Story Magazine

Third Quarter, 2002

A Teacher's Legacy

Minerva B. Olson found the perfect way to combine her love of education with her love of the church.

Minerva Olson was a lifetime educator, serving first as a teacher, then 19 years as an elementary school principal in Minneapolis. And though she never set foot on the Luther Seminary campus, through her death she has laid a foundation that its mission and ministry might continue.

Olson, who died June 19, 2001, just a few months short of her 100th birthday, included in her will a bequest of $300,000 to establish a named, unrestricted endowment fund for the general support of Luther Seminary. Unrestricted endowments allow for flexible application wherever funds are needed. "Essentially, she offered an annual gift in perpetuity that will continue to grow and benefit the seminary and its mission," Brad Reiners, associate vice president for planned giving in the office of seminary relations, said.

The church was always an important part of her life -- it was "part and parcel" of who she was, her family says. Though she never married or had children, she kept in close contact with her extended family and friends, and drew strength from her relationship with God. She gave breath to her faith by living a "steward's life" -- thinking of stewardship not only as sharing her resources, but sharing the gospel message itself through her words and actions.

"She was very generous with her money, and through the ways she distributed her estate she left almost a living legacy of what her values were: education, students, and the church," Reiners said.

The gift she left Luther Seminary was one of many substantial gifts she made during her life and in her death, including to the elementary school she attended in Parkers Prairie, Minn., where she grew up, and her home congregation, First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Parkers Prairie. She also remembered a small non-Lutheran congregation in Parkers Prairie which offered fiscal and prayer support and outreach to her family after her father died when she was five.

"She wanted to be responsive to the blessings she had received throughout her life," Lowell Stortz, Olson's attorney said. "She just loved her church. But she also recognized that you can hurt a congregation as much as help it by giving too much money, so she wanted to find other ways to benefit the church.

"A few years ago, she and I started having conversations about what the church today needs. We agreed on one thing for sure: pastors. When I mentioned the possibility of helping train pastors for future generations by including the seminary in her will, she just lit up with the thought. It truly fit who she was and what she wanted to do."