In November of 2007, Bethel graduated one of its great champions to glory. Vern Sailor grew up during the Depression, and while he never had the opportunity to attend Bethel College himself, he helped countless young people attend the college.
A veteran of World War II and the Korean Conflict, Vern founded and grew Sailor Manufacturing before selling it in the early 80s. During that time he saw great value in higher education and its delivery in a Christian context. That’s why he formed the Sailor Foundation. For more than 20 years the foundation has made low- and no-interest loans to Bethel students.
Kristina Craig, who benefited from one of the loans in the 90s, says, “The loan was a significant help to me in finishing college because my dad was a pastor and we were on a limited income. There were times I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go back, but the loan, which I repaid after college, was really helpful.” Today the loans continue to benefit 35-40 students a year, making a college education an affordable reality to many Bethel students.
In addition to establishing the Sailor Foundation, Sailor used his resources and abilities as a member of the Bethel College Board of Trustees from 1985 to 2007 and as a member of the finance committee. In business, Vern served on the Recreational Vehicle Manufactured Housing Hall of Fame and was instrumental in its creation. He was also a director of Society Bank and the Salvation Army.
In his family, work for the Lord, and business practices, Sailor was an inspiration to all. One former employee says, “Vern Sailor taught me so many things that could never be learned from a book. Hard work, honesty, the value of a businessman’s word, and the importance of a satisfied customer – he taught all this and so much more. I had the honor of working with Vern for 15 years. He was and still is a guiding influence in the business of life. I will miss him. He was a great boss and my friend.”