Harder gift will help build museum’s future through endowment

View of Kauffman Museum from the east, with prairie reconstruction in the foreground

At its June 17 meeting, the Kauffman Museum board of directors accepted the final portion of a seven-figure gift.

The $3.4 million gift comes from the estate of Donald C. Harder.

Harder, who died in 2021, was a lifetime rancher and grain farmer in the Whitewater area, as well as a longtime member of Kauffman Museum.

Board chair Donna Becker said, “On behalf of Kauffman Museum, I want to express deep gratitude for the generosity and vision of Mr. Don Harder for this future-altering gift to the museum.

“The check presented [June 17] is a tangible expression of Mr. Harder’s lifelong care and stewardship of his assets. We are both honored and humbled to be entrusted with his bequest.”

Transfer of the gift has been in process since Harder died. An ad hoc committee convened in fall 2023 to gather ideas and suggestions about how best to use or invest the anticipated funds.

With input from museum staff, board and community members, the committee determined that the majority of the gift should be used for long-term financial sustainability through the endowment.

A smaller portion will be reserved for personnel expenses anticipated in the near future, and for non-budgeted smaller equipment or facility improvements.

“I appreciate the work of the ad hoc committee, their thoughtful discussions and, in the end, their wise counsel on the use of Don’s gift,” said Kauffman Museum Director Andi Schmidt Andres. 

“We knew Don as a generous donor, curious museum member and a savvy businessman.

“We are especially pleased that Don thought highly enough of Kauffman Museum and its mission, values and careful use of donor funds to name the museum as the recipient of his residual estate.”

Andres added, “In his lifetime, Don was not interested in recognition for his gifts but now we can publicly acknowledge his generosity.

“We are sincerely grateful to Don Harder for his foresight and significant gift. Because of his support, we know we can continue exploring Mennonite stories for years to come,” she concluded. Kauffman Museum, located on the Bethel College campus, is open Tues.-Fri. 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 1:30-4:30 p.m., closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission to the current special exhibit, “A Day with the Birds: Community Science & the Audubon Christmas Bird Count,” and permanent exhibits – “Of Land and People,” “Mirror of the Martyrs” and “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture” – is $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 6-16, and free to Kauffman Museum members and children under 6. The museum store is open during regular museum hours. See kauffmanmuseum.org or the museum Facebook page for more information.