Bethany to Honor Alums

Bethany College will be honoring eight  alums during homecoming festivities this weekend.

According to the school, the honorees will be recognized at the All-Alumni Awards Brunch at 10:00 am on Saturday, October 22nd, during Homecoming weekend at the J.O. Sundstrom Building at 102 N. Main Street in downtown Lindsborg.

The Gold Awards go to Kylie (Schrader) Lofdahl ’04, Tyler ’05, and Molly (Rishel) Johnson ’06. This award represents graduates of the last two decades who have made outstanding contributions to society and whose achievements demonstrate a person who shows promise, has high aspirations, and has made a difference in the lives of people around them.

Kylie Lofhahl has just begun her 19th year in education, teaching 3rd grade for  years and her 6th year in 4th grade at the Smoky Valley School District. Besides helping her husband, Terry, with their family farm, she also volunteers her time with the Smoky View 4-H Club and the Lindsborg Swedish Folk Dancers. Since graduation, she has supported Bethany in numerous ways. She currently serves as the Class Agent for 2004 and is integral in coordinating the host family program for the Women’s Basketball Team.

After graduation, Molly Johnson worked in the Bethany College  for two years, then served as Director of Alumni Relations for several years. In 2017, Molly was  part of the Ad Hoc Business Group, the Lindsborg CVB Board of directors, the Hyllningsfest Committee, and the City of Lindsborg Planning and Zoning Board. She and Tyler Johnson s erved on the Broadway RFD boards and helped start the children’s camp. Tyler also served on the Lindsborg Art Council and the community safety board. Molly and Tyler purchased The Good Merchant in downtown Lindsborg, sang in the Messiah Chorus for ten years, and volunteered their time as directors and organizers of the 4th of July program for 15 years.

The Alumni Award of Merit goes to Lisa (Mooney) Simmelink ’02 and Mark Carlson ’73. This award represents graduates of more than 20 years who have exemplified distinguished service as professionals while maintaining an interest in Bethany College.

Lisa Simmelink teaches music at McPherson Elementary, is in her second year as a seminarian at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN, and is serving as a part-time intern at Messiah Lutheran Church in Lindsborg. Simmelink, and her “Swedeheart” Brandon Simmelink ‘01 , continue to support Bethany College through their gifts of time, talents, and service.

Mark Carlson was the director of the Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California (LOPP-CA). He was responsible for interpreting ELCA social policy with church members, the public, and government bodies from 1985 until 2019. LOPP-CA became a primary source of trusted information on California’s many ballot measures, including anti-hunger, social justice, and civil and human rights. LOPP-CA also created legislation protecting LGBTQ+ students, California’s landmark climate change, and human right to water laws. In retirement, Carlson is active in Lutherans Restoring Creation, the Sierra Pacific Synod Hunger Team, the Brady Campaign, and California Interfaith Power & Light steering committee. He participates at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Sacramento in its Care for Creation, Racial Justice, and Action on Homelessness teams. Carlson had a parallel seasonal career for 29 years as a firefighter with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Bethany College Distinguished Graduate Award goes to Floyd Thompkins ’84. This graduate award represents outstanding achievement and service to society.  As CEO of the Justice and Peace Foundation, Thompkins is conducting a research project among African American Churches in the areas of grief, trauma, and ministry. This project also covers initiatives in African American spirituality and mental health, advances the dialogue surrounding the reform and reimagining of policing in the US, and has initiated the Talk Truth Project. As Dean of Religious Life, Rev. Thompkins has served at two world-class institutions, Stanford University and Princeton University. He serves as the Pastor of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Marin City, California, and is a  significant participant in the national conversation concerning race and social justice in the Presbyterian Church. He also serves on the task force to develop the Spiritual Guidelines of the American Psychological Society.

The Bethany College Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Clair ’77 and Jerrine (Palmquist) Oleen ’78. This award represents outstanding achievement and service to society by a graduate who has provided “unique and significant service” to the college over their lifetime. Jerrine was a runner-up for the Governor “My Favorite Teacher” award and has received the Bethany College Athletic Association Award of Merit. Her 3rd graders were pen pals with the Bethany College Men’s Basketball team for over 20 years, and she served as a second mom to many of the players. She cooked meals after every home game serving more than 5000 meals over the years.

After a short stint teaching and coaching in Clay Center, Kansas, Clair coached 38 total seasons of men’s and women’s basketball at Bethany College and has the longest coaching tenure in Bethany’s history. He has 10 NAIA and District 10 Playoff appearances and spent 42 years employed at Bethany serving in the Advancement Office after he retired from coaching. Clair and Jerrine are highly involved in their community and serve the Falun Lutheran Church in many capacities.

More information about Homecoming can be found online at