As his career has criss-crossed the country, Augustana College president Steven Bahls has had the chance to be in community service in many communities, but he says the Quad-Cities has the best volunteers he’s ever met.
That is why he was honored and surprised to be chosen as the recipient of Modern Woodmen of America’s 2012 Community Service Award.
“I feel privileged to serve the Quad-City community in the ways I’ve done. But when I think of all the volunteers in the Quad-Cities and all those who have built this community with their efforts, I’m humbled,” said Bahls, who will receive the award at a breakfast awards ceremony today at Hotel Blackhawk, Davenport.
Modern Woodmen, a Rock Island-based fraternal financial services organization, annually presents the award to a community leader. As part of the award, Modern Woodmen makes a donation in the recipient’s name to a local charity of his choice. Bahls has selected the Putnam Museum to receive the $7,500 grant. He also will receive an engraved Waterford crystal clock.
“I love community involvement; it’s a privilege being involved in some great communities,” said Bahls, who has led the Rock Island college since 2003.
Before joining Augustana, he was dean of Capital University Law School and associate dean and professor at the University of Montana School of Law. As a certified public accountant and a lawyer, he also practiced corporate law with the Milwaukee law firm of Frisch, Dudek and Slattery.
“One of the charges from the Augustana board of trustees when I was hired was to make sure Augustana was fully involved in the community,” he said, adding that “it is part of the DNA of Augustana to be involved in the community.”
Between faculty, staff and students, he thinks every community board in the Quad-Cities has Augustana representation.
Since coming to the Quad-Cities, he has served in a variety of volunteer capacities. They include board vice chair of the Putnam Museum, board secretary of the Quad-City Symphony Orchestra, past executive board chair of the Illowa Council of Boy Scouts of America, executive committee member of the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce, board member for Genesis Health System, former board chair of the Illinois Quad-City Chamber and past board member of United Way of the Quad-Cities Area.
In addition, his wife, Jane, is involved with Ballet Quad-Cities, United Way and Trinity Lutheran Church, Moline. They have three grown children, Daniel, Timothy and Angela, and two grandchildren.
Bahls said they have instilled the importance of volunteerism in their grown children and are the proud parents of two Eagle Scouts.
He chose the Putnam to receive the grant because it “is one of the outstanding assets in the community, but receives relatively little money from our government.”
“Most museums receive
30 percent of their funding from government,” he said.
The grant will be used to strengthen programs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, education, which is a matter close to Bahls and Augustana. He said 40 percent of Augustana’s freshmen are enrolled in STEM majors.
Modern Woodmen selects each year’s award winner based on criteria that includes leadership in the community, impact on quality of life, long-term community service, involvement in the business community and encouragement of others to be active.
According to W. Kenny Massey, Modern Woodmen’s president and chief executive officer, the Community Service Award was created in 1997 to encourage volunteerism across the Quad-Cities as well as to help support local charities. “That’s why we recognize local leaders like Steve. His work in the community encourages those around him to give back,” he added.