AMBS board appoints Lapp as vice president and academic dean

Published: April 23, 2018

By Annette Brill Bergstresser

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — The Board of Directors of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana, has appointed Beverly Lapp, Ed.D., of Goshen, Indiana, as the seminary’s new vice president and academic dean, beginning July 1, 2018. The appointment took place during the board’s April 19–21 meeting in Elkhart.

Lapp succeeds Rebecca Slough, Ph.D., who will retire June 30 after having served 11 years as vice president and academic dean and 20 years on the AMBS faculty — teaching in worship and the arts, Christian formation and field education.

“Dr. Lapp brings outstanding administrative gifts, an exceptional background in pedagogy, a strong abiding faith and a deep commitment to the Mennonite Church. These will serve AMBS’s mission very well into the future,” said Erv Bontrager of Goshen, Indiana, an AMBS board member who served on the search committee for the position.

Lapp has a Doctor of Education from Columbia University Teachers College in New York City; a Master of Music in Piano Performance and Pedagogy from Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey; and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Goshen (Indiana) College. She is also a graduate of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School (now Dock Mennonite Academy) in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

For the majority of her career, she has been employed by Goshen College (GC), serving as professor of music (1995–present), Piano Preparatory Program director (1999–2003), Core Curriculum director (2013–17) and Music Department chair (2003–05, 2012–17). In addition, she has served as a faculty leader for GC Study-Service Terms (SST) in China (2017), Peru (2005) and the Dominican Republic (1998 and 1999); SST is an immersion-based international education semester.

In her role as Music Department chair, Lapp developed a Music for Social Change concentration and collaborated with the Theater Department to develop a Musical Theater minor, both of which launched in fall 2017; and designed and oversaw a Music Co-Curricular Recruitment Plan (fall 2016–present) that significantly increased new music student enrollment. As Core Curriculum director, Lapp gave leadership to various aspects of the 38-credit-hour general education program launched at GC in 2012.

The search committee unanimously recommended Lapp to the board and the AMBS community, affirming among other qualities her pedagogical expertise and the interdisciplinary, integrative leadership she demonstrated as Core Curriculum director.

“Colleagues with whom Dr. Lapp has collaborated at Goshen College and other institutions of higher learning were unequivocally enthusiastic about her collaborative leadership style, proven administrative skills, interdisciplinary curricular work, intercultural competence, command of data to inform decisions, and passion for transformative educational processes,” said Sara Wenger Shenk, Ed.D., AMBS president and chair of the search committee. “In a time of widespread longing for transformative spiritual connections, Dr. Lapp’s vision for far-reaching theological education deeply rooted in the Christian gospel is compelling and timely. I am thrilled with her strong sense of rightness about stepping up to serve in academic leadership at AMBS.”

Safwat Marzouk, Ph.D., AMBS associate professor of Old Testament and a search committee member, said he and other teaching faculty members are looking forward to working with Lapp.

“Dr. Lapp’s academic training in pedagogy and her experience as a teacher and curriculum director at Goshen College will help our teaching faculty continue to develop our pedagogical skills to become better teachers,” he said, adding, “Her commitment to the significance of the Anabaptist vision in theological education will continue the outstanding leadership of Rebecca Slough as AMBS trains leaders for God’s reconciling mission in the world.”

Lapp described the invitation to use her gifts in an academic community that prepares leaders to serve within and beyond the denomination she loves as “a joyful surprise.”

“Exploration of this opportunity merged with my sense of call to academic leadership after more than two decades of deeply satisfying teaching and administrative roles at Goshen College,” she said. “I am delighted with how my desire to integrate my vocation in higher education with Anabaptist faith commitments and practices aligns with the mission and values of the AMBS learning community.” 

As Lapp prepares to step into a new role, she comes with the blessing and affirmation of her GC colleagues.

“AMBS is gaining a seasoned and insightful academic leader, experienced in listening and responding to the interests of faculty and students,” said Rebecca Stoltzfus, Ph.D., GC president. “Bev is an outstanding teacher and a gifted musician committed to the broader church. She has left a great legacy here at Goshen College and will always be a part of our campus community, even as she takes on this exciting new leadership role at AMBS.”

Other recent academic involvements for Lapp include serving on the Board of Trustees for the Frances Clark Center for Keyboard Pedagogy in Kingston, New Jersey (2011–present); speaking on “Mennonite Singing Practices and Formation in Non-Violence” in June 2017 at the Yale University Institute for Sacred Music’s annual Congregations Project Conference in New Haven, Connecticut; and publishing “Becoming Better Specialists on SST” in The Goshen College Guide to Studying and Serving Abroad: Essays on Intercultural Learning (Pinchpenny, 2017). Lapp was also the founding faculty sponsor of the student-led Goshen College Hymn Club, which began in 2012 and has completed two hymnal marathons to raise money for Christian Peacemaker Teams, among other initiatives.

An active church musician, Lapp is married to Dale Klassen, and they have two teenage daughters.

In addition to Bontrager, Marzouk and Wenger Shenk, the search committee consisted of Malinda Elizabeth Berry, AMBS assistant professor of theology and ethics; Allan Rudy-Froese, AMBS associate professor of Christian proclamation; Gerda Krause, AMBS board member from Vancouver, British Columbia; and Michelle Curtis, current MDiv student from Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

Located in Elkhart, Indiana, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary is a learning community with an Anabaptist vision, offering theological education for learners both on campus and at a distance as well as a wide array of lifelong learning programs — all with the goal of educating followers of Jesus Christ to be leaders for God’s reconciling mission in the world.

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