Augustana welcomes largest impact scholarship donation yet

Augustana welcomes largest impact scholarship donation yet
Information taken from Graph by Abbey Stegenga.

Augustana received a gift of $13.8 million from a philanthropic couple this fall to help support students who are active and engaged members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregations in the Midwest.

Rosemarie and Dean Buntrock’s donation will fund the Buntrock Scholars Program. Beginning in fall 2024, the scholarship will provide support to a minimum of 30 students and hopes to benefit as many as 120 students by fall 2028. Recipients can receive up to $12,000 from the scholarship, which can be renewed annually. 

Tresse Evenson, assistant vice president of financial aid, said the Augustana Advancement team reported the Buntrocks’ donation as being the largest gift for impact scholarships that Augustana has received.

“Providing young people in the church with access to an education rooted in faith and strong values is an investment in their future, as well as that of their families, congregations and all communities in which they live and serve,” Dean Buntrock said.

Dean Buntrock is the founder and former CEO of Waste Management Inc. He grew up in Columbia, South Dakota. 

"We welcome this partnership with Augustana University, parents and ELCA Synods, bishops and pastors as we work together to support and develop these young leaders," Dean Buntrock said.

The Buntrock Scholarship is competitive and will require a personal statement from interested students on their present and future engagement in the church, as well as a letter of recommendation from their pastors or other elected leaders.

In addition, the students who receive the Buntrock Scholarship will also be eligible to receive academic and talent scholarships. The priority deadline for the fall 2024 scholarship is Dec. 1, 2023. 

“Augustana is an ELCA institution, and this gift shows the close connection ELCA entities hold with each other. We are an interconnected web of partners that generously celebrate the joy of being ELCA Lutherans together,” Rev. Constanze Hagmaier, bishop of the South Dakota Synod, said. 

Hagmaier said she is grateful for the Buntrock family’s generosity.

“The gift is a symbol of how we view the world and everything in it. Because of God's goodness he extends to us in every moment, we are freed to generously expand the gifts we have been given to the world,” Hagmaier said. “The Buntrocks’ gift is a response to God's boundless love for all of God's creation and a sign of how the ELCA is interwoven as a community.”

Hagmaier said local congregations often feel that they compete with extracurricular school activities, which typically accompany scholarship opportunities. However, she said the Buntrock Scholarship acknowledges that local congregations are the foundation to building a young person's faith and understanding of the world around them.

Rev. Ann Rosendale, campus pastor, said she feels the Buntrock Scholars Program will play a role in strengthening Augustana’s faith and religious identity.

“What I would say is most inspiring about this gift to me is the way that it strengthens the relationship between Augustana University and the church,” Rosendale said. “Augustana has always been a university of the church, and we have students coming in, not only because they are Lutheran, but because these are students who are committed to the faith and active in their faith.”

Rosendale also said the scholarship will encourage students to think of faith as an important part of their education.

Rev. Elizabeth Pagnotta, senior pastor at Split Rock Lutheran Church, said she is excited about the opportunities the Buntrock Scholarship program will create.

“Augustana is a fantastic university with so many opportunities for learning and for growing in faith. This scholarship creates another opportunity for me to encourage students in my congregation to explore an education at Augie,” Pagnotta said.