Jerry and Delora Decker, who live in North Newton not far from campus, are this year’s co-recipients of the Outstanding Alumnus Award, to be presented at the Alumni Banquet in June. This award looks especially at service, which the Deckers epitomize.

In particular, their service to the college has taken the form of hospitality to students. Scores have sat down at the Decker table for a home-cooked meal, maybe once, maybe multiple times. Delora and Jerry have been host parents for one or more Bethel students every year since about 1986. They have hosted the entire volleyball or softball team on numerous occasions and, for the past 15 years, the Student Alumni Association for a holiday feast in November or early December.

We got started with this [in the ’80s] when you took a mod or a hall, Delora remembers. We began with a hall in Goering [former men’s residence]—you never knew if you’d get three or 20 [for a meal or game night].

Later, they began taking individual students through Bethel’s Host Family Program. These days, Delora and Jerry also help Patsy Dirksen ’83 in the Student Life office with organizing the program and trying to find host families for all the out-of-state students who want one.

Delora Jantz grew up in Hillsboro. She met Jerry Decker, who grew up on a farm southwest of Newton, at a wedding—she was the maid of honor for his aunt Elvera Jantz (no relation to Delora), who was only a couple of years older than Jerry. Jerry and Delora were married in November 1960.

Jerry, who studied at Wichita Business College and Central Christian College in McPherson, retired from a 47-year career at Agco in Hesston in 2007 and now works part-time at Graber’s Ace Hardware in Newton.

Delora graduated from Bethel College in 1963 with a degree in elementary education. She taught at Hesston Elementary School for four years, until their first child was born (the Deckers have two daughters, Gail Pryce ’83 and Denetta Denno ’90). Years later, Delora took up her current occupation as an accountant for Dewayne Pauls (’59) LLC, Newton. She served on the Alumni Council, 1991–2010, and the Bethel Board, 1996–2010.

Delora’s parents, the late Harvey ’56 and Gladys Jantz ’57 of Hillsboro, were role models of caring for and interest in young people to their daughter and son-in-law. I dragged more chairs and tables to and from their house, Jerry says, and Delora adds, Dad was a principal and Mother was a librarian at the elementary school in Hillsboro. They were hospitable to anyone and everyone.

The Deckers will receive the Outstanding Alumnus Award during Alumni Weekend, at the Alumni Banquet, Saturday, June 6, at noon. (See A Thresher Refresher! for Alumni Weekend details.)