John Betchkal: Enlightened and Enlightening Service

Notre Dame College Trustee Emeritus John Betchkal has been helping to enlighten─and literally light up─Notre Dame College for nearly 25 years.

He has served as catalyst, as well as coordinator, for leadership advancement and enhanced facilities at the College, first as a member of the Board of Advisors, then by helping establish a Board of Trustees. Most recently, as an emeritus member of the Board, he served on the presidential search committee to bring the 14th president, Thomas G. Kruczek, to the College, and is assisting with the transition.

“I love what this College does and what it means, especially for first-generation college students,” Betchkal said. “I am honored to be able to help in any way that I can.”

Enhanced Facilities

Betchkal played an instrumental role in the 2008 renewal project for Christ the King Chapel, the religious centerpiece of the campus and symbol of Notre Dame’s Catholic tradition.

“Really, the Chapel represents what Notre Dame College is all about. The renewal enhances and will protect the Chapel's original beauty for years to come,” Betchkal said.

And he is proud to have aided with other physical improvements, particularly lighting, to several College facilities.

John BetchkalMany years prior to the Christ the King Chapel restoration, while serving as chair of the Board of Trustees’ Building and Grounds Committee, Betchkal led the project to illuminate the Administration Building at night, the chapel’s home on campus.

Also under Betchkal’s leadership, the Building and Grounds Committee established a systematic inspection and maintenance program for Notre Dame’s physical plant, transformed what previously was a gym space into the Performing Arts Centerand renovated the Chapel’s weather-impacted walls and stained glass windows—more than a decade before the 2008 restoration.

“I’m not an engineer, but I’ve been fortunate to work with them and other technicians and administrators. I’ve tried to be the facilitator, helping to bring the right people together at the right times with the right information to move projects forward,” he said.

Advanced Leadership

Betchkal served as a member of the College Board of Advisors from 1987 through 1999. He was a founding member of the Board of Trustees and served from 1990 to 1999. In addition to chairing the Building and Grounds Committee, he also was a member of the Executive Committee from 1992 to 1999.

In 2000 upon his retirement from the Board, Betchkal was appointed emeritus status and continues to be actively involved by serving on the Trusteeship Committee, to advance governance.

He also is a familiar face at campus events and activities, including recent welcome receptions for President Kruczek and dedications for new campus spaces.

“I have been blessed to be so involved and appreciated at Notre Dame College. I hope to stay connected, to continue to help with whatever the College needs for as long as I am able,” he said.

For his distinguished service and dedication to Notre Dame, Betchkal was honored with the College’s Fidelia Award in 1999.

“John is a man of love, a man whose love calls him to deep commitment and generosity, a man of great wit, deep questions and much encouragement for those of us who in turn love him,” said Sr. Frances Murray, of Notre Dame’s Academic Support Center.

Enlightened Experience

Betchkal retired from GE Lighting at Nela Park where he was responsible for internal and external communications, government and community relations and contributions programs.  In his role with GE, he was instrumental in the lighting of several Northeast Ohio landmarks, among them the Terminal Tower, Severance Hall, the Cleveland Museum of Art and West Side Market, in addition to Notre Dame’s main campus structure.

While at GE, he helped facilitate the lighting of the Alamo, Golden Gate Bridge, Mount Rushmore, Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument. He also served as president and executive director of the Christmas Pageant of Peace in Washington, D.C. The organization provided lighting for the National Christmas Tree and staged the ceremony at which the President of the United States – whom Betchkal introduced on five different occasions—lights the tree.

In addition, Betchkal was recently inducted into the GE Lighting Hall of Fame at Nela Park. He was one of seven people in the GE Hall of Fame Class of 2014 who were honored for their contributions to GE's lighting business.

Betchkal has been chair of the board of the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge in University Circle and a multi-term vice president of GE Elfun, a global organization of volunteers. He was a founding member of Lexington Square Community Center’s board, a Karumu House trustee and president of Urban Community School on Cleveland’s near West Side. 

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