Miriam and Bill Cable were delightfully unique individuals, pillars of a kind that assertively help sustain the vision and mission of a place like Bethany Seminary. It was in 1977 that they made their first financial commitment to two endowed faculty chairs at Bethany –the Brightbill Chair in Ministerial Studies and the Wieand Chair in Biblical Studies. Many years later the close of Miriam’s estate made significant additions to those endowments.
First meeting at Annual Conference in LaVerne, California in 1941, Miriam and Bill were married the next year at Camp Mack in northern Indiana. After several years in Civilian Pubic Service the Northwest, they were soon drawn back to northern Indiana where they took over a family seed corn business founded by Miriam’s family. For over three decades they managed Weybright Seed Service as well as MiGro Hybrids, which they founded. If you talk with any of the five Cable sons, you can likely hear many stories about the pressures of planting, detasseling, and harvest.
What Bill and Miriam did as they approached retirement was an unfamiliar pattern for many of our day, and is the distinguishing feature of donor stories like this. They divested of their farm, partly by sale and partly by charitable gift. They moved to a home where they could experiment with energy efficiency and simple living practices and threw themselves with abandon at a variety of philanthropic causes which they held dear. It was not uncommon in these years to see Bill around annual conference bearing a name tag and or a T-shirt donned with insignia from Bethany Seminary and Bethany Hospital, and of course, a kernel of seed corn as well.
Significant though Miriam’s estate gift was, it alone does not capture the whole story. For Bill and Miriam, giving was a lifetime habit. It was a subject of conversation and mutual commitment almost from the time they met. It is rare indeed for a couple to decide even before they are married that they will give 20% of their income to charity, even if it meant on occasion to take out loans in order to meet charitable commitments.
Giving grows out of a world view which in our tradition is usually biblically grounded. It grows out of a value system that develops over time with donors who are willing to risk sharing with important causes even when they aren’t assured they have “extra” to give. It grows on people who come to terms with a counter-cultural balance between self and other – with considering others on par with self in a way that isn’t normative for most. Giving is often less a matter of resources or capacity than it is of will or inclination.
Bill and Miriam loved Bethany Seminary and supported it regularly. But perhaps their larger contribution was in demonstrating a giving spirit as a way of life, in making their own personal testimony of what we are all called to be as stewards of what we are given.