Senior Vice President Dennis Engbrecht, Ph.D., is one of the most recognizable faces of Bethel College. He has worked closely with students for much of his career at Bethel — ask any student or alumnus about Engbrecht and they are sure to have at least one memory to share.

Now, after three years of serving solely in an administrative capacity, he is preparing to retire from his current role on the cabinet and return full time to the classroom. This will bring him full circle, back to the early days of his career when he was a high school teacher and coach.

“I’m returning to my first love,” says Engbrecht in response to teaching and mentoring students. “The last three years I’ve had less and less involvement with students.”

In 2010, Shawn Holtgren, Ph.D., (’95) became vice president for student development and Engbrecht moved to the executive office to serve more closely alongside the president. For the first time in more than 20 years, his day-to-day responsibilities weren’t directly involved with students. He was happy to serve in this capacity, but is eager to embrace the next chapter.

“It’s time,” says Engbrecht of his role change. He says he knows the college is moving in the right direction. “I’m excited about the future of Bethel.”

In addition to teaching and mentoring students, Engbrecht also plans to write a book about the history of Bethel and will enlist the help of senior-level history students to conduct research for the project.

Engbrecht’s Mark on Bethel

Engbrecht has been a part of moving the college forward with many firsts in the last 27 years. He has provided oversight for many areas on campus like student development, athletics, community service, diversity programming and wellness, as well as serving on multiple committees. He has acted as a Bethel and Missionary Church representative all over the world, and the list of his Bethel accomplishments and service to the college is great. Below is a small summary.

1986 to Present: Serves as a professor of history

1986 to Present: Provides oversight to athletics

1986-1989: Served as chair, division of religion and philosophy

1986-1991: Served as director, Master of Ministries program

1989-1991: Served as vice president of academics

1986-2010: Served as vice president for student development

  • Provided oversight for residential life programming, spiritual life programming, speakers planning, wellness center, career services, service learning center and athletics.
  • Part of bringing the Stanley Memorial Log Chapel to the southwest side of campus
  • Started task force teams (1988)
  • Catalyst for urban ministry experience
  • Part of several spiritual awakenings on campus (1991, 1995, 2011)
  • Part of first semester abroad trip to Ecuador (1992)
  • Catalyst for adopting the Yanomamo people group in (1997)
  • Catalyst for the Rev. Billy Kirk Scholarship, a minority student leadership award (2004)
  •  Catalyst for Intercultural Competence Initiative (2007)

1991 to Present: Serves as senior vice president

  • Numerous partnerships with South Bend Schools (2005 to present)
  •  Serves as interim president (2007, 2010)
  • Represents president and college
  • Serves on Denominational/College Relations Committee
  • Represents college on Missionary Church presidential advisory committee
  • Serves Missionary Church as a Bethel representative; as denominational director of Youth Ministries (seven years); Chairman of the Constitutional Committee (10 years); member of the Ministry Leadership Council (2007); and established the first annual Emerging Leader’s Summit co-sponsored with Bethel and the church (2012)