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Meet Our Donors
We thank all our planned-gift donors for their generous support. Here are some of their stories.
Sarah Ehlen Haecker
Though Sarah Ehlen Haecker didn't graduate from Breck, leaving the Class of 1984 after her sophomore year, she couldn't be more a part of the community. She's the mother of two current students, the sister of two alumni and the great granddaughter of someone who attended Breck School at the original campus in Wilder, Minnesota.
"Breck has given my family so much," she says. "And I imagine that, thanks to my great grandfather, Jacob Brogger, I have one of the longer legacies around!"
Growing up, Haecker says that Breck was always a huge part of her life. She came to the school as a fifth grader and attended along with brother Dave Ehlen '87 and sister Catherine Ehlen '90. The late Bishop Anderson was a close family friend, and her great grandfather studied English at Breck in Wilder after he emigrated from Norway.
Today, Breck is still a big part of family life for Haecker, whose own two children are happily enrolled. Daughter Lille, who started in second grade, is now a ninth grader who loves her classes, Nordic skiing and tennis. Son Hudson, who started in preschool, is a fifth grader involved with music and sports he's looking forward to playing for Breck in two years.
Both children were born in Philadelphia, where their mother was pursuing her postdoctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving a double Ph.D. in molecular biology and bioethics from the University of Minnesota, Haecker was settled into a comfortable life out east but was anxious for the opportunity to raise her children in Minnesota. "I realized that I wanted to come back to Minnesota before my kids got too old," she recalls. "And I knew that they would benefit from not only the education but also the environment at Breck."
Haecker says she's seen firsthand how Breck recognizes and supports each student's strengths, and she's appreciative of the dynamic Breck community. "I have traveled quite a bit for work, and I always loved knowing my kids were so well cared for."
Now doing business development in the biotech industry but traveling less, Haecker is enjoying the chance to watch her children thrive and grow. "They're developing outstanding study skills, rich and dynamic friendships, and a set of values that reflect the importance of social responsibility" she observes. "Through the creative instruction and thoughtful guidance of the faculty, Lille and Hudson are flourishing, responsible Breck citizens."
Haecker feels strongly about supporting Breck financially, both for her children and the ones who will follow in their footsteps, and so she has included the school in her estate planning.
"Breck has provided my family with such a wonderful whole-worldview approach to academics," she says. "I want to do whatever I can to make sure that's available for students in the future as well."
Chuck Converse '49
Leaving a Legacy From 1,800 Miles Away
He's been a full-time resident of Arizona for many years, but Chuck Converse '49 says he enjoys keeping up with a Minnesota school that completely changed his life.
An eighth grader when he came to Breck, Chuck says he "wasn't a bad boy, just very much unmotivated. I think I loved Breck from the very first day, and it totally turned me around."
For starters, he loved his teachers. "Pops Jonnard and Orwin Rustad were great. John Nelson was tough—and a better math teacher than he was a football coach!—and I always enjoyed Latin with Mike Uram. Of even more importance, I believe that any success I achieved was in large part due to Ted Osman's and especially Doc Milburn's teaching me how to write. Even college at Yale didn't have anywhere near the positive impact that Breck did. I consider myself very fortunate that my parents sent me to Breck."
Chuck also reflects fondly on his class. "There were only 43 of us, so we got to know each other very well!" he says. His participation in sports was another highlight. "I was very much a sub-par athlete, but at Breck I got the chance to have that experience." He even looks back positively on the passing and review in military parades. "I wasn't too excited about the military aspect, but I'm sure it was good for me!"
Retired from careers in finance, Park Nicollet Clinics and as an independent financial planner, Chuck and his wife Nancy love life in the Arizona sunshine and feel proud to support Breck in their estate plan. "I like to think that I'm helping the school educate other students like me. And I'm leaving a little legacy from 1,800 miles away."
Besides, Chuck says, given its influence on his life, Breck feels like a member of the family. "I wouldn't disinherit my children, so why would I disinherit Breck?"
Roger '50 and Myra Greenberg
Honoring Family Ties and Lifelong Lessons
Roger Greenberg '50 still remembers the sign legendary football coach Doc Milburn hung in the locker room: "A quitter never wins, and a winner never quits."
