Campus News

Dr. Norman V. Bridges: a life well-lived

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getmediaobjectAfter accepting the position of president of Bethel College, Dr. Norman V. Bridges, Ph.D., inherited an educational institution struggling to survive. But during his 15 years in office (1989-2004), the college became highly recognized and flourished, creating a strong and respected position in the community and even the nation. On April 2, 1938, Reverend Guy and Nellie Bridges welcomed their first out of five children into the world. Bridges life as a pastor’s son meant moving from parsonage to parsonage. He graduated with honors in 1956 from Flint Northern High School in 1956. In 1959, Bridges married Janice Stephey, a fellow student at Bethel College. He received his M.A. in American Studies and a Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University of Michigan. Prior to his presidency at Bethel, Bridges worked as president at Barclay College for nine years and four years as vice president for university relations. He also worked as executive vice president of Friends University. During Bridges’ 15 years, Bethel saw an increase in its annual operating budget of nearly $27 million. Enrollment tripled, bringing numbers up to 1,850 with the addition of more than 40 academic programs. The campus evolved with the addition of bulding projects that included Founders Village, the Davidhizar Nursing Wing, the Dining commons addition and much more. Bridges is also credited with the expansion and improved quality of athletics, music and theatre. In addition to nurturing Bethel to a level of excellence, Bridges stayed involved in the community. He was active in organizations such as the Rotary Club of Wichita, the Missionary Church, the Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County and the Salvation Army. On Aug. 25, family and friends gathered at Bethel to honor the passing of the institution’s fifth president. The funeral program described Bridges as “well known for his lively wit and varied interests. He was widely read, deeply engaged in each of his many communities, a shrewd observer of human character and public affairs and, for many years, an avid athlete. As a musician, Bridges had a special fondness for the trombone, which he played as well for choirs, men’s ensembles and hymns.” Bridges is survived by his wife, Janice, three sons and daughters-in-law and six grandchildren.
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