IT WAS 1962.
That was when 25 students from the U.S. Brethren
colleges headed for classes in Marburg, Germany.
Brethren Colleges Abroad was embarking on a
50-year journey that would take 10,000 students to
27 study sites and countless side trips and
adventures for a semester, a summer, a year.
Manchester and its students (eight that first sailing)
have traveled every leg of the journey, as have
several faculty members. Professor Allen Deeter ’53 and President A. Blair Helman are credited with
helping to pull what now is called BCA Study
Abroad from the brink of financial disaster in the
mid-70s. Helga Zwerner ’72 Walsh was Deeter’s
“right hand” for 22 years. Bev Sayers ’69
Eikenberry worked with Deeter in the ’90s,
traveling from college to college to promote the
The BCA Study Abroad goal: to help students
understand the complexities of the modern-day
world by engaging them with “ideas that matter”
around the globe. Academic excellence, global
understanding, peace and justice thread the fabric
of the program.
Through the years, many non-Brethren colleges and
universities joined the ticket abroad. About 70
schools send students today. In the early years, Dean
Earl Garver ’33 led administration of BCA. In 1978,
Greg Hastings, MC education associate professor,
opened the Cheltenham, England site for 45 students.
Manchester religion Professor Kendall Rogers ’72 and German Professor Ingrid Rogers accompanied
BCA students to China. Ed ’56 and Martha
Showalter ’56 Miller traveled to Sapporo, Japan.
Different sites offer very different experiences, with
students’ language skills and majors playing heavily
in their destinations. Greece is ideal for business
students, while Northern Ireland offers outstanding
lessons in peace studies. Spanish majors lean toward
Spain and Ecuador.
John Knarr ’64 was a member of Manchester’s
“original eight” in 1962, spending 13 months in
Europe, studying German literature and European
history at Marburg University and the Free University
of Berlin. “I hitchhiked through Germany and
Switzerland; took trains to Paris, Italy and Sicily;
traveled in Eastern Europe and through Russia;
attended operas; visited museums, cathedrals and
archeological sites. I was in Berlin when President
Kennedy visited in 1963, and I have my own tape
recording of his ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech.”
This fall, 18 Manchester students are with BCA Study
Abroad in Ireland, Ecuador, Spain, France, England,
India, China and Germany, says Thelma Rohrer ’84,
MU director of international studies and a 1982-83
BCA Marburg alumna. Their majors are diverse, too:
biology, peace studies, education, psychology,
accounting, marketing, religion, Spanish, chemistry,
English, art and French.
The now extremely fluent Beth Allen ’03 DuBois says
language played a huge role in her experience and in
how her year in Marburg, Germany changed her life.
“It’s incredibly humbling to lose your eloquence, to
be heckled by the neighbor kids for your utter failure
to speak as well as they do. It’s freeing, though, too,
to shed the rules and expectations of your close-knit
community and try on those of another culture for
While abroad, Manchester BCAers often visit each
other to share tourism of their countries and to see a
familiar face, especially over the holidays. Wade Jagger ’03 visited Beth and Rose Burkholder ’04 Waichigo in Germany, for example.
“Studying in England gave me invaluable experience of not only being on my own, but being on my own in a place completely foreign to me,” says Carson McFadden ’13, an English major from Elgin, Ill.
“It was an incredible learning experience – in the classroom as well as through all of the people I met. I was learning even down to the simplest everyday things, like going to the grocery store, meeting with a teacher or going out to eat.
“Without study abroad being so accessible at Manchester, I’m not sure I would have ever had the chance to do something so incredible for five months.”
Although every destination offers a unique experience, each is a life-changer, agree BCA alumni. “This kind of approach develops an intellectual peripheral vision and a trans-disciplinary global education,” says Michael Monahan, president of BCA Study Abroad.
“I was able to draw upon the memorable BCA experience significantly in my own teaching and research
experiences,” says Knarr, who returned twice for travel and
research at European archives. The history major then studied
at the School of International Affairs at Columbia University
when Dr. Andrew W. Cordier ’22 was dean, received a Ph.D. in
political science at UCLA and taught at several universities.
Kelsey Barta ’13 now is a national BCA Alumni Ambassador,
spreading the word about her experience and the opportunities
abroad. She spent the 2012 spring semester in Cheltenham,
England. “BCA offers a chance at a great experience,” says the
English major. “I went completely unsure of who I was and
where I was going with my life, but after England I came back
more confident and with a positive outlook.”
BY KATHRYN MILLER ’13
BCA changes lives – take my word for it
AS THE DAUGHTER of a former travel agent and a well-traveled
businessman, I caught a sense of global awareness early on. The
opportunity to spend January abroad influenced my decision to
come to Manchester. But after a January in Spain as a freshman
and another in London and Paris as a sophomore, I wanted more.
A spring semester in BCA and Quito, Ecuador was the perfect
solution. There, I could spend one weekend on the beach in
Salinas, the next hiking around the mountain of Cotopaxi, and the
following examining the biodiversity the Amazon Rainforest or the
Galapagos Islands. I still sometimes think it was all a dream.
But really, my coursework was the focus of my time in Ecuador. Not
only did my classes push me beyond my comfort zone, I
experienced as an education major what educational systems are
like in a very different culture.
My friendships with Ecuadorian students and other exchange
students challenged me with perspectives difficult to discuss in
small-town Indiana. Conversations with my host family had me
analyzing my identity and culture from a different perspective.
I think that my head was spinning the entire semester. Probably,
Ecuador has been one of the most challenging experiences of my
life. I recognized that my education is not in my coursework but
rather is the composite of my experiences.
BY KATHRYN MILLER ’13
“I can hardly imagine my life apart from those BCA experiences.”
MY FIRST ENCOUNTER with the larger world 32 years
ago was as a Manchester BCA student in Germany,
and that experience has had a profound and lasting
effect on both my personal and my professional life,
opening doors that at the time I didn’t even know
And now as a professor, I see this same effect on
students who recently have been abroad. They
return to Manchester more aware of themselves,
more aware of what is possible in their lives, and
often with a completely new set of aims and
interests. These are typically among our very best
It’s hard to overstate the importance of these
I had never been abroad before then. I signed up for
the full year, the norm back then, for 1980-81. There
were nearly 20 or so of us at Marburg, about half
from Manchester – me, Joel McFadden ’81, Krista
Hamer ’82 Schweer, Kay Spangler ’83x Ashcraft,
Anna Snyder ’83, Bob Cooper ’82, Lisa Miller ’82 and all three Deeter boys (Michael ’80, Dan ’82,
Dave ’84). Al ’53 and Joan George ’53 Deeter were
the site directors.
Perhaps most significantly for me, Pam Higgins, a
student at McPherson College, decided to study in
Marburg that year. We fell in love, married two years
later, had babies and returned to Marburg as often
as our schedules allowed. (Ed. Note: Dr. Higgins has a
family practice at Manchester Clinic, next door to MU.)
I stayed in Marburg for two years as a student, my
second year as a normal university student.
I can hardly imagine my life apart from those BCA
experiences. I would have become a very different
person with an entirely different life. Marburg
quickly became a second home to me, and now is
something like a second home to our three
children. I would not have developed the language
and philosophical skills that got me into graduate
studies at Notre Dame.
My entire professional career is premised on my
having been there, where most of my Kant research
began at the Kant Archive. Until you immerse
yourself in someone else’s culture, you will have a
hard time understanding your own, or even being aware of it.
BY STEVE NARAGON ’82, professor of philosophy