When Beth (Buesing) Opgrand, ’45, attended Augsburg College during World War II, she needed a job. She became a streetcar driver, a job held exclusively by males before the war. She recalls that it was “exciting and scary handling something so large.” Her job included opening the door for people who wished to board. She can still hear the hissing sound made when she released the brake to head on down the street.
Almost seven decades later, Beth still is opening doors. She recently gave a $50,000 gift to Augsburg College to name a faculty office in the new Center for Science, Business and Religion. Her gift will help transform the learning environment for a new generation of students at Augsburg. You may click on this link to learn more about the new Center: http://www.augsburg.edu/now/2012/11/01/stewardship-of-space/
Giving the gift fills her with joy. Her husband Arnold, now deceased, was a tax accountant. “Arnold loved math and handled all of our finances for many years,” she recalls. “He was a generous giver. When he became ill with dementia, I took over handling the finances.” With this new role, she made a discovery: “I like to give money away.”
Beth relies on a financial advisor. She has requested that, whenever the value of her investment portfolio surpasses a predetermined level, he place the excess in a separate fund she can use for gift giving. Beth says: “I shared my plans with my son Mark, who is an ELCA pastor in Wilmington, N.C. He told me I had his full support. That felt good to hear. We both want to be good stewards.”
“God has been especially good to me,” Beth says. “I have decided to give away a percentage of my assets each year. I don’t want to wait until after my lifetime to make these gifts. It means a lot to me to do it now.”
She also has created a charitable gift annuity benefiting Augsburg College. This type of deferred gift provides a lifetime income stream to her. “I can determine how to use the income, but each year I choose to give the income back to the Augsburg Fund,” Beth explains.
Beth deeply values the college’s programs to educate students with mobility issues and other challenges related to learning as well as students in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. She also admires the Weekend College designed for working people. “These programs impress me very much. I want to be a part of giving to a college that is accessible to many people. This place strikes a chord with my values.”
When asked what she valued most about her own student experience, she recalls the deep relationships she made within her dormitory, Sivertson Hall, especially her roommate of three years, Genevieve (Larson) Hendrickson ’45.
Genevieve and Beth had not seen each other for 50 years. Then Keith Stout, Director of Leadership Gifts at Augsburg College, helped them reconnect. Genevieve spends winters in Yuma, Ariz., not far from Beth’s home in Peoria, Ariz., and her daughter recently brought her to visit Beth.
Then Beth opened the door in a new way. She allowed Keith to share with Genevieve the story of the gift she gave Augsburg College to name a faculty office in the new Center for Science, Business, and Religion.
Beth says: “I don’t care about getting my name on something. But giving this gift gives me a nice, warm feeling because this is such a worthwhile cause.” She hoped that her friend also would want to experience the joy of giving to Augsburg.
Genevieve decided she too would give a naming gift for a faculty office in the new Center. She herself took science classes and likes to think about helping students today who are taking science, business and religion classes. She recalls a chemistry class where she was one of just three students. “I got a lot of personal attention,” she remembers.
Genevieve taught school for 31 years, teaching high school science for the first five years and then first grade. She knows the importance of having a good facility for education.
It seems only fitting that the faculty offices Beth and Genevieve are naming sit side by side.