October 3, 2013 | 7 a.m.
By Tricia Theurer, Communications Specialist
James (Jim) Spickelmier died last week at age 72, and with his passing, Bethel University lost a humble leader, an engaging fundraiser, and a devoted chronicler of the history of both Bethel University and the Baptist General Conference (BGC), now Converge Worldwide.
Spickelmier was born in Bonne Terre, Mo., on January 14, 1942. He earned a B.A. in history from Bethel College in 1963, and before graduating from Bethel Seminary in 1968 with an M.Div. degree, served with the Peace Corps in Tanzania. He later received a Th.M. from Princeton Seminary and a Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Minnesota.
After youth leadership work in Oregon and pastoring three churches—Trinity Baptist in New York City; Kensington Baptist in Kensington, Conn., and Central Baptist in Sioux Falls, S.D.—he returned to his alma mater as campus pastor, saying, “Aside from my family, Bethel was the single most important influence on my life. I am a student, a pastor, and a personally committed Christian today largely through the influence of the years I spent at Bethel.” After eight years in this role, he administered the field education and doctor of ministry programs at Bethel Seminary. From 1997 until his retirement in 2010, he was associate vice president for seminary development at Bethel, appreciating the opportunity to “hop around the country having coffee and lunch with Bethel friends.” During his years at Bethel he also served as interim pastor for 12 Minnesota churches. Following retirement, he and his wife Carole co-edited three books of history on the BGC and Bethel, including 5 Decades of Growth and Change (2010). They also co-wrote a book on the life of former Bethel President Carl H. Lundquist, which was completed just a week before Spickelmier’s death. The couple has been vital volunteers for the Friends of the History Center for many years, organizing events for the Bethel group and editing its newsletter.
Spickelmier met his wife of 46 years, Carole Lundquist Spickelmier ’64—daughter of Bethel College & Seminary president Carl H. Lundquist, who served from 1954-1982—at Bethel, and their three sons also graduated from the school.
“Jim Spickelmier was a kind, gentle, and humble man with a servant’s heart and intellectual's mind,” says Laurel Bunker, Bethel’s dean of Campus Ministries and campus pastor. “He served Bethel as he served me and each individual whom he met—faithfully. Jim will be missed greatly, but in all that we do each day we will honor him—and his legacy of love and commitment to Christ and His kingdom—which remain with us always.”
Bethel President Jay Barnes says, “Jim was a remarkable advocate for what mattered most about Bethel. He exemplified our Pietist heritage, our commitment to the church, a big view of education, and a life lived to the glory of God. That was true at Bethel, in the church, in the History Center, and in his family. All of us will miss him—and all of us are better for having known him.”
Besides his wife, Spickelmier is survived by sons Eric ’93 (Anna), Grant ’95 (Jennifer Oleson ‘94), Mark ’00 (Jessica Madole), and three grandchildren, Matthew, Katie, and Miah; brother, Dan Spickelmier; sisters Marilyn (Bob) Greason, Marjorie (Larry) Cannady, Margaret (Stan) Austin, and Beth (Paul) Himes; many nieces, nephews, cousins, and other relatives, and a host of dear friends.