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Bethel College (Indiana)

For other places with the same name, see Bethel College (disambiguation).
Bethel College
File:Bethel College Indiana Logo.gif
Motto With Christ at the Helm
Established 1947
Type Private, coeducational
Affiliation Missionary Church
Endowment $7.8 million[1]
President Dr. Gregg Chenoweth
Students 2,000
Undergraduates 1,900
Postgraduates 120

Mishawaka, Indiana, USA
41°40′40″N 86°11′36″W / 41.6777°N 86.1932°W / 41.6777; -86.1932Coordinates: 41°40′40″N 86°11′36″W / 41.6777°N 86.1932°W / 41.6777; -86.1932{{#coordinates:41.6777| -86.1932|scale:3000|||||| |primary |name=

Campus suburban: 75 acres (0.30 km²)
Athletics NAIA-Crossroads League
Sports 18 teams
Nickname Template:If empty
Affiliations Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Council of Independent Colleges

Bethel College, a Christian liberal arts college located in Mishawaka, Indiana, United States was established in 1947 and is affiliated with the Missionary Church. [2]


Mennonite Brethren in Christ (MBC) founder Daniel Brenneman first called for a training institute in 1893. Then, for many years, J. A. Huffman pressed the case for a Christian liberal arts college, even suggesting the name Bethel, meaning “house of God.” Formal church approval finally came in 1944, and land was purchased in Mishawaka, Indiana during 1946 under the leadership of Q. J. Everest, Seth Rohrer, and Warren Manges. Twenty-seven-year-old Woodrow I. Goodman (1947–1959) was appointed the first president, at that time the youngest in the United States.

Bethel College opened in the fall of 1947 with ninety-four students. During that same year, the MBC became the United Missionary Church. The Administration Building was completed in 1951, the first of many projects dependent upon sacrificial giving and volunteer labor.

Bethel established some 11 academic programs during its first decade, capped by the Teacher Education Program in 1955. Intercollegiate athletic programs were approved in 1958, with the first intercollegiate basketball game played in 1959.

On March 31, 1971, President Ray P. Pannabecker (1959–1974) and Dean Wayne J. Gerber welcomed North Central Association accreditation. Bethel College grew steadily until it reached an enrollment of about 500.

Bethel College continued moving forward under the presidencies of Albert J. Beutler (1974–1981), James A. Bennett (1982–1988), and Walter L. Weldy (interim 1988-1989). Among the more notable additions and innovations were the adult programs, the division of nursing, and the Otis Bowen Library, which anchored a new architectural style. In 1986, the baseball team won the first of what are now some 25 team national championships.

Bethel experienced a renaissance under the presidency of Norman V. Bridges (1989–2004). A dynamic team of administrators, repeated record enrollments, greatly expanded curricular offerings, the hiring of nationally known scholars, an aggressive, aesthetically attractive plan of campus development, and notable periods of spiritual renewal have helped make Bethel College a school of choice for many from the region.

In addition to a burgeoning traditional student body, adult and graduate degree programs have helped fuel the growth of the college. With notable new majors in Sign Language Interpreting, Environmental Biology, Criminal Justice, Philosophy, and Spanish complementing traditional strengths in Music, Theatre, Religion, Business, and the service professions, Bethel College increasingly reflects a national and international student body. The college also participates in a broad range of study abroad programs and annually sends out dozens of Task Force ministry teams around the world.

Dr. Steven R. Cramer (2004-2013) served as the sixth president of Bethel College. During his presidency enrollment continued to climb to more than 2,100 students, as Bethel continued to rise in its ranking of the Midwest’s Best Baccalaureate Colleges by U.S. News & World Report. Bethel study abroad offerings were expanded; the music department received NASM accreditation; and the campus became more intentional in its multi-ethnic programming. Cramer worked to secure the long-term financial future of Bethel during a period of national economic crisis.

The college was able to move forward with multiple building projects, including the Pannabecker Math and Science Laboratories, a new west campus entrance and a renovated Helm, the Lodge residence hall, a renovated Dining Commons, and an enlarged College Bookstore/ Coffee shop. The campus borders were also expanded with the purchase of approximately 13 acres to the south. There were several firsts during this time, such as the appointment of the first two female vice presidents, the launch of online degree programs, the visit from a sitting U.S. President (George W. Bush), and hosting the Missionary Church General Conference. In February 2011, the campus was once again touched by a profound spiritual revival.

In 2006, Bethel College was reorganized on a university model, divided into seven schools: Arts & Sciences, Business & Social Sciences, Education, Nursing, Religion & Philosophy, Adult Studies, and Graduate Studies. In 2013, these schools were reorganized and consolidated into two divisions: Arts & Sciences, Humanities & Social Sciences while the School of Nursing was retained.

