Donor Couple Will Impact Students ‘as Long as God Gives Them Health and Strength’

Thor ’61 and Nancy (Mattson) Hansen ’62 have housed countless students and created endowed scholarships to give Bethel students the opportunity to attend the school they love so much.

By Monique Kleinhuizen '08, GS'16, new media strategist

December 06, 2018 | 2 p.m.

Thor and Nancy Hansen

Thor ’61 and Nancy (Mattson) Hansen ’62 at Festival of Christmas 2018

Before it became Bethel University, Bethel College had semester terms instead of quarters. And because the enrollment timeline worked out better than the University of Minnesota, that simple fact convinced Thor Hansen II ’61 to follow in his brother James’ footsteps and become a Royal.

But once he got to Bethel, it was the faculty who made a difference in his life. “The loving and caring professors really had an impact on me. The interest they took in me—as a student and as a young man—was really something,” Hansen says. “I know now that the Lord put me at Bethel. I really believe it’s the only school I could have gone to and been as successful as I was.”

Hansen remembers studying art and singing and traveling with the Bethel Choir under C. Howard Smith and Robert Berglund. He remembers playing football and meeting friends he’s still close to 60 years later—some of whom have been in the same small group for half a century. And most importantly, he remembers meeting his wife, Nancy (Mattson) Hansen ’62.

“We had to get a letter from [then-Bethel] President [Carl] Lundquist giving us permission to get married during the school year,” he recalls. He notes that they were encouraged by caring professors and fellow students as a young couple, something that helped them build a strong, faith-centered marriage from the beginning.

“I know now that the Lord put me at Bethel. I really believe it’s the only school I could have gone to and been as successful as I was.”

— Thor Hansen ’61, who with his wife, Nancy ’62, created endowed scholarships for Bethel students

Hansen can rattle off many other family members who were Royals at one point or another: he was one of four Hansen brothers to attend Bethel College. And all four married women they met at Bethel. Nancy’s two brothers attended. Thor and Nancy have three kids—Thor III ’83, Todd ’86, and Sarah ’90—who all attended. Granddaughter Berit—the second grandchild to attend—finishes her business degree this month. “Our experience at Bethel prepared us for the ups and downs of life,” he says, saying that it’s been a joy to watch subsequent generations have the same life preparation. “We learned to trust and depend on God in all situations.”

Their deep connection to the school inspired the Hansens to build a home near the campus in the 1980s, and hundreds of Royals were in and out of their home and garage in the decades they lived there. Students lived in their basement each semester. Football coach Paul Swan—"Coach Swanny”—lived with them during Bethel’s football season for years. Since Royal Stadium was built in 1995, Hansen can count on one hand the number of home football games he’s missed. And the Hansens have been faithful financial supporters of Bethel and its students all that time, with scholarships funded in their name.

“We do it just to help and encourage kids, and it does that in two ways: by building their confidence, but also by taking some financial pressure off,” Hansen says. At Bethel’s regular scholarship dinner, they meet students who have benefitted from their gifts through the years. At one of the dinners, they met and talked to a Bethel student who had come from Hope Academy, a private Christian school in the inner city Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. They were so inspired that they set up another scholarship fund, this time specifically benefitting Hope graduates who were heading to Bethel.

Nancy is a retiree of Northwest (now Delta) Airlines, which matches charitable donations, something she says encourages her to be even more generous toward Bethel. “In a way, we get to double-dip. It makes it easier to build up the funds we’ve started,” she says. “I just pray and anticipate that Bethel will remain strong in Christian identity and education, turning out students who are dedicated to Christ and serving Him, no matter where they land.”

Thor adds that he hopes every Bethel alumnus considers giving back to Bethel. He acknowledges that not everyone can endow a scholarship, but that the Coffee Club—where members receive a handmade Deneen Pottery mug annually for giving at least $10 per month—is a great place to start. “Things just keep getting better at Bethel. From the time we were there, to our kids, and now grandkids—it’s been amazing to see. The professors and coaches have a deep love for the Lord and love for the students. I’m just so optimistic,” he says. “As long as God gives us health and strength and breath, we’ll continue to support Bethel.”

Explore Planned Giving at Bethel.

To find out more about donating to Bethel through IRA charitable rollovers—or other planned giving options that can provide for you and your family while also supporting Bethel students—contact the Office of Development.

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