Announcing the Largest Gift in WTS History

With deep gratitude for bold generosity and faithful stewardship, Wartburg Seminary announces the donation of Illinois farmland from the Rev. Dr. Rick Rouse of Mukilteo, WA, and his sisters, Susan Brophy of Santa Ynez, CA and Robin Sharpe of Bend, OR. Rev. Rouse is a 1973 graduate of Wartburg Seminary and a former member of the WTS Board of Directors.

“We wanted to make a legacy gift of the farm that would benefit the educational ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,” Rouse suggested.  “It was a way to give back to a church that was an important part of our faith journey and has formed me as spiritual leader.”

The Svendsen Family Farm was originally purchased around 1900 by Norwegian Lutheran immigrants Cornelius Tveidt Svendsen and his wife Carolina Fjermestad Svendsen, great-grandparents of the donors. An article about it appeared in the recent publication Illinois Historic Farms: Honoring Our Enduring Heritage of Family-Owned Farms published by Acclaim Press. Rouse and his sisters inherited this farm from their grandfather, Silas Truman Svendsen. Like many farms throughout the Midwest, this 200-acre grain farm helped the many generations of this immigrant family thrive and represents profound stewardship of God’s creation.

Through the assistance of the ELCA Foundation, the gift and sale of this farm resulted in the formation of a Charitable Unitrust. Two-thirds of the trust value will be directed to Wartburg Theological Seminary and one-third to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. The family will continue to receive income on the trust until its expiration, when WTS will receive a cash gift estimated at $1.5 million.

This gift represents the largest single gift in the history of Wartburg Seminary and will impact the future of the seminary through support for diversity and student scholarships as well as general operations. Diversity funding will support programming and staffing that results in multicultural and language diversity within the seminary and its graduates. Student scholarship funds will assist students who face barriers due to the cost of a seminary education. This gift will also provide general operational support for the seminary to assure the integrity and quality of the Wartburg education remains high.

“Wartburg receives the largest share of this gift in order to continue its critical ministry of preparing valued leaders for our church.  We want to ensure that Wartburg will be able to provide future pastors who can share the Gospel message with clarity and compassion in a confused and hurting world.” -Rev. Dr. Rick Rouse

Dr. Stephen Cornils, WTS Chair of the Board of Directors said about receiving this gift, “As a fellow Wartburg Seminary graduate, I have admired Pastor Rick Rouse throughout his distinguished career as a valued leader in the Lord’s Church. Rick and his family have been faithful supporters of the mission of Wartburg Seminary in many ways, for many years. This generous and unprecedented gift is another expression of their faithful witness and deep partnership in the formation of leaders for the church. We receive this gift with deep gratitude, recognizing its impact for generations to come.”

Rouse has served congregations in Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington and currently serves on the Advisory Board of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS). Rouse served on the Grand Canyon Synod staff as founder and director of the synod’s Missional Leadership Academy. Rouse was also a member of the President’s Cabinet at Pacific Lutheran University, serving as Executive Director for Church Relations and Continuing Theological Education for over ten years (1994-2005). He is the author of numerous books and publications.

Rouse is a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University and received his Doctor of Ministry degree from PLTS in 1986. He is married to Beth Lewis, recently retired President and CEO of 1517 Media. They have three children and five grandchildren. Their son Rev. Ryan Rouse is a 2006 graduate of Wartburg Seminary serving as a pastor in Wisconsin.

Donations like the Svendsen Family Farm can be very impactful to donors, their family, and the seminary. If you are curious to learn more about donating real estate, our Development Team would be happy explore possibilities with you.