Bridgewater College Strengthens its Academic Landscape with The Rev. Wilfred E. Nolen and Dr. Joyce A. Nolen School of Business and Professional Studies

A photo of Rev. Wilfred Nolen and Dr. Joyce Nolen standing side-by-side smiling outside on Rebecca Quad

A sign of institutional and programmatic strength, Bridgewater College is pleased to announce the establishment of its second endowed, named school: the Rev. Wilfred E. and Dr. Joyce A. Nolen School of Business and Professional Studies. The Nolen School of Business and Professional Studies is the largest school on campus with nearly 45% of the undergraduate population declaring majors within the school’s three academic departments: economics and business administration, health and human sciences and the teacher education program. In addition, the school houses two of the College’s graduate programs—the master of science in human resource management (MSHRM) and master of science in athletic training (MSAT).

The gift to establish the Nolen School of Business and Professional Studies from the Rev. Wilfred E. Nolen ’63 and his wife, Dr. Joyce A. Nolen, will support the full range of teaching and learning opportunities for students and faculty. The endowment will support both undergraduate and graduate educational programs by strengthening engaged learning experiences such as internships, study abroad and research with a faculty mentor; by investing in faculty development to provide funds for professional travel for research needs and to attend conferences and workshops; by increasing investment in classroom equipment, digital resources, specialized software and computer hardware to support teaching and learning; and by establishing an endowed chair for the school.

“The opportunities this endowment presents to engage our students and faculty in meaningful ways are extraordinary. We believe that students learn best when the classroom comes alive through innovative and traditional learning strategies. Endowing the school will ensure that more students can be immersed outside the classroom in activities such as research, conference attendance and implementing programs that can affect the broader community,” said Dr. Barbara Long, dean of the Nolen School of Business and Professional Studies. “Through their gift, the Nolens are validating the work so central to our mission. They believe in the vision of the institution and school and are placing their trust that we will continue to steward our graduates toward meaningful lives—lives that impact their communities and beyond.”

Rev. and Dr. Nolen both epitomize the lived liberal arts experience through their lifelong involvement in music in addition to their professional careers in higher education and the ministry/business management sector. Rev. Nolen graduated from Bridgewater in 1963 with a degree in music. While at BC, he was involved in several vocal and instrumental groups and was a student-athlete on the cross country and track teams. He continued his studies at the American Conservatory of Music and obtained a master’s of divinity from Bethany Theological Seminary in 1977.

Rev. Nolen worked for 43 years for the Church of the Brethren (CoB) in youth ministry, music and the arts in worship, social justice and economic development programs with disadvantaged communities in the U.S. and beyond. In 1983, he joined the CoB Pension Board, serving as founding president of the board’s successor organizations, the Brethren Benefit Trust and Brethren Foundation. He was awarded BC’s Outstanding Service Award in 1993 and has served as a member of the Bridgewater College Board of Trustees since 1993.

Dr. Nolen graduated with a degree in music from Manchester University in 1961, followed by a master’s in music from Northwestern University and a master’s in guidance and counseling from Northern Illinois University. She received her doctorate in counselor education from Northern Illinois in 1976. She began her career as a resident hall advisor at Northern Illinois and later joined William Rainey Harper Community College as a faculty member in student development. Upon her retirement in 1999, she was named Professor Emerita. She also served as a member of the Manchester University Board of Trustees from 1980-1990. “I always felt like I had a good chance to make a difference in the lives of others because of my career in higher education,” Dr. Nolen said. 

The Nolens believe in the importance of leaving a legacy that helps future generations of students and faculty at the undergraduate institutions that made such an impact on them. In addition to the Nolen School of Business and Professional Studies, they have established a music endowment fund at BC. They have also established an endowment for music and the arts at Manchester University, Dr. Nolen’s alma mater.

“We are proud and happy to support Bridgewater College and the difference it makes in the lives of students and faculty through its excellent academic programs and extracurricular opportunities,” said Rev. Nolen. “We believe that if you’re successful in life, you have an opportunity to give back to others.”

“The Nolens’ gift for our second endowed, named school is a sign of institutional strength and institutional excellence,” said Bridgewater President David Bushman. “We are thrilled to have dedicated alumni and friends of the College, like Rev. and Dr. Nolen, who recognize the importance of creating incredible, life-changing opportunities for our students and faculty. Donor support at this level demonstrates the transformative impact philanthropy has at the College, providing support that allows us to continually strengthen the Bridgewater experience.” 

The College’s first endowed, named school, the Bonnie Forrer and John Harvey Rhodes School of Arts and Humanities, was established in 2021.

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