McMINNVILLE – Thinking back over his life, it’s hard for Bernie Turner to remember a time when he wasn’t lending a hand. Turner, a retired pastor, has spent the past four decades investing his time and talents in the Linfield College and McMinnville communities.
“I feel that volunteering is a vital part of one’s life,” said Turner, who spends an average of 25 hours each week volunteering. “And life is incomplete unless you find a way to be involved in the community in which you live.”
Turner received the Walker Service Award for his community-focused fundraising efforts. The Walker Award is given to individuals who have distinguished themselves through long-standing, significant service to the college. The award is named in honor of Charles and Cherie Walker. Charles Walker served as president of Linfield from 1975 to 1992.
The philosophy of “giving back” has been ingrained in Turner since childhood. Raised in the church, he graduated from the American Baptist Seminary in Berkeley, Calif., at age 24, and spent 15 years in Seattle, Wash., pastoring two churches. He arrived in McMinnville in 1970 and led the First Baptist Church for 23 years, retiring in 1993.
Turner’s affiliation with Linfield began almost immediately after he and his family came to McMinnville. Turner and wife Rosalind, along with now-grown children Stan, Diane and Linda ‘83, took full advantage of Linfield offerings, attending lectures and musical events throughout the year. They found a familiarity in Linfield similar to Turner’s alma mater, Ottawa University.
“I’m closer to Linfield than I am to Ottawa,” Turner admitted. “I know Linfield well and I have such high regard for the college. It feels like home.” He’s been a member of the Linfield board of trustees since 1989, chairing the academic affairs committee. He has served on the accreditation self-study team, the Linfield College Planning Council since its inception in 1999, search committees and he is a member of the Founder’s Society. He was awarded an honorary degree from Linfield for his distinguished service to First Baptist Church, Linfield and the community in 2002.
Turner has seen the college grow and change under the leadership of six presidents, beginning with Gordon Bjork. “I have a real passion for the work of the college,” he said. “I have enjoyed the whole experience very much. I would not trade it for anything.”
Turner’s volunteer work extends well beyond the Linfield campus. He was a member of the group that organized Habitat for Humanity International in McMinnville in 1990. He has served as president and volunteer executive director of the group, which helps alleviate housing problems by selecting potential homeowners based on level of need, willingness to work and ability to repay the loan.
Turner is a co-founder of the Oregon branch of the North American Baptist Peace Conference. He started a volunteer chaplaincy program at McMinnville Community Hospital, serving in that role for 30 years. “I’ve just tried to be myself — a human being that is aware of people and their needs,” he said. “I’ve tried to respond to the needs of people as I experience them.”