By Michelle Westlund '83, senior content specialist
How do you measure love? Maybe it's measured in cookies, thousands of them. Or in photos, tens of thousands of them. Or is love measured in ways that are harder to quantifylike prayers, and presence, and passion? However you measure love, Carl and Mary Schmuland personify it. Through a lifestyle of freely giving away the time, talents, and treasure God has blessed them with, they've impacted Bethel University in ways too numerous to count.
The Schmulands' generosity is all the more remarkable because it has transcended significant adversity. Carl came from a financially challenged family situation and was an avowed atheist in college. Mary contracted polio at 15 months old and spent years of her life in a state hospital enduring multiple surgeries. A practicing Catholic, she became an agnostic after a traumatic experience during college. After graduating with a biology degree, she worked in medical research at the University of Minnesota. She met Carl, an engineer who was an avid mountain climber and marathon runner, and they married in 1976. While Mary committed her life to Christ in 1984, Carl remained an atheist. But Mary was praying.
In 1986, her prayers were answered. Carl experienced what he calls a "Damascus Road conversion" and quickly exchanged his commitment to atheism for a newfound passion for Christ. Together, the couple found a teaching church that nurtured their faith and began a lifelong practice of serving and giving, flowing from the grace they had experienced for themselves. They see the trajectory of their lives as the plan of a loving Father, and cite their challenges as reasons for their growth. "The weak times are the deep times," says Mary. "Throughout our lives we can track the love of God."
The Schmulands are not Bethel alumni, and they frankly admit that Bethel was not even on their radar in their college years. So why have they chosen to invest so fully in the mission of Bethel University? They say their own experiences in higher education convinced them of the uniqueness and vulnerability of the college years, a time when students are exploring their faith and making it their own. Now they describe themselves as "Bethel wannabes," says Mary, "because we see Bethel as a place where students get not only a superior education, but faith enrichment." Carl emphasizes the significance of Bethel's preparation of Christ-centered graduates for the marketplace. "We both worked in the world, and the workplace is a huge mission field," he says. "We were looking to support a school that produces people who are highly employable with an integrated faith. Bethel is that placewith strong programs in nursing, education, the sciences, and business that are recognized by employers who seek out Bethel students to hire after graduation."
The couple's connection to Bethel began with a friend's invitation to tour the campus during Christmas 1998. It was strengthened when Carl began hiring Bethel interns at Medtronic, where he was employed as an electrical engineer for more than 30 years. The Schmulands were impressed with the university and its students, and felt led to start a scholarshipwith the Medtronic Foundation contributing matching fundsthat would help Bethel students fund their education. The first scholarship recipient was a football player who graduated in 2004, and that opened the door to a partnership with Bethel athletics that continues to this day.
That's where the cookies and photos come in. With Carl's background in outdoor sports and the couple's love of athletics, the two used their God-given talents to personally invest in Bethel athletesMary by baking cookies for teams to enjoy after games, and Carl by offering his considerable photography skills in shooting game-day photos. Mary estimates she's baked 40,000 cookies, and she says Carl has taken "probably half a million photos." Meanwhile, their scholarship continues to support athletics-minded studentsin spring 2022, the 36th and 37th recipients will be selected, all education majors with an intention to coach sports. "We see great hope herein players, in coaches, and in the administration that supports athletics," says Mary. "And we want to support that going forward," adds Carl. "Coaches represent a great opportunity to bring faith into the public schools through their role-modeling and mentorship of young people."
The Schmulands are passionate about helping students fund a Christian education, and they've planned wisely in order to invest in that. "Two-thirds of our annual income comes from our IRA," says Carl, "and our scholarships come from that money. An IRA rollover makes it simple we just work with our advisor to allocate money from our IRA and designate it to Bethel. With the current tax laws, we can give a lot away and receive no tax penalty. It's a significant incentive to give right now. I'd encourage people who have never given to consider how easy it is, and how much they can give without paying taxes under the current tax laws." In addition, he urges others to check into the giving policies at their places of employment, even in retirement. "Many people may not realize that the company they retired from might offer funds for education," he explains.
Beyond cookies and photos and scholarships, the Schmulands have supported Bethel for years through committed prayer, serving on the President's Prayer Council under two Bethel presidents. They've made arrangements to include Bethel in their estate plan. And they recently decided to expand their financial investment to brick and mortar by giving to the Called to More campaign. They've made gifts to fund improvements and equipment in the sciences, including a scanning electron microscope. "It's fun to fund specific needs," says Mary. "There are so many ways to take that IRA money and put it to work in scholarships, brick and mortar, and equipment."
And that, as much as anything, is the legacy of Carl and Mary Schmulandthe effusive joy that flows out of them through their giving. "We just want to love Christ and be about His work," says Mary. "We start with the power of prayer and see where God leadsin giving, in everything."
There are so many ways you can leave a legacy of love and equip a Bethel student to change the world. If you're interested in learning more about IRA rollovers or other creative giving options, contact Bethel University's advancement team at 651.638.6990 or visit bethel.edu/giving.