raised on a small farm near noti, oregon, the third of five children, bruce wheeler, learned quickly how to fend for himself. he helped raise sheep and poultry, and his parents exhibited sheep at shows from california to canada. he played football, basketball, and baseball in high school. he continued playing baseball in college, where he earned a ba degree from eastern washington state college (now university) in 1966 and a second ba in education in 1968.
bruce met his wife, darlene (schell), at eastern. after graduation, he put together his love of sports and his training in education to pursue teaching and coaching. he had positions for eight years, first in nampa, idaho, and then in junction city, oregon. their family grew, first a daughter louise, then a son nathan.
they bought ten acres near junction city and settled into a good family life with daughter louise, many animals on their little farm, and a good job coaching and teaching. things were good, but something was missing.
bruce was blessed with strong christian parents, noble and eleanor wheeler, also strong supporters of bbc. he really got to know about boise bible up close when his older sister married kenny and martha beckman’s oldest son, keith. his younger brother grant attended and graduated. all these connections kept building his interest in training for ministry. a major deciding factor in changing life direction came as he and darlene got involved as youth leaders, teachers, and bruce in church leadership as a deacon.
bruce recalls their decision to go to bible college:
“we were building up our little farm, raising chickens, pigeons, cows, hogs, and living the dream as one might think. it was really a lot of fun and provided satisfaction. but i had a gnawing in my heart that wasn’t getting satisfied. it came about, especially in church. so one day, in the summer of 1972, i brought the subject up to darlene about going to bible college. she got so excited that i thought she had already packed and left. i thought ‘whoa, let’s slow down.’ we never talked much about it for about another year. one day, i was feeding the chickens and looked out and saw the cattle grazing and hogs in the pen. i put down the feed bucket, walked into the house, and announced to darlene we were going to sell this place and go to bible college. darlene stopped dead in her tracks, walked over to the sink, and got a drink of water, saying nothing, until finally she ran over and gave me a hug. unbeknownst to me a few days earlier she had prayed, “that if a year earlier she had in her overexcitement caused me to back off, to reinstill that desire in me.” well, over the next year, we prepared to come to boise. that included the birth of our son nathan.
they decided to leave the farm and a promising career in education and coaching to serve the lord in full-time vocational ministry and moved to boise in 1974. bruce would pursue yet another degree, this time a ba in ministry. he gives much credit for its completion to darlene, who also took a few classes along the way, raised their young kids, and earned her “put hubby through college degree”!
the leadership of the presidents, who each had a special purpose, was certainly god-directed. with this kind of godly leadership and like-minded administrators and faculty, the college has been on mission and stayed on mission over the last 75 years.
many bbc staff impacted his life by their character, integrity, and commitment to teaching the truth. dick ewing, ernie chamberlain, and carl anderson all had a tremendous influence on both bruce and darlene. dr. charles crane motivated him in personal evangelism. kenny beckman really spoke to him, as he recalls, “i have sat under many teachers, but i consider kenny beckman, the best teacher i ever sat under. his grasp of what he taught and his communication skill were outstanding!”
bruce came to bbc with two degrees from eastern and was within a couple of classes of completing a master’s in education from the university of oregon. but the lord led him to change direction, and he committed to learning all he could to become a vocational minister. as a full-time student, he also held down a full-time job, was the father of a young family, and worked in part-time ministries applying what he was learning in the classroom. he worked with youth for two years at star christian church and preached for two years at a small church in kuna. during a couple of summers, he and darlene traveled with the image of christ that included louise, representing the college. darlene was instrumental in starting some women’s events at bbc, and one year she was selected “woman of the year.”
life after boise bible college
after graduation, the wheelers served together in several different ministries. first in baker city, oregon, emmett, idaho, then southwest christian in boise for 15 years. in 2001 the opportunity came for them to plant new beginnings christian church in kuna, idaho, and they invited john and louise to help. the church has recently joined with eagle christian church to become an ecc campus. darlene has been an important part of all their ministries, working well with children and women. she still writes children’s lessons for bible school today.
bruce is blessed to be a fifth-generation christian and talked of being carried to church as an infant. the church has always been an essential part of his life. boise bible college deepened his faith and commitment to serving god and “awakened more of a compassion to serve others.” he was a bbc board member for 38 years dating back to 1978, many of those years as chairman, providing stable and solid leadership. he was on the board when dick ewing was president and was helpful through the transition of three presidents, dr. charles crane, terry stine, and dr. derek voorhees.
bruce lived through many challenges the college has faced and has seen how god provides just what is needed when it is needed. he worked through the school’s accreditation, the building of the administration building, library, classrooms, new chapel, dorms, and the student center. and he was blessed to see the college be debt-free! bruce states:
“the leadership of the presidents, who each had a special purpose, was certainly god-directed. with this kind of godly leadership and like-minded administrators and faculty, the college has been on mission and stayed on mission over the last 75 years. the board of directors has provided key leadership by staying united and keeping the college focused on equipping servant leaders. the bbc values are key to keeping strong and accomplishing our mission. one value that needs constant evaluation is “innovation.” bbc must always be relevant to our culture and, at the same time, unwavering in the timeless and unalterable truth of scripture.”
today bruce and darlene have retired from full-time ministry. they love the church and help when asked. bruce likes to spend much time with darlene, making up for a busy life of ministry and kids. they like spending time at the ocean. he enjoys golfing and likes working out at the gym, hunting, and just being outdoors – especially with family. he spends time with his best friend and brother-in-law, rich schell, who is now a close neighbor. bruce and darlene are blessed with five wonderful grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and soon to be two more great-grandchildren.
bruce is an excellent example of a “non-traditional” student who made a radical change when he felt god’s leading. both his children attended bbc, where they met their spouses. some of his grandkids have attended. and he is praying others will when they are old enough. bruce is a strong advocate encouraging young and old alike to give at least one year of their life to attend bible college, if for no other reason than to give time for life to sort itself out in a safe and trusted environment.
family and friends established a scholarship in his name to be given away to a student each year.
thanks bruce for your commitment to boise bible college and to the gospel proclamation!