Gifts Come in Many Flavors

On most late afternoons, my infant son Bailey falls asleep nestled in the crook of my left arm. Slowly I rock–one foot pushing off the floor–back and forth. Sometimes hours pass before either of us decides a change is needed. The rhythm has become my life of late as my leave extends into the fall. Time drifts away, but the time we share is a gift in many ways.

Typically I watch a few minutes of “Jeopardy” while rocking. For those who do not know, the big winner is Ken Jennings of Salt Lake City, Utah. As I write this, he has won over $1.6 million in 45 consecutive tapings. Watching Jennings win is a lesson in many ways. He is, without a doubt, brilliant, but he also clearly shows he is not greedy or showy. Blessed with many gifts, Jennings is a success whether or not he wins on the TV game show.

Jennings impressive demeanor reminds me of how four St. Olaf students made a strong impression. In May 1962, Paul Farseth, John Mathiason, Georganne Rentas, and Richard Toensing represented St. Olaf against the University of Tennessee in a General Electric-sponsored televised College Bowl quiz contest. The final score: 250 to 220 in favor of the University of Tennessee.

An elderly couple, Vernon and Marie Gedge, watching television in their home in Santa Rosa, California, admired the way the Oles handled themselves, even in defeat. Mrs. Gedge said, “We liked their forthrightness. . They were of good stock and good kids and we’ve always been interested in youngsters getting an education.” Notes in college correspondence reveal that the Gedges felt there was a quality of honesty in the St. Olaf group that they had not detected in other groups they had seen on the College Bowl.

With no children of their own and no direct connection whatsoever to St. Olaf College, the Gedges in May 1963 gifted the majority of their estate, estimated then at $160,000, to the college in form of a trust [estimated purchasing power in 2003: $962,000]. It was their intent that the funds be used for scholarships or grants to assist students in obtaining a college education. Over the next two decades a strong relationship was forged between the college and the Gedges. Their support was noted in a 1977 letter from Pres. Rand,”We want you to know that it is literally true that without persons such as you we could not continue the many programs here at St. Olaf which we believe lend strength to the college.”