In 2014 Union College received more than $4.2 million through estate gifts. These gifts were given by generous alumni who felt Union had made a significant impact on their lives, and wanted to ensure students today and in the future could benefit from the unique Christian education experience found on Union’s campus.
“We have been blessed with estate gifts that were cultivated many years ago,” said LuAnn Davis, vice president for Advancement. “We thank God for His goodness and for the generosity of so many alumni and friends.”
The family farm
Edna Maier Harris’ (’48) grandparents came to the United States from what is now Ukraine and settled in South Dakota in 1885. The family worked as farmers and eventually grew the family farm to 880 acres in Edmunds and Faulk Counties in South Dakota. Edna was born and raised on the family farm before coming to Union College in the mid-40s. When she died April 22, 2014, five days before her 88th birthday, Edna left all 880 acres of the farmland to Union College.
“We are so thankful for the tremendous generosity Edna Harris has shown toward Union,” stated Union College’s president, Dr. Vinita Sauder. “Our trustees will ensure her gift will have a significant impact on our students.”
“She did not graduate from Union, but always wished she had,” said her son, Lance Harris. “Her experiences at Union College shaped her life, and she wanted to help others have the same experiences.”
Edna met her husband, Jack Harris ’50, at Plainview Academy, formerly located in Redfield, S.D. Four days after they started dating Jack was drafted into the U.S. Army at the peak of World War II. While Jack served in the European theater Edna enrolled at Union and studied education. Jack came home the fall of 1945 and they were married on December 23, 1945.
Jack joined Edna at Union College and studied theology. In 1949 they started their family and, after Jack graduated, he received a pastoral call to Oklahoma which started Edna’s career of moving. The Harris family lived in 35 different homes all over the world. They traveled to 50 countries and visited every continent except Antarctica.
“They lived an adventurous life and saw many wondrous things,” Lance said. “They hiked the mountains in Rwanda to see the ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ long before it was fashionable,” Lance added.
When Edna made a final amendment to her trust in 2012, she gave all 880 acres of South Dakota farmland to Union College without any restrictions on how the land was to be used. This incredibly generous gift is worth $3.1 million.
“She wanted to give to an educational institution that was aligned with her beliefs, and she certainly saw that in Union College,” Lance explained.
“We are humbled by Edna’s gift in support of our mission and will carefully consider how best to use it,” Dr. Sauder commented. “This gift has the potential of making a significant impact on the institution as a whole and could touch the lives of everyone who studies here, works here, and benefits from the fulfillment of our mission.”
A life’s collection
Union College enjoyed a long friendship with Ira ’44 and Margie Pound and when they died, they left nearly their entire estate valued at more than $800,000 to the college, without restriction on how the funds are to be used.
The Pounds did not have children of their own, so partnering with Union made perfect sense to them. “They wanted their estate to go to something they felt strongly about,” said Les Speer, executor of their estate. Ira and Margie believed that supporting Union College through their estate would help change the lives of young people through a Christian education.
Ira enjoyed his time at Union College and wanted Union’s current and future students to enjoy the same Christian experience. Although Margie did not attend Union, she was a nurse throughout her career and wanted to help future nurses obtain an excellent education. During their lifetime the Pounds contributed annually to two separate scholarships at Union: one scholarship assisting students studying nursing and the other scholarship helping members of the Union College Concert Winds.
The bulk of the Pounds’ estate consisted of their life savings, which came to the college in cash, but they also had some intriguing collectibles. Ira and Margie enjoyed beautiful things, and Margie enjoyed nothing more than collecting sea shells. She had more than a thousand shells in her collection from all over the world, in a variety of shapes, and ranging in size from as small as an acorn to as large as a lunch box. Margie was quite meticulous about her shell collection, labeling each one with its family, genus and species along with where and when the shell was found.
“Ira told me many times how happy he was that Union would get Margie’s shells and use them in the science department,” Les explained, “and I know giving this collection was very personal for Margie, it was like she was giving a part of herself to Union.”
Dr. Amy Utt, assistant professor of biology at Union College, was amazed when she first saw the collection and enthusiastically accepted them in the biology department. “My colleagues and I are excited to receive the collection and we will make sure they are put to good use,” Dr. Utt explained. “The shells will be used in future classes, perhaps in general biology, and I would like to put them on display in the Krueger Center as well.”
It takes a village
Since both Edna Harris and the Pounds’ estate gifts were undesignated, Union College’s Board of Trustees will decide how these generous acts of philanthropy will be allocated. And because the college received several more undesignated estate gifts in 2014—over $4.2 million—the trustees will carefully study how best to use these gifts to strategically make a lasting impact on the college.
“Union College is a special place that offers a vibrant education experience trademarked by an embracing community,” explained Davis. “Our alumni enjoyed that experience, and now they are committed through gifts both large and small to ensuring both current and future students benefit from that same Christian education steeped in rich tradition.”
To learn more about supporting Union College through a financial contribution, please contact LuAnn Davis at email@example.com
By Scot Coppock, Director of Leadership Giving