Foundations and the future tied to Father Anselm Keefe

Jim Sutton and Melissa Barbour pass on their love for natural sciences
When Jim Sutton ’68 and his wife, Melissa Barbour, were considering causes to support through their charitable giving, the St. Norbert College biology program immediately sprang to mind. After all, Jim can trace the foundation of his career directly to the biology classes he took from the Rev. Anselm Keefe, O.Praem.

Jim began his SNC education as a math major with eyes on becoming an engineer, before coming to the conclusion in his sophomore year that he was out of his element. His older brother, John ’65, was a teaching assistant in Fr. Keefe’s botany class and spoke to Fr. Keefe about allowing Jim to transfer into the biology program.

The rest, as they say, is history. Jim went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from SNC and a master’s from Stanford University, eventually retiring as a senior environmental specialist with the California State Water Resources Control Board. Jim’s wife Melissa shares his love for the natural sciences as she also earned a master’s degree in marine biology.

“I’ve always loved nature and the outdoors,” says Jim. “My first class with Fr. Keefe was General Botany. I ended up taking most of the available courses in biology. I was at home there.”

Jim was scheduled to graduate in 1967, but joined several other science majors in sticking around an extra year in order to experience the new John R. Minahan Science Hall that was under construction. Calling themselves “super seniors,” the group served as teaching assistants — even enjoying their own offices in the new building — and Jim’s summer job involved moving the natural science departments out of Boyle Hall and a Quonset hut near the river that served as a lab for zoology studies.

Fr. Keefe loomed large in Jim’s SNC experience. “I was one of the people who actually was taught by Fr. Keefe,” he says. “There is a connection there that makes it a little more personal. I think of him clomping around Boyle Hall in his combat boots and lab coat. He was a character who did things his own way. He just wanted people to learn and he loved teaching.”
Gifts that extend the Sutton family’s relationship with St. Norbert
The Sutton family’s ties to SNC extend deeper than Jim and John’s undergraduate experiences. John also worked at St. Norbert for many years, first in what was then the new computer department and later in administration. Their father, John Robert Sutton, attended SNC for a year or two, and their late brother, Bob ’61, also graduated from the college.

Those connections first inspired a gift to the biology program from an inheritance Jim received from his mother, then led to many years of annual donations to the St. Norbert Fund. Now, with a legacy gift to the college included in their own wills, the couple will support the biology program yet again — and join others who have remembered the college in their estate plans as members of the Anselm Keefe Legacy Society.

“St. Norbert gave me my whole foundation for whatever success I’ve had in my professional career, and in a lot of ways my life,” Jim says. “The idea of giving something back for someone else is pretty neat. There is a certain amount of self-satisfaction that comes with having your name on something like this.”

Jim worked with the Advancement team to make the proper arrangements. He credits the professionals in the office with providing the information and forms needed to make the process easy. “It was very straightforward. The process itself was very well-laid out,” Jim explains.

“It’s very easy to put off doing big things for the future when you’re so busy tied up in the day-to-day of the present,” Jim admits. “I would encourage others to think about a legacy gift as a way of continuing your life and your contributions to society, the college, to students, to the world after you’re no longer here.”

The Rev. Anselm M. Keefe, O. Praem., was a Norbertine priest, faculty member, theatre director, coach, botanist and much more, who devoted his life to the college and touched the lives of many. He also had the foresight to plant many of the trees that grace the campus today.

Those who have included the college as a beneficiary of their will, trust, life insurance policy or retirement account are warmly welcomed into the Anselm Keefe Legacy Society. Like Fr. Keefe, they too have planted seeds for a bright and vibrant future for St. Norbert College.

To learn more about the Anselm Keefe Legacy Society and how you can make an impact like Jim and Melissa, contact Kevin LeBeau at 920-403-4059 or kevin.lebeau@snc.edu.