"It was a wonderful philosophy, and quite a number of us remember it," he says. "The discipline that came with military training, the friendships I made through athletics and the great instructors like John Nelson — these are all things I may not have appreciated at the time, but I certainly do now."
Roger entered Breck in 1941 and especially enjoyed math and science classes, particularly physics. He went on to earn his industrial engineering degree from the University of Minnesota and founded a company called Bro-Tex, featured in a Star Tribune article about its innovative program to recycle old carpets and keep them out of landfills. The recycled carpets become everything from new carpet or padding to cement mix and even sewer pipes.
Still active at Bro-Tex even though he now winters in Florida, Roger says modern technology makes it easy to work from a distance. And when he's not working, he enjoys golf, exercise, boating and going to boat shows.
He also enjoys time with his family — many of whom have Breck ties of their own. Roger and his wife Myra have four children, including daughters Arlys and Cynthia, both of whom attended Breck 'in the 1960s, daughter Emily and son Dan '86. And Arlys and her three children, Ben '06, Joshua '11 and Becca '12 are keeping the Greenberg family relationship with Breck alive and well.
Roger, a former trustee, has been a long-time loyal donor to Breck's annual fund. But it's that sense of the enduring rewards of a Breck education that prompted him to think of the future by providing a bequest to Breck in their estate plan. "We're glad to do it," Roger says. "It's good to leave a little legacy to places and organizations that have been significant in our family's life."
Bruce Jacobson '66
Remembering Breck in More Ways than One
Bruce Jacobson '66 has fond memories of his six years at Breck. Coincidentally enough, in the winter months his St. Paul home boasts a fairly clear view of the River Road campus he attended, so it's especially fortunate that his experience was a positive one.
Now retired from practicing medicine, Bruce and his wife Ann Morrissey took a careful approach to estate planning a few years ago. "I got some books, talked to friends and relatives and interviewed three attorneys," he says, "before I found the right person and the right advice." He and Ann feel strongly about making their wishes known and keeping their wills up-to-date. "No one really likes to think about it," Bruce observes. "It was hard to get started, but we worked together and feel confident that we can help support our favorite charities as well as family members."
What makes Breck one of those favorites? "As I look back, I'm probably most impressed by all those wonderful dedicated teachers," he recalls, citing Charles Krenz, Mike Uram, John Nelson and Dick Yonker—all of whom influenced him with their passion, enthusiasm and ability to make their subjects come to life.
"It was a troublesome time," Bruce says of the '60s, "but my classmates were surprisingly good at supporting each other."
After Breck, Bruce went on to college at Carleton and medical school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He then practiced internal medicine in Minneapolis and continued his association with Breck as a member of the alumni council in the 1970s, finding time for his passion for outdoor activities, especially cross-country skiing.
"I'm impressed by today's Breck," Bruce says. "It's different from the school I attended but it's a wonderful academic institution. I've been a longtime supporter of the Annual Fund, and it's a good feeling to know that I've made provisions to remember Breck in my estate plan as well."
Jody and O.P. Portu
Reflections of "Lifer" Parents
As parents of two boys who began in preschool (Jeffrey '08 and Michael '12), Jody and O.P. Portu have shown their support for Breck in any number of significant ways. They've been involved parents, active volunteers and generous donors, and they've set a strong example for their sons all along the way.
They didn't necessarily intend to be lifer parents. "When Jeffrey started in Breck preschool we weren't necessarily expecting that he'd be here all the way through," Jody says. "But he was so happy from the start that we wanted to see if it was the right school for Michael too. And it has been."
"From our very first visit, we were impressed with Breck's diversity. The community includes people from so many different economic, racial and religious backgrounds," adds O.P. "That's not just important in a school. It's good preparation for life."
The Portus have made volunteering at Breck a priority. O.P. has been President of the Board of Trustees and Jody is a past president of the Parents Association. Together, they've chaired the Annual Fund. The value of giving their time is a lesson they both learned growing up. "Our parents really took the time to explain to us why volunteering is so important," they say.
And they've made sure to teach the same lesson to their children. "At Breck, it starts early," Jody observes. "From serving as biddies to setting up cots for preschool naps, our kids learned from the minute they walked through the doors."
