Celebrating Bethel’s 70th Year – The 1940s
1st Commencement Graduates: 1
Top major: Bible
Major accomplishments: College founded
The Bethel College of 1947 was a place of eager anticipation for students and faculty alike. In the very first year of the college’s existence, the enrollment for the first semester was a mere 87 brave young people becoming a part of history.
Two of the upperclassmen, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Bible, were transfer students — Marcus Krake ’48 (the sole graduate of the class of 1948) and Virginia (Schultz) Krake ’49. Both transferred from other institutions and met during their time at Bethel. Although Marcus has passed away, his wife Virginia, who graduated the following year, recalls her experience at Bethel nearly 70 years ago.
“[Marcus] decided to transfer because he was thrilled that the Missionary Church was going to have a college. He wanted to do what he could to make that a successful beginning. [For his graduation] they had baccalaureate and commencement — everything — just like it was a whole graduating class,” says Virginia.
He began his studies at Greenville College in Illinois, after a term in the United States Army, but transferred to Bethel upon the college’s opening. Marcus was preparing for a career in teaching (at a Christian college) or pastoral work.
Prior to her two years of study at Bethel, Virginia attended Chicago Evangelistic Institute where she first became acquainted with Woodrow Goodman, who would later become Bethel’s first president. She admits to feeling hesitant to transfer, but ultimately decided she wanted to aid the college’s establishment in its first year:
“I felt the Lord was laying it on my heart to make the change and that was when I made the decision to leave the Bible school and continue my studies at Bethel. I think that was important because the college needed some upperclassmen.”
Shortly after Virginia’s graduation and before their wedding, Marcus was called into a pastor’s position in the couple’s home state at Bad Axe Missionary Church in Bad Axe, Mich. Virginia participated in her husband’s ministry by investing in the children’s ministry.
Though many years have passed since her graduation, Virginia remains in contact with some of her peers from Bethel, and the Krake family legacy at Bethel lives on. All four of the Krake’s children attended the college and three graduated, including Barbara (Krake) Rodgers ’75, administrative assistant to current Bethel President Gregg Chenoweth, Ph.D. Rodgers’ two daughters also graduated from Bethel: Emily (Rodgers ’99) Sherwood, current director of alumni relations at the college and Andrea (Rodgers ’02) Gregory.
When asked what she might consider the greatest similarity between the Bethel of 2016 and the Bethel of 1947, Virginia says a constant has been the incredible investment the faculty makes in the students:
“I really appreciated the emphasis on spiritual life of the students … I felt when we had our revival meetings the teachers were there and they were very concerned for the spiritual life of the students and it was just a very warm, family like relationship that we had … There is still a lot of that from what I’ve observed.”
The greatest difference, however, is the implementation of and emphasis on Pilot athletics, which weren’t around in 1947.
To those students who will be graduating in the 70th commencement and the years to come, Virginia says:
“What I would want to say to [current] students is that I’m very glad I followed the Lord’s direction and came to Bethel … I thought I was making a sacrifice to do what the Lord wanted me to do when I came to Bethel … but it didn’t prove to be a sacrifice. It proved to be a blessing.”