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Fifth Annual Grandparents Day Fosters Royal Legacy

Grandparents connect with their grandkids in the Brushaber Commons on Grandparents Day 2017.

“Is anyone here from out of state?” asks Jennifer Scott, assistant director of alumni and family relations, at the opening session of the fifth annual Bethel University Grandparents Day on April 21. Laughter and cheers radiate through the packed Benson Great Hall, and nearly half of the 400-plus grandparents in attendance raise their hands.   

Grandparents Day is an opportunity for grandparents to connect with their Bethel grandkids, gaining insight into their daily lives and celebrating their achievements. For many grandparents, it’s also a special time of being welcomed home. “We go back four generations,” says Sherill Port ’64, who also spoke at the opening session. “We are very grateful for the legacy that we have being part of the Bethel community.”

Port’s mother attended Bethel in the late 1920s as a high school student, when it was still called Bethel Academy. In the following years, Port and her husband, Terry ’65, S’68, and their children—Jeffrey Port ’90, Allison Port ’92, and Andrea (Port) Tweeten ’91—as well as their spouses, attended Bethel. On Grandparents Day, the Ports celebrated the achievement of their four oldest grandkids—who are now Bethel alums—and visited grandsons Caleb Tweeten ’17 and Zachary (Zack) Port ’18.

Attendees also heard from Bethel University President Jay Barnes, who spoke about his own experience as a grandparent, joking that “grandparents and grandkids get along so well because they have a common enemy,” before addressing the more serious issues facing college students. “Incivility is the order of the day,” he says. “And your grandchildren are in the middle of this.” He asked the group to continue to support, encourage, and pray for their grandchildren as they navigate worldly and collegiate challenges.

Other events throughout the day included Chapel and the chance to hear from guest speaker Shane Claiborne, a campus tour, a mini-music ensemble performance in the Underground, and a “class without a quiz” taught by Associate Professor of Wellbeing and Director of Wellbeing Initiatives Christine Osgood, titled Helping Your Kids Launch Their Kids. Osgood says the class detailed five ways grandparents can engage in “a multi-generational approach to launching and empowering young adults to go, live, be, work, and thrive on their own.”

Between these activities, grandparents mingled with their grandchildren and each other—eating lunch in the Dining Center, enjoying refreshments and taking photo booth pictures in the Underground, and spilling out into Brushaber Commons (BC) to be part of the wider university action. Some mingled with new friends. Others fostered long-term friendships.

“We’ve known each other a while,” grandmother Margaret Hilmer says, gesturing toward Ron and Ramona Van Buren, who were sitting with her at a table in the BC. “We were friends when our kids met!” The three share a grandson—Jason Van Buren ’18—and are no strangers to Grandparents Day. The Van Burens—who live in Medina, Minnesota­—have been to all five events, and this year is Hilmer’s third traveling from St. Louis, Missouri, to attend.

“We come to support our grandchildren,” Ramona says. “And because Bethel is such a great Christian place to be,” Ron adds. The three contend that every Grandparents Day has brought its own special memories. “There hasn’t been a bad one yet!” Margaret exclaims.

The opportunity to spend time with family and share in each other’s lives is just as important to students. “Being from St. Louis, I don’t get to enjoy much family time throughout the school year, so having the opportunity to spend the day with my grandparents is very special to me,” Jason Van Buren says. But even more so, the event fosters and encourages a spirit of community that aligns with the mission and values of Bethel.

“Watching students reunite with their grandparents is so special,” Scott says. “Lots of hugs, introductions to friends…our team loves being able to host this day as a way for grandparents to get a window into the lives of their grandchildren and to see how they are thriving in this stage of life at Bethel.”

The sixth annual Grandparents Day will take place on April 20, 2018. Learn more about upcoming events for Bethel parents and families.  

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