Willard D. Classen grew up on a farm near Hastings, Nebraska, where he was involved with his father’s farming operation. He earned a degree in agriculture education at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 1951. After graduating from college, Bill spent the next three years in the military, two of these in Germany. Bill returned to Nebraska after his military service, where he taught vocational agriculture and adult farmer classes for two years. It was during this time that Bill met his wife, Corky, who was a nurse in Hastings. They were married August 8, 1954.
In 1954 Bill joined the Rain and Hail Insurance Bureau as a special agent in the Nebraska-Mountain States Division. The bureau was a joint underwriting organization for crop insurance owned by a group of major insurance companies. In 1960 he was transferred to the Des Moines office as manager of that division. Then, in 1971 he became assistant manager of the bureau in Chicago and served in numerous capacities until the bureau was dissolved in 1980. With the dissolution of the bureau, Bill was elected the first president of Rain and Hail Insurance Service, Inc., and moved the company from Chicago to Des Moines.
One of Bill’s greatest achievements was the formation of the successor organization, Rain and Hail Insurance Service, Inc. Under his leadership, RHIS grew to become one of the largest crop insurance underwriters in the United States. During Bill’s tenure, the company had 12 division offices throughout the United States and Canada. Today Rain and Hail has eight division offices in the United States and one in Canada employing 385 full time employees and insuring over 190,000 policyholders.
Bill has had personal experience in nearly every facet of the crop insurance industry, from adjuster, field man, division manager and management of the corporate operations.
Bill’s managerial capacity, determination to excel and attention to detail benefited not only Rain and Hail Insurance Service, but the entire industry and the American farmer as well. He has served on several national industry organizations:
- Chairman of the National Crop Insurance Association
- Chairman of the American Association of Crop Insurers
- Executive Committee of National Crop Insurance Services, Inc.
- Appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Clayton Yeutter as co-chairman of the commission for improvement of federal crop insurance and served from 1988-1990. In this capacity, Bill testified before Congress and worked closely with USDA to improve the multiple peril crop insurance program for the policyholder as well as to develop a cost effective, actuarially sound program.
- Bill continues to be involved in agriculture in an important advisory capacity as board member of the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation.
Bill has also demonstrated dedication to the local community by serving on the board of directors for Bankers Trust Company, Iowa Lutheran Hospital and Living History Farms.
While Bill devoted an extraordinary amount of his life time to the insurance industry, American agriculture and Rain and Hail, he also found time to help raise three children. The Classens currently live in Urbandale and maintain a close relationship with their two sons, Gregg and Mark, daughter Karen, and their respective families.
Bill is an avid gardener and is a member of the Masonic Lodge, the Scottish Rite, the Shrine, and Des Moines Golf and Country Club. He continues to be actively involved in farming through his corn and soybean operation in Dallas County.