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2013, vol. 67

Editor’s Note

by Rachel Epp Buller

Rachel Epp Buller is Associate Professor of Visual Arts and Design at Bethel College. Her publications include Reconciling Art and Mothering (2012) and Mothering Mennonite (2013). She holds a Ph.D. in art history and serves as a regional coordinator of The Feminist Art Project.

In this issue of Mennonite Life, we celebrate the quasquicentennial, or 125th year of Bethel College. Throughout the 2012-13 academic year, departments, affiliates and the college as a whole have marked this anniversary in a variety of ways. One of the major scholarly commemorations was the publication of Dr. Keith Sprunger’s book, Bethel College of Kansas, 1887-2012, launched at Fall Festival 2012 and the basis for Sprunger’s Menno Simons Lecture Series at Bethel last fall. The newly renamed visual arts and design department honored the long legacy of art and artists at Bethel College through a yearlong exhibition series of artwork by student and faculty alumni. Math and computer science alumni came together this spring to mark several decades of math achievement at Bethel, specifically around the infamous Putnam Mathematical Competition. The communication arts department celebrated the anniversary through a staging this spring of Joseph Kesselring’s Arsenic and Old Lace, a play with a particular Bethel connection. All of these tributes are detailed in the issue that follows.

Bethel College has the distinction of being the only school in the nation with a threshing stone for a mascot. John Thiesen’s article in this issue speaks to the history of the threshing stone. Thiesen’s piece, first delivered as a public lecture, accompanied The Threshing Stone: Mennonite Artifact and Icon, an exhibition organized this year by Glen Ediger for Kauffman Museum. Looking at the mascot from a contemporary perspective, current student Travon Lewis worked with Multicultural Student Union adviser Caleb Lazaro to produce an audio recording entitled Thresher Zone, which Melanie Zuercher discusses in her piece here.

As is our tradition, we also include a section reviewing recent publications. This issue contains several spirited book reviews by colleagues near and far, and Barb Thiesen shares her annual bibliographic compilation.

With the 2013 issue, we also usher in some changes. As past readers will be aware, Mennonite Life has sometimes published the winning high school essays from the John Horsch Essay Contest. With the termination of that contest last year, the Mennonite Life board has decided to launch our own contest aimed at high school students. The Cornelius Krahn Mennonite Multimedia Contest for High Schoolers will accept research essays as well as creative writing, original websites or videos on themes of Mennonite history, identity and theology, from insider or outsider perspectives. Details on this contest will be released in Fall 2013.

With this issue, we also move to a new web platform. We hope that this new format will prove more searchable and more usable for readers, both now and in the future. I thank Rachel Evans, Andrew Thiesen and particularly Jesse Kaufman for their continued work in helping us make this transition.

While Mennonite Life has been hosted by Bethel College since its inception, this year we also celebrate a new intercollegiate partnership. Last fall we were pleased to welcome two new editorial board members, Christopher Dick of Tabor College, and Karen  Sheriff LeVan of Hesston College, and we look forward to building more connections between these Mennonite schools. Bethel College staff who participated in this year’s editorial board include Mark Jantzen, professor of history; Rachel Pannabecker, director of Kauffman Museum; Christine Crouse-Dick, associate professor of communication arts; John Thiesen, archivist and co-director of libraries; Brad Born, vice president for academic affairs; Melanie Zuercher, writer and editor for institutional communications; and Joe Fenton, web editor and media services coordinator. As I near the end of my first year as editor, I thank my colleagues for their assistance, particularly former editor Mark Jantzen, without whose continued wisdom and input this job would seem much more overwhelming.