March 4, 2014 | 3:57 p.m.
By Tricia Theurer, Communications Specialist
Nancy M. Lundquist, wife of Carl H. Lundquist, Bethel University president from 1954-1982, passed away on March 3, 2014. She was 94 years old.
Nancy and Carl were known for their gracious hospitality, hosting students and faculty in their home near the former St. Paul campus. She also brought her gift of service to the position of chairperson of the Bethel Royal Retirees group. After Carl’s death, she continued to serve Bethel in several roles, including as a member of the President’s Prayer Council. Her support of and connection to Bethel even extended to her hiring Bethel students to help with house and yard work.
When Nancy married Carl in 1942, she was planning to be a pastor’s wife. And she was, for 10 years, when Carl served as pastor of Elim Baptist Church in Chicago, Ill. But their lives changed dramatically in 1953, when Carl was asked to become the third president of Bethel. She had not planned on being the mother of four young children while being the first lady of a university.
When asked in a 2010 Bethel Magazine feature story about her experiences as first lady, Nancy detailed the parts of her role that she most appreciated. “I liked the fact that the school was small enough at the beginning that we could really get to know the faculty and students,” she said. “We did a lot of entertaining in our home. One time we had the faculty over for breakfast. After a couple hours, we thought everyone had gone, so we sat down to have our waffles and talk about how it went. Suddenly Carl said, ‘What’s the noise downstairs?’ Turns out two faculty members were just going to town having a good conversation. They didn’t know the breakfast was over!”
She also considered the highlights of her husband’s presidency at Bethel, noting two tremendous accomplishments: bringing the college and seminary to accreditation and the move of the campus from St. Paul to Arden Hills, during a time when “Bethel experienced phenomenal growth.” She continued, “Carl used to say the whole process of building the new campus kept us on our knees. I like to call it, ‘God’s miracle on Lake Valentine.’”
President Jay Barnes reflected on the relationship he and his wife Barb had with the first lady, saying, “Nancy brought joy and encouragement to Barb and me. When we spent time with her we always experienced the blessing of her wisdom, insight, trust in God, prayer support, and laughter. Her partnership with Carl was an important factor in the ‘miracle on Lake Valentine.’ When she prayed, you knew she was talking to someone she knew deeply. Bethel was blessed by her ministry of prayer and presence.”
Carl dedicated himself to a life of evangelism, intentional Christian devotion, and cultivation of kingdom values, which he and Nancy eagerly shared with others. In 1976, they spent a sabbatical visiting 43 Christian communities and retreat centers in the U.S. and across the world.
In the Bethel Magazine article, Nancy spoke about what her life had been like since Carl’s passing. “I never dreamed I’d live to be 90 years old,” she said. “You can’t imagine the changes that have taken place in that time. But God has kept me here for a purpose. I am discovering in this period of life that I am drawing so much closer to God. I have time to reflect on life, and I have more time to pray for others,” she said.
Nancy was a spiritual-life speaker who shared her love of the Lord, and of Bethel, with others. In a devotional that she wrote for the Bethel Focus, “The Time is Now,” she reflected on becoming first lady and how the scripture verse that Carl took as his life verse, “Give first priority to Jesus Christ and the values of His Kingdom, and everything else will turn out all right.” Matthew 6:33 (paraphrased by Carl H. Lundquist), helped her trust the Lord at all times. She wrote:
“I was only 34, and I was scared! Could God really use me in this place? As nearly 30 years sped by, I have been amazed at how God worked in my life and how I love Bethel and all it stands for in preparing young people intellectually and spiritually for our needy world.”
Nancy was preceded in death by her husband, Carl; two sons-in-law, James B. Anderson and James Spickelmier; her parents, Thomas and Nancy Zimmerman; brother, Harold and sister, Lona Loine Dobesh. She is survived by her children, Carole Spickelmier, Eugene Lundquist, Jill (Dennis) Jezierski, and Susan (Torrey) Robinson; seven grandchildren, Eric (Anna) Spickelmier, Grant (Jennifer) Spickelmier, Mark (Jessica Madole) Spickelmier, Jennifer (Michael) Passey, Michael (Kim) Anderson, Carey (Lindsay) Robinson, and Carl Robinson; eight great-grandchildren; sister-in-law, Erma Lundquist, and a host of nieces, nephews, and other family and friends. Her obituary says, “Her family is grateful for her long life, her steadfast love, and her example of Christian discipleship.”
Carl’s life and ministry is the subject of a book, Give First Priority to Jesus Christ, which was recently published by Carl and Nancy’s daughter Carole Spickelmier and her husband Jim.