Older son Jeffrey has continued his commitment to service at Boston College where he's deeply involved with the admissions office and the Red Cross. "Breck prepared him so well for college," says Jody. "He understands how to balance academics, service and friendships."
For the Portus, financial support of Breck has also been important. "The education of our children is one of our top priorities," they say. And including the school in their estate plan is another way the family shows its support. "We're happy that we can help further the mission of this wonderful school and want to see it thrive for future generations as well."
Karyl and Byron Rice
Making a Commitment to a School They Love
For Karyl and Byron Rice, supporting Breck in an estate plan is, more than anything, a way to make sure that this school will be an option for future generations of students, parents and teachers.
"We genuinely love Breck," Karyl says. "It's been a wonderful place for our children and for us. If we can help in some small way, we're more than happy to do so."
The Rice family is blue and gold through and through. Both Byron (Middle School teacher and coach) and Karyl (Communications department) are longtime staff members. Their children Erik '08 and Maura '10 were both lifer students. Colleagues and parents of their children's friends make up a substantial part of their life outside of school as well.
Byron, who switched from a large public high school in northern California to Marin Academy as a junior, says going to an independent school changed his life. "I honestly don't know what I'd be doing now if it weren't for the opportunities I had at Marin," he reflects. "I went from a giant school where I got completely lost in the shuffle to a small, Episcopal school like Breck where I was exposed to great teaching, learned good work habits, and got to participate in a variety of sports and other activities."
Karyl, whose background is entirely in the public schools (her dad was an elementary school principal in Bloomington), admits that she never expected to send her own children to an independent school. "Our kids had such totally different experiences from my own," she observes. "They were guided and encouraged from their earliest age to find their passions."
"When we look at the things that are significant to both our kids as young adults today, we see the roots at Breck. For Erik, it's writing, acting, Shakespeare and the Supreme Court. For Maura, it's art, an interest her Breck teachers have nurtured every step of the way," both say.
And even though sending their children to Breck required some economic sacrifice, both Karyl and Byron feel strongly about their voluntary support of the school. "There are so many people who need help," they say, "and we can't give to them all. But we know what Breck has meant to our family, and we want to see it thrive for many years to come."
The Zeidner Family
Helping Keep the Breck Community Strong
For Lew and Nicki Zeidner, Breck is almost part of the family. "Our daughter Amanda is an only child," they say, "and at Breck she gets both older and younger siblings. For us, the school has become a focus for volunteering, an important focus for philanthropy and a big part of our social life!"
The Zeidners moved to Minnesota when Amanda was about a year old and never really expected to look at independent schools. Both had come from public school backgrounds, and the quality of public education in the state was a big attraction. But there was significant redistricting in their area and at a neighbor's suggestion they decided to attend an admissions event at Breck.
"We were immediately drawn to Breck's mission and the quality and commitment of the faculty," they recall. But what really won them over was a presentation by an eighth grader. "It was such an impressive talk — so poised and full of enthusiasm. That's what really sold us!"
Now that their own daughter has helped out with an admission event herself, the Zeidners say they know they made the right decision.
Both Lew and Nicki have volunteered with the Annual Fund, the Parents Association, in the classroom and with Nicki's membership on the Board of Trustees. "Giving our time is an important component of feeling like a part of the community," they say.
They feel good about supporting Breck financially as well. They explain, "Our giving is really prioritized for maximum impact. There are so many worthy causes, but you can't support them all. At Breck we know that our philanthropy helps to support the school's efforts to keep tuition manageable and the quality high. Our support helps sustain that vision and ability to maintain Breck's mission."
It's also a good example for their daughter. "We've been intentional about teaching her the value of supporting causes we believe in with our time and our dollars," they say. "She's really grown up understanding that from day one."
Away from school, the family is involved with church activities and enjoys camping, travel and dining out. But Breck plays a big role in all of their lives, and it's an institution they want to help keep strong for future generations as well.
"It's so important for us to do what we can to make sure Breck can maintain its excellent faculty and staff and its wonderful facility. Most important, we want to be sure it isn't a school that only people with significant means can afford," they say. "We're happy to help leave a legacy for the future."