Jean McCall grew up on a farm in Wisconsin, raised by her father and widowed “saint of a grandmother” after Jean’s mother died when she was only 2 years old. With seven children of her own plus four grandchildren to raise, Jean’s grandmother made faith and worship a priority. Each Sunday morning, she got all of the grandchildren dressed and off to church they went. At age 9, Jean’s father remarried. Eventually there were four more children growing up on the family farm. Fast forward to today. Jean McCall now lives in an assisted living center in Harlingen, Texas, widowed after 46 years of marriage. She attends church, reads the Bible and makes the book, Timely Reflections, by Concordia Seminary President Emeritus Dr. Dale A. Meyer, a part of her daily devotions.
Jean’s life illustrates the wisdom of Prov. 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Jean credits her grandmother for instilling her strong faith and points to that grounding as the reason why she generously supports the Seminary and its mission to prepare future church leaders who will proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“The most important thing in life is to tell others about Jesus and our eternal home that we’re going to,” Jean says.
“From the time I first met Jean, her love for the Lord, and the opportunity to support His mission, were incredibly apparent,” says Michael Flynn, the Seminary’s director of principal gifts. “It has been inspiring to witness the joy Jean has had in sharing her financial blessings with the Seminary, knowing that countless lives will be touched as God uses her gifts to His glory.”
Jean was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran faith. She knew as a young child she wanted to care for others and become a nurse.
When attending a three-year nursing school, she “met the most wonderful man,” her future husband, Mac. “He was from California,” she recalls. “He was in the service.” The two later married and settled in Seattle where Jean worked for the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital and Mac worked at Boeing.
Traveling became a favorite pastime for the couple. They visited all 50 states, Canada, Mexico, India (the Taj Mahal was mesmerizing!), England, Scotland and many other European countries, and the Holy Land. The Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem — believed to be the path that Jesus walked on the way to His crucifixion — remains a profound memory for Jean.
Jean, at age 36, took up swimming and scuba diving. It became one of the joys of her life. She dove in the San Juan Islands, off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, in Fiji and in the Caribbean. “You feel so safe,” she says. “It’s so nice and quiet and you see all the little fishes and coral. It’s beautiful under the water.” Her favorite dive? Belize (“It was so different. It was a 200-foot dive.”). The coldest dive? Alaska.
“I felt that supporting the Seminary was one way of giving to the church.”
– Jean McCall
When they retired, the couple moved to Carlsbad, Calif., to Mac’s family home. When he got sick in 2000, she started attending a church closer to home, Immanuel Lutheran Church in Oceanside, Calif. That was when the couple started looking at their will and thinking about how they wanted to direct their life’s earnings after they died. The couple chose three beneficiaries. Giving to the church was Jean’s choice. “I felt that supporting the Seminary was one way of giving to the church,” she says.
Jean began supporting the Seminary with unrestricted and student aid gifts. She also established “The H.F. and Jean McCall Endowment Fund” from which the annual earnings support student aid. During the 2017-18 renovation of the Kristine Kay Hasse Memorial Library on campus, her gifts enabled the renovation of the Rare Book Center, which she gifted in memory of her dear husband and son, Vance, who died in 1992. Recently, Jean made provisions in her estate to create “The H.F. and Jean L. McCall Historic Housing Endowment,” which is earmarked for the upkeep of the 12 historic faculty houses on campus, built in the 1920s, which are currently being restored. The street where the faculty houses are located has been renamed from North Seminary Terrace to McCall Terrace, and the area of campus is now known as the McCall Neighborhood in recognition of her generosity.
The faculty homes are integral to the Seminary’s heritage and contribute to a vibrant spirit of community on campus. Jean’s endowment provides the necessary funding for their upkeep in the future.
Jean calls it all “wonderful.” She is pleased to be able to help the Seminary and its students. She thanks God for a blessed life and marvels at how it has unfolded.
“The Seminary is grateful to Jean and other donors like her who have provided a means to ensure the mission of the Seminary continues, especially through the creation of endowments, which provide perpetual income,” said Vicki Biggs, senior vice president of Seminary Advancement and chief communications officer. “Such generosity helps to ensure that future generations will be served by faithfully formed pastors and deaconesses who will advance the Great Commission.”
Melanie Ave is communications manager at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.