For one man, it was a night full of memories, kind words and a few surprises. Dr. F. Dale Bengtson was honored at the Heritage Dinner held Sunday evening in the Olt Student Center at Anderson University, where he received the 2004 Heritage Award in front of 350 guests. The award was established in 1994 to honor people who have contributed their friendship, service and resources to help Anderson University and its mission — and Bengtson is well deserving of it. “Dr. F. Dale Bengtson first came to Anderson University as a student in the fall of 1953,” AU president, James L. Edwards, said during the presentation of the award. “Even as a student, he provided significant leadership in the school’s music program by assembling and directing a 36-member student band. The group debuted during the half-time ceremonies at a game between Anderson University and Taylor University.” After graduating in 1957, the talented musician earned his master’s degree in music at Wichita State University and returned to AU in 1960.
“By 1969, Dale had earned his doctorate as well, and he was appointed head of the music department,” Edwards said. “His challenge was to improve the vocal ensembles, develop an instrumental program, and create a department worthy of accreditation by an outside organization. Under Dale’s care, the program flourished.”
By the time Bengtson retired in 1995, he had been the dean of the School of Music, Art and Design for 12 years, Edwards said.
Bengtson, 69, was pleasantly surprised when 21 of his former choir students filed onto the stage to sing for him. Led by minister of music emeritus of Park Place Church of God, David Coolidge, they sang “What a Mighty God we Serve,” and “I am a Child of God.”
An even bigger surprise for Bengtson was when he was called to the stage to stand in front of his former students and lead them in a song he rearranged, “Rise up O Church of God.”
“It was a surprise. They were rehearsed, but I wasn’t!” joked Bengtson. “I’m overwhelmed. Of course, these are my students. It’s a wonderful reunion.”
Bengtson, who currently lives in Sarasota, Fla., received an elegant plaque which he said he would hang in a special place in his office. His wife, Linda, who dedicated 35 years to education, was also honored at the dinner.
The Heritage Dinner is hosted during the North American Church of God convention to give Anderson University an opportunity to thank Church of God members and friends of the university.
“It’s an annual thank-you to them for their relationship with us,” said Chris Williams, spokesman for AU.
“Many people are here because of the convention. We use it as an opportunity to host a special dinner for members of the convention,” he said. “The university would not be here if not for the Church of God. We try to say thank you as often as we can.”
Although Bengtson and his wife were the main ones being honored, he didn’t fail to praise the other guests who have provided him and the university with support.
“I am pleased that you are able to be here to share this with us,” he said. “I greatly thank you for this award and may God richly bless you for everything that you do for Anderson University.”
— MELANIE D. HAYES is a reporter for the Anderson Herald Bulletin. For more news and local events click on www.theheraldbulletin.com