Whether large, corporate and organizational gifts, or small, faithful, individual gifts - they all make a difference. Here are a few stories about both:
Dr. Derrell Bulls, former member of Concordia’s Board of Regents, is proud of the trajectory Concordia has taken since he was on the Board in the late 1990s. He understands Concordia’s mission, and importance of investing in education.
“It has been a wonderful time in my life to have been associated with Concordia University Texas. I look forward to our continued working together for the benefit of our students,” said Dr. Bulls.
To show their support, in 2001, Dr. Bulls and his wife, Valdeva, set up an endowment at Concordia for their dear friend, Dot Lueck. Dot was nurse who helped their son, Derrell Jr. through a critical time. The endowment was called the Dot Lueck Inspirational Scholarship Endowment, now called The Dot and Ernie Lueck Inspirational Scholarship Endowment, in honor of Dot’s compassion and commitment to her profession and embodies the Bulls’ desire to invest in the education of others.
The Lueck’s and the Bulls’ friendship is one that grew over the years and has blessed Concordia University Texas, Lamb of God Lutheran Church (their church) and the community of Flower Mound.
Last year, Dr. Bulls asked Dr. Jerry Kieschnick, who sat on Concordia’s Board of Regents the same time he did, and who is currently Concordia’s Presidential Ambassador for Mission Advancement, to deliver the dedicatory sermon for Lamb of God Lutheran Church’s new community center.
Even in the midst of fundraising campaign for this new community center, the congregation at Lamb of God continued to support Concordia University Texas and our current students. Associate Pastor, Phil, and Rebeka, Cook ’01 financially support as well as encourage students to attend Concordia University Texas. Brandon and Brandy Simmons ’05, Lamb of God’s DCE, supports her alma mater and is very excited about the opportunity to teach the Word to more young hearts and minds. Other Concordia donors, Bob and Anita Schjerven and Charlotte Hughes also contribute to student scholarships and believe in investing in the students of tomorrow.
Concordia is grateful for their generous support of education the community.
“Today is the last day of my (full-time) teaching career,” Dr. Laurence “Doc” Meissner said with a twinkle, or possibly a tear, in his eye. That day was April 25, 2014, nearly 41 years after Doc was recruited to Concordia University Texas from a Lutheran high school in Detroit, Michigan to teach physical education, coach basketball and serve as athletic director.
Doc served in those roles for approximately five years before he started teaching biology in 1978, a role well suited for a man with a master’s degree in biology and a doctorate in science education. Since 1978, he has led students in classroom studies in biology, environmental science, as well as field courses in native plants, tropical biology, ecology and geology.
In addition to teaching, Doc has been the steward of the Friesenhahn Cave site in San Antonio, Texas. Concordia obtained study access to the cave in 1996 and acquired ownership in 1998 as a gift from a member of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, whose daughter attended Concordia. It is believed to be the most fossil rich site in North America, after the Le Brea Tar Pits. The cave is a relatively small sinkhole which once was used as a den into which sabre tooth cats dragged their prey. Over the years, Meissner and his students have found numerous teeth and bones of mammoths, sabre tooth cats, bears and other species.
“This is a world class fossil site,” Meissner said. “Concordia was given an amazing gift from God.”
But the cave site is not Concordia’s only natural treasure. When the University purchased its current main campus site in northwest Austin and moved in 2008, it also assumed ownership of the Concordia Preserve, a 225-acre nature preserve that is home to eight federally protected endangered species and 28 archaeological sites, 13 of which have been included within the National Register of Historic Places. Meissner has served as steward of that property as well.
“Does lighting strike twice,” Meissner asked. “Or is God trying to tell us something (about the responsibility over these nature sites)? It’s my wish that Concordia continues to use the gifts God has given it in a way that is unique and powerful.”
Anyone who has been on a tour of the preserve with Doc understands his passion. A certain awe and wonderment are experienced on his tours, where the ecosystem changes drastically and Doc educates hikers on native plants, animals, waterways and history.
