Echoes from the past: A Bethical homecoming

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alumni Dick Matteson, Bethel grad from the class of 1958, gazed past the heads of other Bethel alum and up at the podium ahead of him on the Mike Lightfoot court in Wiekamp Athletic Center. Former and current members of the Voices of Triumph (VOT) were singing Moses Hogan’s arrangement of “Stand by Me,” as Matteson and his wife sat listening and watching intently. When asked what impressed him the most about the night, Matteson said it was difficult to tell. “I especially appreciated the final song sung by the Voices of Triumph, ‘Stand by Me,’” he said, “That was very meaningful.” Just before Bethel’s current student body and faculty mentally prepared themselves for the hiatus of midterms, the Bethel alumni were treated to a fun-filled celebration of nostalgia and reunion on the evening of October 7. The evening was entitled “The Great Pilot Pig Out,” because pulled pork was served, accompanied by Ritter’s frozen custard and Hacienda chips and salsa. “The alumni board has been the driving force behind this event,” said Bethel alumni director Emily Sherwood. “So, they met together and decided the theme and the direction. And then as an initial advancement team, that’s the department I’m under, (the alumni board) have supported the production of all the print pieces and emails.” Sherwood also noted that the hardest part about planning the Alumni Dinner was convincing the alumni that they were going to have fun. “So, getting people to attend and encouraging people to come has probably been the biggest challenge,” she said. Three alumni were honored with awards at the dinner. 2000 Bethel graduate Caleb Bislow, received Alumnus of the Year for his work as a youth pastor and founder of Unusual Soldiers, an international missionary organization. 2008 Bethel graduate Emanuel Olariu received Young Alumnus of the Year for his work as manager of Grace Christian School in Lagoj, Romania. And finally, 2000 Bethel graduate Lieutenant Commander Myron “Mike” McConville received the Timothy Award for Service for his work as director of CREDO, Marine Corps Installations Pacific in Okinawa, Japan. Before the dinner of this year, Bethel had an entire homecoming weekend dedicated to the alumni. That all changed two years ago, when the alumni board decided to condense the weekend into one big dinner, with various events going on throughout the day, such as the men’s and women’s Bethel alumni basketball and soccer games, (where former Bethel Pilot athletes compete in their old sports) and the Voices of Triumph reunion. The reunion was made possible in part by Bethel alum and assistant professor of music, Dr. Jeshua Franklin. “Emily (Sherwood) first approached me earlier in the year wanting to include the music department in some way in this year’s alumni celebration,” Franklin recalled. “We kind of brainstormed at the time about some different ideas that would have involved the choir or Voices of Triumph, or we talked about featuring different music alumni from across the years. As we sorted through all of that, we really came down to focusing on Voices of Triumph in particular, primarily because it’s roughly the twentieth anniversary of the group, which is a good milestone to mark, and it really works in the context of the alumni celebration.” In the years since its conception, VOT has had 130 students involved, and 25-30 alumni returned to perform. The set featured a few pieces of music that the alums from over the years might have learned in their days as a member in VOT. The evening even featured a solo act by Bethel alum Jeff Cramer, who sang “On the Street Where You Live” from the stage production “My Fair Lady.” Cramer’s performance recalled his role as Freddy when Bethel performed the show as the first show in the Everest-Rohrer auditorium in 1996. According to Franklin, approximately 300 people were registered to show up to the alumni dinner, making it the largest alumni event in recent Bethel history. “Part of what we hope for, thinking Voices of Triumph in particular, is to keep our alumni connected to the college,” Franklin explained when asked about what the desired result is for the alumni dinner. “Sometimes I’m amazed (at) the alumni I talk to, even people who were students with me, who live locally but haven’t stepped on foot on campus in years.” But were those desires made a reality after Saturday night? “(I decided to come) mainly to see friends whom I knew,” Matteson stated, “I’m also interested in the future of Bethel. My wife and I regularly support it financially each year. I pray for Bethel almost daily and for the students and faculty here. So, I do have an interest.” With record attendance and reported interest from alumni present, “The Great Pilot Pig Out” definitely had at least some of the results the alumni association had hoped for. As for whether or not those results will stick around or even grow in the future, as always, only time will tell as more and more current students become alumni and go out into the world.
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