This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Bethel College announces provisional candidate for president

NORTH NEWTON, Kan. — Bethel College on Aug. 24 announced Jonathan C. Gering, a 1994 Bethel alumnus and a professor and administrator at Truman State University, as the provisional candidate to be Bethel’s next president.

Jonathan C. Gering

Gering is professor of biology and founding dean of the School of Science and Mathematics at Truman State in Kirksville, Mo. He will be formally introduced to the campus Sept. 25.

During this visit, administrators, faculty, staff, students and others will have the opportunity to talk with Gering and provide feedback for review by the board of directors during its fall meetings Oct. 12-13, at which time the board will make a final decision.

The board’s executive committee unanimously approved the search committee’s recommendation of Gering.

“Jon impressed us with his interest in and passion for the position, his intellect, his seriousness of purpose, his preparedness, his energy and his vision,” said search committee chair Dan Flickinger.

A 1994 honors graduate of Bethel with a degree in biology, Gering earned master’s and doctoral degrees in ecology from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and immediately accepted a faculty position at Truman in 2001. He has spent the past nine years in academic leadership roles.

Gering played football at Bethel and was an NAIA Academic All-American in 1994.

In his presidential application letter, Gering described the intellectual growth, lifelong friendships and passion for international trips, research and relationships that began and flourished during his time at Bethel.

“These personal experiences enable me to speak with conviction about the transformative power for a Bethel education,” he said. “With time and experience, I’ve come to realize that I could be a capable and effective steward of Bethel’s mission and that to do so would be a natural progression of my leadership experience.”

Sense of belonging

Gering grew up in Ritzville, Wash., as a member of Menno Mennonite Church.

After leaving Bethel, he embarked on what he describes as a spiritual journey involving informal study of comparative religious worldviews, prompted by witnessing how religious beliefs were used to mistreat people close to him because of their sexual orientation, ethnicity or race.

“I believe I am uniquely prepared to lead Bethel College because of my upbringing in the Mennonite church, my exploration of and critical thought about non-Anabaptist religious worldviews and my interactions with marginalized students,” Gering said.

“In my role as president, I would continue to strengthen ties with the Mennonite denomination. I will also welcome and normalize the experience of those who are not familiar with the Mennonite tradition or who may question the broader importance of faith and the church in their personal lives.”

Gering’s commitment to inclusivity includes having served as a trained Title IX investigator and being appointed to Truman State’s Committee on Inclusive Excellence.

“College access has improved greatly in past decades. In my opinion, the more pervasive problem is an individual’s sense of belongingness once they arrive on campus,” he said. “It is fundamental to student and employee retention.”

Gering rose to the top of the list after the search committee sifted 80 initial candidates down to three finalists. These met face-to-face with the committee in Wichita at the end of July.

Gering is married to Newton native Deborah Gering. She attended Bethel for two years and has bachelor’s degrees in speech-language pathology and education and a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, all from Miami University.

The Gerings have three children, ages 14, 10 and 8.

Deborah Gering is the daughter of Byron and Janet Ediger of North Newton, members of Bethel’s class of 1966. Jon is the son of Warren and Diane Gering of Ritzville, Wash., members of the class of 1967.

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