“The coolest experience in the preserve is watching the eyes of the people who are amazed by what we have here,” Doc said. “God’s world is marvelous. He wants us to take delight in it.”
So what’s next for Doc in his retirement? More time with family, being in nature and traveling abroad. In fact, it’s not too late to join a travel course with Meissner. Though retired from full-time teaching, this fall, he will lead a class in field biology in the Texas panhandle and next spring, he will lead tropical biology courses in Belize and Guatemala as well as a field biology class of central Texas. He may even find some time to finally learn Spanish.
“I expect I’ll also do something wacky in a few years,” Meissner said. “It’s been the story of my life. But I’ll miss the students. I draw so much energy from my students, and I hope they can find passion in their interests.”
Harriet Hartman grew up in a farming community in rural Nebraska near Omaha where she attended a one-room grade school. It was during this time that she developed her work ethic and unconditional love for school. Having her father as the teacher, it was expected that Hartman and her sister perform well.
Her father didn’t believe in homework because he thought the parents would do it for them instead. He ensured the work was taught and understood by giving tests in school. In fact, they had to take 14 state exams to pass grade school.
When Hartman and her sister went away to high school, their father reminded them of one very important thing.
“The Lord was good to you and gave you a brain, and I wasn’t a bad teacher, so don’t come home with bad grades,” Hartman’s father said.
Both Hartman and her sister graduated valedictorian from high school. After relocating to Houston to be closer to her sister, Hartman managed the office for two prominent surgeons in the area. Her work ethic and willingness to learn new things started life-long friendships with the surgeons and created a place where she would work until retirement.
During this time, Hartman was a member at Trinity Lutheran Church and helped start a church that soon became Pilgrim Lutheran Church, and also helped start its school. Her father was an advocate for education, and Hartman’s entire family supported the building of the school.
After her father retired, Hartman built a house for her and her parents so she could live with and care for them.
“I wanted to care for them myself because that is what you are supposed to do,” Hartman said.
It is with this same commitment that Hartman supports her church.
“I never knew any better than not to, because I was raised that way,” Hartman said.
Hartman will gladly tell you she is 94-years-old, and offers her secret to living a long and fulfilling life.
“The trick is, you can’t stop or you won’t start,” Hartman said.
On the first of every month Hartman gives to her church, her school and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod because she wants to make a difference in others’ lives.
“I try to give the way He gave to me, but He gives a lot more than we do,” Hartman said.
Hartman set up an endowment at Concordia University Texas because she wanted to make a positive impact on students’ lives.
“I think if the Lord provides for you, you should provide and give back to help others,” Hartman said.
The endowment is invested and a percentage of the returns are given in scholarship form to eligible students at Concordia University Texas. Hartman is able to see the benefit of her legacy while honoring her father’s commitment to education, and her grandfather’s commitment to parish.
This year’s scholarship recipient of Hartman’s endowment is Adam Meyer, a pre-seminary student from Minnesota who transferred to CTX in 2013.
“Being so cold in Minnesota, I wanted to come down (to Concordia)” Meyer said. “Everyone wants to be here.”
In addition, to taking a full course load, Meyer works on campus in the Mail Center as a support services associate, is also a freelance photographer and volunteers at ACTS Church Leander. During the summer he works at CAMP Lonestar.
After visiting several colleges, Meyer decided CTX was the perfect fit.
“I was looking for a university where I would be supported, receive a good education and grow spiritually,” Meyer said. “I’ve never been sorry I moved here.”
When Meyer met Ms. Hartman, they shared stories and talked about his experiences at CTX.
“(Thanks to this scholarship) I am able to receive the financial help for the education I want and need,” Meyer said.
Dr. Howard Lacey prefers to be called Professor Lacey, and he’ll correct you.
“The professor title indicates a relationship between student and teacher,” Lacey said.
