Barbara K. Bellefeuille, Ed.D., was inaugurated as Bethel University’s eighth president, and first female president, on Sept. 10, 2022, in a ceremony focused on scripture and faithfulness. In attendance were delegates from around the country, with several international universities represented, including Caribbean Graduate School of Theology, Jerusalem University College, and St. Petersburg Christian University, among others.

The opening scripture reading came from the Bible of Bellefeuille’s mother, Arbutus, whose health prohibited her from attending. Bellefeuille’s niece, Nicole Hall, Ph.D., read Psalm 119:10-18, which speaks of the importance of seeking God and loving His word.

Nicole Hall, Ph.D.

Greetings from the community and campus also focused on scripture and Bellefeuille’s commitment to Christ-centered education. Indiana State Representative Tim Wesco ‘14, spoke on behalf of the state, while Lynn Coleman, a member of Bethel’s Board of Trustees, represented the business community. The Rev. Jimmy Santiago, Bethel trustee and interim president of the Missionary Church, represented the Missionary Church. He shared Joshua 1:6, encouraging Bellefeuille to “be strong and courageous” in her role as president. Shirley Hoogstra, J.D., represented the 191 campuses in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).

Rev. Jimmy Santiago

Greetings from campus began with Andrea Helmuth ‘95, representing alumni. Lori Stutzman, Ed.D., associate professor of business, represented the faculty and shared Galatians 6:9, reminding Bellefeuille to “not grow weary in doing good.” Julie Beam, Ph.D., dean of students, represented the staff, sharing Hebrews 13:7, which speaks of how leaders should be imitators of the faith. Finally, Zach Kern, student body president, represented the students, remarking on Bellefeuille’s commitment to students and Christ-centered learning.

In his challenge, Bob Laurent, Ph.D., former Bethel professor and current teaching pastor at Granger Community Church, noted that Bellefeuille is one of very few college presidents who began as a K-12 teacher, and highlighted her love for the Lord and for education. He challenged her to: 1. Keep Bethel on course with a high view of scripture; 2. Encourage an identity of grace, kindness and compassion on campus; 3. See everyone as an image-bearer of God; 4. Remember that Jesus Christ is really steering the ship and has supremacy over all; and 5. Remember that there would be no Bethel without the Missionary Church.

Rev. Tom Swank led the dedicatory prayer, with Board Chair Eric Kinsman, Interim President of the Missionary Church Jimmy Santiago, and Former President Steve Cramer, Ph.D., flanked by Dennis Engbrecht, Ph.D., and Walt Weldy, laying hands on Bellefeuille.

In her own address, Bellefeuille redirected the recognition away from herself and toward the university. She used the analogy of a tree’s rings — referencing the stump of the mighty oak that used to stand tall at the front entrance Everest-Rohrer and had to come down this past summer — to talk about the heritage and health of the university over the last 75 years.

“The rings of a tree indicate the tree’s health — there are many, many healthy years — and then there are some rough ones,” Bellefeuille said. “This tree called Bethel is currently strong. I am the gardener and I will protect and guard this tree.”

Bellefeuille promised to give attention to three areas: the roots (Missionary Church/mission), leaves (students)/limbs (faculty and staff), and bark (the surroundings and campus itself).
“I will faithfully protect Bethel’s purpose, people and place because I believe if we are faithful, we will flourish,” she said.

She finished by saying that though many will recognize that she is the first woman president, she wants her legacy to be: “Faithful to my Lord, faithful to [Bethel’s] purpose, faithful to [Bethel’s] people … I want to be found faithful.”

About President Bellefeuille

Barbara K. Bellefeuille, Ed.D., was officially named the eighth president of Bethel University on March 9, 2022, after serving as interim president of the university for nine months. Bellefeuille first came to Bethel in 2012, spending almost nine years as vice president for academic services, before becoming interim president on June 1, 2021. As interim president, Bellefeuille enriched a culture of academic excellence, spiritual flourishing and innovation at Bethel, with a specific focus on centering the campus around Christ.

Read her full bio at