William Henry Bernhardt was born September 16, 1893 in Chicago, Illinois. His early educational record is not known. He enrolled at the "academy" at Nebraska Wesleyan College in September 1916, completing high school level courses and continuing with regular college courses until September 1921.
He received his B.A. on September 1, 1924, majoring in history and political science and minoring in English. Before receiving his degree he went to Chicago in 1921 and enrolled in Garrett Biblical Institute, and he began serving churches in the Chicago area.
Bernhardt's talents were first recognized by Rev. Charles E. Schofield (later president of Iliff School of Theology), who encouraged him in his studies.
Bernhardt followed this advice, and received an M.A. from Northwestern University in 1925, and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1928. In addition, he received a D.Litt from Nebraska Wesleyan in 1950, and an L.L.D. from the University of Denver in 1962.
He married Ellen E. Person on September 7, 1921, and they had one daughter, Nancy.
Dr. Bernhardt served as associate minister at The Methodist Episcopal Church in River Forest, Illinois from 1921 to 1923, and as Minister of the Elsdon Methodist Episcopal Church in the same city from 1924 to 1927. Prior to coming to Iliff, he taught at Central College, in Fayette, Missouri from 1927 to 1929. He moved to Denver, and began teaching at Iliff in 1929, and he was Professor of Philosophy of Religion, Theology and Ethics at Iliff until 1964. During this time he was the editor in chief of the Iliff Review from 1944 to 1952; and he served as Academic Dean for his last two years. In addition, he was four times the Interim President of Iliff.
While at Iliff, Dr. Bernhardt also taught as a Visiting Professor at the Federated Faculty of the Theological Schools of the University of Chicago, Garrett Biblical Institute, Southern Methodist University, and the University of Denver. He left Iliff in 1964, and moved to California, where he was Professor of Philosophy at California Western University in San Diego until 1970.
While Dr. Bernhardt's chief interest was philosophy, he also taught and/or wrote in the following areas: philosophy of religion, theology, ethics, history of religions, political philosophy, and social issues. More information about Dr. Bernhardt and his work can be found in J. Alton Templin's An Intellectual History of the Iliff School of Theology, from which the substance of this article was derived.