Writing the Bethel Story
This month, a project that has been years in the making will come to fruition. “With Christ at the Helm: The Story of Bethel College,” written by Dennis Engbrecht, Ph.D., professor of history, details God’s transformative work through the people and students of Bethel College from its founding in 1947 to today.
Engbrecht was commissioned to write the history by former President Steven Cramer, Ph.D. ’75, prior to Cramer’s retirement in 2013. This was at the same time Engbrecht transitioned from his senior vice president role to professor.
“It was actually written into my faculty contract [to write the book] and then President Chenoweth affirmed that commission,” Engbrecht says. “I got to do the two things I loved most: get back to the classroom and write!”
Engbrecht has deep Bethel connections. He came to campus with his family in 1951, when his father was a student, and spent his early years on the grounds. He became well acquainted with several of the college’s founders. Engbrecht studied at Bethel from 1967-1970; he returned in 1986 as vice president for student development and has served the college in various roles for nearly 31 years.
Before he began to write, Engbrecht did a significant amount of research, spending countless hours in the college archives, going through everything from Board minutes to looking through student newspapers and yearbooks.
Next, he conducted extensive interviews with people who had lived throughout Bethel’s history: Virginia Krake
’49, Gordon Bacon ’49, Jim Bennett ’61, Al Beutler ’51 … among many others. He was also able to use notes from his interview in the 1980s with Stanley Taylor, a professor an and administrator at the college’s founding.
“Every time I would write something from an era, I would have someone from that era read it and [I would] ask, was it accurate and was it fair?”
Throughout his research, Engbrecht noticed the following theme: “The perseverance of God — the presence of God. The persistence of God to be faithful, even when the campus was going through struggle.”
The book is published by Bethel Publishing House*, with printing funded through a generous grant from the Muselman Family Foundation. It will be available April 24.
*Bethel Publishing House, founded by J.A. Huffman in 1907, is the dormant publishing wing of the Missionary Church. Used by special permission.