Cheyenne, Wyo., businessman Joel H. Wiens, who contributed a major gift toward the new athletics stadium that bears his name, became the second person to be named Honorary Alumnus of Tabor College.
Tabor President Jules Glanzer presented the award during homecoming festivities this past Friday evening.
?Tabor honors graduates who demonstrate a commitment to service, a commitment to excellence and a vision for how things might be,? Glanzer said. ?Gener?osity is also one of the characteristics that Tabor desires to instill into its graduates.?
The award came on the eve of the official dedication of the stadium prior to the homecoming game Saturday.
In his response, Wiens shared some of his life story and explained why he decided to give $1 million toward the stadium project?the largest donation in the school?s history.
?Why invest in Tabor?? Wiens said. ?Because of my belief in Christian education and a firm belief, as an old coach, of the value of Bluejays athletics; for teamwork, sportsmanship, and life lessons of winning and losing.
?Tomorrow we will dedicate your new stadium,? Wiens added. ?I am happy it carries my name, but it is not my stadium. It belongs to you.?
At the time Wiens was approached in 2002 by then-Tabor College President Larry Nikkel, the men discovered they both came from farming backgrounds in Oklahoma, and both had connections to Marion County, the Mennonite Brethren Church, and a commitment to Christian higher education.
?My connection to Tabor College runs deep,? Wiens said. ?Several of my cousins on both sides of my family, Rusch and Wiens, came to Tabor College, as well as my uncle, John Wiens.?
Wiens said an appreciation for Tabor College was impressed upon him as a youngster growing up in Oklahoma during the Great Depression. He had been sent to live with his grandparents because his parents could no longer afford to care for him.
?I can remember living with my grandparents and watching my grandfather Abraham Wiens write $5 checks to Tabor College because he believed in Tabor?s mission 75 years ago,? he said.
Wiens?s career began as a public school teacher and coach. He began a custom combining business, which quickly grew to the point that he needed to leave the classroom early at the end of the school year to meet his harvesting obligations.
He saw the business potential in providing area farmers with fertilizer for their crops. Over the years, he purchased several banks and purchased and managed a network of motels.
Wiens said his large gift to Tabor College was made possible by the free enterprise system, ?but most of all, because God led me to hook up with Larry Nikkel and told me to help provide these facilities.?