Donald and Kathleen Bastian weren’t the typical young couple on the Greenville College campus when they moved from Canada to Illinois in the early 1950s.
“We went to Greenville in 1951 as a sort of last hope. We were 25, married with a family, and I needed to finish two years of a bachelor’s degree. I had been offered a half-tuition scholarship by the college, and a businessman in Toronto who was on the GC board offered the other half. It was a hasty and daring move, but we have never regretted the risk we took,” Free Methodist Bishop Emeritus Donald Bastian said in an interview with Light + Life. “My junior year was a nose-to-the-grindstone year to keep a family afloat and carry a full load. My senior year was hard in the same way but not desperate.”
As a senior, he found time to serve as student body president and as speaker for the fall and spring spiritual emphasis weeks. Eight years after graduation, the Bastians returned to Greenville as Donald accepted a new role at age 35 — pastor of the Greenville Free Methodist Church.
“The members of the church who had been my professors were very supportive, and making the transition did not seem difficult,” he said. “Kathleen and I had quite a rich ministry in Greenville.”
After decades of fruitful ministry that included 19 years as a bishop, the Bastians returned once again to Greenville in October as the college launched the Donald N. and Kathleen G. Bastian School of Theology, Philosophy, and Ministry, which has a mission of “shaping a new generation of pastors in the Wesleyan tradition” while incorporating the college’s department of philosophy and theology.
“It’s an exciting time to have the opportunity to not only serve those who are in ministry but to continually serve the [college’s] faith and learning mission, gospel-centric goal,” said Edwin F. Estevez, the college’s provost and chief operating officer.
The Bastians credit Greenville with preparing them well for lives of ministry.
“We feel that Greenville College started us off and gave us a grounding,” Kathleen Bastian said.
Greenville President Ivan Filby said the Bastian School fits with the college’s strategic goal to build on its strong foundation with the Free Methodist Church.
“Bishop and Mrs. Bastian exemplify that all-in surrender to Christ,” said Filby at a reception during which he told the couple, “You’ve been consistent in your walk, and that consistency inspires me.”
Four generations of the Bastian family attended a chapel at which Bishop Emeritus Bastian, 90, addressed the students. Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty Brian Hartley said in his introduction that, “in Free Methodist circles, few have had more influence on the shaping of the denomination in the latter portion of the 20th century.” Hartley noted that the chapel was held in the former Greenville Free Methodist Church building (now the college’s Whitlock Music Center) where Bastian “preached hundreds, if not thousands, of sermons across a 13-year tenure that endeared him to both church and community. His care for words was matched only by his care for people.”
The college (which will become Greenville University this fall) is raising money to establish the Donald N. Bastian Chair of Pastoral Theology and Christian Ministry. According to the Bastian School’s dedication program, the chair is to be “held by a seasoned minister with a proven track record of producing good fruit.”2