$5 million gift to Pottawattamie County Community Foundation will fund scholarships for Underwood, Treynor students

By Mike Brownlee | mbrownlee@nonpareilonline.com

Dec 11, 2019

The largest gift in the history of the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation will benefit Underwood and Treynor students for years to come.

The late Rick Wenninghoff left a $5 million endowment to the foundation, to be earmarked for scholarships for students in the Underwood and Treynor Community School Districts. The foundation announced the bequest on Wednesday and met with Wenninghoff’s family members for a check presentation.

“We’re a collective of private and public funds for folks to be philanthropic. We scan the landscape of the community to address the needs and connect people that want to do the most good. It’s all about love for humanity,” foundation President and CEO Donna Dostal told Wenninghoff’s family. “Obviously, your family and your father had a tremendous love for humanity, and the land. We ‘re thankful for the tremendous generosity of your father. We are committed to being good stewards of this opportunity for generations to come.

“The future, the opportunity for these funds for these schools, is tremendous.”

Wenninghoff was a Treynor High School graduate and his daughter, Julie Reiss, graduated from Underwood High School. In a letter to his children, Wenninghoff explained that his choice to make the gift ”was about wanting to create an endowment fund that would continue to benefit future generations.”

“The family name meant a lot to him,” Reiss, who lives in Waverly, Nebraska, said of her father’s gift and the legacy it will help bolster.

“He wanted to give back,” said another of Wenninghoff’s daughters, Lisa Herrick of Franklin, Nebraska.

Rick Wenninghoff inherited a love of farming from his father, and farmed land between Underwood and Crescent. Along with growing corn and soybeans, Wenninghoff Garden has been a staple at farmers markets in southwest Iowa for years.

“Dad was famous for sweet corn and tomatoes,” Reiss said.

As part of his wishes, farmland was sold, with the proceeds going toward the bequest.

Wenninghoff’s two sons, Chris Wenninghoff of Franklin, and Greg Wenninghoff of Council Bluffs, also attended the event at the Pottawattamie County Community Foundation, in addition to representatives from both school districts and the foundation board.

“On behalf of the Underwood Community School District Board of Directors and the Underwood community as a whole, I want to extend a sincere thank you to the Wenninghoffs for this generous scholarship program for Underwood students pursuing post-secondary educational opportunities,” Underwood Superintendent Edward Hawks said. “This gift will open doors that otherwise may have been closed for young people who wish to advance themselves educationally.”

Treynor Superintendent Mark Hopkins said Wenninghoff’s gift, “is transformative for the Treynor Community School District and its students.”

“These scholarships will change the lives of our students by dramatically increasing college education opportunities,” said Hopkins. “The gift will have an enduring impact for our school, and we are extremely grateful to Rick Wenninghoff and his family.”

The scholarships will be awarded through the Southwest Iowa Educational Foundation and will first be available for the graduating class of 2021. Tony Tauke with the foundation board said foundation leaders, the organization’s education committee and representatives from the schools will work together to determine how the scholarship will be set up. That will include determining how many students receive a scholarship each year, how much per scholarship and how many years the scholarships will cover.

The foundation plans to begin an application process and to dole out scholarships starting with the 2021 graduating class.

"This will have a huge impact for those students," Tauke said.

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