The relationships Howard has built during his time at Concordia are proven by the thousands of alumni who have attended his classes and three generations of his family that he introduced to Concordia University Texas.
Lacy began teaching in Austin in the fall of 1985. He told his wife, Jeanette, that he felt called to be at Concordia.
“I had a strong feeling that God wanted me to teach at Concordia Lutheran College,” Lacey said.
After connecting with the Academic Dean of Concordia at the time, Dr. Milton Riemer, and completing the new-hire paperwork, Lacey and his wife moved from Alexandria, Louisiana with two of their three sons, Michael and David, and daughter, Sharon. Stephen, their oldest son, stayed in Louisiana to finish college.
Lacey expressed concern, and told his wife that Concordia would probably not pay very much.
“We know the Lord always provides for today, not tomorrow,” Lacey said.
Howard and Jeanette, agreed in the early part of their marriage to live a life based on Malachi 3:8-10, which emphasizes the importance of tithing.
Practicing what they preach, they established the Professor and Mrs. Howard Lacey Scholarship Endowment. Each year, they gave a percentage of their income to Concordia for the endowment, and when Lacey began teaching full-time, they increased their donation.
When the Lacey’s four children were born, tithing was taught at a young age. Every week, the children were given a nickel and the first nickel of the month was to be given to the church.
“Do you remember the nickels?” Lacey asked his oldest son, Stephen.
Every year for Howard’s birthday, Christmas or special occasion, Stephen will give to Concordia for the Professor and Mrs. Howard Lacey Scholarship Endowment in honor of his dad.
“In today’s terms, the nickel is worth more,” Stephen said.
Lacey’s middle son, Michael, graduated from Concordia in 1986. This was same year Lacey was appointed division chair of the College of Business, which later lead to the role of the Dean of the College of Business.
In 1988, Lacey’s mother, a former Lutheran educator, passed away. Lacey, with his sister’s help, established the Ida J. (Froelich) Lacey Scholarship Endowment for students majoring in the Lutheran teaching field. Ida taught 1st through 8th grade. She mentored Lacey, and helped shape him to be the professor he is known for today.
Howard’s grandchildren are now teenagers, and starting to think about college. Their grandfather’s legacy will last forever thanks to his gifts, and those of his family to the endowments.
“As things got better, we contributed more,” Lacey said. “We never regretted our decision to move to Austin or to tithe to Concordia and the church.”
Howard retired in 2002 and continues to be involved in extracurricular activities.
“I never had any instruction from God to leave Concordia, and I stayed until I retired,” Lacey said.
Even though, things are winding down, Lacey believes God still might have more in store for him.
After feeling like a small number at a large university, Tiffani Kirkley transferred to Concordia as a senior to finish her degree. She was excited about the new opportunities Concordia would be able to provide, but during her last semester in 2002, tragedy struck. Tiffani’s boyfriend of two years, Justin C. Surratt, a business major and baseball student-athlete at Concordia, died in a tragic motorcycle accident.
“The man that I had called my boyfriend and fully expected to call my husband one day, was killed,” said Tiffani. “I had no idea how I would go on with my life, let alone graduate from college.”
Tiffani’s professors at Concordia supported her during this time.They knew she was upset and shaken by the accident. On the day of his funeral in Victoria, Texas, more than 900 people attended, including three College of Business professors: Dr. Howard Lacey, Dr. Woodard Springstube and David White.
“While this could have been one of the darkest times in my spiritual life, these teachers went above and beyond their job description to help me move past this challenging time,” said Tiffani.
Tiffani’s sister, Kristen Kirkley Cantu, who attended another large university, was shocked at the support shown by Tiffani’s professors.“(My university) wouldn’t let me make up a quiz while I attended the funeral because (the funeral) wasn’t for a family member,” said Kristen. “Tiffani’s professors were much more compassionate.”
