By Michelle Westlund '83, senior content specialist
March 08, 2021 | 3:45 p.m.
If you happen to find yourself involved in a game of Bethel trivia and you're unsure of an answer, you'd do well to guess Ralph and Lyn Gustafson. The couple is connected to Bethel in so many ways, they could be the answer to any number of questions testing the extent of one's Bethel knowledge.
"I can't think of my life apart from Bethel," says Ralph. Here's why: He and Lyn both graduated from Bethel in 1974, Ralph with a dual major in history and speech, and Lyn with a degree in education. Ralph also earned two degrees from Bethel Seminary, an M.Div. in 1978 and a D.Min. in 2013. As a young couple, they worked at Bethel in a variety of rolestogether as resident directors and answering afterhours calls to the switchboard, and Ralph as a bus driver and assistant football coach.
A pastor, speaker, teacher, and ministry director, Ralph worked at Bethel for much of his career, serving in church ministries, development, and most recently as executive minister for church relations before his retirement in 2018. The couple's children Jared '00, S'11; Krissa '01; and Nathan '03, S'08 are Bethel alumni, and their son Luke worked on Bethel's facilities management team for a time. "We're thankful for our family's Bethel legacy," says Ralph. "Other than our immediate family, Bethel is the family we feel most connected to."
The Gustafsons generously support their Bethel family. They've been members of the Bethel Coffee Cluba group of thousands of donors who give a monthly sustaining gift and receive a coffee mug every year in returnsince its inception in 1984, which means they own approximately 37 limited-edition Bethel mugs. And they've continued their long-established habit of regular giving through the use of a donor advised fund (DAF), which allows them to manage and maximize their giving to Bethel and other ministries they support. "We give because we really believe in Bethel's missionat both the college and the seminary," says Ralph. "We've seen the results in our own lives and the lives of our kidsthere's no better place for people to experience transformation. We wish we could give 10 times what we give."
Ralph Gustafson '74, S'78, S'13
Lyn remembers her Bethel years as a time when she was challenged to make her faith her own. "Our professors were not just faculty members but real people who were authentic and connected to their students," she says. "So many adults were pouring into us, guiding and shaping us. And our kids' Bethel experience was just as good as ours. The faculty and staff are incredible people, and we want to support their commitment to Bethel's vision and mission. My hope is that Bethel will be Bethel for years to come."
Ralph and Lyn have spent years in ministry and service to others, through teaching, preaching, and partnership with churches. Their dual passion for both the College of Arts & Sciences and Bethel Seminary reflects their calling and their values. "At Bethel University, young men and women are thoroughly equipped to be salt and light and have an impact in the world," says Ralph. "And for those going into ministry, Bethel Seminary provides the kind of training needed in the world today. What happened in our lives at these two places was life-changing, and we believe that will be the case for today's studentsand tomorrow's."
About those students of tomorrow. "We have eight grandchildren who are 15 years old or younger," says Lyn with a conspiratorial gleam in her eye. "And our desire is that there would continue to be a place like Bethel for them to go to schoolan institution that puts the Lord first, where they're equipped to succeed in academic areas but also stand for Christ in the world into which they'll graduate."