MISHAWAKA—On Jan. 14, it was officially announced that President Gregg Chenoweth will be leaving Bethel to take up a new position as president of his alma mater, Olivet Nazarene University, effective June 1.
When Chenoweth first came to Bethel eight years ago, he and his family had nearly no connections to the Michiana area.
“Our only connection to the area is my wife graduated from Penn High School,” Chenoweth said. “She spent really just her high school years living here... but we knew nothing about Bethel.”
Chenoweth found about the presidential opportunity at Bethel when he was contacted by an executive search firm that had been hired by Bethel to find candidates that matched community and professional needs.
“My professional trajectory, the work experience I had, made me a candidate for this kind of assignment,” Chenoweth said. “But it was also really a spiritual quest to keep asking God, ‘Where is my time and energy and the talent you gave me best used?’”
While Bethel was considering its candidates, Chenoweth was simultaneously being considered for a presidential position at a different institution. This led to feelings of confusion for Chenoweth and his wife, who began to pray God would bring clarity to them the same way He had in previous situations: by bringing about change in a “whirlwind.”
“Sure enough,” Chenoweth said, “within two or three days... the other institution called me and said, ‘We’ve decided to extend our process, we’re going to add several months to it and a few more layers of interviews.’ Bethel called the same day or the day after and they said, ‘We’re so sure that you’re the right person for us that we’re going to abbreviate the process.’”
Bethel has made progress and gained stabilization in several areas during Chenoweth’s time here, many of which are detailed in the official news release; but for Chenoweth, his favorite takeaways are more intangible.
“The biggest thrill I have is seeing students get an encounter with God,” Chenoweth said. “I have eight years' worth of photographs that I’ve kept, I don’t delete them, when I see moments of, for example, students kneeling in prayer before the alter, families who are sending off their daughter or son and they’re hugging them and praying for them, things like that.”
Chenoweth said he has loved his time at Bethel and was never at any point looking for another job, but he was officially contacted by Olivet in October 2020, and by December, they let him know they wanted to hire him.
Chenoweth chose to accept the offer for three reasons. First, he felt the sentimental tugs of returning to his alma mater. Second, many of the major initiatives Bethel has committed to complete over a five-year period are already begun or done, so Chenoweth feels like this is a stable time for Bethel to experience an administrative change. And third, several of the spiritual criteria used by him and his wife for making decisions indicated there was “latitude” for this response.
Chenoweth will miss the joyful, encouraging relationships he has experienced in the Bethel community, but he is excited for the new opportunities awaiting him in Illinois.
“All the things that are important to [Bethel students] are important to the people that remain here,” Chenoweth said, “and there’s every reason to expect a wonderful future.”