Story Magazine - Second Quarter, 2003

Yackels Establish 2:1 Matching Grant Fund for Justice

by Jennifer Norris Peterson, Major Gifts Consultant

John and Eleanor Yackel

John and Eleanor Yackel are helping prepare leaders of the church to speak out boldly and prophetically when they see examples of oppression and inequality. The Yackels already have endowed the Martin Luther King, Jr. Chair for Justice and Christian Community at Luther Seminary.

Now they are creating a $300,000 challenge grant to attract additional gifts to an endowed program fund for justice at the seminary. They will provide a double match for every new gift to this fund, either current or deferred. The challenge match deadline is Dec. 31, 2004. The monies will help support the activities of the chair, and fund programs specific to justice.

The Yackels live in Circle Pines, Minn., and are members of Our Savior's Lutheran Church there. John was president and chairman of the board of American Guidance Service, a company he helped start in 1957, which publishes tests and instructional material for students with special education needs. Eleanor is a longtime member of the Peace and Justice Committee for the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Area Synods of the ELCA.

According to Eleanor: "The professor holding the endowed chair provides inspiration and information to students, and helps infuse justice and ethics themes across disciplines at the seminary. Dr. Charles Amjad-Ali holds that chair now, and his teaching presence is extraordinarily important. Part of learning is experiencing, so we want to provide a springboard for that."

The program fund for justice currently provides scholarships for students pursuing cross-cultural education in settings that bring them face to face with justice issues: Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Shalom Hill Farm with its focus on rural ministry, Appalachia, inner-city Chicago, and the Iron Range.

"I feel students should have experiential activities to see, feel and do. This makes real what they read and talk about in class," says John. "Having the chance to take part in the lives of people who are experiencing injustice brings about a different kind of understanding."

Other opportunities supported through the program fund include race and diversity training on campus for students, faculty and staff, and prizes for students encouraging deeper study and scholarship through writing about issues on justice themes.

Because this endowed fund will be in place for generations, the specific programs it supports undoubtedly will change over time. The fund will continue, however, to address issues such as human dignity and freedom, peace and non-violence, diversity, economic equity, access to health care, and care of creation.

The Bremer Foundation has provided three years of current funding for these programmatic activities while the seminary works to expand the related endowment. The Yackels are part of a volunteer committee devoted to this fundraising effort.

The initial goal for the endowed program fund is $1 million--which, at the 5.5 percent endowment spending rate, would yield $55,000 in annual distributions. Currently, $581,000 has been given or committed to the endowed program fund. When other gifts and estate plan commitments come to the seminary to trigger the Yackels' full double match, the endowed fund will exceed this $1 million goal.

Eleanor says: "We are anxious to see this endowment fully funded so that a strong base of support is in place to provide experiential learning for Luther Seminary students related to justice. John and I believe justice issues have great currency and urgency in our world.We hope others will join us in strengthening this educational focus at the seminary."

To send current gifts to the endowed program fund for justice, mail them to: Office of Seminary Relations, Luther Seminary, 2481 Como Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108.To inquire about making a deferred gift, call Jenny Peterson toll-free at 888-358-8437.

You may also explore other ways to give to Luther Seminary here.