Bethany Bill’s


It’s time to strap on my big boy pants and do this blog. I’ve been avoiding the topic nearly four years. Bethany University was a horrible, wonderful, dreadful, exciting, scary, and beautiful place to work. I started there as a student in 1987, fresh from a year in France.  A very-pregnant Judi and I moved with Daniel to Visalia, California from 1997 to 2001, and we made our triumphant return about a month before 9/11. I remember telling Judi when we reached the Fishhook (the constantly-snarled interchange between HWY 1 and HWY 17 in Santa Cruz) that it felt like we were coming home again.  My heart, to quote the Dustin Hoffman movie Little Big Man, soared like a hawk.  We would see our best friends and colleagues Don Ryall and Craig Mosher. We would be entertained at lunchtime by Dan Albrecht and Willy Snow. We might even join one of Darrel Johnson’s or Mark Hulse’s choirs.

It occurred to me that its people made Bethany University positively engaging to the soul. When Dick Foth led the trustees to move then-Bethany Bible College to Sacramento, I cried after the public chapel announcement. I couldn’t imagine leaving this place and its memories… No, I realized. I couldn’t bear leaving its people. The students move in, and after four or five years, are gone.  The Bethany faculty was our family. It was preposterous, in 2001, to consider the thought of leaving our family again.

Over my 20 year affiliation, Don retired with the sour taste of administrative nonsense on his lips, Craig said he’d rather drive an ice pick through his skull than work another minute at Bethany, and he wandered aimlessly to become an adjunct professor at about 4 other community colleges in the area. Rich left, as gracefully and gently as possible (he’s a noble soul, Rich).  Darrel retired, and moved as far south as the United States would allow him. The Abplanalps left. Norm Arnesen died. Bob Columbo passed away. Dr. Rider is no longer with us. Mike and Joyce Stach pulled up stakes about a year after 9/11 and moved to Oregon. Derrald Vaughn passed away about a month before we arrived at Bethany. Truett Bobo? Gone. Dwight and Kathy Wilson? Retired. Norman Craver? He and his “this mess is a place” sign on his office door were axed due to budget cuts in the 90s. Ed Koetitz? Same story (sort of). In 2001, I myself was hired to replace a retiring Arnold McLellan as the head librarian.

We still had the mission, we reminded ourselves. Dozens of our family might be gone, but God called us to a place, to shape young Christian minds through our teaching, actions, and daily living. God did not bring us here to be fickle and leave.

By 2006, we were literally starving. Judi and I would go without meals so the kids could eat. Many months, after paying bills, we would only have $15 left. Bills were always late, no matter what we did. One month we had phone, water and power and gas all disconnected due to late payment.  We had a car repossessed and three other replacements towed away at our own expense because they no longer worked.  Our children’s school twice took us shopping on a public school credit card and bought us groceries.  They bought Alex a coat, and Daniel shoes. Alex was on their “low income kids Christmas list” and they bought him dozens of presents one year.  Until Bethany disbanded it, we frequented the married student commissary just to get by, even though we were faculty/staff and not students. But this was okay: God would provide; we were doing God’s work.

Finally, in early 2006, Judi was forced out of her position on trumped-up charges because she had caught wind of her boss committing extremely unethical and illegal business practices that endangered the existence of the University. Her boss systematically, over the course of a year (1) moved her office permanently into the furnace closet (2) pulled her away from any responsibility, although she was the Assistant Director of financial aid (3) “accidentally” stopped inviting her to meetings that were need-to-know information, and reprimanded her for missing them (4) ignored any advice from the Financial Aid team, despite 30 years of combined service from Judi and the Director (5) fired the Director of financial aid, for no reason other than the Director had contradicted her.  Finally, Judi sent around to a few friends, a comical email with the F-word in it. She was written up and put on probation. A month or two afterwards, she was told to report immediately to the HR Director on Monday morning at 9 AM. She had been reading the writing on the wall for a few months, so she arrived at 7 AM to pack her things and leave. She was greeted by 2 security guards and members of the VP’s trusted staff to make sure that the school Judi served at for 15 years wasn’t vandalized. It became a spectacle.  More than a half dozen were standing outside her furnace-closet just watching her move. Nobody would lift a finger to help.  I was wretchedly sick with the flu, but arrived at about 8 AM to help her pack her stuff into the back of a car. For the next hour, we marched her things two flights of stairs, her sobbing all the time. Judi and I both, in our own ways, felt like failures. She spent months in a deep depression, barely able to get out of bed, and six months unemployed. I, like her, sank into a depression. I could do nothing to protect my family, not financially, not spiritually. I considered suicide. So did, I think, Judi.  Yes, it was that bad.

