Campus News

Retirement of Dr. Dennis Engbrecht

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MISHAWAKA–Dr. Dennis Engbrecht, former Vice President of Students and current History Professor, will be retiring after this semester. The 70-year-old has served the college for nearly 33 years and feels that “it’s time.”

Dr. Engbrecht first came to Bethel in 1967 as a freshman undergraduate student. Following his graduation in 1972 from McPherson College in central Kansas, he earned a master’s degree in 1976 and began teaching High School students. It was at this time that he felt himself called to teach college students; after completing his PhD in 1985 he began working at Bethel as what is now called the Vice President of Student Development, then the Dean of students.

“When I came [to Bethel] in 1986 – Bethel’s a denominational school and the denomination had pretty much lost confidence in the school. There was a very laxed environment. When I say laxed I mean that the college was not consistent – and it’s hard to be consistent and I’m not being critical of the previous administration this was just the reality – it had not been consistent in living out the community life covenant. I remember on Monday mornings going over to Oakwood with the Resident Director. He’d grab a laundry basket and we’d go pick up beer cans outside of the windows of the dorm. And it would be filled. I remember dismissing a Resident Assistant because he was carrying a case of beer on his shoulder as he went down the hall. I remember the Spiritual Life Director being dismissed because he kept coming in drunk. I mean, these are the things as a result I thought ‘We’ve got to clean up our act.’”

“I think there were times when policing took place over restoration.” 

As Engbrecht’s time in the Administration continued, the college’s adherence to the community life covenant improved. 

“We were a small school when I came; there was one male Resident Director, one female Resident Director, and myself and a secretary and that was Student Development. And when we grew the staff to maybe twelve Resident Directors and lot of other support staff workers, it took me a while to shift from ‘I’ve got to take the reins and run this thing’ to a more comradery, teamwork approach. I had good people and they helped me with that. They helped to point out ‘we want to be part of the team, Dennis. We trust you, we’ll follow you anywhere but we want to be part of the team.’ Once we hit that protocol of function, it was a great ride. I have pictures in my desk of lots of retreats and team building experiences, going to conferences together. Man, I worked with some great people, really good people. I mean, Shawn, who is the only one remaining, is emblematic of the kind of people that I had.”

Some of Engbrecht’s favorite highlights include a revival that occurred on campus during 1991 which he attributes to part of Bethel’s growth of student body from less than 500 to nearly 2,000 during the 1990’s and the early 2000’s. He was also able to watch his children attend and graduate from Bethel.

“When we moved here in 1986 my oldest was seven years old, my second was three years old, and my daughter born right after we moved here. One of the things that I had hoped and prayed for was that the college – which was in pretty dire straits at that particular time, they were actually thinking of closing the school – was to see my own kids come here and get a quality education and have a quality experience. All three came to Bethel, all three graduated, all three of them say today ‘Dad, those were some of the best years of our lives.’”

In 2009 Dr. Engbrecht stepped down as VP of Student Development to function as the Administration’s Senior Vice President and in 2013 he returned as a professor.

“My intent was to end my career the same way I began. I love the classroom and I’ve been in the classroom even when I was an administrator. I would teach May term classes, occasionally I would teach graduate courses just because I liked it so much.”

Dr. Engbrecht turned 70 years-old on March 16 and had always planned to retire at that age.  

“I feel like it’s time. I’ve loved being at Bethel. I was here during the Golden-era and it makes me feel blessed.”

For more information on Dr. Engbrecht, check out our Faculty Profile here – 

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