In May of 1936 when I was just four, I wandered into the kitchen to see my father and mother engaged in a most earnest conversation. I stood transfixed and stock still, eavesdropping. For the first time that I can recall, I saw my mother cry. This should have been a happy day. My oldest brother, Franklin, had just graduated from high school as the valedictorian of his class and he hoped to go to college to study physics and be active in one of the technical aspects of the then new and exciting area of radio transmission and reception.
But in the depths of the Great Depression, there were few extra dollars to be earned from the produce of a subsistence farm, and besides there were four younger children to be clothed, fed, and schooled, and the cost for college, though small, was still signiﬁ cant and out of reach for a poor farm family. I vividly recall my father soberly noting these realities and saying, "I just don't see how we can do it," and my mother weeping and replying, "as long as there is a will there is a way; we'll ﬁnd a way."
And they did! How, I do not know. But Franklin went off to a technical college with a packed lunch for the bus trip. He ultimately completed a master's degree with honors in history, and eventually became the principal of a high school just ﬁ ve miles away, where he served for 20 years. He became a respected and generous community leader. All four of us remaining later received the same encouragement from our parents, and all had some experience of higher education. Out of the four remaining, one became a house-father and resident counselor in a correctional institution for teenage boys; one went to college and became a technician for the telephone company; I set out with a scholarship to become a doctor, minister or professor; and my younger sister earned a college degree and taught fourth grade for over 30 years.
When those pious and devoted parents died they left $2,700 in a bank account, a section (640 acres) of land, and a recorded income too small to be taxed. Th ey also left a dog-eared Bible, and one priceless treasure for their children—a love of and devotion to education—even though formal education for them had ended after the third grade. It is from that rich legacy that this gift comes and is given to honor those parents, Frank E. and Myrtle D. Roetzel, to assist the new religious studies program here at the University of Minnesota and to expand the vision of University students.
Calvin J. Roetzel
If you would like to learn more about the Th e Roetzel Family Lecture in Religious Studies and how you may support students, please contact Betsy Burns, email@example.com or 612-624-2848, or visit www.religiousstudies.umn.edu/gift/. Top: Frank & Myrtle Roetzel as newlyweds, 1917. Bottom: Cal Roetzel with his parents at his wedding in 1957.