Carillon bells will keep ringing for years to come at Columbia College thanks to an anonymous gift celebrating former President Dr. Donald Ruthenberg.
An electronic carillon bell system was gifted in honor of Ruthenberg by an anonymous friend of the college to help mark the movement of time while honoring important occasions in the lives of the college family, sharing the gift of music and uniting all ages in a common spirit.
Ruthenberg served as the college’s 15th president from 1984 to 1995.
“This is a great honor for me,” Ruthenberg says.
The donation was one of two gifts recognized during a special ceremony Monday, May 1, in the parlor of Missouri Hall, where a second gift by friends of the college was recognized in memory of Bernard “Bernie” Lensmeyer. This gift aids the newly created Dr. Donald Ruthenberg Endowed Program Fund, which will support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programming.
Lensmeyer lived his life with unwavering energy and a sincere belief in every individual’s potential to succeed. As a leader in the food service industry, he stood as an advocate for diversity and inclusion in his professional pursuits. His unique ability to unite people to do good in the world left a legacy.
Lensmeyer managed a national college food service operation that nourished students in Dulany Hall from the days of Christian College through the transition to Columbia College. In addition to his storied career in strengthening food service provision and innovation, he served on several influential food service boards.
Ruthenberg was joined at the gift announcement by several members of his family and the Lensmeyer family, who were present to honor their father and grandfather who passed away in 2013. Ruthenberg recalls becoming friends with Lensmeyer while in graduate school at the University of Denver, the start of a meaningful relationship that spanned decades.
Ruthenberg received an honorary alumni degree from Columbia College upon his retirement and was a champion of equity and inclusion throughout his esteemed career in higher education.
He brought an influx of national and intercultural endeavors to the college during his tenure.
“I guess when anonymous gifts are given, they’re anonymous,” Ruthenberg told the crowd of approximately 30 people. “I don’t know who did it. But I appreciate it and thank whomever it was who thought that would be a kind way to operate.”
Columbia College President Dr. David Russell presented three plaques in recognition of the gifts. Russell presented a plaque to Lensmeyer’s daughter, Kris Lensmeyer Leshner, to share with her family in recognition of the generous gift directly benefiting the college’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Then he presented two plaques to Ruthenberg to commemorate the bells and endowed fund.
The fund will strengthen the spirit of the welcoming community that Ruthenberg and Lensmeyer helped create at Columbia College, Russell told the intimate gathering.
“These two leaders worked together for many years and made a lasting impact,” Russell says.
Ruthenberg got the final word during the celebration before guests awaited the ringing of the bells at the top of the hour.
“It’s always good to come home,” Ruthenberg says.