The Top Stories of 2021

2021 was anything but expected. As we reflect on a year filled with moments of joy and stress, resilience and unexpected wonder—let’s recap the top Bethel news stories of 2021 to remember how far we’ve all come.

By Katie Johnson ’19, content specialist

December 31, 2021 | 9:50 a.m.

The top 10 stories of 2021 highlight significant moments within the Bethel community over the last year.

The top 10 stories of 2021 highlight significant moments within the Bethel community over the last year.

While the last year might’ve felt hazy to some, challenging to others, and full of resilience for most—the new year tends to offer time to reflect on the last 12 months. Newsworthy things happened within the Bethel community in 2021, including welcoming new faces to campus, learning together safely in person, celebrating alumni accomplishments, and—of course—enhancing Bethel’s campus! Here’s a recap of the top Bethel news stories of 2021 to remember how far we’ve come before we dream about how far we’ll go in 2022: 

#10 Gold Medal-Winning Coach Passes on Olympics Lessons

Andrew Rock remembers the surreal feeling of entering Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece, during the 2004 Olympics. Months after competing for a few thousand fans in college, he was in front of 80,000 fans with NBC cameras focused on his team, the gold-medal favorites in the 4-x-400-meter relay. While winning the gold medal changed Rock’s life, it has always transcended one race or one medal. For Rock, it’s always been about the journey, and it’s a journey he’s continuing today as head track and field coach at Bethel, where he’s following his calling to pass on what he learned at his sport’s highest level to help his athletes reach new heights on and off the track.

#9 Family Values Infuse Family Business 

Empowered by their parents, sisters Annie (Sproule) Gorder ’11, Mollie (Sproule) Ficocello ’14, and Grace (Sproule) Lunski ’17, GS’18 started Three Farm Daughters, a consumer food company that sells flour and pasta powered by GoodWheat™ varieties. Their tagline, “No fillers, no dyes, no lies,” reveals how their upbringing and Bethel experiences have shaped their values.

#8 Bethel Welcomes New Faculty to the College of Arts & Sciences

Bethel University’s College of Arts & Sciences welcomes eight new full-time professors to its faculty this fall. These professors bring with them a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds in social work, philosophy, engineering, chemistry, nursing, and communication studies to join Bethel’s robust faculty. Read on to meet Bethel’s newest professors.

#7 Self-Care in a Pandemic

COVID-19 has upended life as we know it. Many facets of our lives look different than they once did: routines, church, school, work, even the news cycle. We all face unique challenges in this season, but we’re not in it alone. Spend a few minutes with our Bethel experts—who offer practical tips and resources to help you care well for yourself and those around you in this season.

#6 Portrait of the Artist as a Generous Man

During his time at Bethel, Professor of Art Emeritus Stewart Luckman influenced many students who would become world-renowned artists and professors. The Bethel community honors his memory by installing the sculptures he created and donated in honor of President Emeritus Jay and Barb Barnes.

#5 Bethel alumnus JJ Wahlquist ’20 excels as a creative in the sports industry 

JJ Wahlquist ’20 worked for Bethel’s athletic programs as a student, bringing together his passion for football and graphic design. This kickstarted what would become an impressive career for the recent graduate, whose resume already includes schools like University of Oregon, Mississippi State University, and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team. 

#4 Rahn Franklin, Jr. Named Next Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 

After an extensive nationwide search, Rahn Franklin, Jr. was named the next vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Bethel University. With more than 14 years of experience in higher education as both an administrative leader and professor, Franklin has a proven track record of missional investment, visionary servant leadership, and facilitating strategic, organization-wide collaboration.

Bethel's incoming class stats

#3 Meet Our Newest Royals!

Excitement reverberated throughout campus as the Bethel community welcomed 733 new Royals during Welcome Week 2021. Incoming students were greeted enthusiastically by Welcome Week staff, Bethel Student Government leaders, and other Bethel community members during move-in on August 25-26. Following new student arrival, the schedule featured a lakeside picnic and kickoff celebration, a commissioning service, an outdoor movie, service projects, Koinonia, The Show, and a variety of other events to welcome new students into the community. 

#2 Robin Rylaarsdam Named Provost of Bethel University

After an extensive nationwide search, Robin Rylaarsdam was named the next provost of Bethel University. With more than 20 years of experience in Christian higher education, Rylaarsdam has a proven track record of academic development, student success, and meaningful faith-learning integrationand she has brought all of those skills to Bethel. 

#1 Bethel Announces Historic Upgrades to Athletics Facilities

The Called to More campaign is transforming Bethel athletics. Bethel reached a milestone to move forward on key facilities upgrades at Royal Stadium, including adding a track and multiuse artificial turf on the field. This historic work will allow Bethel’s track and field programs to host outdoor track meets, improve the game-day experience for the football team and fans, and provide vital practice facilities where athletes can train and reach their potential.

Royal Stadium

Architectural renderings show what a renovated Royal Stadium will look like after major renovations through Bethel’s Called to More campaign. Work kicks off this spring with the addition of a nine-lane outdoor track, upgrades to the throws areas for track and field, and multiuse artificial turf on the football field. In the future, Bethel plans to raise money to add a new press box and lights to Royal Stadium and to build an additional turf practice field.

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