Better yet, it's two love stories.
The first started in fall 1945, when first-year Gerald Rauenhorst was looking for a date for the upcoming St. Thomas homecoming dance. Gerry’s older brother Bob suggested he reach out to “that cute girl” at St. Catherine’s, Henrietta, who was from Bird Island, Minnesota, the neighboring town to Olivia where Rauenhorst grew up farming with his family.
“She said ‘yes,’ and I’m really glad she did,” said Mark Rauenhorst, one of their seven children.
Gerald and Henrietta were partners in every way during their 60-year marriage, including growing the Rauenhorst construction business into a successful company, The Opus Group. They lived out the convictions of their Catholic values through the raising of their family, ethical business leadership and the community-impacting philanthropy of their GHR Foundation.
“You would be hard pressed to find a family that has done so much for this community,” said Father Larry Snyder, St. Thomas vice president for mission, who worked extensively with the Rauenhorsts when he was with Catholic Charities.
And they were generous benefactors to Gerry’s beloved alma mater, St. Thomas, where he developed the understanding for leading “a fully integrated life in which success was rooted in faith, family and giving back to the community through both business and philanthropy,” daughter Amy Rauenhorst Goldman said.
Through the Rauenhorsts’ relationship with St. Thomas, the second love story played out over 70-plus years as they impacted the school in countless ways with a constant generation of ideas on how to move St. Thomas forward, such as the Aristotle Fund, Center for Family Business and endowed chairs, as well as the leadership and support for those ideas.
“I can’t think of anyone who St. Thomas would owe a greater debt of gratitude to than Gerry and Hanky Rauenhorst, with the possible exception of I.A. O’Shaughnessy,” said former St. Thomas President Father Dennis Dease, who counted Gerry as one of his closest friends.
Dease recounted his annual beach walks in Florida near the home of longtime board member Rauenhorst, who was “like a popcorn machine” of ideas about St. Thomas’ growth. The incorporation of so many of those ideas – from opening a business school in downtown Minneapolis, to bringing a law school back to St. Thomas, to evolving from a college to a university – speaks volumes to Rauenhorst’s leadership. He wanted other people to have the benefit of everything St. Thomas could offer, which for him as a first-generation college student was very influential.
“I love this place, this University of St. Thomas,” Rauenhorst said not long before he died in 2014, four years after Henrietta.
“He was so thankful for not only the skills that he learned, but that he learned in an environment of faith, of values,” Mark said.
“My dad would really point to St. Thomas as just transformational for him,” Goldman added.
$50 million gift funds GHR Fellows program
With that transformational experience in mind, GHR Foundation, now chaired by Goldman, a St. Thomas trustee and the foundation's CEO, has moved to the next stage in helping the university move forward yet again. The foundation and St. Thomas have developed GHR Fellows program, a highly competitive program for undergraduate students majoring in business, which will welcome its first cohort in fall 2019.
“I’m really excited that GHR Fellows program will animate the campus with students and alumni that embody Gerry’s spirit,” President Julie Sullivan said. “They will be selected based on their embracing of that spirit, wanting to envision new possibilities, wanting to advance the common good, to be people of integrity.”
The students will emulate that entrepreneurial and ethical spirit, and learn how to use them to be successful. Students will have a dynamic wraparound of programming alongside their St. Thomas education, including full-tuition scholarships for four years; a fully funded January Term study abroad experience; access to unique summer internships and C-suite community, business and university leaders; customized service learning and social entrepreneurship opportunities; and eventually, membership in a GHR Fellows alumni network of fellowship and support.
“The people who are given the opportunity to go through this program are high achievers with high potential, and this program will give them the skillset to advance that. … Students graduating from this program will be fast-tracked into leadership roles,” said Joe Reardon ’78, ’01 MBA, managing director at Versique Executive Search and Consulting, one of the top-ranked search firms and executive recruiters in Minnesota. “I had never heard of a program like this before. I’ve heard of programs with a heavier focus on internships, but that’s one small piece of what these students will be exposed to.”
A large part of the program’s development focused on infusing GHR Foundation’s four pillars – ethically minded, innovative, community engaged and globally aware – with the Fellows programming. As Sullivan pointed out, those pillars already aligned with the St. Thomas mission.
“That’s clearly a part of our educational mission here, to develop these skills and have people apply them to imagining these new possibilities,” she said.
With an emphasis on bringing professional experience into students’ education, GHR Fellows will help prepare students to be effective, ethical business leaders.
“They will be exposed to entrepreneurial ways of doing business as undergraduates, will be connected to business leaders within our community, and understand that they can be an ethical businessperson as well as be a successful businessperson,” Goldman said.
For U.S. Bancorp CEO Andy Cecere ’82, the Fellows program is exactly what the companies of the Twin Cities and beyond are seeking.
“It matches the needs of companies, which are great, together with the opportunities for students, and puts St. Thomas in the middle of it. GHR Fellows is doing the right thing,” he said.
With 15-person cohorts each year, a high level of personal attention will be geared toward each student’s growth and development as they benefit from mentoring relationships, individual leadership plans and coaching.
“These are all tactics employed by executives well into their career. Starting these practices early on and enabling students to see the benefits they provide is going to put them in position to accelerate that growth process,” Reardon said. “I coach executives on starting a lot of things included in the curriculum, and many executives don’t start until 20 years into their career or more.”
The Fellows program is coupled with St. Thomas’ long tradition of creating ethically minded leaders who make it their business to advance the common good. It is no surprise, then, to hear how such a strong partnership with GHR Foundation is once again helping St. Thomas move forward into the future, creating another chapter in these ongoing love stories.
St. Thomas Kicks Off $200 Million Scholarship Initiative
With its seminal $50 million commitment to cultivating ethical business excellence in St. Thomas students, GHR Foundation kicked off a drive to infuse $200 million into scholarships over the next eight years.
“Reducing student debt is a priority for St. Thomas,” President Julie Sullivan said.
In the 2016-17 academic year, 99 percent of St. Thomas first-year students received financial aid, yet too many students still have unmet financial needs. With $200 million scholarship support, St. Thomas expects to double the scholarship endowment, thereby providing a sustainable source of scholarship funds to help decrease the amount of students’ unmet financial need.