Hemres’ Lifetime of Learning Leads to Estate Legacy

With a combined 70 years of experience in education, we can learn a lot from the Hemres' philanthropy.

Bob and Karen Hemre grew up knowing they wanted to become teachers.

“I loved all my teachers and had good experiences throughout school, and it made me feel as though I wanted to be a teacher,” Karen said.

Bob added, “Growing up, my dad was the Madison High School custodian, and I would go with him to school activities in the evening. Before I was school age, I knew quite a few teachers and looked up to them.”

Their entire careers were in education. Combined, they served students for nearly 80 years.

Their love of the profession was a motivator for the Sioux Falls couple to make a significant gift in their estate plan to provide scholarships for students pursuing education at SDSU and two other South Dakota universities.

The couple met at Dakota State University while they were pursuing their degrees in elementary education. They graduated in May of 1968, got married in June, and began teaching that September.

They said their first year of teaching confirmed they made the right career choice.

“We never had second thoughts,” Bob said. “We loved working in the school system, loved working with students and staff and parents.”

Karen agreed. Reflecting on the 39 years she taught elementary school, she said her love for teaching never wavered. “Interacting with the kids and parents was wonderful. If a student was ever unsure about what they wanted to do, I would say, ‘Check out teaching. It’s wonderful.’”

After teaching for only two years, Bob became a principal.

He and Karen were teaching for the Chester Area School District when the current principal retired. The superintendent asked Bob to consider filling the leadership role, with the provision he would pursue a master’s in education administration. He enrolled at South Dakota State University.

“My graduate work at SDSU was with wonderful teachers who certainly influenced me and strengthened my skills,” Bob said.

Bob excelled in his new role, supporting teachers, students, and families. Throughout his career, he served as principal of four additional elementary schools, all in Sioux Falls: Horace Mann, Cleveland, Anne Sullivan, and John Harris.

Reflecting on his career, as well as Karen’s and the many teachers he served, Bob said their estate gift only makes sense. “Every student’s career is, in some way, impacted by their teachers.”

Bob and Karen Hemre’s estate plan reflects their passion for education.

The couple are gifting the majority of their funds to support future educators through the Robert and Karen Hemre Scholarship Endowment.

“Education was our life,” Bob explained. “Our careers as teachers, and my career as a principal, were very rewarding. We always knew we wanted to give in some way to pay back for our careers.”


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