This incident cured Judi of any empathy for Bethany she may have felt in our years of service to the University.  Over those months, Judi took a job briefly as a barista (which she walked to, 3 miles away, when she couldn’t find a ride because we couldn’t afford to get our broken down car repaired), and after talking with our friend Ben Roberts, Judi discovered that the College Board–that’s the folks who write and score the SAT tests–was hiring in their technical support team, where she would advise customers about PowerFaids, the Board’s  financial aid software package. The trick was, the whole family would need to relocate to Virginia.

It was the dream prospect for her: she would still work in financial aid, she could use her expertise to help other financial aid offices, and required no extra hours. She went through the application process, and she moved with our oldest son, Daniel, to Virginia in September of 2006. I stayed behind with Alex to teach out the rest of the semester.

In our eyes, the college’s crime wasn’t Judi’s wretched boss, but that the VP’s immediate supervisor (the president) allowed it to happen silently.  Well, not quite so. The president made sure Judi and I got a big party, with a giant poster-sized cake and everything, where he extolled us for our years of service. After the party I refused to shake the president’s hand and stormed out of the Dining Commons. About 30 minutes later, he knocked on my office door and asked what I had done to offend him. I unloaded for about an hour, literally shouting my response at him. He tried to make amends by paying a few thousand dollars to have our power, water, gas, and phone turned back on, and by offering our subsidized housing rent free, but that’s all monetary. The one thing we never got was the only thing I asked him for: a letter of apology from the president to my wife for the ill-treatment she received at his hands.

It’s not good enough to be a Christian institution, folks, or even to be Christian. For all the shouting that’s done about making an end of social welfare, it wasn’t the Christians who took care of us, nor the Church, but a very concerned public elementary school down the street.  We moved to Virginia in early December, 2006 and I immediately stopped blogging. I’m still not sure why. We both have our anxiety and depression if not totally gone, at least under control. I started recording and sharing my thoughts online last week, after the four-year hiatus. I’m alive and thriving here, and so is Judi. The boys are both excellent scholars and get an “also-A” in XBox gaming.

A quote from ee cummings sprang immediately to mind, and it seemed appropriate to become the title of this post:

and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death

B.

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10 thoughts on “Bethany Bill’s”

  1. Brian ~ I had never heard the whole story of why you and Judi left Bethany. I knew it was under bad circumstances but didn’t realize it was that bad and at the fault of a few “christian” people. As you know, I attended Bethany and then also worked there after I graduated. As a student, I always laughed at the jokes people would make about the “Bethany Bubble” After going to work there, I realized that those weren’t jokes. As a student, I always looked at the faculty and staff in awe, they were the Christains to look up to. After beginning to work there, I realized they were human and weren’t always the perfect Christians or had great ethics or morals. It was shock to my naive mind! But who I was to question, I was just a former student (some of these people I had classes from) and just a lowly staff member that worked in the Student Accounts office. After going to work for Lloyd in the maintenance department, I got out of the white mecca building. I got another shock to my naive mind, after the whole Craig Fisher situation, how the staff/faculty/VPs handled the situation really put a sour taste in my mouth. So, when “they” decided they needed to downsize staff and I was one of those selected to be cut from full to part time, I was not completely disheartened at leaving. Of course, by the time school started in the fall, “they” magically had the money again. Some of my best friends to this day, are friends I made at Bethany (Michele Daubert Jones, Shawnie Myers Rodriguez). I will always have those happy memories from being a student and being in that “bubble”. I will try to remember those happy memories of being a staff member and be happy for those follow staff members that are friends still (Judi, you, Patti Dobbs McKenna, Judy Brown, and Craig Mosher). I’m glad you and Judi are finally recovering.

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  2. Dear Brian and Judi,
    I also went to Bethany and so did my father. I remember you and Judy back when we were students (24 years ago) and am very sorry to hear how you were treated over the years at Bethany after giving so much of yourselves. It is nice to know that you and your family have been doing well since then. Your posting resonates with me on so many levels. I have immense respect for the faculty that you mentioned–Don Ryall, Mike and Joyce Stach, Dan Albrecht, Rich Israel and others. Good people, all. All of them had a major impact on my life. I would never have become an English professor if it were not for Don Ryall (I took eleven classes with him). It has taken me a while to get over some of the wrongs that I personally experienced and have witnessed happen to the best people at Bethany. I knew back then in the 1980s that Bethany would eventually close as a result of widespread financial mismanagement, parity in salaries and growing, uncontrollable debt. When I think of Bethany, I know exactly what you are saying. Thank you, though, for reminding me about certain quality people, good souls, like you both. I happened to read your posting and just wanted to wish you both the very best. Sincerely, Chris Shinn

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  3. I was truly saddened to read this post. It is hard to fathom how people can be treated like this at a “Christian” college/university. It seems like such a simple directive: Love one another. Unfortunately, when we are hired by a “Christian” entity, we have unknown expectations. I pray this was not during Everett’s tenure as president.
    I come from a wounded place as well. I remember when they fired Priscilla. What a shock that was. She was so gracious about it. I’ve tried to live up to that example. Of course we had our own issues of getting fired from there (2x). I have tried to not waste my time on giving anyone involved any bitterness or resentment. In fact I have tried not to give them one minute of my time or thoughts. Unfortunately the closure of Bethany has caused many of the outdated and thought forgotten feelings and issues to the surface.
    The actions from those in leadership so often come without a single thought of the other person or their well-being. I don’t know how to fix that. I just try to never be that way. I also leave them in God’s hands.
    I am glad to see you are doing well these days. It just reminds me that we never ever know what another person is going through. Take care of yourselves!

