Building on Captain Valentine’s Spirit of Giving

Mary Harp-Jirschele ’76 follows her father’s heartwarming example
When Mary Harp-Jirschele ’76 was a young adult, she witnessed the joy of giving that her father, Jim Harp ’54, experienced every Valentine’s Day. The outdoor editor at the Post-Crescent in Appleton, he delivered handmade gifts ranging from corsages to boxed crystal hearts adorned with red ribbons to the desks of all 125 or so women working at the newspaper. The project took over the family’s dining room table as Jim and his wife, Barb, worked to get every gift just right.

“I don’t know what inspired my dad to give those Valentine’s Day gifts,” Mary says, “but what I do know is that at his funeral, two women came up to me and said, ‘If not for your father, I would have never had a Valentine in my life.’ He was known as ‘Captain Valentine,’ and his gifts warmed a lot of people’s hearts.”
These acts of kindness had a profound impact on Mary. Today she and her husband, Jeff Jirschele, keep her parents’ example alive through a variety of giving initiatives. Some, like the Valentine’s Day cards they have sent out in Jim’s memory for the past 20 years, make the recipient feel loved. Others involve financial support for causes they cherish.
After the sudden death of Mary’s mother in a car accident in 2005, the couple began to focus on their own legacy. Spurred forward by this unexpected tragedy, Mary and Jeff made a list of nonprofit organizations that were important to them and individuals in their families who could use help. Then they initiated plans to ensure their wishes would be honored after their lifetime.
“Life changes in an instant,” Jeff states. “All of what Barb was going to do was gone. Fortunately, she had made some preparations. We realized that if we don’t make those plans, it easily can be too late.”

Students at the heart of generosity at SNC
Mary and Jeff drew on their own experiences of paying for college educations at St. Norbert College and Marquette University, respectively, as they established a legacy gift plan to support the student emergency fund at St. Norbert College.

As oldest children from large families, both Mary and Jeff entered college knowing they would have to fund their own educations. Mary worked part-time in the sports departments of the Green Bay Press-Gazette during the week and the Post-Crescent when she was home on weekends. Jeff repaired manual typewriters to earn money, even building his own out of spare parts.
“There are students who have a knot in their stomachs because they can’t afford tuition or have some type of hardship in their lives, and their college experience just got tougher,” Jeff explains. “The thing that most interested us in making this gift is the program it will help fund. Both of us could have been one of those students.”
He continues, “As Catholics, we believe people deserve our sympathy, empathy and compassion, and it is fulfilling to act on those beliefs.” Including the emergency fund in their estate planning provided the means for that fulfillment.

Bringing St. Norbert values to life
Mary cites servant leadership and the belief in sharing one’s blessings with others as motivating factors in their charitable giving plans. “This gift is our way of paying it forward from what we got from our educations, and liberal arts specifically,” she says.

Mary credits the Advancement staff with providing guidance to bring their gift to fruition and encourages others to explore the possibilities of legacy giving to the college.
As you consider your own love for SNC, know your legacy can be one that directly benefits future students. Please contact Kevin LeBeau at 920-403-4059 or kevin.lebeau@snc.edu and learn how you can join individuals like Mary and Jeff in ensuring St. Norbert College makes a positive impact on young lives for generations to come.