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$1.8 million Stutzman estate gift presented to Bluffton University

Gift announced at State of the University Forum

Jane Wood, president of Bluffton University, and Robin Bowlus, vice president of advancement and enrollment management, recently accepted a $1.4 million gift from the estate of John and Erma Stutzman, which was presented by representatives from Everence Financial.

John Stutzman was born in Bloomington, Ill., and from a young age, fell in love with science. A 1950 Bluffton graduate, he later became a physician and practiced as a urologist. John was 91 years old when he passed away in Aug. 2019. His wife, Erma (Hunsberger) Stutzman, was born in Baden, Ontario, Canada, and attended Rockaway Mennonite School in Kitchener and Teacher’s College in Stratford. The couple met when Erma was serving as a Mennonite Central Committee volunteer teacher. They married in 1972 and created a life in Bloomington. Erma, who passed away in June 2021 at the age of 87, also formed a strong connection to John’s alma mater.

In a eulogy John wrote in advance of his passing, he shared: “The entire educational experience at Bluffton College (University), among teachers and friends, helped me to develop a philosophy of life based upon the biblical teachings of Christ.

The concepts of peace, justice, reconciliation, and love for one’s fellow beings came from these experiences. There I also learned of God’s power in the scientific world which helped me as a physician.”

The Stutzmans did not have children but were cherished by their extended family including Rick and Ruth-Ann Shantz, nephew and niece of the couple, who joined the gift presentation via teleconference. The Shantzes noted how often John showed his support for Bluffton by regularly wearing Bluffton hats and shirts. John’s mother, father, two uncles and one aunt also graduated from Bluffton as did several nieces and nephews including Ruth-Ann, a 2014 graduate who also earned her MBA from Bluffton in 2016.

“I’m so grateful that Bluffton had an impact on John’s life and it’s what we still strive for today. He was an example of the type of students we are trying to graduate,” said Dr. Wood. “What a role model for our students! We are so honored by this gift from John and Erma.”

In a letter to the university, the Shantzes shared: “John and Erma wanted their generosity to extend beyond their lifetime and the financial gift from their estate will have the potential to create this type of legacy… We know that Bluffton University will use this financial gift to further Bluffton’s mission.”

An additional $400,000 from the estate is expected to come to Bluffton before the end of the 2023-24 fiscal year, for a total of $1.8 million in unrestricted funds to the university.

“The two greatest Commandments are to love God and to love people,” said Greg Liestman, a CPA for Everence who worked with the Stutzman’s to plan their estate. “It’s neat to see how during their lifetime they fulfilled that, but also they’re leaving a legacy to continue that love for God and love for people in their gift to Bluffton.”

Liestman was joined by Lyle Miller, a financial consultant from Everence’s Goshen, Ind., Office, and Ed Basinger, a financial consultant from the Everence’s Pandora, Ohio, Office during the check presentation.

John and Erma were longtime donors to Bluffton and supported several Bluffton building campaigns including the construction of Centennial Hall (2000), Sommer Center (2012) and Knowlton Science Center (2023) as well as the Bluffton Fund. Stutzman Lecture Hall in Bluffton’s Centennial Hall is named for the extended Stutzman family.