Funding For The Future With Bernard “Bernie” Behrends
By Kathleen H. Wheeler, Omni Communications Group
Lincoln College philanthropist Bernard “Bernie” Behrends shares a passion for education espoused by the prominent gentleman for whom his hometown was named. In his first political announcement in 1832, Abraham Lincoln wisely noted “Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.” In keeping with Lincoln’s sentiment, Bernie Behrends has devoted his personal time and financial resources to provide higher educational opportunities for those less fortunate in the community.
The Behrends philosophy of charity was instilled early in childhood through the teachings of the Lutheran Church. Bernie and his older sister Anna were raised by their widowed mother and grandfather to help others when possible through service to their church and the public. They were taught to view their contributions as a privilege that would ultimately strengthen society as a whole. Blessed by success and prosperity as adults, Bernie and Anna have sustained these fundamental Christian principles through consistent and generous donations to their alma mater, Lincoln College, hoping the recipients of their charity will someday “pay it back” by helping others as well.
Bernie was born in Lincoln, Illinois on July 27, 1921 and received his primary and secondary education through the Lincoln public school system. After being honorably discharged from the United States Navy in 1946 following three years of active duty during World War II, he was allowed to pursue his post-secondary education through financial assistance provided by the GI Bill of Rights. Bernie attended Lincoln College from 1946 through 1948 and upon graduation continued his studies at Bradley University in Peoria from 1948 to 1950. He graduated from Bradley University with a bachelor of science in general engineering and worked the next thirty-two years as a civil engineer with the Illinois Department of Transportation until his retirement in 1982.
While successfully advancing in his profession, Bernie put into practice the charitable lessons of his youth and began helping others by volunteering his time and talents in numerous capacities. First he served for six years as vice president of Immanuel Lutheran Church and treasurer of their building committee until 1963. During the Vietnam War, Bernie worked as a member of the Logan County Selective Service Board. He then was assigned to the board of trustees at Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital from 1967 to 1973, followed by an eight year stint as a member of the Logan County Election Board. Finally in 1992, Bernie was elected to the board of trustees at Lincoln College, an educational appointment that he holds in high regard to this day. As if this impressive record of service isn’t enough, Bernie is also a lifetime member of a long list of admirable organizations, including The American Legion, Forty and Eight, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Veterans, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks #914, Lincoln Masonic Lodge, Springfield Consistory, Ansar Shrine, Logan County Shrine and the Legion of Honor.
From his position on the board of trustees at Lincoln College, Bernie Behrends has worked to provide financial assistance for needy, worthy and qualified high school graduates from Logan County who wish to better themselves through a quality education at Lincoln College. In 1998 with the support of his sister Anna, Bernie established the Anna and Bernard Behrends Endowed Scholarship Fund, allowing more than forty students to attend college since its inception. In 2002 Bernie was instrumental in founding the Nurses in Training, Logan County Voiture 985 of the Forty and Eight Scholarship. To date this program has helped over 150 students pursue an education in the field of nursing. So great are Bernie and Anna’s contributions that the new admissions building on the Lincoln College campus was dedicated in their honor in 2002 and is now known as the Anna K. and Bernard E. Behrends Admissions Building at Lincoln College.
Bernard “Bernie” Behrends continues his legacy of educational service to Lincoln and the surrounding community with no apparent signs of slowing. When pressed to explain why he and his sister Anna have dedicated their lives and resources to the educational pursuits of the underprivileged, he responds simply with conviction, “Education is what’s important! We knew we could do more to help others, the whole point in life is to help people.” Honest Abe would undoubtedly agree.