BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College recently bestowed emeritus status on three longtime professors – John McGowan, Kathy Shelek-Furbee, and Virgil Thompson – who are retiring from full-time service to the college.

John McGowan“We are deeply honored to name faculty of this caliber in teaching and learning and community leadership to our esteemed list of emeritus faculty,” Bethany President Tamara Nichols Rodenberg said. “Their contributions to Bethany College cannot be overstated. On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the entire community, we offer our profound thanks as we recognize them in this significant way.”

McGowan, professor emeritus of physical education and sports studies, joined Bethany in 1980. Over his 40-year career with the college, he has taught more than two dozen class titles and has served as an administrator and coach.

“In fact, he coached four different sports – swimming, cross country, track and field, and women’s soccer – and he made a great and underappreciated role in bringing women’s sports at Bethany College to the varsity level,” Provost and Dean of Faculty Joe Lane said.

Virgil ThompsonMcGowan spent the last academic year on sabbatical, researching the history of women’s sports at Bethany College and in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference. He is expected to give a presentation on his research in the fall.

After working as an accountant, financial officer, and labor law attorney, Thompson, professor emeritus of business and accounting, joined Bethany in 2006 to fill an expected vacancy in the accounting program.

“He not only taught and inspired dozens of young people headed for career success in accounting and finance, he cheered his students on at sporting events, placed them in internships and first jobs, and demonstrated daily his care and concern for them,” Lane said. “It is not an exaggeration that this man who can seem quite stern and gruff at first meeting is one of the warmest-hearted teachers we have known.”

Shelek-Furbee, professor emerita of social work, joined Bethany in 1984. As a professor and chair of social work, she grew the program to one of the largest majors on campus and has educated more than 150 licensed social workers.

She has served as assistant provost for four years and, for many years, led the college’s Kalon Scholars program, which trains young leaders and instills in them a sense of mission. She also has stepped in to chair special task forces and has served as chair of the education department in her final year as a full-time faculty member.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that when there is a need for steady, thoughtful, unflappable guidance, Bethany College has turned to her,” Lane said.

Emeritus faculty at Bethany College are invited to deliver a “Last Lecture” at the college so that they can be celebrated by their students, colleagues, and alumni. Events for Professors McGowan, Thompson, and Shelek-Furbee have been postponed to the Fall semester but will be announced as soon as the schedule is finalized.


Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.