.
Chair of the Bethany College Board of Directors Jim Martin, class of 1968, welcomed the crowd and reflected on the original vision that has now been realized, starting with Bud Pearson’s original $1 million challenge in 2007 to fundraise the chapel and President Edward F. Leonard’s Imagineering workgroup in 2010 that dreamed of a new student experience. “The accomplishments we celebrate today are symbolic of Bethany’s future and that God leads that future,” Martin said.
Senior Jeremy Koehler, Swede Government Association President, said, “There are times I wish I was four or five years younger so this Chapel and Welcome Center could have been a part of my time at Bethany, but ultimately I am proud to be a witness to this great beginning. On behalf of the student body, I would like to thank everyone who works for the betterment of this college and the student body, especially to those who have contributed to this project. Thank you and go Swedes!”
Leonard then shared details about Bethany Pathway, “our bold, innovative, and disruptive campus-wide, curricular, and co-curricular initiative.” The overwhelming success of the pilot program this last fall and spring and the unanimous approval by the Bethany College Faculty Senate has motivated the college to scale the program to a full launch a year earlier than originally planned.
“This is not your homogenized, two dimensional educational program,” said Leonard. Born from the Imagineering workgroup and the national higher education project Bethany was accepted into called Foundations of Excellence in the First College Year from the John N. Gardner Institute, Bethany Pathway includes these dimensions:
- The four Missional Directions of Excellence frames the entire student experience: (1) discovery, reflection, and vocation, (2) servant leadership, (3) global citizenship, and (4) sustainable living.
- A dedicated freshman advisor will help all first-year students plan their academic paths and coursework.
- Each first-year student will have a dedicated upper-classman mentor called a Pathfinder to help them not just survive their freshman year, but thrive and succeed academically. Pathfinders will help establish a sense of belonging on campus, develop a supportive community, and connect students with faculty and staff outside of the classroom.
- First-year students will reside in Alma Swensson Hall, which is being converted to a living-learning community just for freshmen. Programming will focus on building an active, engaged, and responsible community of freshmen who live, learn, and grow together.
Leonard then looked back to October 2011 when he announced Bethany’s vision for its 150th anniversary. The Chapel and Welcome Center is a key milestone on that journey. “I reflected on the vision of my hero, the Rev. Dr. Carl Aaron Swensson, and his ability to make the impossible happen. I reflected that for the last 130 years Bethany College had done the difficult, if not the impossible,” he said. “So while this dream has taken over five years to achieve during the worst economic environment since the Great Depression I can proudly boast that we have continued the long Bethany tradition of doing the difficult, if not the impossible.”
The $3.5 million building will provide hospitality for all who worship, visit, learn, and work in the Bethany community. It will be the first fully fundraised building in over 30 years. To represent the foundation of the college, five items will be placed in the foundation of the building. Logos of the ELCA and of Augustana will symbolize our Lutheran identity, a dala horse for our Swedish heritage, a shock of wheat and City of Lindsborg medallion for our place in Kansas, a textbook for our passion of discovery, and a student planner for student engagement.
Leaders of Bethany Pathway then handed off shovels to leaders of the Chapel and Welcome Center to turn the ground in the heart of campus where the building will be located.
Bethany Pathway representatives were Provost and Dean of the College Kenneth M. Macur, Ph.D.; Dean of Student Development Daniel Dentino, Ph.D.; Faculty Senate and Professor of Biology Mark McDonald, Ph.D.; Curriculum Committee and Associate Professor of English Kristin Van Tassel, Ph.D.; and students Caitlin O’Connor, Jeana-Brenae Russell, and Amelia Fabrizius.
Chapel and Welcome Center representatives were President Edward F. Leonard III, Ph.D.; Board of Directors Chair Jim Martin, class of 1986; Co-Chair of the Pearson Challenge Campaign Catherine Simmelink, class of 1982; Co-Chair of the Pearson Challenge Campaign Scott Simmelink, class of 1982; Bishop Michael Girlinghouse of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod, ELCA; Bishop Gerald Mansholt of the Central States Synod, ELCA; Lindsborg Mayor Bill Taylor, class of 1981; Swede Government Association President Jeremy Koehler, class of 2014; Campus Pastor the Rev. Noni Strand, class of 1982; and Vice President of Recruitment and Marketing Tricia Hartshorn, class of 1984.
“For the last several years we have been working hard to break new ground,” said Leonard. “Today those plans come together as Bethany College boldly engages the future.” Bethany Pathway fully launches in fall 2013, and the dedication for the Chapel and Welcome Center is targeted for homecoming 2014.