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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Planned Giving Stories—Why We Give

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Giving Back: A Family Tradition


Joel JensenFor Joel Jensen, associate director of security at Minnesota State University, Mankato and a three-time alumnus (1993, 2001, 2005), giving back to the place he calls home never required a second thought.

Joel knew he wanted to show his gratitude and carry on a rich family tradition. Joel even knew how he wanted to give back. The only questions left were what gift vehicle would allow him to accomplish his goals and when should he make his intentions known? Thankfully, Joel chose to get in touch with Minnesota State Mankato sooner than later.

You see, you could say Joel grew up on Minnesota State Mankato's campus. His father, Orville, taught at Minnesota State Mankato for more than 30 years. Joel even attended Wilson Campus School, the on-campus school, where his father taught. The Jensen family believed in the value of a quality public education. So while there was no question whether Joel would give back to the University he had called home since he was just a boy, there was a question as to how to accomplish his vision for his gift—Joel wanted to leverage his gift to help more students without sacrificing current cash flow.

Years before Joel's father passed away in 2009, the Jensens established the Jensen Family Scholarship Endowment in Education. The purpose was to help education majors cover expenses associated with their student teaching. Joel continued to assist in funding the endowment through payroll deduction, but he wanted to do more. He wanted to leave a lasting legacy that would make a transformative difference. That's when Joel decided to make a planned gift through his estate. "I think of the University as my family, just as I would think of my biological family," he says. "It's one in the same."

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With This Gift, Everyone Wins


Lee and Loretta SnilsbergLee and Loretta Snilsberg feel a deep commitment to the Mankato community and an appreciation for the work of Minnesota State Mankato. They believe in the University's mission and enjoy being a part of its forward momentum. So it only seems natural that they would want to make a difference with a significant financial contribution.

Loretta and Lee started dating as high school juniors in 1934. Soon, it seemed, they had been married 55 years. In 1996, to mark their 55th wedding anniversary, they gave a major gift to Minnesota State Mankato and set up a charitable remainder annuity trust.

The gift was unusual in that the trust payments were not payable for their entire lifetime but had a set maturation timeline of 15 years. "It may seem counterintuitive when you are 78 years old to enter into a 15-year annuity," Lee says. "It took a lot of optimism. After 15 years of annual payments, any remaining money would be distributed to whatever charities we named as beneficiaries."

The Snilsbergs named Minnesota State Mankato as the primary beneficiary of the charitable trust. On June 14, 2011, Lee and Loretta celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary by designating that the University's share of the trust be divided between the Snilsbergs' theatre endowment fund and a new four-year presidential scholarship for electrical engineering.

Lee was trained as an electrical engineer but worked in the family insurance business after World War II. "We called on almost everyone in Mankato at one time or another," he says. "Both Loretta and I feel it is important to give back, and with this gift, everyone wins."

Students Receive Snilsberg Scholarships

Minnesota State Mankato has just given out the 38th and 39th Lee and Loretta Snilsberg Theatre Endowment Scholarships. The first two were given in 1995 and we have given out two or three a year ever since. Here are excerpts from this past year's winners:

Rudolph (Tré) Searles III (BFA musical theatre, summer 2011)
"I can't begin to tell you how much this award means to me…first of all, I probably wouldn't be able to come to school here, as I live all the way over in Colorado…I wouldn't be able to afford little things like food or books. …I am so lucky that I get to study musical theatre. It is my true passion and what I know I will be doing for the rest of my life…you are helping make this possible. …Thank you for literally helping to make my dreams come true."

Katie Phillips (BFA theatre design technology, spring 2011)
"As a student who works two jobs to pay her way through school, I can't stress enough the importance of this scholarship. It allows me to work less and gives me the opportunity to dedicate more time to my studies in theatre and theatre design. …Without this scholarship, I wouldn't be able to afford to attend school while paying rent and purchasing groceries. Thank you for aiding me in studying what I love [and] I would love for you to see what your generous scholarship helps me accomplish."

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Kessels Provide a Legacy for Peace, the Planet and Politics


Ruth Miner-Kessel and Abbas KesselA deep commitment to peace, the environment, social justice and better political leadership has led to a large bequest by Ruth Miner-Kessel that will support the Kessel Lecture Series and the Kessel Peace Institute in perpetuity. The bequest will bring noted lecturers to campus and fund the faculty director position for the Institute.

Ruth, a longtime faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, is the widow of Dr. Abbas Kessel, who taught political science at Minnesota State Mankato (then Mankato State University) for 19 years. Abbas was a lifelong peace activist and a Renaissance man who loved designing furniture, writing poetry, appreciating classical music, collecting art, growing plants and gathering with friends. Abbas was known for his commitment to social justice and his persuasive but gentle way of presenting an argument. He was deeply saddened by human suffering and believed answers could be found in better political leadership.

Ruth and Abbas met at the International House at the University of Chicago, where the discourse frequently turned to politics and how to achieve peace. From that time forward, they devoted their lives to studying politics and peace, whether it was political peace or the inner peace that one finds in great music and original art. Abbas began teaching in Mankato, and Ruth took a faculty position at UW-Whitewater. The two remained close friends for 30 years, married in 1984 and retired from teaching the following year.

Bringing Knowledge to Future Students

The Pulitzer Prize winning photo of Abbas walking amidst the protesters on campus at Mankato around 1970 was a constant reminder of the impact that one peaceful person could have on a crowd. When Abbas retired, the Kessel Lecture Series was established in the political science department in his honor. At the time, department chair Scott Shrewsbury said, "It will bring to the campus people who, in their own work, like Kessel, have demonstrated outspoken courage, incisiveness and compassionate dedication with regard to the world issues of foreign policy, environmental policy and energy policy. Kessel could be counted on to serve as our conscience and our guide in ethical matters and was bravely always visible up front in the defense of justice, truth and goodness."

