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A Life of Adventure and Education

A Life of Adventure and Education

Karen during a river cruise in Europe

Karen Bjornson Shepard is an adventurous woman. Not long after graduating from Concordia College in 1960, her husband, Lee, was offered an engineering position in the oil industry in Aruba, Netherlands Antilles. With two young children in tow, she was ready to go.

"I wasn't nervous at all and living abroad was a wonderful experience. We lived in Aruba, St. Croix and then spent a large amount of time in Saudi Arabia. The schools were excellent, and our children were given opportunities there that they wouldn't have had here in the U.S. We were all very grateful and absolutely loved it."

Karen worked in the schools in a variety of roles: starting a home economics program in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, (fitting with her degree in home economics), serving in the library and as a teacher's aide. She spent her entire career in education and is thankful for the kickstart Concordia gave her.

"When I graduated from Concordia I moved to Denver, Colorado, with some friends to interview for teaching jobs. The concern wasn't if we would get hired—it was which job to take! The school districts told us they like to hire graduates from colleges like Concordia because of the strong track record of good people."

While teaching in Denver, Karen met Lee and they married and had two children. Their daughter, Nancy, a physical therapist in Kansas City, Kansas, and their son, Bob, an engineer in Atlanta, Georgia, have both lived and worked overseas, an experience that has been rich and rewarding for them and their kids.

"These international experiences have been so good for our family. All four of my grandchildren are in college or graduate school."

One of Karen's granddaughters followed in Karen's footsteps—walking the halls of Old Main and past Prexy's Pond. Shannon Wyatt '16 earned her degree in exercise science and is now pursuing a graduate degree in occupational therapy, specializing in hand therapy.

These ties to Concordia and her passion for education have led Karen to select her alma mater as one of her top charities. She began giving as most do, through the Annual Fund and then over time established five Legacy Scholarships in honor of her mother, Doris Bjornson's, 100th birthday. She has supported the Integrated Science Center as well, in hopes of encouraging women to pursue careers in STEM.

"I was lucky to go to a private school. As a kid growing up in Moorhead three blocks from Concordia, I always figured this is the school I would attend. My father owned a music store and was closely connected to Concordia's music program and my aunt, Josephine Bjornson, was a professor of English and journalism. Concordia is an important part of our past and I want to be a part of its future."

Alongside her accountant, Karen made the decision to give through her husband, Lee's, IRA. This giving vehicle allows her to maximize her giving while experiencing tax savings.

"I want to see Concordia thrive while I'm still alive. It is wonderful to get notes from the scholarship recipients and see how gifts impact the school in my lifetime. If you can use your required minimum distributions (RMDs) like I did, I would highly recommend it."

Karen also supports scholarships for women at the University of Colorado through her PEO (Philanthropic Educational Organization) chapter in Boulder where she lives today. She and Lee spent 30 years living abroad and then moved back to Boulder.

Lee passed away in 2002. However, the adventures she had with him and with her children carry on today. In retirement, she continues to enjoy sailing (especially in the Caribbean where they lived), hiking, golfing, traveling, swimming and the warmth of Arizona in the winter.

"Boulder is a very stimulating place to live. People do not sit down here and get old," she says with a smile.

As her life of adventure continues, Karen plans to return to campus this fall to get a tour of the Integrated Science Center.

"Science has played such a big role in the careers of my husband, my children and now my granddaughter. It's very important to me to continue to invest in science and students' futures."

Welcome back to your alma mater, Karen, and thank you for including Concordia in your adventures!

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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