Platinum Pilot Harold Rodgers ’74 Delivers 2024 Baccalaureate Address

by | May 13, 2024

Baccalaureate address (as prepared for delivery) by Harold Rodgers ’74 — at the 2024 Bethel University Baccalaureate on Friday, May 3, 2024.

Congratulations class of 2024 from the class of 1974. How the times have changed. And yet, many things have remained the same.

You’re looking at a first-generation college student. No one before me in my lineage attended higher education. It was my father who encouraged me to attend Bethel due to the fact that it was nearby and was associated with the Missionary Church. All four years I commuted to classes. During that time, new friendships developed. And those friendships have turned into lifelong friends. I graduated with a major in Biblical Literature and a minor in Youth Ministry. While my career path never landed me in a ministry position, my education prepared me for the path that I would take. For twenty years, my career was in the social work field. It started out as a caseworker in what was known then as the “Welfare Department”. It was during those years that my interest in computing was sparked by a simple Star Trek game that I saw in a campus computer lab at the University of Michigan. Before long, I was the proud owner of a TRS-80 model 3 with 32k of memory and two single sided floppy drives. The purchase of such a fine piece of technology was justified based on my wife’s typing side hustle. Her printer was her IBM Selectric typewriter with a box of plungers sitting on top of the keyboard and connected to the computer with a cable. It would push down the appropriate keys as the computer instructed. As the years passed, my technological interest in computing took over my career. In 1995 I left my position of Administrative Analyst for the State of Indiana and came to work at Bethel in what would become the Director of Administrative Computing. This position was responsible for the hardware and software that ran the business side of Bethel; Admissions, Financial Aid, Business Office, Student Services, Institutional Advancement and Alumni. My wife Barb and I retired from Bethel five years ago at which time Barb was serving as the Administrative Assistant to the president.

How times have changed over the years. In 1974 we were using manual typewriters to write papers for our classes. Mistakes were corrected with “white out” or “white correction tape”. Research was done in libraries where card catalogs were the interface between you and the location of books containing the information you desired. You would pull out a drawer that was full of what looked like 3×5 cards in alphabetical order and thumb through them until you found the book you were looking for and it’s location on the shelves. You would then hope that the book was available and was not checked out by another student. In 1974, the two dorms, Shupe and Oakwood, had one phone per floor and a switchboard located in the entrance of Shupe.

Back then, the way students would message each other was to write their message on a piece of paper, fold it, write the recipient’s name on the outside and then tape it to the switchboard counter. If you saw a message with your name on it, you would pull it off and read it. It was such a message on that counter that led to my wife and I getting together. Her sister Joanne, a classmate of mine, would leave messages for me signing Barb’s name. Barb would see them and pull them off and dispose of them. Well, she missed one.

Writing letters was the most cost effective way of communicating with friends and family not in your immediate geographical location. The letters that Barb and I exchanged during her time back home before we were married are still in my desk at home.

Photos were taken with cameras that used film that had to be developed and the photographs printed. The process from taking the photo and getting it back would take days, weeks or even months depending on how long it took you to complete taking the 20 some photos that the film allowed.

Today, my smartphone is my library, address book, messaging medium, mailbox, camera and occasionally a phone.

Yet over the last 50 years, how many things have stayed the same. Humans still covet what others have, lie when it suits their interests and steal in creative ways.

There is still violence that tears away at the fabric of our society. Violence based in race, religion or identity. Nation against nation. For my generation it was our involvement in the Vietnam War. Today perhaps it is Russia and Ukraine or our involvement in the middle east.

In a world of violence and war, may we be the peacemakers.

In the 70s, the Sexual Revolution was changing our society in major ways. A popular slogan then was “Make love, not war”. Song lyrics were a major megaphone in spreading it’s philosophy. Looking back, it now seems tame in relation to what is now acceptable in movies and television.

In 1974, president Nixon resigns at the culmination of a scandal that future scandals would refer back to in their name. That scandal was Watergate. It pales in comparison to what politicians are getting away with today.

You, 2024 graduates of Bethel, are called to be different. You, are to be a light in a dark world. You are to be the salt of the earth.

Tomorrow, in your procession, you will pass through the Krake Courtyard as you pass from Bethel’s campus to the world that awaits you. In that courtyard Ephesians 4:1 is displayed. “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received”. Ephesians 4:2 & 3 expand upon the ways that a worthy life can be realized. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Living a life worthy of the calling you have received will not be easy. But, your time here at Bethel has prepared you for that challenge. May you be found faithful. May you live a life worthy of the calling you have received.