Alumni Profiles

Stories of Trinity alums Serving Around the World

Steve Bauerle

steve-bauerleSometimes a story—like an unexpected gift—begs to be shared.

For some time now, Pastor Steve Bauerle (’82) has been sharing the story of a couple from his congregation, Zion Lutheran Church in Waterville, Ohio, and their lasting legacy to numerous ministries, including Trinity Lutheran Seminary. He calls it a “Million Dollar Love Story” and he plans to publish it in a book of the same title.

Bauerle first met Katie and Doug Graf when he accepted the call to Zion in 1987. Katie was the director of the children’s choir and Doug was the church custodian. “Doug and Katie’s family was Zion Lutheran Church,” said Bauerle, of the couple who had no children or close next of kin.

Katie was the only child of wealthy parents, and Doug’s working class background did not impress Katie’s mother. She threatened to withhold her daughter’s inheritance if Katie married him. Despite her mother’s pleas, Katie married Doug and the two made a life on their conservative salaries; she worked as an elementary teacher and he as a custodian in the local schools.

Over the course of the next 50 years, Katie’s mother invested her wealth in nursing homes. According to the investment policies, every 10 years Katie’s mother reinvested and reallocated her wealth. When it came time for the money to be reinvested in 2000, Katie’s mother had died and the money went to first of kin: Katie. By then Katie was living in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Doug came to my office one day with a $200,000 IRS bill and was panicked. I said you need to go to your accountant, and that’s when he learned he had inherited this money,” said Bauerle.

Doug died that same year at the age of 78, and Katie two years later. A small portion of the couple’s inheritance went to nieces and nephews, and the remainder ($2.7 million) went to Zion.

The money came to Zion in 2002, and the congregation established an endowment in 2004. “We spent a couple of years asking ourselves, ‘What are we going to do with this?’” said Bauerle. The committee charged with overseeing the fund contacted the ELCA Mission Investment Fund, the bishop, and other churches and pastors for direction.

Jenny Frantz

jenny franzWhen Jenny Frantz, ’08, was named director of Camp Luther last summer, it was a call to something very familiar.

Since the age of 6, Frantz has spent nearly every family vacation at this camp along the shores of Lake Erie. Even today, her parents, sisters, and nephews continue to travel to northeast Ohio each summer to spend a week together at Camp Luther. Throughout college Frantz worked there as summer staff.  Now, it is a place she affectionately refers to as home.

“In many ways it feels like going home. My dad is a second-career pastor, so we moved a bit when I was a child. My parents also moved the year I graduated from college, so I don’t really have a childhood home to go to anymore. Camp has been my home,” she said.

She will begin her first full summer as director this year, hiring and training staff, promoting the week-long family camps that define Camp Luther, and developing programs. The part-time, year-round position runs concurrent with her now three-quarter time position as director of Youth and Family Ministry at Christ Lutheran Church, Columbus. She will continue to work fulltime for Christ nine months out of the year and serve a part-time call at Camp Luther, one of three camps of Lutheran Outdoor Ministries of Ohio (LOMO).

Johan Bergh

One Faith, Two Vocations Define Bergh’s Passion

By Margaret L. Farnham

bergh alumni profileDuring a leave from call a few years ago, Johan Bergh, ’81, turned his focus to an area near and dear to his heart: environmental sustainability. When he left People of Faith Lutheran Church in Winter Garden, Florida, after 25 years as their pastor, Bergh went to work as a research associate for a friend who is a Senior Scientist with Valent Biosciences Corporation, to explore “the green side” of agricultural production. He wanted to contribute in some way to the development of safe fertilizers and pesticides.

The career move was not unrealistic for Bergh, who earned his undergraduate degree in environmental interpretation from The Ohio State University. He once thought a job in natural resources would be his life’s work. “The experience at Valent ultimately gave me a whole new view on what we need in order to produce food in an ecologically sound manner,” he said.

While much is being said about the small, local gardener and local food production, he witnessed firsthand what was happening on a broader scale in agriculture and horticulture. “It is still possible in large productions to produce sustainable crops. The work being done in large-scale farming enterprises is important. Large-scale farms are producing foods in a way that is good for the environment and good for people,” he said.