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March Mania

University of Jamestown trustee raises $30K for scholarships during 600-mile walk

Will Bernhagen, second from left, walks with others around the track at Taylor Stadium at the University of Jamestown. Bernhagen concluded a 600-mile fundraising trek from Sheridan, Wyo., for scholarship progarms at the university. Keith Norman / Forum News Service

It took Will Bernhagen 27 walking days to travel from Sheridan, Wyo., to the University of Jamestown campus.

The gathering of students and administrators who greeted him at Taylor Stadium for a couple of laps despite the rain Wednesday still surprised him.

“Ending it here,” he said, in response to questions about the most memorable moment of the trek. “I never anticipated this and it wasn’t my idea.”

Students and people from the community assembled at the track at Taylor Stadium to walk with Bernhagen and cheer him on as he completed the 600-mile walk.

Bernhagen raised more than $30,000 in pledges for scholarship programs at the University of Jamestown, according to Polly Peterson, president of the university. She praised Bernhagen for his efforts and the students who walked the track at Taylor Stadium for the last mile of his trip.

“Even in the rain, this is a great day,” she said.

Peterson said Bernhagen volunteered for the walk during a February meeting of the University of Jamestown Board of Trustees. Bernhagen serves on the board.

Bernhagen began the walk from Sheridan in late March and took some brief breaks during the trek. His goal was to raise $126,000 for the purchase of the last shield, a plaque of donor recognition, at Harold Newman Arena.

While purchasing the shield may have been the stated goal, it was the benefit the funds would bring to the students that Bernhagen was most proud of.

“This is all about you kids,” he said, addressing the students who came to Taylor Stadium to walk with him. “If we can make a difference in your lives, we need to do that.”

Bernhagen also paid credit to the University of Jamestown, where he studied prior to becoming a trustee, for his successes.

“This is always home,” he said. “It changed my life. I wasn’t always prim and proper and my grades weren’t that good … I just thank the university for putting up with me.”

Bernhagen operates several businesses in Wyoming and is a real estate developer in Belize.

During his comments, Bernhagen urged the students to take advantage of the opportunities the university offers in building their lives.

Currently, Bernhagen said he has no other plans for fundraising efforts for the university.

“I’m tired,” he said, just before starting to walk away from the crowd gathered at the stadium. “I think I’m going home to rest.”