Dr. Lacey called Tiffani’s mom, Carolyn Kirkley, once every three days to tell her that Tiffani needed to come back to school. Tiffani decided to go back to school and finish her last semester. She graduated magna cum laude in 2002, and shortly after graduation, she began working at Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
To honor Justin's memory, the Kirkley family decided to establish the Justin C. Surratt Memorial Scholarship Endowment to benefit future business students. Later, Tiffani had the idea to start a new partnership between Thrivent Financial and her alma mater.
“At the time, I was recruiting for Thrivent Financial and looking to hire the best and brightest minds, but realized that takes development,” said Tiffani.
So Tiffani reached out to the (then) Dean of the College of Business, Dr. Don Christian in 2008, and together, they created the Thrivent Scholars program, which would mutually benefit Concordia’s business students and Thrivent Financial.
“I wanted to create something that would exist for years and years to come,” said Tiffani.
And so it has. Since 2008, eight business students are chosen annually by faculty and recommended for this program, which offers students a chance to apply what they’ve learned in their coursework.
“The real world skills and development that they receive through this program makes them highly desirable to companies upon graduation,” said Tiffani.
Stephen Kreher ’09, was one of the first students to experience the Thrivent Scholars Program, and today, works at the Austin Chamber of Commerce. “The Thrivent Scholars program offered students the opportunity to take a look at a real issue affecting society today and spend each month visiting with leaders in the community for a different perspective on the issue at hand. In meeting with various community leaders, we were given the opportunity to see ourselves beyond our time at the University which helped shape our vision of where we could go and the difference we could make in the world,” said Stephen.
To date, forty-eight students have gone through the Thrivent Scholars program and many are successful today.
“Both Carolyn (Tiffani’s mother) and I come from a business environment and the Thrivent program gives students the right skills that are needed in today’s world,” said David Kirkley, Tiffani’s father.
To continue to make this program a reality, Tiffani and Christian needed financial support for the students’ travel to the faith-based Catalyst Conference annually in Atlanta, GA, to learn and listen from speakers such as Malcolm Gladwell, Tony Dungy and Dave Ramsey. Tiffani generously donated to get the program started and Thrivent matched her gift. But the giving didn’t stop there.
"With the support of my family, we began a process that would benefit (future) business school students,” said Tiffani.
David and Carolyn Kirkley, again, donated to Concordia University, turning the Thrivent Scholars Program into a family contribution. And Tiffani’s sister Kristen, who also works at Thrivent, is a donor and mentor for the Scholars Program and will attend the Catalyst Conference for the second time this year with Dean Christian and Concordia students.
“I really feel blessed to give back to Concordia University, which helped my family so much, and to the cause of supporting business students and graduates,” said Kristen.
“Concordia changed my sister’s life,” said Kristen.
Concordia University Texas (CTX) and long-time supporting entity, University Federal Credit Union (UFCU), recently announced a partnership to provide financial support for the newly accredited and growing CTX nursing program. This commitment will provide nursing $300,000 to support scholarships, faculty, and other programmatic needs. This gift further demonstrates UFCU’s outstanding commitment to higher education in Austin, Texas.
With almost 20% of traditional undergraduate CTX students pursuing degrees in nursing, UFCU’s support helps fill a vital and rapidly growing professional field. Through their new partnership, UFCU will build a branch on campus serving the CTX community. This enhanced service provision will allow students easy access to financial services while supporting UFCU’s commitment to the CTX community.
Since 1995, UFCU has provided over $650,000 in gifts to CTX. Their support began with student scholarships and has grown to include athletic sponsorships, and support of the nursing program, fine arts, student life, the annual Excellence in Leadership Gala, and field day activities. Not only does UFCU provide financial support, they also volunteer on campus. UFCU employees often help with freshman move-in days, athletic events, and various student life activities including a monthly Tornado Tuesday social event.