After Abbas' death from leukemia in 1987, Ruth continued his legacy by funding and founding the Kessel Institute for the Study of Peace and Change. Ruth provided an initial challenge gift, and supporters matched her gift. The Institute defines peace in its broadest sense, denoting not only the absence of conflict but also the interrelationship of the factors necessary for harmony within and among human beings and their environment. It organizes an annual conference and a number of mission-related activities throughout the year.

Ruth's friend and attorney Mark Olm helped her facilitate this meaningful gift to the university. Mark notes, "Despite Ruth's own considerable writings and accomplishments, she felt as though the work of her late husband deserved continuation and recognition, and so she, along with others, began funding the Kessel Peace Institute and Lectureship at Mankato. And Mankato delivered the message to anyone who would listen.

"To give students an opportunity to hear firsthand from speakers who had participated in real peace efforts, like Sen. George Mitchell, and to give students a place to study and carry on discourse as she and Kessel had experienced in the International House, meant that future generations would be prepared to face the daunting challenges of myriad cultures and political processes through understanding rather than grandstanding," Mark continues. "Mankato was prepared to perpetuate their legacy of the pursuit of peaceful understanding. Ruth is grateful for this, and made the decision to support Mankato's educational mission."

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Freys Foresee Value in Renewable Energy Research at Minnesota State Mankato


John and Anne FreyThe Anne and John Frey Renewable Energy/Bio Products Research Endowment, created in May, is one of only a handful of undergraduate sustainable energy research funds in the nation. It will provide $3,000 each year to a student who conducts applied faculty-mentored research in all areas of biomass energy, including solar, wind and hydro energy. The endowment will also support student research in energy conservation and bio based products. Each student will receive $500 for supplies, and the student's College of Science, Engineering and Technology faculty mentor will receive a $500 stipend.

Download a free guide with details on how an endowment works.

"This is a wonderful gift, made even more significant by Anne and John Frey's interest in undergraduate applied research into renewable energy and green technology solutions," says Richard Davenport, Minnesota State Mankato president. "This is one of a few privately funded undergraduate research endowments in Minnesota, and its focus on renewable technology makes it the best."

"I thank Anne and John for this generous gift," Richard adds. "It will generate exciting opportunities for student-faculty teams to develop new products and processes that will reduce our fossil-fuel dependence, promote Minnesota as a renewable energy leader, and make life better for citizens of Minnesota and the world."

The fellowship will increase the volume of student-faculty research in renewable energy and bio based products, John says. "Students and faculty are a tremendous resource to the Greater Mankato region," he says. "This fellowship will provide an even greater link between Minnesota State Mankato and the community. The emphasis on applied research and technology transfer should inspire the movement of ideas toward commercialization."

Over time, the endowment is intended to enhance the state's economy, create high-quality jobs, and improve U.S. environmental quality and energy independence. It will also foster new ways of transferring research into commercially useful technology innovations.

Inspiration for the Endowment

Anne, who conceived the idea of an endowment to support faculty-mentored student research, says the concept was prompted by a northeast Kansas family who she and her husband knew before they were married. "Their oldest son, who was killed in Vietnam, was a couple of years behind me in school, and their second son was a high school student of John's," Anne says. "Their third son died of cancer when he was a student at Kansas State University, and his family established a grant at Kansas State University for an undergraduate student and a faculty member to conduct cancer research.

"Each year as I read about the grant recipients in the hometown newspaper, I would remark, 'That is such a wonderful idea; I would like to do something like that.'"

Lives Dedicated to Education
Anne holds degrees in nursing, elementary education, health education and accounting. John, after receiving his doctorate, served for 37 years as a faculty member and dean of Minnesota State Mankato's College of Science, Engineering and Technology. He actively sought and obtained grants and led successful campaigns for state and federal appropriations and for several million dollars in contracts, grants and private donations.


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Tim Huebsch: Recognizing the Full Value of an Estate Plan


Tim HuebschTim Huebsch graduated from Minnesota State University, Mankato in December 2002 with a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science-management information system. He began his professional career at General Mills and received a Master of Business Administration from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota in 2007.

During Tim's tenure at Minnesota State Mankato, he was involved in technology efforts, student senate and other campus committees. Since graduation, he became involved in the alumni board and now serves as president.

Even though he may not have a large number of assets in his portfolio yet, Tim plans to be successful in his career and realizes the importance of building a plan for the unexpected. "You don't need to have a huge amount of resources to make a difference," Tim says. "This is an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy, to build something that lives long past you, offering opportunities for future students. It is never too soon to start planning for your future."

It is also a way to have a say in where your resources go after you are gone. Some assets, like IRAs and retirement plans, will be taxed heavily if left in your estate for family or friends. Naming Minnesota State Mankato or other charities as a beneficiary, or partial beneficiary, can give you the flexibility to have greater control of your assets and include the causes that are important to you.

Your estate plan should also be a "living document" that can be changed as you move through your life stages. Including Minnesota State Mankato in your will now as beneficiary of part of your estate means that gift will grow as your estate grows, but it does not take away from other bequests you wish to include.

Because Tim has included Minnesota State Mankato in his estate plans, he is recognized as a member of the Legacy Society at Minnesota State Mankato. He enjoys attending the events that are held periodically on campus and sharing his decision with others to continue his support of his alma mater in this special, significant way.

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You Can Help, Too!

If you'd like to make a difference in the lives of Minnesota State Mankato students, an endowed scholarship through a bequest in your will is a great way to extend the support you offer today, forever. To learn more, contact Jeff Halbur at 507-389-2775 or