Leaving a legacy: Major donors honored for support of HU, students

On the eve of Alumni Weekend, Heidelberg University hosted the annual Heritage Society Dinner – the first gathering since 2019 due to the pandemic – gathered to honor donors who, through their execution of planned gifts, have generously provided ongoing support for the university and especially for its students.

Among this year’s honorees was Mary Friedley, who along with her late husband, alumnus and Trustee Mark Friedley, were founding members of the Heritage Society back in 1995. Today, the society has grown to 340 members who have “chosen to enrich the future of Heidelberg through the establishment of endowments, engagement in deferred giving or provision in their estate plans.”

Welcome, new Heritage Society members

Each of the new members of the Heritage Society participated in a pinning ceremony and was photographed with President Rob Huntington. In addition to Mary Friedley, this year’s honorees included:

•    Louis and Donna Dorsch, the Louis H. and Donna Semler Dorsch Scholarship funded through a bequest.
•    Robert and Sharon Gandee, support for the Class of ’57 Scholarship, Hoernemann Stadium and an endowed Scholarship in Exercise Science
•    Martin and Renae Hemmer, support of Heidelberg men’s and women’s athletics through annual giving and athletic endowments
•    Russell and Joanne Imlay, the Joanne Redford Imlay and J. Russell Imlay scholarship
•    Sheila Linhart – support of the Ron Linhart Memorial Back the Berg Golf Outing to support athletics
•    Richard and Adrianne Odell, designation of Heidelberg as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy
•    Bruce and Denise Pontius, utilizing estate planning and support of the Dr. Ferris & Dorothy Ohl Endowed Scholarship and the General Endowed Scholarship Fund
•    Timothy K. Queen, the Timothy K. and Sharon K. Queen Science and Technology Scholarship
•    Elizabeth and Jason Toot-Levy, two scholarships, the Elizabeth R. Toot-Levy Watershed Science Specialization Scholarship and the Jason M. Toot-Levy Music Education Scholarship
•    Laraine Turk, estate plan
•    Debra spearman, bequest
•    Steve & Debra Yackey, support for the William G. and Julia M. Yackey Endowed Scholarship
•    Kristyn Yackey, support for the Yackey Family Scholarship.

Current student says thanks

One of the highlights of the evening was a sweet and sincere message of gratitude from rising senior Lillian Whitcomb. Lilly, a business administration major, admittedly was a bit overwhelmed when she realized she was in a room with many of the donors who have supported her education.

She shared her Heidelberg journey, which has included an interesting experience that led her on an unexpected career path toward law school. 

When she arrived at Heidelberg, Lilly’s goal was to work in international environmental campaign management. But by happenstance, she landed an internship with local attorney John Barga. “All of a sudden, I was the assistant to an attorney, something nobody in my life was expecting,” she said. “After just a few weeks, I realized I loved the work and could see myself integrating it into my career.”

John has continued to mentor Lilly, helping her to find her way in the field and with networking. “I now know that I want to become an environmental lawyer working in pollution control and prevention,” she said.

And while she’s excited to have figured things out, it’s also scary. “I know that I have a lot of work left to do,” Lilly told the donors. “I have four, or really five more y ears in my education and I’ll need to find a way to finance the most expensive of those three years, law school.”

Even though that seems daunting, Lilly is optimistic. “What gives me hope is the fact that I’ve made it this far,” she said, adding that at times, she has struggled with finances to fund her education on her own. 

A big part of Lilly’s hope is rooted in the scholarship support she has received and the donors who have made those possible for her and many other Heidelberg students. 

“The contributions from Heidelberg’s generous donors … have taken off the vast majority of the burden for me, and for that, I can’t say thank you enough.”

She appreciates the faith donors show in supporting students like her. “You see in us as students what we can’t see in ourselves just yet,” Lilly said. “… donors are truly what make the growth that we need possible.”

“Without your support, I wouldn’t have been able to experience the true nature of Heidelberg.

Trustee honored for distinguished service

Another highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Trustee Distinguished Service Award, presented by President Huntington to long-serving Trustee Charlie Cole.

Charlie and his wife, Patty – a veritable dynamic duo – have been steadfast benefactors of Heidelberg. In addition to membership in the Heritage Society, they have also established scholarships, numerous capital campaigns, annual giving and various events on campus.

Charlie, the owner and president of Republic Lumber Inc. – the family-owned business now in its sixth generation – is the third longest-serving Trustee (along with Trustees Karen Gillmor and Liz Smith), having joined the board back in 1999.

In presenting the award, Rob noted that Charlie “thinks about the needs of Heidelberg students in the short and long run.” 

“He has great interest in the opportunities we give our students” and for that, Heidelberg has great admiration and respect for him.

This is the 12th time the Trustee Service Award has been presented. Congratulations, Charlie!

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