There’s a touch of the Dassel family legacy all around Trinity Lutheran Seminary and Capital University.
From the former Dassel family home, now the residence of Trinity Dean Kathryn Kleinhans, to a tree planted in honor of former Capital University Treasurer Virgil Dassel and the scholarship in his name, there is evidence of the family’s love and allegiance to Trinity and Capital.
Just as important as those more high-profile representations are the contributions that are not quite as noticeable. When Rosemary Dassel passed away in 2019, she made sure to leave behind an unrestricted gift to Trinity to be used where the need is the greatest.
And that may be the Dassel family’s greatest legacy. Jane Stolzenburg is the former director of development for the seminary. It was her job to encourage donations to Trinity. It the midst of that role, she became a friend to Rosemary. Rosemary had such a fondness for Stolzenburg that she introduced her to her future husband. It was Floyd Stolzenburg who would be the officiating pastor at Rosemary’s funeral.
“Faith is all woven through that relationship,” Dr. Kleinhans says. “Rosemary and Jane recognized each other as kindred souls.”
Rosemary’s ties to Trinity and Capital, like the rest of her family, date back to 1936 when her father Virgil became an economics professor at Capital. The family moved to Bexley, ultimately settling in a tudor-style house on Sheridan Avenue. Virgil would eventually become administrative assistant to the president in charge of financial operations after serving as head of the Department of Business at Capital. Both Rosemary and her sister Ruth Marie, or Ruthie as she was known, were graduates of Capital and Rosemary would follow in her father’s footsteps teaching at her alma mater.
Stolzenburg, who retired in 2016, says when she first met Rosemary, “We kind of hit it off.” The two enjoyed many long talks. When Rosemary wanted to set up a gift annuity for the seminary, Stolzenburg guided her through the process. When Rosemary fell and broke her hip, she called Stolzenburg, who would become her caregiver.
Through it all, Rosemary wanted to be sure to honor not just her father, but also her mother Ruth and her beloved sister Ruthie, all who preceded Rosemary in death. “Part of the gift I worked on for the seminary was from Ruthie,” Stolzenburg says. “Both had identical estate plans.”
Ruthie had been a chemist who worked for the Franklin County Department of Health. “The gift that was received and really important to Rosemary and Ruthie – it was a family gift because without the family, they wouldn’t be able to do what they did,” Stolzenburg says. “They were very, very frugal – the entire family. Ruthie and Rosemary, in particular, were very frugal. They just didn’t need a lot. Their father taught them. That’s what built their portfolio.”
Because they had funded a scholarship at Capital, the Dassel daughters also decided to fund one for the seminary. While they talked, Stolzenburg introduced the idea of the unrestricted endowment, which would benefit students in other ways such as building maintenance, salaries and many not-quite-as obvious ways of running an institute of higher learning.
“If you really believe in the mission of the seminary, you believe in the ability to use funds in an unrestricted manner,” Stolzenburg says.
And, it’s those kinds of donations that can be vital, especially during unanticipated events like a worldwide pandemic.
“For any organization, it is of utmost importance to make sure there are unrestricted dollars,” Stolzenburg says. “Things come up all the time for an organization that you just don’t anticipate. I said to her, ‘This can be a very transformative gift.’ She totally understood that. That’s why it was important for her to do that.”
Dean Kleinhans says there are two parts to financial legacies: student support and broader institutional support. “Many don’t always see as Rosemary did that you have to provide a level of institutional support that allows the students to thrive,” she says.
Former Trinity President Mark Ramseth recalls Rosemary “had a very unique vision about what she would like to happen. Rather than restricting it to a particular aspect of support, she was more definite about wanting to have a significant meaning to her gift. She had great pride in her father’s service to Capital.”
Although Dr. Kleinhans, who arrived on campus in 2018, never got the chance to meet Rosemary in person because of her declining health, she sent her several notes and has another close relationship with her. Dr. Kleinhans says she loves the history of the Dassel family on campus, which she experiences on an almost daily basis. Then words “Dassel House” remain over the front door of the home where the dean now lives. “I feel that I have a sense of connection with her,” she says of Rosemary. “Her presence is still known.”
Stolzenburg describes her friend Rosemary as “just a wonderful person – very giving, savvy, a down-to-earth person, highly educated.”
Rosemary was particularly fond of her travels in the United States and Europe. She also enjoyed her years teaching in Bexley and Columbus schools prior to teaching at Capital and The Ohio State University. Rosemary also served as an administrator for Columbus City Schools and taught in San Diego and Germany. Stolzenburg recalls taped notes on the wall of Rosemary’s apartment that were sent by her former students who wrote to thank her.
“She just loved children and reading was very close to her heart,” Stolzenburg says. “She said, ‘When you know how to read, it opens your eyes to the world.’”
Stolzenburg says her own role as development director was very rewarding. “You get to know people and help them do good,” she says. “The joy of giving money is you get joy back from it because you get to see how it helps. Rosemary really cared about people, especially people in need. She came from a meager life. She just felt pulled to help people. I really felt humbled to be part of her journey.”
Ramseth says he often would drop by to see Rosemary when she still lived in the house on Sheridan Avenue. “She conveyed a high degree of joy,” he says. “With that joy came a good bit of humor, which was some of what compelled me to visit her as often as I did.”
Dean Kleinhans says it’s not unusual for such deep relationships to develop between staff members and donors, especially when it is faith-based. “They share something deeper,” she says. “They want to give it someplace they know it’s going to make a difference. There’s a shared network where they build a sense of extended family.”
She says the investments in the institution and the stories like Rosemary’s that share the impact Trinity has on a person’s life are “very powerful.”
“You feel really good that people trust you to do the work that God has called you to do.”