Bethel College 2017 Commencement Speakers

Erin Kinzel

Bethel College is pleased to announce three featured speakers for its 70th annual commencement exercises. Editorial cartoonist Gary Varvel, local entrepreneur Don Clark, and 1949 graduate Virginia Krake will speak at both commencement ceremonies, which will take place in the Wiekamp Athletic Center, Saturday, April 29. The 10 a.m. commencement includes adult programs, organizational management, Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) completion and graduate programs. The 5 p.m. commencement includes all traditional undergraduate programs and Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN).

Virginia (Schultz) Krake ’49 was one of two upper classmen (both pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Bible) who transferred to Bethel College for its first semester of classes. The second student, Marcus Krake ’48, whom she met on campus and eventually became her husband, was the sole graduate of the class of 1948.

The Bethel College of 1947 was a place of eager anticipation for students and faculty alike. In the very first year of the college’s existence, the enrollment for the first semester was a mere 87 brave young people becoming a part of history.

Though many years have passed since her graduation, Krake remains in contact with some of her peers from Bethel, and her family legacy at Bethel lives on. All four of the Krake’s children attended the college and three graduated, including Barbara (Krake) Rodgers ’75, administrative assistant to Bethel’s current president. Rodgers’ two daughters also graduated from Bethel: Emily (Rodgers ’99) Sherwood, current director of alumni relations at the college and Andrea (Rodgers ’02) Gregory. Read her entire story at


Gary Varvel has been the editorial cartoonist for The Indianapolis Star since 1994. In a career that started in 1978 as the chief artist at The Indianapolis News, Varvel was inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame in 2015.

His work is syndicated through Creators Syndicate and his cartoons have appeared on CNN, FoxNews and in Newsweek, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, The Arizona Republic, San Diego Union Tribune, National Review and Sports Illustrated. His work has also been reprinted in many college and high school textbooks.

Varvel has won the National Headliners Award, Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, National Cartoonists Society Reuben Award for Best Editorial Cartoonist, Grambs Aronson Award for Cartooning with a Conscience, Indiana Society of Professional Journalists' Award for Best Editorial Cartoon and the Best Editorial Cartoonist Award in the Hoosier State Press Association.

He is also a board member of House of Grace Films and co-writer and producer of the films, “The Board” (2009) and “The War Within” (2014), which was winner of seven film festival awards. Varvel also authored and published a children’s book, “The Good Shepherd” (2015).

Varvel is a life-long Hoosier who lives west of Indianapolis with his wife, Carol. They have three children and five grandchildren.

As part of the celebration of Bethel’s 70th year, Varvel was commissioned to create six illustrations depicting Bethel’s history. View them at


Don Clark has more than 30 years of successful recreational vehicle industry experience with a proven track record of leading and growing companies throughout the industry. Clark’s history includes: distressed company turnarounds, successful startups, and helping businesses grow. Prior to co-founding the RV company Grand Design, Clark had significant impact at two other companies. He was named president and successfully led the turnaround of a struggling Thor division, and he was part of the owner/management team that helped drive Keystone RV Company to become the largest towable manufacturer in the world.

Most recently, Clark, along with partners Ron and Bill Fenech, recruited and built the team that led Grand Design RV to become one of the fastest growing RV manufacturers in the history of the industry. In four short years, Grand Design grew to be a dominant player in its space; it was acquired by Winnebago for just over $500 million in October 2016.

Clark was recently honored by Ernst and Young by being awarded the Ernst and Young “Entrepreneur of the year for the Ohio Valley Region.” Clark’s coaching management style has attracted some of the strongest talent in the industry. In spite of these accomplishments, he lists his most monumental accomplishment as his three children Courtney, Austin and Caitlin, who continue to amaze and inspire him each and every day.

Clark will be presented with an honorary degree at the 10 a.m. ceremony.


For more information about the weekend’s graduation activities, visit