Alumnus donates to Education Department honoring late wife

For the students of Baldwin Wallace University, it is never too late to start their legacy.

Recently, BW’s School of Education was gifted a donation from an alumnus, Harold “Hal” Guenther, to honor his late wife, Alma Gene-Guenther. With this gift, the School of Education plans to provide renovations and help continue funding community programs.

The pair met at BW and were a part of the 1951 graduating class. While Hal was an economic and finance major, his wife, graduated with a BS in Education and later went on to teach in elementary schools until she eventually stepped away to raise their three children.

Hal wanted to donate this gift as a way to honor his wife and the passion she had for teaching, said Michael Smith, dean of the School of Education.

“She remained passionate about education throughout her entire life,” said Marylou Hunter, assistant director for trusts and estates for the Center of Philanthropy. “[She] wanted to instill that passion in her children and grandchild.”

In an effort to forge Alma’s legacy for her passion in education, the School of Education and Mr. Guenther have worked diligently together to help improve and positively impact the students of BW.

With this gift, Wheeler Hall plans to make a couple of improvements. For one, the department will renovate and update their computer lab. By doing this, the faculty hopes to make learning “more conducive and engaging—and up to date—within the classroom,” said Smith.

The new computer lab, which will now be called the Active Learning Center, will incorporate updated, collaborative desks, a projection monitor and screen, that will allow groups of students to work together, or share their presentations, as well as taking all desktop computers away, thus allowing students to use their own devices while giving them more space to work.

The Active Learning Center and its renovations are being designed to “encourage student collaboration” said Smith, but also are modeled to replicate what it will be like to be in the classroom after they graduate and are teaching their students.

“The Learning Center allows us to model what is taking place in the Pre-K through 12 schools – at least the ones that are a little more progressive,” said Susan Finelli-Genovese, associate dean and K-12 master program associate professor. “So the active learning labs are really the direction that we’re going. So the traditional class is going away and instead [we are] encouraging students to collaborate with each other.”

Everything the School of Education is doing is about “furthering and advancing our knowledge not only as students, but also as professors” said Finelli-Genovese.

Continuing, the second main project that the department is undergoing is to reinstate their Summary Literacy Program.

The Summer Literacy Program, which is a five-week summer program that the BW faculty and graduate students provide, offers reading diagnostic and intervention services for children of the community.

With the Guenther gift, the BW School of Education will reinstate this program and upgrade instructional resources. These instructional resources will include purchasing up to date assessment instruments and iPads for the faculty that will “allow and further the integrated learning and teaching within the classrooms” said Finelli-Genovese.

“This is a community outreach program, that may impact out students less,” said Smith. “But as a school we are committed to furthering everyone’s education, even those outside the university.”

This passion for education is the main drive behind Alma Gene and what her husband’s gift is meant to commemorate.

This legacy that she will leave behind at BW will hopefully be “something that will impact another student’s life in some way so that when they graduate they want to give back in a way that could impact another student.” said Ellen Zegarra, assistant vice president of philanthropy and strategic engagement at the Center of Philanthropy.