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First Black Student To Enter Bethel Dies

By Jim Potts
jpotts@mckenziebanner.com
Posted 8/16/22

The first black student to enroll at Bethel College/University died in Texas on Thursday, August 11. The Reverend Joel P. Rice enrolled at Bethel in 1961 and graduated in 1965.

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First Black Student To Enter Bethel Dies

Posted

The first black student to enroll at Bethel College/University died in Texas on Thursday, August 11. The Reverend Joel P. Rice enrolled at Bethel in 1961 and graduated in 1965.

He was a longtime pastor in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and is a past General Assembly Moderator.

Bethel University President Dr. Walter Butler commented, “Bethel University has lost an earthly friend to a much greater reward. In 1961, Reverend Joel Rice joined our family and became the first African American to attend Bethel. Thankfully, the doors he opened in 1961 changed Bethel’s legacy to one we can all be proud of. We are forever grateful for his decision to attend Bethel University and are grateful for his role in making Bethel University what it is today.”

Reverend Rice returned to Bethel on several occasions over the years speaking at numerous functions. He was the Grand Marshal of the Bethel Homecoming Parade in November, 1990.

Rice’s son, Reverend Dr. Perryn Rice also attended and graduated from Bethel and pastors Lake Highlands Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas.

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