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Learning a Lesson and Leaving a Legacy

Jan Bilden

Jan Bilden '73

"This gift is in line with my values and anytime you can be generous you feel good about it. Giving within your lifetime can be minimal—I've been a teacher and counselor and making a lot of money hasn't been a priority. When you reach your 60s and 70s you realize that by living fairly conservatively and making a plan, you can have an impact and do some good."

Concordia College alumna and seasoned educator Jan Bilden '73, recently learned an important lesson that will impact others for years to come. When Jan's mother passed away, she and her three siblings had a daunting task ahead of them: clean out and sell their parents' home of 55 years and determine the value and distribution of their assets.

"That process spurred me to create a will. I realized that I shouldn't assume that my daughters will know what I want, and this will make it easier for them when I am gone."

As Jan worked with her financial advisor, she reflected on the forces in her life that shaped who she is. There were many, but Concordia College was one of the most impactful.

"Reconnecting with Concordia through the National Alumni Board was such a rich experience. It served as a good reminder of the value and benefit I gained from my education and the people I met."

Growing up in Northwood, North Dakota, among family members who attended North Dakota State University, making the choice to attend Concordia wasn't a given for Jan. It was her two uncles—Great Uncle Joe and Uncle Barry—who encouraged her to become a Cobber.

"My Great Uncle Joe was a C-400 member and told me that you never waste money spent on an education. Uncle Barry, a Concordia grad, said that I would like the people at Concordia, and he was right. I was surrounded by good friends and truly benefited from the great faculty and staff on campus."

Ruth Berge was one of those people. Jan had three years of organ lessons from Ruth, a woman she calls "a force to be reckoned with." To this day, Jan still plays the organ for her church and is grateful for Ruth's instruction and high standards.

Jan BildenHer experiences as a field hockey player, on the track and field team and conducting services at churches as a member of an outreach team were also rewarding, in addition to rigorous study as a double major in biology and physical education.

"I studied a lot! I do think my broad liberal arts education at Concordia prepared me for graduate school. The work I did on my graduate degrees was easier than my undergraduate degree! I also had the skills to apply to a variety of career opportunities such as parish education and youth ministry, writing, editing and research."

Jan has spent most of her career as a teacher and school counselor in Minnesota. However, she also worked in a publishing house as an editor and as a youth and education professional for a church in White Bear Lake. She has since retired but smiles and says, "I'm still playing the organ for my church though, so not completely retired!"

She is also an active volunteer and board member for environmental and health issues and enjoys running. Her most recent race was the Fargo Marathon 10k. Her daughters Rachel and Bethany, '05, keep her on her toes too. Jan says they are grateful for her decision to create an estate plan in which she has included Concordia as a beneficiary on a percentage basis.

Make sure the causes you care about are supported

You can be like Jan, and make sure your wishes are clearly outlined regarding your legacy. Reach out to Trina Hall at piskhall@cord.edu or 218.299.3445 to discuss the best way to get started.