Giving Back: Three Decades of Partnership
Bill and Susan Gates are deeply invested in Bethel College. Bill has served on the Board of Trustees for more than three decades under six of Bethel’s seven presidents. He’s seen the campus grow from the hard years in the 1980s to a record enrollment of 2,000 students. He was part of the development of several key buildings on campus, including the Otis and Elizabeth Bowen Library, the Everest-Rohrer Chapel/Fine Arts Center, the Miller-Moore Academic Center and Wiekamp Athletic Center, which includes the Gates Gymnasium (named after his family), among others.
Additionally, he has employed Bethel students for almost the same number of years.
Bill is the former president of Gates Toyota in South Bend, Ind. — a third-generation owner of Gates Automotive Group, which was started by his grandfather, L.O. Gates, in 1928. Since then, it’s grown to include Gates Toyota, Gates Chevy World (Mishawaka), Gates Downtown (South Bend), Gates of Granger and multiple service facilities.
Bill began his career in the car business after six years as a campus staff member for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. While working at Gates Chevy World (then in South Bend), he was asked by Bethel President Al Beutler, Ph.D. ’51, if he would consider being on the Board of Trustees.
Bill says because of the close proximity between the automotive group’s Mishawaka dealership (then Town and Country Gates, now Gates Chevy World Mishawaka) and campus – right across the street, a partnership just made sense.
And he’s quick to point out the value that Bethel students bring to the community and the workplace.
“The Bethel student has the skill and integrity to do their best. They have a good work ethic,” he says. “I would prefer if we had more Bethel students come work at the dealership.”
He and Susan are committed to the college because of its students and its mission.
“I think it’s really a privilege to participate in what God is doing in the lives of students … in the community. [Giving back] is a partnership with God in what He’s doing — whether through prayer or support. It’s a privilege and an honor,” Susan says.
Bill adds, “The product [of Bethel] is a good student with integrity and a commitment to Christ … Bethel students serve the community, and then grads go out and continue to serve in a number of ways.”