Life Remembered: Nabor House co-founder Samuel Ridlen

Life Remembered: Nabor House co-founder Samuel Ridlen

CHAMPAIGN – A longtime University of Illinois educator and co-founder of the campus Nabor House, Samuel Franklin Ridlen will be remembered with a memorial service Dec. 11.

Mr. Ridlen, 94, died Oct. 30, 2010, in Urbana after a long career as a poultry expert, as well as co-founding the Nabor House agricultural fraternity in 1938.

Professor Emeritus Doug Parrett recalled his former colleague as a natural leader.

"He was intelligent and outgoing, and he always saw the good in people," Parrett said. "He always listened more than he spoke. He was really good at managing a group."

Barbara Evans of Champaign wrote a tribute to her father. In it, she writes that he was born on a farm near Marion on April 24, 1916, the youngest of nine children.

"Theirs was a subsistence farm life that required the labor of every child to provide for the family. As such, dad was the only member of his family to be educated beyond the 8th grade," she wrote.

"Living 5 miles out of town, and having no other way to get to school, dad walked those 5 miles twice a day through all kinds of weather. For a time, he helped a neighbor deliver milk in the mornings in exchange for a ride on the back of the milk wagon. Despite his determination and perseverance, there were years when Dad could not attend school as the family simply could not raise the $5 tuition."

When he left for college in the fall of 1936, times were tough. "His parents gave him a quarter, a postage stamp and their blessing. The remainder of his expenses and needs were his responsibility," Evans wrote.

"He secured a room in the attic on the Poultry Research Farm in exchange for tending the flocks and incubators. He studied by the furnace for warmth and subsisted on a diet of boiled eggs cooked in a tin can placed inside the furnace," his daughter said.

At the UI, Ridlen served as president of the Agriculture Club and the Poultry Club. He was a member of the championship intercollegiate Poultry Judging Team.

"He was enormously respected by generation after generation of students, and people in the poultry industry," Parrett said.

With four other young men in similar economic circumstances, he came up with the idea for a cooperative living group, Nabor House fraternity.

Victor Johnson, the active chapter president of Nabor House, said Mr. Ridlen was critical in the history of the fraternity.

"He was also instrumental in the adoption of our founding principles of education, cooperation and recreation, altogether united through Christian fellowship. He could often be depended upon to moderate the lively differences of opinion among the founding group through his level-headed style," he said.

After graduation in 1940, Mr. Ridlen became the vocational agriculture teacher at Westville High School for two years before being drafted into the Army in World War II. He was deployed to India to fight the Japanese in China.

Upon his discharge from the Army, he became a UI poultry Extension specialist.

He coached scores of poultry judging teams; his teams won 10 national championships. Among the awards and honors he received were the Pfizer Extension Teaching Award, the Paul A. Funk Award for his contributions to agriculture through teaching, and the Golden Feather Award from the Illinois poultry industry. He was the first recipient of the G.R. Carlisle Award for excellence in Extension teaching.

He served as a deacon and elder at University Place Christian Church and on the board for the Illinois Disciples Foundation. He was a co-founder of the Disciples of Christ Community Church.

He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Helen Ridlen; three children, Dr. Judith Ridlen of St. Louis; Barbara Evans of Champaign; and Mark Ridlen of Carmel, Ind.; six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren; and a sister, Frieda White of Marion. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 11 at University Place Christian Church, Champaign.

The family requests memorial contributions be made to the Nabor House Building Fund, 1002 S. Lincoln Ave., U.