Celebrating Bethel’s 70th Year: The 1990s
Majors Offered: 37, plus graduate programs in Business and Ministry; Sign Language Interpreting program added (1995), Theatre major launched (1997).
Major accomplishments: Construction of Everest-Rohrer Fine Arts Center/Chapel (1996), Wiekamp Athletic Center (1996/1998), men’s basketball NAIA champions (1995, 1997, 1998)
South Bend native Shawn (Canfield) Skaggs ’97 never thought attending Bethel College was an option. Financially, it did not seem possible. However, a song she performed at Redeemer Missionary Church caught the ear of then music professor Elliot Nordgren, Ph.D. and Shawn received an invitation to audition for a music scholarship. She agreed, and after the audition, she was offered a scholarship. Her gratitude is still noticeably present as she speaks of the music department faculty, specifically Elliot Nordgren, Victoria Garrett, Marilynn Ham and Bob Ham. The Bethel College Music Department was formative for Shawn, both academically and spiritually:
“A heart of worship developed in me. I began to understand music is not just performance. It’s leading people,” she says.
For Shawn, dedicating her life to the Lord as a freshman set the tone for her remaining years at Bethel:
“Bethel went through a huge revival before I came. Things were starting to thrive. The spiritual life was something tangible … I was really searching when I came to Bethel … There are a lot of special things that happened to me on this campus … Bethel defined my relationship with the Lord. The people here, the staff, [and] the culture were very influential.”
As a music education major, Shawn was involved in concert choir, musical productions, and the music ministry group “Jubilate,” where she met her husband, Landis Skaggs ’95. Shawn last academic year marked the opening of the Everest-Rohrer Chapel/Fine Arts Center Auditorium (now celebrating its 20th anniversary), where she performed her senior recital in 1996 — the first senior recital ever held in the building. She remembers the effect of the new performance space on music students:
“Everybody was excited. It was thrilling to have that new space available. [Before], performance classes and choir rehearsals were [held] in the Octorium.”
Since Shawn’s graduation, Bethel has also constructed the Wiekamp Athletic Center, renovated entrances and athletic facilities, and is in the process of adding a $1 million dollar nursing simulation lab. However, there are some elements she says have stayed constant through the years:
“The atmosphere of wanting to raise young people up with a Christian education to live a life with a focus of bringing glory to the Lord with everything we do: our education, our life, our families … and the people who are here care about the students … that has stayed the same”
Although each year Shawn spent at Bethel holds its own important memories, it was the Spring of 1996—her junior year—that stands out among them. On the stage of the then Goodman auditorium, now Goodman gymnasium, her husband Landis proposed after the musical production of Fiddler on the Roof. They have two children: Asa, a freshman in college, and Aria, a senior at Northwood High School.
After nine years as a music teacher at Wakarusa Elementary School, Shawn took a position at Edward Jones Investments. She is now a licensed financial advisor, as well as a worship leader at Nappanee Missionary Church. Living locally, Shawn maintains strong connections with Bethel. She has led workshops at Bethel’s annual Refuel conference, her family attended the recent basketball game honoring Coach Mike Lightfoot, and she sang in the alumni choir and in honorary services for the late Bob Ham.
For those students who are currently where she was 20 years ago, she has these words:
“Our life should be a worship song to the Lord — hold tight to that. Remember what you have been taught, remember the people who have mentored you, and go back to that when you feel you need discipleship along the way. Hold firm to bringing glory to the Lord with your life”