The Origin Story – Showing the Way…
The Union R-XI Foundation was incorporated in the state of Missouri on August 29, 1986, after about a year of planning and organization by the members of the Union R-XI school board and a few other interested Union citizens, especially attorney Mark Vincent and Leroy Strubberg, an accountant. Vincent and Strubberg were responsible for the initial steps of forming the fledgling organization and providing it with 501(c)(3) status with the IRS as a non-profit charitable institution. Their vision and subsequent actions resulted in the earliest 501(c)3 tax-exempt public school foundation of its kind in the state in June of 1987. In short, by forming the Foundation over 30 years ago, Vincent and Strubberg blazed a trail through the wilderness of public school charities that has resulted in the ability of hundreds (even thousands nationwide) of similar groups to exist today.
The first few years of the Foundation’s existence were devoted mainly to fundraising efforts, the funds from which were primarily used to provide R-XI teachers with grants to enhance their classroom budgets. This teacher grant program has continued throughout the Foundation’s existence and remains, with the scholarship program, a perennial flagship of the group’s mission. During this period, the Foundation was under the energetic and capable guidance of Sam Stausing, the group’s first Chairman until 1994, and Ray Arand, who served as Treasurer for the first 22 years of the Foundation’s lifetime.
A mission begun early in the life of the Foundation was that of providing scholarships to graduating Union High School students. The seed money for these awards was donated by Dorothy Reed in the name of her late husband, William Leroy Reed. Mrs. Reed’s vision became a reality when, on May 30, 1990, Tim Erni received the first William Leroy Reed Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $1000.
Scholarships have taken the form of one-time awards, memorials and tributes, and endowed funds. As one example, for the past ten years a substantial endowment from Union alum and banking/investment wizard, Byron D. Trott, has helped three to five graduating scholar-athletes with college expenses each fall.
Trott actually began giving annual scholarships in 1990, when Tim Erni also received a scholar-athlete award from Trott in addition to his Leroy Reed Scholarship. His most recent contribution to youth seeking postsecondary training has been the new offshoot of his BDT Company and Trott Family Foundation known as rootEd, a nonprofit whose aim is to level the college-readiness and financial aid playing field for graduates of rural, small-town American high schools. Union serves as one of his pilot programs.
As another, more recent example, UHS alumnus and celebrated Missouri high school band director, Kurt Bauche, awards one or two scholarships a year to students who plan on a musical career. Byron, Kurt, and dozens of others in the Union community and beyond donate annually in honor of family members and friends. Since the first Reed scholarship was presented and because the people of Union are so committed to their young people attaining the highest educational levels possible, the Foundation has served as the administrator for over $500,000 awarded to hundreds of young recipients!
Focusing the Mission
As the 1980s drew to a close, the Foundation was suddenly thrust into a role that would help shape and define its mission and future relationship with the Union R-XI School District. Due to ever-increasing enrollment numbers, the district was forced to expand its facilities with the construction of a new high school. Some unforeseen excavation costs meant that plans to build a $1 million stadium adjacent to the new building would be put on hold indefinitely. Consequently, football games and track events continued to be held at the decades-old stadium on the old high school campus which had become the middle school. The value of the Foundation immediately became evident.
The group helped manage a donation of funds from Foundation board member and longtime Union attorney, E. A. Stierberger (for whom the stadium is named), and played a huge role in the design and construction of the facility. When it was evident that the budget would only allow a football field and bleachers to be built, members of the Foundation stepped up again and began a grassroots effort to raise the $135,000 necessary to build a state-of-the-art all-weather-surface track. Hundreds of Union residents and alumni were contacted for donations to the track project. Today, a beautiful plaque hangs on the outer wall of the stadium concession stand that commemorates the efforts of Foundation members and the contributions of the many donors. The project was led mainly by Project Managers John L. Devos and Bob Price and Fundraising Manager Ray Arand.
Leadership is the Key!
This early momentum provided by Foundation activities has been maintained over the years by keeping a constant flow of strong new members on the board of directors. Outstanding leadership has also been a hallmark of the board. Sam Stausing was followed by James Borgmann in 1995 and then Jim Strubberg as Chairman through the rest of the 1990s and early 2000s; the gavel transferred to the capable hands of Mike Livengood in 2004. Nancy Schroeder has chaired the Foundation since 2009 and has guided the organization through an era of impressive and dramatic growth.
Ray Arand was the Foundation Treasurer until 2009 when he turned the position over to Dale Schmuke, who is the current Treasurer. In the early years of the Foundation, Union R-XI Schools Assistant Superintendent Bob Price acted as an assistant treasurer to Mr. Arand.
Sid Richman served as Vice Chair until 1990. Then Bill Walker (1991-1995), James Borgmann (1996-1997), Mike Livengood (1998-2003), Dale Schmuke (2004-2008), and Don Schroeder (2009-present) held the “first mate” spot.
After Luella Hoemeyer and Barbara Rogers filled the Secretary role (with help from Mark Vincent) for the first five years of the group’s history, John L. Devos served as Executive Secretary from 1991 until 2002 when Dennis Sammet and Rhonda Witte took the reins; Marcie Struttmann served as Secretary until recently, when Julie Duvall took over.
This blend of young, enthusiastic leadership coupled with the stability of more experienced members in key roles is one reason the organization has always been so successful. Fundraising efforts have ranged from door-to-door campaigns to automobile donation drives, and the goals have always been met. For much of the 1990s and 2000s, an annual dinner-dance was held to celebrate the past year’s accomplishments and to thank and honor those who contributed. Foundation money and expertise have been used to furnish library books, artwork by local artists, and technology equipment of every sort to be used by children throughout the district. Like the stadium and track projects at the high school, the Foundation was once again drafted to help raise funds for lighting and sound equipment for the new theater when the high school was expanded in the early 2000s. The Foundation has even acted as an agent for the district in procuring land that is being used in serving the ever-expanding “east Union” population along the Highway 50 corridor toward Interstate 44 with a new elementary school building that is currently under construction.
The Foundation has hosted many of these types of “special programs” through the years. One of the most recent such events was the Centennial Celebration of the building of the first high school in Union. The building still stands at West End and Delmar and is now used as the district’s Student Services Resource Center. It was the site of the May 21, 2017, centennial get together. In addition to tours of the building as it is currently configured, guests were treated to informational programs detailing the school’s various roles over the years as well as early yearbook editions and other memorabilia. Please check out this Missourian article highlighting the celebration.
As an early innovator in public school philanthropy in Missouri, leaders of the Union R-XI Foundation have also been instrumental in helping other districts across the state start and grow their own public school support charities. In fact, many current district foundations can trace their roots to efforts in the late 1990s and early 2000s by the Missouri School Boards Association to feature the R-XI Foundation and the few others like it as role models for new start-ups around the state.
What the Future Holds…
The Union R-XI Foundation has been serving the families of the Union public schools for nearly a third of a century. Members of the Foundation are proud that they have impacted the children of the Union schools in many and varied ways. But they are also mindful that there is always more work to be done. And they cannot do it alone. The work of the Foundation and the future of the Foundation depends on everyone doing his or her share. Become a part of that brilliant history and that bright future. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed so you can find your place in joining us to serve the children and young adults of Union!