In 2003, Steven Bahls arrived in the Quad-Cities to become the eighth president of Augustana College. He immediately began reaching out beyond the Rock Island campus to serve the community. For his long record of service, he received Modern Woodmen of America’s 2012 Community Service Award at a ceremony Tuesday.
Before joining Augustana, Bahls was dean at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, 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.
While serving as Augustana’s president, he has been involved in a variety of volunteer activities: vice chair of the Putnam Museum board, 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.
Bahls and his wife of 35 years, Jane, have three grown children, Daniel, Timothy and Angela, and two grandchildren.
Q: Why is community service and volunteerism an important part of your life?
A: “The prophet Micah wrote: And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Because I have been abundantly blessed with a great education, a great family and great jobs, I have had wonderful opportunities to volunteer in a way that helps me do my small part to pursue justice, love mercy and walk humbly. I believe that God gives each of us a reservoir of time, talents and energy, and that when we are called into heaven, that reservoir should be emptied through sharing what we have with our community.”
Q: How do you choose which organizations to devote your time to and name a few of your current volunteer roles?
A: “I like to work with organizations that have had some impact on my life or my family. I learned much of what I know about leadership from being a Boy Scout as a boy, so I volunteer for the Scouts. Our family has been enriched by the fine and performing arts, as well as museums, so I am pleased to volunteer for the Quad-City Symphony Orchestra and the Putnam Museum. Likewise, I believe that strong institutions make a great region, so I am privileged to volunteer for the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce and Genesis Health System.”
Q: How does a busy college president find the time to devote to volunteering?
A: “Volunteering for other organizations is like a hobby for me. Doing so helps me unwind from a busy schedule and keeps me better grounded by focusing on something in addition to my cherished work at Augustana. Volunteering has allowed me to meet many community leaders and other like-minded volunteers. I am fortunate to have a great staff in my office who can ‘keep the trains running’ when I am out of the office.”
Q: How does Augustana College instill these same values of volunteerism in its employees and in the students?
A: “Volunteerism is at the core of Augustana’s mission to help students grow in mind, body and spirit. It is not enough to be wise and ethical, if you don’t invest yourself in making the community better. Eighty-six percent of Augustana students report volunteering in the community during their four years at Augustana. Augustana students volunteer thousands of hours locally, nationally and internationally.”
Q: Fill in the blank: At the end of a perfect day … ”
A: “... My wife, Jane, and I often will find time to go to an Augustana athletic event, play or concert, or attend an Augustana lecture on topics as varied as polar studies and art history.”