October 26, 2012

Remembering Dr. Christian Bechtel

He drove a car that ran on vegetable oil, did not carry a cell phone, and was not overly reliant on things like email.  He was called everything from “Six Sigma Savant” to “The Undercover Innovator.”

He was a dear husband and devoted father.

Christian John Bechtel was known for many things, but especially for the impact he had on those fortunate to know and work with him.

“He was an extraordinary professor, mentor, colleague, and person,” recalled Dr. Lisa Fairbairn his colleague and friend of over 14 years. “There will forever be a void in those lives that he touched.”

A Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and alumnus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Restaurant Management, and Michigan State University, where he earned a Master of Business Administration in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management and a Doctor of Philosophy in Supply Chain Management, Christian’s passion for education was both deep and broad. He excelled on a variety of levels in the world of education: teaching, public speaking, curriculum development and design (particularly for adult learners), continuous education and staff development, research, educational technology, and process improvement.

Not one to always be bound by traditional preparation and planning, he forever sought new ways and techniques to inspire his students and colleagues to learn and work.  His teaching method often was to "fly" in the classroom, as Georgia Abbott put it, basking in the “pure excitement of not knowing exactly what would happen next.” His openness to what might happen next was not only refreshing, it was essential to the kind of education we impart at Northwood—because it reflects the core nature of how much, if not all, of business and life are conducted.

As Associate Professor at Northwood’s Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management, he was the lead faculty member for Critical Thinking courses and the coordinator for our Capstone Simulation course. The combination of his expertise and the enthusiasm that flowed through everything he did made him a dynamic force for entrepreneurship and open-book management.

In addition to his influence on our DeVos Graduate School students, Christian provided his colleagues with mentorship and coaching that will continue to have a positive influence. As Adam Guerrero remembered, “Christian was one of the most intelligent, patient, and caring individuals we've been honored to work with. He will live through us in everything that we do at DeVos and he will have a lasting, positive impact on every student we engage.”

Next to the legacy of his son Austin, whom he and his wife Beth brought into the world, Christian Bechtel will be warmly and rightly remembered for many things, but it may very well be the determination and purpose with which he lived his life, conducted his work, and taught others to do the same that will serve as his greatest living memory.

Whatever he is remembered for, and however he may be recalled, we know this much for certain: The world is a much better place for his having been in it.

And it will certainly be a much different place without him.  


Keith A. Pretty, J.D.
President and CEO
Northwood University
4000 Whiting Drive
Midland, MI 48640