Give-It-Twice Continues Farm Legacy
By Lura Roti
Farming is all Alan Fenner ever wanted to do. In fact, his dad had to work to convince him to leave the family's Iroquois, South Dakota, farm to attend college.
As it turned out, his SDSU degree allowed him to pursue his passion for farming.
"Attending SDSU completely changed my life. I don't know that I would have been able to end up on the farm if I had not taught first," Alan said. "Funny how life takes twists and turns, and things fall into place."
Meeting Marlys Hauck is among "life's twists" that Alan references. They met at a Halloween dance hosted by Mathews Hall. "We always say it was fate," Marlys said. "It was one of the few weekends Alan didn't go home to farm and stayed on campus."
Unlike Alan, Marlys, who was a farm girl from Menno, only went home on rare occasions. As an only child, she valued the independence college provided her.
That Halloween evening, Marlys saw Alan standing by the door and asked him to dance.
"I have no idea why I asked him," she said. "I am not the type who would do that.I was shy, and normally, I would have been sitting against the wall."
Marlys was pursuing degrees in home economics education and science. As someone who loved science, she initially wanted to become a food researcher. "I found out the only place I could get a job in food research was in a big city. And I love visiting cities, but I didn't want to live there. So, I decided to get a degree in home economics and minor in science, because there is a lot of science in family and consumer sciences," she explained.
Marlys went on to share her love of science with hundreds of students. She taught family and consumer sciences, as well as middle school science classes, for nearly 40 years. In another twist of fate, Alan also ended up teaching.
After graduation, he began farming some leased farm ground, but the acres weren't enough to pay the bills, so he also worked a factory job. He loved farming, but the factory job was not a good fit. Then he heard a radio ad. "They were advertising on the radio that if you had an interest in being an ag teacher, you could teach high school agriculture classes and become an FFA Advisor with a limited certificate."
Alan returned to SDSU and began taking courses in spring of 1975. By spring of 1976, he was teaching agriculture education classes. By the time they married, they were both teaching. "It was nice to be able to bounce ideas off each other," Marlys said.
Alan taught until Marlys' dad, Ray, was ready to retire from farming. "Farming is all I have ever wanted to do. Before SDSU, it was all I knew. I enjoy the diversity of it. The science and mechanical parts of it - farming is the career path I was intended to take."
Taking over the Hauck family farm was a dream come true for both Alan and Marlys. "Alan's love of farming was just what I was looking for," she said. "I liked growing up on the farm."
The farmland Marlys' parents handed over to the couple in 1983 was purchased by her grandpa, Edmond Buechler, for her parents when they married. "They had an agreement with my grandpa that they would buy the farm from him over a period of time," Marlys explained.
Marlys retired from teaching in 2012. As Alan looks toward retirement, their only child, Carrie, and her husband, Zach, are not interested in taking over the family farm or serving as landlords. So, the couple looked to their alma mater for a solution.
The SDSU Foundation Office of Gift Planning matched the Fenners' estate goals with the couple's philanthropic priorities. It was important that their children and grandchildren receive an inheritance, but also that their charitable impact continue amongst multiple organizations.
The couple utilized the Give-It-Twice strategy, directing a portion of their estate, including farmland, to fund two revocable charitable trusts. Upon their passing, the two charitable trusts will work in tandem to provide an inheritance to their daughter and son- in-law, and to create two endowed professorships: the Fenner Family Endowed Professorship in Agriculture Education and the Fenner Family Endowed Professorship in Family and Consumer Sciences Education. The trust will also continue funding the Fenner Writing Improvement Endowment, which the couple actively supports today.
"Having both been educators and lifelong learners, education means a lot to us," Alan said. "Since we don't have the option of keeping this farm in the family, what better place than SDSU to entrust its legacy?"