In our final blog dedicated to looking at women of influence at Prairie we take a look at two important figures. Kathleen Dearing and Dr. Char Bates.
Kathleen Dearing, Ruth Dearing’s younger sister, was born December 16, 1911. (Mary) Kathleen Dearing grew up in Washington state, and at a young age she learned to play the keyboard. This self-initiated enjoyment of playing led to lessons which led to incredible training under a premier teacher in Seattle. However, as she was preparing for a performance with an orchestra, she became quite ill. Her illness lasted for the next several years, making her question what she could do and consider that there may be other things in life beside music performance. In a testimonial about this time in her life, she called it her “Isaac” period as had to slay her own desires in order to turn to God and his calling.
During these trials God changed Kathleen’s direction. God used a job at a bookstore and its manager to direct her to Prairie Bible Institute for a conference. Her sister, Ruth, was already attending Prairie but Kathleen barely knew anything about the school or Three Hills. After doing some soul searching she enrolled and started at Prairie in 1940, after her sister, Ruth, had already joined staff.
"The Lord directed her away from a self-focused and unhappy music career to one that was channelled for His glory and to train young musicians for His service"
Over the next three years, Kathleen studied at Prairie and to her surprise her student work was teaching piano. Then an invitation came in 1943 for her to join the music faculty. She did not imagine God bringing her back to her early years passion of music and being a piano teacher but He was. The Lord directed her away from a self-focused and unhappy music career to one that was channelled for His glory and to train young musicians for His service.
Kathleen and her sister, Ruth, wrote in an article in 1981, “But as I continued to look to Him [God] for the future, He assured me that Prairie was in the circle of His will for me.”
Kathleen served at Prairie from 1943-1982, but she continued in retirement until 1996 in the Music department as a piano teacher, theory teacher, and piano department chair. She wrote many music books and arrangements that are known and used around the world. During her retirement she decided to learn the cello. She died on October 24, 1998 from an eight-month battle with cancer; and was described as having “endurance coupled to the very end with joy” based on Hebrews 12:1.
Kathleen Dearing, Playing the Piano
A few Bible verses that Kathleen refers to in an article from the 1971 Harvester are also ones that I have remembered throughout my working years. They are Matthew’s “Seek first the kingdom of God,” then from Jeremiah, “You will seek Me, and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart,” in Paul’s letters, “set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth,” and from the Psalms, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
Kathleen talks about the joy and privilege of serving here, to see the many young lives impacted by the Gospel, to plant the Word in their hearts is truly a gift from God. The current staff here can testify to that as well. It is humbling to have an excellent example of running the race with absolute joy in Kathleen.
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
If we are going to highlight women of influence at Prairie, we cannot leave out Dr. Char Bates. Dr. Bates is Prairie’s only female President. Her experience with Prairie began in grade school, then she came back for Bible College in the 60’s. After graduating in 1966 she was hired into the Music Department and then spent 14 years as Dean of Women. After obtaining her Masters degree she joined the teaching faculty at Prairie. However, she continued her studies by earning her PhD in education. She was tasked with developing the Prairie Graduate School, and was its first Dean. After her marriage in 1999, she became Assistant to the President for Research and Planning as well as College Dean. When Mr. Rick Down died unexpectedly of cancer, she was appointed Interim President. The Prairie Harvester described Dr. Bates as “a strong proponent of leading edge Christian education that enables students to fulfil their potential in Christ.” She’s still a great fan of Prairie, and prays regularly for the College, and specifically for Mark and Glenn.
Dr. Char Bates, the first Dean of Prairie Grad School
To wrap up our dedication to women of influence at Prairie it is important to share what Prairie’s current statement on gender says and what the current staff and faculty stand by today. It reads:
“At Prairie, men and women are understood as called to God’s ministry, according to His plans and purposes for their lives. We believe that both are called to salvation and faith, Christian action and worship, leadership, and order. Prairie encourages all members of our community to study and understand the whole of Scriptural teaching. We desire to help both men and women realize their full ministry potential.”
With courage and prayerful discernment, may we be men and women who see the giftings in others and call those giftings out…who encourage others and build them up. Be encouraged by reading about Miss Miller, the Dearings, and Dr. Char Bates – women of influence on Prairie. Let their dependence on God, their joy, and their willingness to jump into the roles for which they had been called challenge us to be more sacrificial, more courageous, and more dependent on God’s leading.
In closing, here is a paraphrased quotation of LE Maxwell from a 1964 Prairie Harvester: Thank God for the many women among you, our students and alumni, who have been entrusted, as was Miss Miller and the Dearing sisters, with Bible school work. Hats off to the Miss Millers, the Pat Masseys, the Beth Mackenzies, the Shannon Weisses, the Veronica Lewises, and the Elaine Maxwells.