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Issue Date:  March 7, 2008

Carrying on a legacy of philanthropy


When it was time for Gerald and Henrietta Rauenhorst’s children to go off to college, it came as little surprise that all seven of them chose Catholic colleges.

They all had attended Catholic schools growing up, after all, and priests and bishops were frequent visitors in the Rauenhorsts’ Twin Cities home.

And then there was the matter of tuition.

“We told them they could go to any college they wanted to -- and they could,” Gerald Rauenhorst said. “But we only paid tuition at Catholic colleges.”

So the children spread out to Catholic institutions across the country. Curiously, none of them attended the same school. Judy, the firstborn, headed off to St. Mary’s, which is associated with the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. Mark went to Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. Neil went east to The Catholic University of America in Washington, and Joseph graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee. Susan went west to Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., and Amy went to Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

Each sibling went on to graduate school and earned at least one advanced degree, according to A Better Way, a 2003 book about the Opus Group.

Today, many of the Rauenhorst offspring serve on their alma maters’ boards and are active in various forms of philanthropy.

Susan Rauenhorst Turner credits her parents for that, as well as the influence of the many priests who dropped in to visit as she was growing up.

“A lot of those priests I considered uncles,” she recounted in A Better Way. “And I think a lot of their influence has filtered down into the philanthropic work we’ve been involved with as adults. A lot of that comes, of course, from our folks, but the influence of those priests has played a large part, too.”

Michael Rauenhorst remembered one family friend, Archbishop Harold Henry, who spent 42 years doing mission work in Korea. He “taught poor Korean families about raising pigs and would give a family 12 piglets on condition that they pay him back with 12 more piglets,” he said in the book.

“I grew up hearing stories like that, and it ended up changing my life,” said Michael, who would spend four years working with refugees in Thailand after earning his law degree. He now works for Deutsche Bank’s Microcredit Development Fund in New York.

Four of the Rauenhorst children went to work for Opus. Judy Rauenhorst Mahoney spent a year in the marketing department before leaving to raise her family. A mother of four, she later founded a successful language education company, Teach Me Tapes.

Mark Rauenhorst joined Opus in 1982 and became president in 1999 and chief executive officer in 2000; he continues to hold the latter position. Neil Rauenhorst worked for Opus from 1982 to 2002, first in the Chicago office and then as president of Opus South in Tampa, Fla. He now owns a residential development firm, NJR Development LLC, in Tampa.

Joseph Rauenhorst practiced law in San Francisco for eight years, making partner, before joining Opus in 1989. He served as president of Opus South until 2007 and serves as chair of the Opus Prize Foundation, according to an Opus Group spokesperson.

Gerald Rauenhorst said he credits his wife for the fact that their children have continued to exemplify the values they instilled in their family. “She’s the greatest woman in the world as far as I’m concerned,” he told NCR.

It also helps to lead by example, he said -- and not to back down on tough parenting decisions. “I’ve made some fairly stiff decisions on children who would ... lie to me,” he said. “I would not tolerate a lie.”

How fares the next generation of Rauenhorsts -- 19 grandchildren in all?

Rauenhorst holds back a proud chuckle as he says: “I tell my children, ‘I think the grandchildren are all doing better than you did!’ ”

The Rauenhorst children’s board affiliations include:

  • Judy Rauenhorst Mahoney: trustee of St. Mary’s College and board member of the Papal Foundation;
  • Mark Rauenhorst: trustee of Creighton University and member of the Business School Advisory Board at the University of Notre Dame, where he received his MBA. His wife, Karen Rauenhorst, is a board member of Catholic Relief Services and a trustee at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul;
  • Neil Rauenhorst: trustee of The Catholic University of America;
  • Joseph Rauenhorst: trustee of Marquette University;
  • Michael Rauenhorst: on the board of Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities;
  • Amy Rauenhorst Goldman: trustee of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.

National Catholic Reporter, March 7, 2008

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