NORTH NEWTON, KAN. - Edna Ramseyer Kaufman was a million dollar giver. But she wasn’t alone in generating the money she chose to leave to Bethel College. She continued the Kaufman legacy of giving that began in 1913 when her husband, Edmund G. (E.G.) Kaufman, gave his first dollars to Bethel. The final gift from the Kaufman legacy came to the college earlier this year from Edna’s estate for the amount of $307,000, pushing the Kaufman giving legacy over $1.28 million. Edna Kaufman died last year at the age of 91.
Edna Kaufman’s last gift will go toward the renovation and future maintenance of Kaufman House at 2515 College Avenue on the North Newton campus. According to Edna’s wishes, the renovated Kaufman House will become the new home for the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution at Bethel College.
"The legacy of Edna Kaufman and the entire E.G. Kaufman family has shaped and will continue to shape Bethel College for years to come," Fred Goering, the college’s director of development, says. "The Kaufmans have modeled generosity and deep love for Bethel College, and we are most grateful."
Kaufman House was built in the early 1930s, near the start of E.G.’s 20-year Bethel College presidency. The house was the home of E.G., his wife Hazel (Dester), and their children, Gordon and Karolyn. After Hazel’s death in 1948, E.G. renovated the upper levels for student housing. In 1964 he deeded the house to Bethel College; it served as apartment living for older students until last summer.
The Kaufman legacy of giving to Bethel College spans 90 years, beginning when 22-year-old E.G., a college sophomore at the time, gave $5 toward the gymnasium and $100 toward the college’s endowment fund. During Hazel’s lifetime the Kaufmans regularly contributed at least 10 percent of the couple’s gross income to benevolent causes; many of those gifts went to Bethel College. At Hazel’s death a scholarship fund was established for the college.
The legacy of giving continued after E.G. married Anna M. (Miller) Baumgartner in 1950. She was executive director of the college’s alumni association and an English instructor in the academy. With his siblings, E.G. endowed the Menno Simons Lectureship series. Anna contributed to various funds, and together E.G. and Anna gave 80 acres of land. Later her house on Minnesota Ave. in North Newton was also deeded to Bethel.
When Anna died in 1961, besides memorial gifts going to a scholarship fund in her honor, annuities and cash gifts established the Edmund G. Kaufman Chair in Christian Religion.
In 1965 E.G. married Edna Ramseyer, who had taught home economics and served as dean of women at Bluffton (Ohio) College for 30 years.
"At the height of her professional career at Bluffton, Grandma Edna chose to marry Grandpa and start all over," said Kirsten Zerger of McPherson. Zerger, Karolyn’s daughter, was executor of Edna’s will.
Besides teaching at Bethel College for eight years, Edna created a different kind of legacy, according to Zerger. "At Bethel Grandma Edna created the legacy of building community and fellowship and revitalizing the women’s association. With giving, it was the same way."
Together and separately, Edna and E.G. continued giving, based upon a coordinated estate plan which would provide for each of them during their lives and would then be shared with Bethel College upon their passing.
They bought gift annuities with the principal amount-and in some cases, even the interest-going to Bethel College. They gave their house on 25th Street in North Newton to Bethel College through a charitable remainder unitrust.
An astute investor, E.G. encouraged others to "adopt Bethel as a child," admitting that he always tried to do himself what he asked others to do.
"After Grandpa died in 1980, Grandma Edna made some very wise choices," Zerger said. "One of those was to purchase supplemental nursing home insurance. She was a very sharp business person; she knew the importance of perseverance."
Edna, who lived at Schowalter Villa in Hesston, continued the pattern of frugality, investing and stewardship that through the years had marked the Kaufmans’ generosity.
"She saved the wrappers from the butter sticks and used them to grease cookie sheets. She was always reusing containers. She didn’t have fancy cookware. I don’t remember her ever buying a new dress," Zerger says.
While Edna had brought her own money to the marriage and could have chosen to support any number of benevolent organizations, she valued Mennonite higher education. Like her late husband, she recognized Bethel’s needs.
Besides the Kaufman House renovation project, Edna directed moneys toward an endowed chair as well an endowed scholarship for human ecology at Bethel College. Throughout her lifetime as well as at her death, Edna also gave substantial gifts to her alma maters, Bluffton College and Ohio State University, according to Zerger.
"Neither Grandma Edna nor Grandpa ever considered leaving the bulk of their estate to family," Zerger said. "Giving to the Mennonite educational institutions meant that their legacy would go on long past any family or family member. This is work that will last forever."