Bethel College professor drowns during fishing outing

MISHAWAKA, Ind. -- Right now a community, a college and a family are reeling after the sudden death of Bethel College professor Dr. Eugene Carpenter, 69.

Cass County Sheriff deputies say Carpenter drowned on Kirk Lake Monday afternoon when his boat got away from him. Police say Carpenter was launching his boat into the water when it drifted away from him. He died while trying to swim after it.

Carpenter taught Old Testament courses and was a resident scholar at Bethel College for 26 years. He had also, previously, served as Division Chair, Director of Graduate Studies and was currently Scholar-in-Residence. 

"Gene was a great guy. He was always fun to be around, I know he has been active here on the campus and is well respected by students, faculty and staff as well," said former classmate and Bethel College staffer David Waid.

Waid and Carpenter attended Bethel College as undergraduates in the late 60's, where Carpenter graduated in 1970 with a B.A. in Biblical Literature and English Literature, along with a minor in Greek. Carpenter went on to earn a Master of Divinity Degree in 1973 from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries and a Ph.D. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, in 1979.

"We took several classes together in ministry and also played some ping-pong together," said Waid. 

Carpenter was a nationally respected scholar too. He wrote and co-authored 21 books on a range of religious topics and was instrumental in the development of the masters program at the college. Those that knew him well said his absence will have a great impact on the school.

"How much remains to be seen, but just knowing what he has done for the school and for the area, it's going to be hard step in and pick up some of those pieces," said Waid.  

Although Carpenter will be missed, Waid said his life will be celebrated. "The great thing about Gene is that he knew the Lord and, even though, he will be missed he will be seen again.

 Statement from Bethel College

"We at Bethel College were shocked and deeply saddened to learn that Bethel Professor of Old Testament and Scholar-in Residence, Dr. Gene Carpenter died tragically today while fishing in Southwestern Michigan. The entire campus is in a state of shock and our hearts and prayers go out to his lovely wife Joyce."

"Gene was like the many giant oak trees that dot Bethel's campus in that we never expect them to fall.  But this one has, and the entire Bethel family will greatly miss the shade of his influence in our lives" said Dr Steven R. Cramer, Bethel President.


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