UFCU’s commitment to serve the CTX faculty, staff, students, and alumni goes above and beyond reasonable expectations of a financial institution. However, UFCU’s commitment to excellence shines through all their endeavors. With assets exceeding $1.5 billion, UFCU is Austin’s largest locally owned financial institution. It serves over 146,000 members in the Austin and Galveston areas and provides a variety of financial services and educational programs to meet individual needs throughout every stage of life.
Despite its continued growth and success, UFCU has remained committed to providing opportunities for students at CTX to learn, grow, and truly understand the meaning of conscious leadership through excellent service. To learn more about this partnership, visit https://www.ufcu.org/partners/concordia/.
If you have ever played Pickleball at Concordia, lived in a residence hall, taken a physical education or Kinesiology course, or attended a basketball game, chances are you have met Craig Peterson. Those of you who know Craig will likely agree that he is a kind, humble and giving person. And you probably won’t be surprised to learn that he gives to Concordia in more ways than in time and support.
Craig established the Peterson Family Scholarship Endowment in 2005 to honor his family members: his mother, recently-deceased father, and siblings John Wesley “Neil’ Peterson and Sheridan Kate Bockelmann, both of whom attended Concordia. His commitment to make a financial contribution was originally inspired by the University’s annual fund Christmas letters. He was impressed by the gratitude of our students who had received scholarship assistance from other endowments, many of them whom he knew personally. He also noticed the number of scholarships given to church workers and decided to help in another area.
Craig studied business before receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreational Administration from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University). His two nephews also majored in business. And because of his role as a residence director, he set out to create a unique endowment to provide scholarships to business students living on campus (one male and one female). He wants them to be involved in community living. As a supervisor of intramural sports, he also wants to help students become leaders in extra-curricular activities. He believes strongly in the University’s mission to ‘develop Christian leaders.’
“Craig Peterson is the kindest person that I know,” said Linda Lowery, retired Athletic Director and Associate Professor. “He always has positive things to say which uplifts people on a daily basis.
Of all the people that I have ever worked with, he stands out to me as the person that always thinks of others before himself.”
Craig’s relationship with Concordia began in October 1989. Since then he has served in roles including custodial care, campus security, residence living, intramural supervisor and instructor. From 1992-1994, he even served as assistant basketball coach under David Neevel. After more than 20 years with Concordia, you might say that Craig is an institutional legend. Many have been blessed by knowing him and have benefited from his gifts. Craig is fond of the relationships he has formed over the years and proud of his more than 460 Facebook connections, many of whom are former students and colleagues of this University.
Giving…an investment in making disciples for Christ’s Kingdom
When (President Emeritus) Jerry Kieschnick presented a vision in 2004 for a strong mission and evangelism effort called ABLAZE, calling for congregations in the LCMS to reach 100 million people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by 2017, Henze challenged his congregation to do more than just give to missions, to get personally involved in local and overseas missions.
Over the past years, it has totally changed the DNA of the church. Now over 40% of adults and youth at St. Timothy are engaged in some sort of local or overseas mission or evangelism emphasis. They send teams to Kenya and Nicaragua each year, and members last year volunteered over 30,000 hours to be “the salt and light of Jesus” in our community” according to Henze.
The congregation at St. Timothy also believes in Concordia University Texas and its work to provide a strong Christian education to young men and women.
“We have included Concordia University in our yearly budget for many years, and I encourage all churches in the Texas district to put 1-2% for Concordia in their budget,” said Henze. “It’s not an expense…it’s an investment in making disciples for Christ’s Kingdom. I can’t think of a better investment than providing a well-rounded education for our young men and women to become Christian leaders in this world.”
St. Timothy is not the largest or the smallest church in the Texas district. It’s a neighborhood church, hidden by a bend in the road and off the visible highway path of Tomball Parkway. “You got lost, didn’t you?” asks Henze when visitors find the church, nestled by abundant trees and sitting on 12 acres in between residential homes. In spite of the location, St. Timothy has grown to 1,100 members because of the mission and outreach spirit of its people. It is in the midst of a capital fundraising campaign to build an education center, and will keep giving back to Concordia University Texas too.
