NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Growing up on a wheat farm in western Harvey County, Bethel College’s 2012 Outstanding Alumnus Award winner found no shortage of things to dismantle and reassemble.
Glen Ediger, now of North Newton, says, “My best education was growing up on a farm and seeing how things worked. I was always taking things apart and putting them back together.”
One of three sons of Lydia Ediger and the late Albert Ediger of Inman, Ediger says he built “a loader for my pedal tractor, at least six treehouses – I made a pair of sandals out of tires, leather and rivets. I would just go in the shop and start building with whatever I could find.”
Today, Ediger is a designer, consultant, model builder and inventor with nearly 100 U.S. patents and nearly as many foreign patents to his name. He has been director of design at Vornado Air near Wichita for 22 years, and has led marketing and engineering there. He has received design awards and had pieces exhibited across the United States.
When he came to Bethel College, he had no idea his profession even existed.
“I intended to do architecture – go to Bethel for two years and then transfer to Kansas State. But standing in the registration line, on a whim, I decided I would major in art. I had never had an art class in my life but I always drew. I doodled on bulletins at Hoffnungsau Mennonite Church [in rural Inman]. I had the ability to imagine things, such as an aerial view of the church, that I had never seen.”
He ended up staying at Bethel all four years, majoring in art with a minor in industrial arts. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1975. “It was the early ’70s, so I could do a lot of directed studies in industrial arts – I worked with Rod Frey, Emerson Wiens and Wes Pauls.”
Ediger lists Bethel Professor Emeritus of Art Bob Regier as one of his most important mentors. “His perspective on design was influential. It can be summed up in one lecture called ‘The Moo-Cow Creamer,’ about design integrity.” Ediger says he also strives to emulate, at least in small part, his mentor’s perfectionism.
Ediger did two-dimensional art (graphic design, drawing) in college and then “popped into the third dimension” after college. He was first self-employed as a graphic designer while also doing construction work for his brother, LaVon Ediger, and then talked well-known Newton businessman Lloyd Smith into hiring him at S/V Tools.
“Every job I’ve ever had, I’ve talked my way into,” Ediger says. “I’ve gone there saying, ‘I’d like to do this.’”
At S/V Tools, Ediger got into both product and package design. He invented the world’s first “Fin-Grip” screwdriver. One of the product he’s proudest of is the Fiskars (which ultimately bought S/V Tools) hand drill, still popular and in production after 30 years.
Ediger was a designer for S/V tools for three years and design director for Richard TenEyck for five years. He was involved as an independent consultant in design and model-building for everything from truck toppers to lawn mowers, tractors to ice scrapers, fishing reels to large Bell helicopters V-2 Osprey models and NASA mock-ups.
In 1988, Ediger was consulting with Mike Coup, the founder of Vornado Air Systems. He has been with the company ever since as director of design.
“I’ve been part of every air product [Vornado has] made,” Ediger says. “After 23 years, I think I’ve helped make it a respected brand. I never expected I would be a career heater and fan designer.”
Ediger travels widely and frequently, around Kansas, the region and the world. “My first ‘Cool!’ reaction was when I went to Alaska and saw a Zebco fishing reel I’d designed. Vornado is in Asia – it’s really growing there – and Europe, in Brazil, all over North America.” The company makes fans, heaters, humidifiers and air cleaners and has most recently moved into steam cleaning and steam ironing products.”
When he’s not working or traveling for work, Ediger has a multitude of hobbies – woodworking, restoring antiques, riding his Harley-Davidson V-Rod motorcycle and tinkering with his old Porsche, among others. He’s an active volunteer, including regular stints at the Harvey County Homeless Shelter. He says one of the things he’s proudest of was 13 years directing Venture Clubs for children in grades 3 to 6 at Bethel College Mennonite Church, his home congregation.
He is also a current member of the Kauffman Museum Board of Directors, the last three years serving as chair – a fitting position for a man who visits as many museums as he can wherever he goes. All those museum visits, he says, give him even more reason to say he is “proud to be associated with a museum like Kauffman Museum.”
Currently keeping Ediger busy is an exhaustive and extensive research project on threshing stones. When Ediger’s wife, Karen (Unruh) Ediger, inherited a stone from the family farm near Goessel, the idea of researching them soon engaged Ediger’s long-time interests in history and engineering design, as well as sports (the threshing stone inspired Bethel College’s mascot, the Threshers).
In anticipation of Bethel’s 125th anniversary year in 2012, Ediger began searching out and photographing threshing stones. Most of those he’s located are in south central Kansas but he has found examples of threshing stone-like tools in China as well as traced them to their origins in the Ukraine, from which Mennonite farmers brought the design concept to Kansas and the Great Plains.
He’s still looking for stones and invites visits to the website www.threshingstone.com. To coincide with the 125th anniversary celebration at Fall Festival 2012, Kauffman Museum will host a special exhibit on threshing stones. Ediger eventually plans to publish a book on his research.
The Bethel College Alumni Association gives the Outstanding Alumnus Award on the basis of character and citizenship, service to church/community or college, or other outstanding achievements, honors and recognition.
Ediger and other alumni award winners will be honored at the annual Alumni Banquet Saturday, May 19, at 6 p.m. in Memorial Hall on the Bethel College campus.
Price for the banquet is $21 per person. To make a reservation, visit or phone Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center at 316-284-5205. Payment or credit card information is required when the reservation is made.