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Integrity and Charity Shape a Memorial Scholarship

Curtis Anderson created the Wilford A. Anderson Memorial Scholarship Fund in honor of his father, who was not only a mechanical engineer, but a businessman, entrepreneur, and inventor as well. He hopes the scholarship will inspire recipients to follow his father’s example to appreciate others, no matter who they are.

By Katie Johnson ’19, content specialist

November 03, 2020 | 12:30 p.m.

Bill and Muriel Anderson

Bill and Muriel Anderson

Paul Ratwik leans forward, making sure to hold a framed photo just far enough away from his computer camera as he shares a story via a group video call. The photo reveals his father-in-law, Wilford “Bill” Anderson, reading a book to Paul’s oldest child. The book is upside down, and neither grandfather or grandchild seemed to mind. “This picture encapsulates him and his caring nature, humor, and personality,” Paul says, checking with his wife, Anita (Anderson) Ratwik, who smiles and adds, “He certainly wasn’t above a practical joke.”

The screen switches as Keith, the youngest Anderson on the call, says, “If somebody asked me to summarize my dad, I would probably say, ‘He loved the Lord. He loved his family. And he was a great example for integrity and charity.’” The oldest sibling, Curtis Anderson, nods and says simply: “That is a takeaway for the next generation.” 

Everyone agrees easily—ultimately hoping the Bethel scholarship Curtis created in his father’s name will offer more than relief from a financial burden, but a call to emulate everything Bill stood for. The man left a rich legacy, as described by his children, and it only takes one conversation to understand how his character and personality have influenced every one of them.

Curtis decided to start the Wilford A. Anderson Memorial Scholarship Fund after reading of Bethel’s growing suite of engineering programs in last winter’s Bethel Magazine. His parents, Bill and Muriel, had deep ties to Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, and those ties overflowed into an appreciation for Bethel. Bill was on the Bethel Board in the 1960s as his children—Curtis, Anita, and Keith—each attended Bethel for a time before finishing their degrees at other institutions due to various personal reasons. “None of us stayed there, but all of us have warm feelings for Bethel and people we met there, whom we feel very close to—people that we were in awe of,” Anita says.

Curtis graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Minnesota before working for Boeing Co. in Seattle, North Dakota, and Cape Kennedy. He volunteered for the United States Naval Construction Battalions (Navy Seabees) for two tours in the Republic of Vietnam, continuing in the Navy reserve before retiring in 1990 as a Commander.  He and his wife, Carol, were married in 1984. They lived all over the world—Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Turkey, and Virginia—as he worked as a construction field engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers. He officially retired in 2000, when he and Carol settled in Cambridge, Minnesota, to volunteer with Wycliffe Bible Translators and serve as active members at First Baptist Church of Cambridge.

The Wilford A. Anderson Memorial Scholarship Fund will award a $2,000 annual scholarship to a College of Arts & Sciences mechanical engineering student who exemplifies a strong work ethic and love for the Lord. Curtis also points out that the scholarship does not require a student to have an excellent grade point average. Curtis hopes the scholarship helps recipients feel appreciated just as they are—no matter their role in leadership or academic excellence—just like his father would have.

“Dad had his challenges. He appreciated the person without prestige as much as he did the leaders. You didn’t have to be an important person for dad to appreciate you.”

— Anita (Anderson) Ratwik

Born and raised in Minneapolis, Bill Anderson went to school for mechanical engineering and graduated during the Great Depression. One of his first jobs was working for his father’s produce business in Minneapolis before taking a position in the G.H. Tennant Company—now Tennant Corporation. He worked his way up to be the executive vice president of the company, serving in that role until 1955, when he bought his own machine shop called W.A. Anderson in downtown Minneapolis. Bill proved to be not only an engineer, but a businessman, entrepreneur, and inventor as well, with a number of patents in his name. He desired to fix mechanical problems for efficiency’s sake as much as he enjoyed solving the puzzle of things.

Along with acknowledging Bill’s curiosity, Paul calls his father-in-law a “mensch,” a Yiddish term that means gentleman or a scholarly person with character. Keith expounds on that, sharing about a time that Bill was the treasurer on the North Memorial Hospital board when they asked the chief administrator—whom Bill knew personally—to step down. Out of loyalty, Bill stepped down with him. Anita could never remember a time her father bragged about anything, and Curtis admired his father’s character-defining integrity. 

“He was also a very generous person,” Paul adds emphatically. “And that’s reflected in his children. That has a lot to do with this scholarship.” Curtis wants to give back to Bethel because the years he and his family spent here mattered so much to them. The Bethel impact extends for generations as grandson Preston Anderson ’11 married Angela (Kron) ’11, and great granddaughter Emily (Russell) married Dan Klemme ’15. Generosity, humility, and a sense of humor have been woven into each one of the Andersons, influencing them as human beings in the world, and according to Curtis, “Supporting Bethel students seemed like the right thing to do.”

The scholarship makes complete sense to Paul, who has been honored to be part of the Anderson family for years. “From the point of view as an outsider,” Paul says, “Bethel was an extension of everything that family was about—who they knew, what they believed in, their culture. I can’t imagine where else they would’ve thought to start out. It would’ve been like leaving the home country to start out anyplace else.”

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