Campus News

President Cramer: a steady hand through highs and lows

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President Dr. Steve Cramer announces resignation.
Dr. Steve Cramer, Bethel College's president, announced his resignation, effective June 30, 2013.
It is difficult to define a legacy. Many times it takes years to be able to look back and see the impact that one life can have. But when Dr. Steve Cramer, president of Bethel College, announced that he will be retiring after this school year, it was easy to see that he will leave a lasting impact on Bethel College. “I think his legacy is going to be that he gave most of his life to serving an institution that he loved,” said Bob Ham, chair of Bethel’s music department. Over his 36 years as a part of the Bethel family, from student to president, Cramer has served the college faithfully. Because of that dedication, his retirement was difficult for many to initially accept.  But in the end, all involved are wholeheartedly behind the decision. “I was stunned,” said Ham, “I guess I was quite melancholy. I totally support his decision and I understand it, it’s just I had always envisioned him as the president.” “When you’ve worked with someone closely like I have (with Dr. Cramer) for 25 years, change is difficult … but I realize that the timing was appropriate,” said Dennis Engbrecht, the senior vice president of Bethel College and a close friend of Cramer’s ever since their time as students. The decision was not an easy one for Cramer. After being around Bethel for so long, it is difficult to deal with change. “(I had) a little separation anxiety that after 30-some years I’m going to get up in the morning and (realize) it’s not my responsibility,” said Cramer. But in the end Cramer, and others, felt that the timing was right. “(My family) prayed about it for a long time and it just became apparent … that this is the right time,” said Cramer. “I was at peace because I know he is at peace,” said Jody Martinez, Bethel’s athletic director. Now that the decision has been made, it must be determined how to move forward.  Throughout the entire process, Bethel’s leadership wants to make sure that the school’s purpose is always kept in focus. “We all say ‘Forward with Christ at the Helm’ but it’s at times of transition that you have to really enact that motto and it has to be more than just words carved on the helm,” said Shawn Holtgren, vice president for student development. As Cramer goes forward from the presidency, he knows there is still much to accomplish. He feels that God has new avenues in which to use his talents and abilities, and his colleagues know that he will always be a major part of Bethel College. “I don’t want to sit in a rocking chair and do nothing,” says Cramer. “I think [our future] is going to be something that Terri and I will pray about – that God will open up new ministry opportunities.” “(Steve and Terri Cramer) won’t be the face of the college, but they will be representatives of the college,” said Engbrecht, “People will see Steve Cramer and think Bethel College.” But before change comes, it is important to look back on what has been accomplished. Cramer has dedicated most of his life to Bethel College, and under his leadership Bethel has taken many big strides. After graduating from Bethel in 1975, Cramer worked in the admissions department, was the Vice President for Student Advancement and was voted Alumnus of the Year in 2002 before becoming president in 2004. But it was his leadership during the tough times that stands out to those who have been close to him. Ham recalls a story of Cramer’s leadership that left a lasting impact on him. Cramer called a faculty meeting during the recent economic downturn to lay out a plan for action. It was an emotional meeting, but Cramer made sure that the focus was always on God’s will for the campus. “When we left I noticed all the tear stains on the floor down by the stage,” said Ham, “And that was one of the more meaningful times to me – not that he was going to get us out of financial problems – but that it was going to be our trust in the Lord.” Part of the reason why Cramer has been able to lead Bethel through the lows has been his ability to look at the big picture to help him make the right decisions. “Dr. Cramer has a real good idea of the different systems of a college and how one decision in one area may influence all areas,” said Holtgren, “He really does have a good bird’s eye perspective of the college.” One aspect of that “bird’s eye perspective” is to make sure that all decisions come down to what is best for students. Cramer’s passion as president has been making the experience at Bethel the best it can be for the students. “(My wife Terri and I) have always tried to always look at things at Bethel in terms of what does it mean to our students,” said Cramer. “He has student development in the forefront of his mind,” said Holtgren. Cramer also knows how to have fun, especially when it comes to his passions in music and sports. One story in particular stood out to Martinez. “We do a thing here called noon hoops,” said Martinez, ”I still remember Dr. Cramer hitting a shot to win a game, and that was the last time I ever saw him play. He walked off the court and never came back, so he left on a good note.” It seems that Cramer is leaving the presidency the same way he left the basketball court: at the top of his game.
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