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  4. Brian and Judi,
    So sad to read this. I think we all knew there was some “dysfunction” but I didn’t know it was this bad. I’ll always be grateful for the gift that the Bobos, the Johnsons, Don and Norm, gave to us. I would definitely be a different person without their influence. It was a noble thing for you to give so much for others to have that chance, but no one should be expected to make those kinds of sacrifices. I can only imagine the bile that situation built up in you. I pray God will give you the grace to expel it in the healthiest way possible.

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  5. All kinds of thoughts came flooding into my head after reading your blog. Thanks for sharing. I’m sorry you and your family had to go through that.

    I left Bethany half-way through my sophomore year for many reasons. I couldn’t wait to leave. One reason was because of the “church” baggage I had already acquired. I think there are lots of things I have blocked from my memory over the years regarding church and especially the AG church.

    Once I left Bethany (Dec of 89, I think) I tried to delete anything I had learned about God, religion etc. and start from scratch. I didn’t want to step into a church, especially an AG one. I questioned everything. Some people didn’t like that. I still feel numb when it comes to church. I rarely go, and when I do it’s not AG. I don’t want to get too involved and see all the junk! My basic belief in God and salvation has always lasted, but I just haven’t known what to do with the “church” stuff.

    I know that people who go to church usually have a good heart. So I hate to lump everyone who goes to church into a negative category. We are all human and make mistakes. But for some reason church and the people in them scare me. I don’t feel that I’m any better either. I scare myself too! lol!

    Over the last few years I have wondered how anyone can come to know God from a church. I keep realizing that it’s not men that draw people to God, but God.

    For years I have questioned the way we “do church”. I have wanted to know if this tradition we have is what God intended. I’ve been busy with life though and haven’t had much time to research that topic. Recently, I have found an author that has been thinking the same things I have. For example, why do we pay pastors money and benefits to come up with a sermon every week? And have so many other obligations that his family suffers? Why do we pay for church buildings? Think of all the money that could really help people if we didn’t give our money to church (that mostly pays for salaries and maintenance) but to fulfill real needs of people.

    The authors name is Frank Viola. The first book of his I bought is called “Pagan Christianity” (I’m sad to say I still haven’t finished it- you know how life gets). What I have read so far is good. The other book of his that I am half-way through is “Reimagining Church”. I’m interested for you to read them and tell me what you think. He has a few others that are along the same line. I have a feeling pastors and colleges like Bethany don’t like what he has to say. But they shouldn’t be too intimidated, the chances of the “institutional church” ever changing seem slim.

    Thanks again for sharing your story. I’m glad you are healing and that you’ve found a good place for your family.

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  6. Brian, thanks for writing this. The truth shall set you free. You and Judi are loved and valued. I’m so sorry this happened.

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  7. I don’t think that anyone who went to Bethany wants to hear about my horror stories of the place and how I was treated by the administration simply for refusing to be a sheeple and stand up for my right as a human being to always post the question of : why?

    I could probably write a book on my three years there, but I have better things to do with my time.

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  8. Ah, Brian. Sitting here at 4:51 a.m. after reading your blog. Just sitting here. I find myself wondering if situations like the one you and Judi experienced at Bethany are endemic to small, denominationally-affiliated Christian colleges — or just to the AG schools, because God knows, stories like yours and Judi’s dot the AG higher ed landscape. I could sing you a litany, as I watched things like this happen over and over and over to good — truly good — people during my years at Northwest– and all at the hands of a president who stood in chapel and parroted stuff about “the surprises of Jesus” — as if the rest of us were idiots who could not see the terrible things he did to others. I still shake my head at the pathology of it — his own and the pathology of an organizational structure that rewarded him — and others like him.

    That’s the problem. The structure is fallen to the core — and it perpetuates itself.

    I live 2 minutes from Northwest; I’m literally right around the corner. I spent 14 years of my life there. I do not even drive on campus at this point, and I still avert my eyes when I drive past the place, trying to blot out the sad truth that I, indeed, spent 14 years of my professional life buried in that dysfunctional, hell-hole nightmare. I shudder when I think of the Assemblies of God and power.

    But, like you and Judi, I’m well on the mend. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to be employed at Seattle Pacific University, where faculty and staff are treated with respect and care — and are valued. It struck me in the face like a tidal wave.

    Or a balm in Gilead.

    Peace, friend.

    And God help us all, eh?

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