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Win-Win-Win Situation for Professor Emeritus Ernie and Marti Simmons

Win-Win-Win Situation for Professor Emeritus Ernie and  Marti Simmons

Ernie and Marti at the traditional site of the Sermon on the Mount by the Sea of Galilee in Israel (2013).

When Ernie Simmons competed in a debate in 9th grade biology on evolution versus creation, you'd think the pastor and religion professor would have been on the side of creation. Not the case. After winning the debate for evolution, his classmates called him an atheist.

"I said, 'No, I'm not an atheist.' But it got me asking myself what do I really believe? So I started visiting congregations. My father was Roman Catholic and my mother was Southern Baptist. What comes from that? A Lutheran!"

As he continued to grow in his faith, he heard from friends and teachers that he should consider becoming a pastor. But, Ernie's love for science and desire to be an engineer were strong. He also felt he wasn't quite "religious enough" to be a pastor.

By the time he was a junior in high school he felt led to confirmation classes and due to his maturity and natural interest, became the pastor's assistant. It was this experience that helped him realize being a pastor might be something to consider.

Born in Ennis, Texas (south of Dallas) and raised in Colorado, Ernie registered for classes at Colorado State University in Fort Collins with an eclectic selection of courses—ranging from Shakespeare to science and philosophy.

"My advisor took one look at my plan and told me that my interests are too broad to be an engineer."

His advisor was right. It was Ernie's classes in philosophy and psychology that created a shift in him that led to seminary. Ernie received his Master of Divinity degree from Luther Seminary and his Doctorate in Philosophy from Claremont Graduate University in southern California.

During his graduate studies, he served parishes part-time in Minnesota, California, and, when completed, served in full-time ministry in western North Dakota. He also taught continuing education for pastors. This served him well until getting called by Concordia College to teach religion in 1979.

Throughout his 39-year tenure in the religion department, Ernie figures he has taught more than 6,000 students. He shares that helping Cobbers discern their vocation and whether seminary is part of that was one of the best parts of teaching. Another positive experience?

"After my second year of teaching, I was approached by Olin Storvick after class one day. He said, 'Simmons, I'm really glad you're here.' It is something I will never forget."

Ernie served as professor and chair of the Religion Department and was a co-chair of the commission that started the Dovre Center for Faith and Learning, where he also was a founding director for 25 years. During this time he authored two books and more than 40 articles, and he served as a speaker around the country and world. His curriculum vitae is lengthy and indicative of a rich and full career for which Ernie credits his wife of 48 years, Marti.

"I couldn't have accomplished what I did without her."

Martha (Johnson) Simmons also grew up in Colorado. In high school she served on the technical crew for the play Oklahoma and met Ernie, who portrayed the sheriff, by accidentally smashing him in the face with a bouquet of plastic roses.

"We have different versions of how we met, but I can confirm we worked on Oklahoma together," jokes Marti.

Marti pursued a degree in education at Colorado State and then moved with Ernie to Minnesota and California for his studies all the while working and taking classes. She shares it took her 10 years and five colleges to finish her degree in education.

"At one point it finally occurred to us…someone needs to work! We want to eat, right? So we both worked jobs while one or the other went to school. It took me a while to get my degree, but it was a great time in our lives."

Upon completion of her education degree and certification, Marti taught gifted and talented students in junior high for her first seven years. For the next 23 years, she taught American Literature and Advanced Placement English at West Fargo High School and served as the school's speech and debate advisor as well as earning a master's degree in Speech Communications at North Dakota State University (NDSU).

Teaching, learning and serving have continued for Marti upon her retirement in 2010. She volunteers, takes cooking classes with Ernie, enjoys knitting and book clubs and explores all types of educational opportunities.

We were able to make a much larger gift to Concordia using this vehicle than if we had just done a cash gift…probably three times bigger. It was definitely a win-win-win situation."

When considering retirement, Ernie and Marti began to think of their options. The couple had owned a home near campus and later rented it out to students for 28 years. As they decided when and how to sell the property, a conversation with Larry Papenfuss opened their eyes and minds to the benefits of establishing a CGA.

"We were concerned about the fact that upon selling a rental property we would be responsible for paying depreciation taxes which would basically void out any profit. So, we used the house as the asset to set up a CGA with Concordia and in one move eliminated capital gains taxes and now have regular retirement income for life. We also were able to make a much larger gift to Concordia using this vehicle than if we had just done a cash gift…probably three times bigger. It was definitely a win-win-win situation."

The remainder of the CGA the Simmonses established will support upon their passing the Dovre Center for Faith and Learning, which Ernie helped create and then directed for 25 years.

"Concordia has given us so much. We received dependable financial income but also became part of a very supportive, intellectually challenging and faithful community. Growing up as an only child, I didn't have a big extended family. Concordia has been family to us and is a place where we became part of a vital community."

Ernie and Marti have two children, Scott, 36, and Leah, 32, who live in Singapore and Minneapolis, respectively. They will be traveling to Los Angeles, California soon to meet their son and his wife visiting from Singapore and are also looking forward to a cruise this fall and a trip to the Rose Parade in California over New Year's.

Thank you, Ernie and Marti, for your tremendous service and gift to Concordia College!

Create Your Concordia Legacy

Make a lasting impact by making a planned gift through your estate. There are many ways to make a lasting impact by making a planned gift through your estate. Contact Trina Hall at 218.299.3445 or [email protected] today, to learn more.

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