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By Contributing Writer
In 1980, Becky Wahlund received a wedding gift that now has a new life at Royal Stadium. Becky's story just goes to show the power of "regifting."
"Forty-one years ago, my late husband's grandparents gave us some stock," Becky recalls. Over the years, she reinvested the dividends again and again. In 2019, she decided the time had come to put this long-ago gift to good use for God's kingdom. So, she gave the stock to Bethel.
Because a gift of stock involves no capital gains, the decision had financial benefits for Becky. It had significant value for Bethel as well, since the stock's worth had grown over time.
Most important of all, Becky's gift went toward a cause close to her heart: Bethel athletics. It's supporting historic upgrades at Royal Stadium, which include multiuse artificial turf on the football field; the construction of Bethel's first-ever outdoor track; and the addition of new jump, vault, and throws areas for track and field.
Becky is no stranger to Bethel athletics. The younger of her two sons is Kyle Wahlund '11, who brought size, strength, and agility to his position as offensive lineman for the Royals during his undergraduate years. Today, Kyle is putting his gifts and passions to work as a math teacher.
His brother, Ryan Wahlund '06, majored in biblical and theological studies, then studied and practiced law. Today, Ryan helps business owners run their retirement plans as a co-fiduciary and advisor. He is also still involved in the Bethel community, having served for years on the National Alumni Board and in the BethelBiz mentorship program.
With both sons grown and living their own lives as Christ-followers, Becky has continued to support Bethel in myriad ways. "You find the time for the things you think are important," she says.
Throughout Kyle's football career, she volunteered as a parent liaison for the team, continuing in that capacity for a few more years after he graduated.
"I loved being involved, staying connected," she says, "and the head coach wanted someone to help keep parents informed, especially out-of-state parents." Becky sent out weekly emails, planned tailgate parties, and generously lent her many skills to serve and support Bethel.
She still does, as an active member of the President's Prayer Council and, for the past 19 years, as a donor—to Royal Athletics, Bethel's Wellness Center, and, of course, through that special gift of long-held stock.
There was a time, however, back in the 1970s, when Becky did not foresee a life so closely aligned with Bethel.
Raised not far from the university's campus, in a Christian family with an appreciation for Christian higher education, Becky had numerous relatives and family friends who went to Bethel. She wanted to join them, but she saw a different path for herself.
"I would have loved to attend, and I knew I would be missing out on the Christian campus experience, but I wanted to study food science, which Bethel didn't offer," she recalls. With that goal in mind, she enrolled elsewhere, earning an undergraduate degree and then an MBA while pursuing a career with the agricultural cooperative Land O' Lakes. By the time she retired in 2019, Becky was director of the company's test kitchens and consumer affairs.
That might have been Becky's entire story, a life well lived, but God had a plan that brought her into the Bethel family even though she never attended.
First, back in 1980, there was that wedding (with a certain gift of stock), where Becky married Craig Wahlund S'83, a seminary student at Bethel. As a young couple, they lived for three years in married student housing on campus. Becky remembers:
"I enjoyed the full campus experience, despite having never studied here. We were both full-time students, both working, trying to earn enough money to survive, but also forming lifelong friendships. When you have your common faith, that foundation, you build everything upon that."
After Craig graduated from the Seminary and became the pastor at a small Presbyterian church in St. Paul, Ryan was born, followed by Kyle. Then, when the boys were 11 and 15, Becky's husband died.
Suddenly, the relationships she had formed at Bethel took on greater importance than she could ever have anticipated. Her late husband's Bethel friends were her friends now, and an invaluable source of support for the boys. She took her sons to athletic events, and they also attended Vespers on campus. The family's ties to Bethel deepened, and by the time Ryan was ready for college, he wouldn't look anywhere else.
"It was Bethel or he wasn't going," Becky says. Four years later, Kyle followed suit.
Today, Becky still lives "just a hop, skip, and a jump" from the campus. She attends home football games every chance she gets. ("The campus is so gorgeous in the fall!"). In 2019, she joined then-president Jay Barnes and other Bethel friends as they followed in the footsteps of the apostle Paul on a trip to Greece and Turkey. Her involvement runs deep. And, she continues to give.
"Your money is where your heart is," Becky says. "I give to Bethel so my money will follow my heart."
"I believe in the institution and the people who work and teach there. At other organizations, you're not really sure where people stand. At Bethel, you know the money will be used in a Christ-centered way. For me, that says it all."
For generations, Bethel's fusion of faith with top-ranked academics has transformed women and men, preparing them for unique callings in the kingdom of God. Bethel is able to carry out its mission because of friends and supporters like Becky—and like you.