BETHANY, W.Va. – As Bethany College prepares for the start of its academic year, President Tamara Nichols Rodenberg recognized Bethany’s successful 2020-2021 navigation of the COVID-19 pandemic and encouraged faculty and staff to adopt a face-forward approach to their work.

“We cannot fall back on what we used to do and used to be. We cannot. We must, with urgency, face forward, learn what we can learn, use the best of what we’ve accomplished, and take it forward,” Rodenberg said. “Face forward in everything you are doing.”

Even with the pandemic limiting traditional efforts, Rodenberg announced an improved student-retention rate and a strong freshman class with an average grade-point average of 3.37. That compares to an average of 3.1 for last year’s incoming class.

Bethany recently introduced its Master of Education program and will welcome its first cohort of students when classes begin Monday. The college is also moving toward the creation of the Bethany School of Graduate Studies. Rodenberg also announced an expanded partnership with the Oglebay Institute, including an agreement with the Towngate Theatre.

The Office of Advancement closed its fund-raising year with $2.5 million in outright gifts, $3.6 million in new pledges, and $1.2 million in new bequests. The office also secured $200,000 toward the renovation of a biology lab in Kirkpatrick Hall.

Students will return to campus this week under a series of COVID-19 safety measures; vaccines are required as is wearing masks in all campus buildings.

“No one wanted to enter the fall term under a second round of the pandemic, but here we are,” Rodenberg said. “So we press onward. We must be a forward-thinking institution with combined headwinds of enrollment, retention, and related financial challenges. … This is not the time to fall back on comfortable positions or the ‘the way we did it before.’ … We are in a new paradigm, and it’s going to require new, creative, and innovative market-centric approaches.”

During the last academic year, Bethany College integrated a mix of hybrid, HyFlex, in-person, and fully online educational delivery methods to its students while ensuring the health and safety of the campus community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During that time, Bethany conducted about 2,200 COVID-19 surveillance tests and more than 3,400 instant tests to scholar-athletes, and administered 150 vaccinations. The college also delivered almost 6,000 meals to students who were in isolation or quarantine.

About 86 percent of Bethany faculty and staff are vaccinated, and the college will host vaccination clinics for students as they arrive on campus. First-year students move in Thursday, and upper-classmen return Sunday.

“Remember what we’ve been through, this nation has been through, this globe has been through. A pandemic is a pivotal and transitional disruptive event. And we cannot go on with business as usual, without recognizing the impact that has on each and every one of us in personal ways,” Rodenberg said. “In collective ways, and certainly as a community… So, let’s pause for a minute. Take a look around and recognize that you are not in this alone.”

In following her tradition, Rodenberg introduced #BethanyBold as the college’s hashtag for this academic year.

“I want you to go boldly into the future,” she said. “Think about what you can change, what you can do, what you can innovate, what you can bring to the table, and support others doing the same.”


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.