With the appointment of Dr. Gregg Chenoweth as the new president in 2013, Bethel College stands on the threshold of a new era, but does so deeply rooted in a past sustained by faith. “With Christ at the Helm.”


A $6.9 million addition to the Middleton Hall of Science is just one in a long string of major construction and landscaping projects since the early 1990s, including Founders' Village Apartments, the Middleton wing for Nursing, an enlarged Dining Commons, the Everest-Rohrer Chapel/Fine Arts Center, Wiekamp Athletic Center, Shiloh Prayer Chapel, the campus ponds and waterfall, Morey Soccer Field, Taylor Memorial Chapel, Jenkins Stadium, Sailor Residential Center, Miller/Moore Academic Center, and Sufficient Grounds Cafe and Campus Store. Several more projects are on the horizon. The nursing program at Grace College is one of several emerging extension centers for Bethel.

Organization and administration

Bethel is a part of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and the Council of Independent Colleges. Bethel is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The institution also has specialized accreditation by The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC), the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE).

Currently, Bethel is organized into three academic areas: Division of Arts & Sciences; Division of Humanities & Social Sciences; School of Nursing. Additionally, there are four graduate programs administered in conjunction with the schools through the Office of Adult and Graduate Studies.

There are approximately 2000 students distributed across these programs. About 1300 are traditional students pursuing bachelor's degrees right after high school. 650 are adult students who take classes on evenings and weekends which lead to bachelors or associate degrees. 250 are enrolled in graduate programs. The Bethel College faculty is composed of about 115 full-time members.

Academic profile

Bethel College offers undergraduate, graduate and adult degree programs across the spectrum of disciplines that characterizes American higher education at small colleges. The traditional academic majors include a substantial general education component which is typical of most liberal arts institutions. With some variation by major program, these students take courses in history, literature, philosophy, fine arts, communication (oral and written), psychology, sociology, science, mathematics, physical education, and foreign language. Furthermore, because of the college's identification with Christianity, all students take courses in Bible (Old and New Testament) and an introductory theology course. These general education courses provide a broad background across the disciplines upon which more depth is pursued in a major (or majors).

Student life

Bethel College teams are known as the Pilots. The college is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) (NAIA Division II for basketball), the college competes in the Crossroads League, formerly known as the Mid-Central College Conference (MCC). The Pilots also compete as a member of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA). Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis and track & field. Women's sports include basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, track & field and volleyball. Cheerleading is offered for both men and women. Basketball, baseball, and softball games are broadcast by the Regional Radio Sports Network.

The Pilots' Athletic Accomplishments: (through the 2012-13 school year)

  • 3 NAIA National Championships (Men's DII Basketball)
  • 29 NCCAA National Championships
  • 3 NAIA Individual National Champions (1 Women's Golf, 2 Men's Track)
  • 191 NCCAA Individual National Champions (Tennis and Track & Field)
  • 182 NAIA All-Americans
  • 125 Academic All-Americans
  • 315 NAIA Scholar-Athletes
  • 10 NAIA National Players of the Week
  • 30 National Coach of the Year awards (NAIA & NCCAA Combined)
  • 59 Conference Regular Season Championship

In addition to athletic competition, Bethel College encourages athletes to undertake short-term missionary work. 45 short term missions trips/task force teams have been taken by teams within the athletic department.

Notable people

  • Eric Stults, pitcher for the Atlanta Braves
  • Justin Masterson, pitcher for the Boston Red Sox
  • Eric Carpenter, MF for the Cleveland City Stars
  • Mike Lightfoot is currently head men's basketball coach at Bethel College. He has been the coach since 1987. He is the fastest winning coach in college basketball history, he reached the 300, 400, and 500 win plateau faster than any other coach. He was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 2009.
  • David Smith, M.D., '81 - Dr. Smith is in the top one percent of his field as a pediatric surgeon, with patients traveling from across North America for his care.
  • Jerry Thacker, Ed.D., '72 - In 2014, Dr. Thacker, Penn-Harris-Madison Superintendent of Schools, was recognized with Indiana’s highest honor, the Sagamore of the Wabash award. The award is a tribute from the governor for those who have rendered distinguished service to the state. Thacker has also been recognized as the 2013 Outstanding Educator and the 2012 Superintendent of the Year by the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents (IAPSS).
  • Todd Gongwer ’99 - is a speaker and author of “Lead … for God’s Sake,” which has been endorsed by nationally known leaders, including coaches Urban Meyer and Lou Holtz, New York Times best-selling author Ken Blanchard and Tyson Foods CEO Donnie Smith.
  • Emily Rose ’09 - is vice president of development at the Bill of Rights Institute in Washington, D.C. She builds relationships with grant-making foundations and high-dollar donors, working to advance the mission of the organization.


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  1. 1 endowment "America's Best Colleges 2006". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved January 19, 2006. 

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