As the final days of the 2015-2016 school year come to a close, so too is John Dendiu’s time at Bethel College. After 19 years of teaching at the college, Dendiu will be leaving Bethel at the conclusion of this year. Dendiu began teaching at Bethel in the religion and philosophy department in the fall of 1997.
But what many people don’t know is that he initially split time teaching in both the religion/philosophy and music departments.
“I’ve always loved music,” said Dendiu, “it has always seemed to be a great hobby of mine.”
Growing up, the Youngstown, OH. native found himself completely enthralled by the ivory keys and crisp melodies of a piano. Dendiu began his love of music while in high school and always dreamed of making a career out of it.
“I was always doing something,” said Dendiu, “however, I always centered a great amount of time around music.”
He became so enamored by music that he eventually pursued this passion into college. Dendiu would receive his bachelor’s degree in piano while attending the University of Cincinnanti College-Conservatory of music. From there, he went on to attend Bowling Green State University where, in 1977, he would earn his master’s degree in piano.
Many believe that college is where people “find themselves” and figure out what they wish to do with their lives. Dendiu’s college experience is a clear example of this idea. However, his approach to this experience of exploration was one that revolved around his faith in God.
“When I came to know Christ I found a sense of purpose for my life,” said Dendiu. “Choosing to have a relationship with Christ has given me the opportunity to know that He has called me into His kingdom while serving others in regards to that mission.”
Dendiu claims that his life truly began anew when he was 24. This was the year that he first accepted Christ as Lord and Savior of his life. Around this same time, he also began teaching at Ohio Northern University as an adjunct professor.
Throughout his early years in the job force, Dendiu also taught music in the public school system. However, over time he began to see that this was not quite what God had in mind for his life.
“I taught for awhile in public schools, but it just never quite felt fulfilling,” said Dendiu.
Dendiu felt the need to try something different in his life. He began to feel the call towards ministry. It was at this point that Dendiu joined Campus Crusade for Christ in 1979. This is an organization that focuses on evangelizing and reaching out to college and university students across the nation. Dendiu became a full-time staff member of the organization for two years and this would ultimately catapult his future endeavors in ministry.
“Campus Crusade for Christ was a huge opportunity that I was able to be a part of,” said Dendiu, “From this came numerous blessings and other opportunities to engage in for the next 37 years to follow.”
And it’s true. Ministry has been an extremely big portion of Dendiu’s life since the days he spent working for Campus Crusade. He went on to become ordained by the Missionary Church and would pursue roles of pastoral ministry in three different Ohio churches, functioning as a music, youth and even senior pastor.
Dendiu would eventually earn his master’s degree in Divinity in 1987. From there, he would go on to become an adjunct professor at Asbury Theological Seminary for two years.
In 1997, Dendiu, his wife Diane and their three children, Paul, Rachel and Joel, moved to the Hoosier state, where Dendiu began teaching in Bethel College’s religion and philosophy department. From 1997 until 2004, Dendiu also split his time by working in the school’s music department as well.
However, Dendiu had yet another hat to wear when beginning at Bethel College. Alongside his piano lessons and responsibilities as associate professor of religion, he was also named coach of the Lady Pilots’ tennis team in 1997. He eventually became coach for the men’s team in 1998 as well. Ironically, Dendiu had had only a brief history with the sport as he first began playing tennis during his college years.
For feeling a tad bit inexperienced, Dendiu ultimately would have a very successful career as the Pilots’ head coach. In his four years as head coach, his teams won three different NCCAA national championships (two male championships and one female championship) while also being named the NCCAA tennis coach of the year in 2000.
“I didn’t necessarily feel like I was the most qualified person for the gig,” said Dendiu, “but they gave me a shot at it and we had some success in the process.”
Dendiu would ultimately step down as head coach in 2001, but the Dendiu name had certainly begun to be engraved upon the school’s athletic program. Dendiu’s son, Joel, now carries on the family name by currently acting as the head coach of Bethel College tennis. With tennis no longer a responsibility, Dendiu was able to focus on his true passion of investing in students.
As Dendiu gathered his thoughts and began to tell of his experiences of Bethel College, it became obvious that this man truly cares deeply for others, especially his students.
“It hasn’t always been easy, but helping students find the excitement in living for Christ and God’s word has been such a reward,” said Dendiu with passion in every word, “My biggest goal in teaching has always been to help students become spiritually formed.”
There are many who believe that Dendiu has achieved this goal of helping students kindle spiritual formation. One avid believer of this idea is Bethel College associate professor of philosophy, Cristian Mihut.
“I’ve always admired John’s dedication to the spiritual formation of students,” said Mihut. “As I walk by his office, I often see him sitting across from a student, listening intently, fully engaged with that person. John has taught me that in pedagogy you don’t have to sacrifice quality for quantity. For as many students as he disciples, he is wholly attuned to the magnificent reality of each.”
In his time at Bethel College, Dendiu has created quite the network of positive relationships with those around him, including students, mentees and even his fellow faculty members.
“John has this uncanny combination of humility and directness that challenges you at the deepest part of your soul,” said Kent Eby, assistant professor of missions and Dendiu’s colleague of 9 years. “You know for a fact that he cares deeply.”
Dendiu’s announcement of leave from the school comes as a result of his personal health and energy becoming less than he wishes.
“I’ve always said that I want to leave this school while I still have some ‘oomf’ and the ability to offer 100 percent to each and every student,” said Dendiu as he acknowledged the approaching end of his time at Bethel, “But I also believe that there are other things that God has in store for my future.”
Dendiu has many plans for his future endeavors once he has left the school as a professor.
“Whether it’s part-time work with a church, continually investing in my grandkids, playing golf or accompanying on the piano, I plan on allowing the new opportunities to come as new adventures are started in this next stage of life,” said Dendiu.
Dendiu seemed to carry a well-liked demeanor and was respected by many members of the Bethel staff, including assistant professor of New Testament and Greek, David McCabe.
“We’re all going to greatly miss his great spirit of generosity and hospitality,” said McCabe, “It’s been humbling and inspiring to watch him take on a role of ‘pastor' of our department over the years.”
The faculty and staff of Bethel College are going to have large shoes to fill when Dendiu leaves. The Bethel administration has recently named Keith Koteskey as the soon-to-be replacement for Dendiu, beginning in the fall of 2016. For the past year, Koteskey has functioned as Bethel’s church liaison and representative with various Missionary churches. He brings 23 years of pastoral experience into the job and will be named the school’s new assistant professor of Christian ministries.
Professor Dendiu’s Bethel College office has now become quite barren now that he is soon to be leaving the school. The bookcases that once held volumes upon volumes of teaching materials and his favorite pieces of literature are now quite desolate. But even though this chapter involving religion and philosophy, music and tennis will soon come to a close, the legacy of professor Dendiu will forever be part of Bethel College.
“Bethel College has been an amazing place that I’ve been able to work on visualizing the calling God has for myself and others,” said Dendiu in his concluding remarks, “I’ve been a ‘professional Christian’ for 37 years now, 19 of those with this school. I’m going to continue to let God provide and let the new chapters come as he allows them to come.”