The Schneller sisters’ generosity will leave a lasting legacy at North Central College. Their philanthropy, announced following the death of Mary Schneller ’33 Rosar in January, when combined with earlier contributions, will provide direct benefits to students for generations to come and create a total endowment of nearly $10 million, among the largest in North Central College’s nearly 150-year history.
The three Schneller sisters—Cecelia Schneller ’27 Mueller, Adlynn Schneller Balfanz and Mary Schneller ’33 Rosar—all lived to be 97 years old in their home town of Sauk City, Wisconsin. Cecelia, the oldest, died in 2003. Adlynn, the middle sister, died in 2006. Mary, the youngest, died January 21, 2009.
The Schneller sisters’ legacy will be felt in several areas, all carefully spelled out by the sisters before their deaths. The first is through a newly endowed faculty chair, the College’s 10th, the Schneller Sisters Professorship of Leadership, Ethics and Values, honoring a program about which the sisters felt “a particular passion,” according to President Harold Wilde, who first met the sisters shortly after becoming president in 1991. “They were remarkable women. I feel privileged to have gotten to know them over the past 18 years.”
Thomas D. Cavenagh, JD (right), was named the first holder of the new Schneller Sisters Professorship. He is North Central’s director of leadership, ethics and values; professor of business law and conflict resolution; and coordinator of the master of leadership studies program.
“It is fitting that Tom is the first to receive this endowed chair. He’s an outstanding teacher with passion and a deep commitment to the program,” says Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty R. Devadoss Pandian.
Cavenagh, an attorney and member of North Central’s faculty since 1990, says he considers his teaching role an opportunity to positively affect the practice of law by training students in negotiation, mediation and other nonadversarial ways of resolving conflict.
Another portion of the Schneller gift will be used to maintain the Townhomes Residence Hall, which opened in 2000 at 147 S. Loomis St.
The student housing complex will be renamed Schneller Residence Hall in their honor.
A component of their endowment will support the Schneller Sisters Scholarship for needy students at North Central, with preference given to students from Wisconsin. The gift will also provide direct endowment support for the College’s departments of economics and religion.
The sisters’ extraordinary gifts belie their humble roots. They were born to George and Clara Schneller in the early 1900s and were raised on the family farm near Sauk City, where the Wisconsin River carves a beautiful landscape through gently rolling hills of central Wisconsin. Their maternal grandfather, August Hasheider, was a freshman when North-Western College, later named North Central College, opened its doors in Naperville in 1870.
Mary pursued many interests over her 97 years, but education was always a high priority in her life. She received her bachelor’s degree in education from North Central in 1933.
She went on to earn a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and taught in Wisconsin elementary and high schools for 38 years until her retirement in 1971. She believed strongly in education and in supporting educational institutions.
“It probably was something of a surprise that Mary received a college education in that era,” says Bruce Nortell, North Central’s director of planned giving, who got to know the sisters during visits over the past 20 years. “If you came from a farming community and you had a successful farm, you could earn a good living doing that.”
Along with her husband, Lt. Colonel Earl Rosar ’31, Mary in 1989 funded the bells for Old Main tower. The couple had met at North Central as students but went their separate ways until 1982, when they married and moved to Austin, TX. They returned to Wisconsin in 1993.
Cecelia, or “Ceil,” was a homemaker who attended North Central in the 1920s. Adlynn, or “Addy,” was also a homemaker and during World War II worked at the Badger Ordnance Plant near the family farm. All three sisters outlived their husbands, and none had any children. “They were three unassuming people who were able to do great things for North Central College,” Nortell says.
“The sisters through their philanthropy and their love of North Central College are a great example for alumni to follow,” says Rick Spencer, vice president for institutional advancement. “The impact they will have on students here forever is a great inspiration to everyone on campus and for other alumni who care about the College.
North Central NOW Spring 2009