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Keith Sprunger

April 24, 2022

Keith Sprunger, 87, of North Newton, Kansas, died on April 24, 2022, at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas, following a winter of declining physical health.


Keith LaVerne Sprunger was born March 16, 1935, in Berne, Indiana, to Arley and Lillian (Mettler) Sprunger. Upon confession of faith, he was baptized as a member of First Mennonite Church of Berne.


He was educated at Wheaton College (Illinois), and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, earning a Ph.D. in History in 1963.


In 1959, Keith was married to Aldine Mary Slagell, and they had three children, all of whom became college professors.


He taught history at Bethel College (North Newton) for 38 years, earning multiple national and institutional awards for his teaching and scholarship. Thousands of students took his History of Civilization classes, featuring lively lectures illustrated from an extensive personal slide library. His travel seminars to the Soviet Union and European Capitals brought history alive for many students regardless of major. He retired from full-time teaching in 2001.


A prolific scholar, he published five books and over 25 scholarly articles. His academic interests centered on English Puritans in the Netherlands, printing history, church architecture, and Mennonite studies. During his last weeks at home, he was completing final revisions on yet another publication.


Dedicated to local history, he was active in organizations that promoted history to wider audiences, including the Harvey County Historical Society and Kauffman Museum. He wrote institutional histories of Bethel College and Bethel College Mennonite Church. Wanting to know his community from the inside out, he and Aldine systematically walked every block of every street in Newton and North Newton, not once but almost three times.


Keith and Aldine also enjoyed travelling. Exploring the small roads and towns of Kansas was an annual tradition. They traveled extensively in Europe—most recently to Sicily in 2017—and also enjoyed trips to Hong Kong and Morocco. On sabbaticals from Keith’s teaching, the family lived in Amsterdam and London. Other hobbies included collecting books, reading, gardening, and socializing with friends.


He is survived by Aldine, his wife of almost 63 years; three children; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandson. Children: David (Charlotte Siemens) Sprunger, North Newton; Mary (Rachid Nouri) Sprunger, Harrisonburg, Va.; Philip (Elizabeth Yoder) Sprunger, Williamsport, Pa. Grandchildren: Samuel (Elise) Sprunger, Maple Grove, Minn.; Jacob (Alžběta Lutzká) Sprunger, Hustopeče, Czech Republic; Anna Sprunger, Middleton, Wis.; Abraham Nouri, New York, N.Y; Emma Nouri, Chicago, Ill.; Sophia Sprunger, Williamsport; and Benjamin Sprunger, Williamsport. Great-grandson: Harvey Sprunger, Maple Grove.


He was predeceased by his parents and siblings: Ardus Gene (Lauren) Sprunger and Hugh David (Janet) Sprunger.


Visitation will be held at Petersen Funeral Home in Newton, May 6 from 5-9. A memorial service will take place Saturday, May 7 at 10:30 at Bethel College Mennonite Church in North Newton, with a live streaming option. Interment will be at Greenwood Cemetery in a private ceremony prior to the memorial service.


In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial gifts to Bethel College or Bethel College Mennonite Church.

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15 thoughts on “Keith Sprunger

  1. What fond memories I have as a history major at Bethel. I was honored and privileged to have Dr. Sprunger as my advisor. It’s amazing that all these years later I remember his classes and details of what he taught. He enriched so many lives with his wisdom, mentoring, teaching and advising.

  2. My dear Aldine, children and grant-children,

    I am so sorry to learn about the loss of your dearest husband, father and grandfather Keith. I’ll remember him as a great scholar and good Mennonite friend,for whom the Low Countries held a special place in his heart. I’ll cherish the many moments we shared, both here in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Hope that you will find the strength and power to accept his loss.

    Met gevoelens van oprecht meeleven en met vriendelijke groet, Piet Visser.

  3. Godspeed Keith. A long life well lived, and a loving soul that will be dearly missed, and lovingly remembered.

  4. I always enjoyed visiting with Dr. Sprunger at the Kansas Association of Historians conferences. He was a dedicated professional who will be missed. I send my deepest sympathy to the family.

  5. What a lovely story.And what a lovely man. I send my condolences to you all. Such a loss to so many. An admirable man who will be missed by so many. My heart goes out to Ben. Safe travels.

  6. He was not only a conversationalist and educator but one who succeeded gracefully despite many illnesses. Love him, love you all

  7. I know you had a wonderful father Phil because you are so!!! Be so glad for him. Sincerely, Nan

  8. Rest In Peace my friend. You were the only reason I chose Bethel College. He was a brilliant educator, great teacher, humble leader, and my friend. I miss him.

  9. Thank you Keith – i feel honored to have been taught by you. Your legacy lives on in all of the students you have graced with your sometimes dry humor and wit.

  10. I was blessed to have Keith as my advisor 40 years ago in the early 80’s. He was brilliant, kind, generous and patient. We bonded over our mutual love of history and I learned so much from him. As others have said, I still remember certain classes and discussions as if it were yesterday. My trip to Europe with his group remains one of the highlights of my life. My sincere and heartfelt condolences to Keith’s family. May his memory be a blessing always.

  11. Keith was my favorite professor at Bethel. In fact, I think he was the best teacher I ever had. I tended to take classes I enjoyed, and because of Keith, I had a history minor. He was also such a fun storyteller. My condolences to his family.

  12. Thanks to Keith and his family. Gentle, curious, thorough, occasionally mischievous: I have enormous respect for his research and writing, but I know him best as an inspiring educator.

  13. My sincere condolences to the whole family! I was a student of Keith’s between 1978-80 and my memories of him and his classes are crystal clear and I learnt so much from him – he was a very gifted teacher and researcher and I count myself lucky to have known him.

  14. My sincere sympathy and condolences to Aldine and the entire Sprunger family. I knew Keith for almost 50 years, and I have always regarded him as a model scholar and gentleman. He was unfailingly generous with scholarly information, and he often enriched my own work with suggestions, documents and information drawn from his own extensive studies in the English and Dutch archives. On occasion, I was able to reciprocate. The world has lost a fine teacher and fine man.

    Michael Moody

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