Concordia thanks St. Timothy Lutheran Church for their continuous support of higher Christian education and for supporting students of all majors to build His Kingdom.
With a major gift of over $250,000, St. David’s Foundation blessed Concordia by creating an Interactive Learning Laboratory on the main campus. The lab provides high definition videoconferencing capabilities for the Concordia nursing program, allowing for realtime medical consultations, guest speakers, and group presentations. The generous gift also funded hardware and software to aid nursing students with simulation labs and cohort interaction.
Additionally, the lab was used for a virtual seminary class and other distance learning opportunities.
“St. David’s Foundation partnered with Concordia University Texas to support new technologies for the school’s nursing program,” said Earl Maxwell, their CEO. “The Interactive Learning Laboratory funded by the Foundation is providing leading-edge innovation in the field of nursing education. We are confident that our partnership is enabling Concordia to more effectively train outstanding nurses to serve our community.”
Concordia graduated its first class of nurses at the spring 2012 commencement ceremony.
“We are thrilled that St. David’s Foundation has chosen to invest in Concordia’s growing healthcare programs,” said Dr. Joy Penticuff, director of nursing at Concordia. “Our students are benefitting by being able to connect with top professionals in their field, healthcare providers, educators and others who inspire and teach tomorrow’s professionals.”
Technology is ever-changing and so is the way college students learn in the classroom. Technology is an integral part of the learning environment and in developing teachers who are ready to tackle the challenges and vast opportunities. Soon-to be teachers in elementary, middle and high school are incorporating technology in their curriculum.
Gone are the old-fashioned green or black chalk boards; and even the white boards with scented glass-cleaner fumes. Enter in Smart Boards, an interactive whiteboard that dovetails with computer technology to enhance teaching via computer and “Smart” markers. It looks like a whiteboard, plug it in to a computer, and write on the board and voila! You have a Smart Board keeping track of your lesson via computer and allowing students to engage on a technological level.
Through Smart Boards, Concordia is preparing teachers for tomorrow, thanks to generous donors like Lowell and Kay Goecker.
The Goecker’s educational experiences and desire to impact many for the future is the inspiration for their giving. They remember teachers from their childhood who made a difference in their lives and understand that education is more than just teaching kids about a subject. It’s about making connections and building relationships.
“Kay won’t tell you this but she was an exceptional teacher at sixth grade math,” said Lowell. “She took the time to individually diagnose kids’ needs and was willing to try new technology.”
Lowell and Kay both have long careers in school administration and teaching. Lowell was a teacher and administrator for over 40 years, and Kay taught more than 23 years, most of that time as a sixth grade math teacher. They know the ins and outs of how teaching has changed over the years.
“Teachers are expected to come out of these education programs with some experience using this technology,” said Kay.
Now retired, they see the way education at all levels is changing with technology. Thanks to their generosity, Concordia was able to purchase two additional Smart Boards on the main campus. The increase of updated technology to our classrooms is an excellent example of Concordia’s commitment to create an all-inclusive learning environment for students and encourages their continued education outside the classroom. Additionally, having certain technological skills is a plus for graduates entering the teaching field.
“I demonstrate lessons on the Smart Board and have students do demonstrations with it, too,” said Dr. Karen Rhynard, assistant professor for education, “because job interviewers will ask students what technology they have experience with.”
The enhancement of Concordia’s technical capabilities prepares our students to make a significant and meaningful impact in the classrooms of our community. Yet we need more. Concordia has determined that it needs four more Smart Boards and is embarking on a fundraising initiative for increased funding for technological needs, including iPads for faculty and increased software needs for Career Services to name a few major, but urgent, technological needs for the University.
“The goal of teaching is to inspire students. With this gift, we hope to continue this goal of inspiring others,” said Lowell.