From Philanthropy Magazine
Ken Behring is a man on the move. Impatient for a delivery room, he burst into the world in a hospital elevator. Since then, it’s been nothing but forward momentum.
Early on, Mr. Behring knew he wanted to distance himself from his working-poor upbringing in Depression-era Wisconsin. He knew he wanted to get away from a house without central heat or hot water, to get away from eating the same dinner—fried potatoes and cucumbers, grown in the backyard—night after night. So young Ken started mowing lawns, caddying golf courses, and delivering newspapers. At 14, he took a summer job moving 50-pound sacks of concrete mix off boxcars and onto trucks.
The job toughened him up for the football field. He loved the game, not least, as he later put it, because “football provided me with, for the first time in my life, a hot shower.” After winning a football scholarship to the University of Wisconsin—and then losing it to a preseason knee injury—Mr. Behring moved home and started selling Hudson’s and Chevrolet’s. By age 21, he had scratched together enough money to buy a patch of land and an inventory of 27 used cars. Within six years, with hard work and determination, Mr. Behring was making $50,000 per year and had $1 million in assets (over $400,000 and $8.1 million, respectively, in 2010 dollars). He sold the business in 1956. He could have retired at 27.
Read more about Ken Behring’s Wheelchair Foundation
This story was used with permission from Philanthropy Magazine and printed on July 1, 2010.