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Paul ’65 and Donna Bierhaus ’66 Take Stock of Bethel’s Impact on Their Lives

The Bierhauses donate stock as one way of giving back to the university that’s meant so much to them—and also to lessen their year-end tax burden.

By Monique Kleinhuizen ’08, GS'16 new media strategist

October 16, 2018 | 11:45 a.m.

Paul Bierhaus '65

Paul Bierhaus '65 and his wife, Donna '66, remember their time at Bethel fondly.

Paul Bierhaus ’65 never seems to run out of stories. He shares about growing up on the south side of Chicago and driving a mail truck to fund his time in college. He talks about meeting his wife, Donna ’65, the family they’ve built together, their travels abroad, and what his many different job experiences have taught him.

But there’s a certain twinkle Bierhaus gets in his eye when he remembers his Bethel years. Living in Edgren Hall on the old Snelling Avenue campus, he and his friends played their share of pranks. Like any college student—in any decade—they stayed up too late and ate too much mac and cheese from a box. But somewhere during those fast-paced and fun years, Bierhaus’ life was changed profoundly by the students, faculty, and staff who became his family while his own was hundreds of miles away. They were committed to pursuing excellence in their work, understanding Scripture, and encouraging and challenging one another in their faith journey.  

"The freedom Bethel professors gave me to express and explore where I was at in my faith was very important. Sometimes after attending a Christian school, you get into the real world and you’re not ready for it. But a Bethel experience doesn’t teach you what to think...it teaches you how to think.”

— Paul Bierhaus ’65, donor and member of the National Alumni Board

Bierhaus remembers “Dr. Bob,” professor W. Robert Smith, as having a particularly meaningful impact on him. He recalls one night, in the middle of a personal crisis, stopping by Smith’s office. It was then that he noticed the worn-out spots on Smith’s carpet—from years of faithful prayer, on his knees, for his students and colleagues. The image was forever cemented in Bierhaus’s mind, symbolic of the kind of place that Bethel was and the kind of people he met there.

“I took every class that man taught—if Jesus came back in the form of a human, he would be Dr. Bob,” said Bierhaus. “The freedom Bethel professors gave me to express and explore where I was at in my faith was very important. Sometimes after attending a Christian school, you get into the real world and you’re not ready for it. But a Bethel experience doesn’t teach you what to think...it teaches you how to think.”

Bierhaus credits Bethel and its leaders—its “Dr. Bobs,” past and present—for giving him the critical thinking skills and curiosity to succeed in all the ways he has over the years.

Paul ’65 and Donna Bierhaus ‘66

Donna ‘66 and Paul ’65 Bierhaus (Photo courtesy of the Bierhauses)

The Bierhauses want to help give that same experience to current and future Royals, like their own granddaughter, Olivia Lavin ’20. So they support the Bethel Fund. (In part, Bierhaus adds, to secure their annual tickets to theFestival of Christmas and traditional Swedish Smörgåsbord. “I so enjoy those two events!” he says.)

They also regularly donate shares of appreciated stock, some of which have sat in their portfolio for decades, appreciating considerably. Selling them outright would trigger an immediate capital gains tax, something they’d rather avoid. But by giving appreciated stock to an organization they believe in—like Bethel—they get a tax write-off while giving Bethel the full current value of the shares. Bierhaus often keeps an eye on the stock market, donating shares when they’re at peak value.

“I’m not giving dollar-for-dollar. Some of these stocks have doubled in value! I’m giving Bethel a full two times my initial investment, and avoiding tax on my end,” Paul says. “Bethel, and the tremendous people I met there, have steered and guided me my entire life. I would not be where I am today without Bethel, so how can I not give back? And when it comes to year-end stock donations, I’d rather give my money to Bethel than the government. Pure and simple!”

Explore Planned Giving at Bethel.

To find out more about donating stock—or other planned giving options that can provide for you and your family while also supporting Bethel students—contact the Office of Development.

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