With a burning desire to learn how things were made, Mark R. Stumpf pursued an engineering degree. However, even in the 1960s, higher education was not cheap. Stumpf was able to graduate from Michigan Technological University with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in environmental engineering debt free because he worked numerous jobs and received multiple scholarships.
Stumpf feels he will always be indebted to his alma mater for the scholarships they awarded him. Without them he doesn’t believe he would have finished school or attended graduate school. “This made me an advocate for scholarships and I vowed to help bright, dedicated students get a quality education,” Stumpf says.
When he bought farmland 15 years ago, he knew he wanted to find a way to use that land to give back to students. Stumpf and his wife Anne found a 160-acre vacant farm that had been neglected for years. The farm had 25 acres of wooded savanna, 103 tillable acres, and the remaining acreage was overgrown with weeds and brush.
Because Stumpf had no background in farming, he hired a local farmer who practiced no-till farming. No-till farming is a way to grow crops without tilling the land, reducing soil erosion and greenhouse gases. Having an environmental master’s degree, preserving and improving the land was an important factor to Stumpf.
“Through the practice of no-till farming, the new farm tenant was able to increase the tillable acres from 103 to 130. By adding tile drainage to the entire farm, adding lime, and proper fertilizer, yields increased by 40 percent,” Stumpf states.
Stumpf is an avid sportsman and conservationist. After 15 years of hard work improving the savanna woodland as a wildlife habitat, the Stumpfs had developed a love for the land. That’s why when they researched non-profit organizations to donate their land to, they wanted an organization that would stay true to their values and goals. Stumpf spent six months investigating organizations, but was unable to locate one to manage the farm in its current undeveloped state in perpetuity. Then, he came across an article about a farmland gift to the University of Illinois Foundation that benefited the Clinton County Extension to provide scholarships for the local youth to attend 4-H programs. This article inspired him to contact the U of I Foundation about gifting his farmland, Stumpf says.
“I was impressed with UIF, the College of ACES, and their ability to handle farmland gifts. In my meeting with Dean Kim Kidwell, she understood the long term benefit and was supportive of the idea of retaining the current farm tenant, rather than leasing the land to the highest bidder,” Stumpf says. “This was one of my main goals. No other organization I contacted had the procedures and knowledge to manage a farm.”
Stumpf is happy that through this farmland gift he will be able to provide scholarships to deserving students. The income from the land will provide scholarships to students in the McHenry County area or surrounding counties who have grown up on a farm, intend to engage in farming, or intend to pursue a career that will benefit farmers. Stumpf knows that through this scholarship he will be able to help lessen the lifetime financial burden students face with student loans, just like scholarships did for him.
Stumpf worked for Abbott Laboratories for 27 years before retiring and working part-time developing partnerships between universities and Fortune 100 companies. Stumpf continued his formal education, earning a master’s degree from Advanced Management Institute, MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, and his doctor of education degree from Nova Southeastern University. Stumpf has been very active in the scientific, technical, and education community. He has published twelve papers in technical journals and has given technical presentations at conferences. The Stumpfs reside in McHenry, Ill. They have three children and two grandchildren.
“I encourage others to consider establishing an endowed scholarship to the College of ACES or provide money to an existing endowed scholarship fund. With these investments we can help shape young students futures,” Stumpf said.