Leaving a Legacy: Len and Carolyn Berghoefer


Len and Carolyn Berghoefer

Born and raised on a farm in Iowa, Carolyn describes her upbringing in a hardworking family that was just trying to put food on the table. Like many Midwestern farm girls, she was not allowed to work in the fields with her two brothers. Instead, Carolyn and her sister did the gardening, fed the chickens, and took care of household chores.

Although Carolyn wanted to go to college after graduating from high school, she did not have financial support, so she enrolled in La James School of Cosmetology. While waiting for the fall course to begin, she fell in love with a fellow in the military; they married, and made their home in Fort Knox, Ky., until his honorable discharge. He died from a pulmonary embolism following a tragic accident at the age of 46. Left to mourn his loss was daughter, Shawna, and son, Rodney.

It was several years later, while working as a dental assistant, that she met Len, who was a patient. Len, a local farmer and eligible bachelor, took an interest in her and, as Carolyn recalls, "he never gave in to my excuses. He just kept asking me for a date, and finally I accepted. A year later we were married."

Starting a new life with Len brought Carolyn back to her farm roots but in an entirely different way. "I was no longer in a woman's role on the farm," says Carolyn. "Len and I did everything side by side running the farm. He had a quiet, gentle way about him, and he was so patient and kind. He made it really easy for me to go back to farm life."

Len was also born and raised in Iowa and worked on his family farm for five years before attending CSU, where he received his bachelor's degree in agricultural sciences in 1961. He also attended Iowa University, where he studied law for two years. Before leaving for college, Len had told his father he wanted to take over the family farm someday and make it grow. "He took the bull by the horns, and that's exactly what he did," Carolyn says.

Len committed his life to farming when he set up a business partnership and corporation with his dad and brother. A second brother joined the corporation after graduating college, and the three sons worked in a farm family relationship for nearly 50 years. The farm was Iowa's premier producer of beef cattle, corn, and soybeans. Len also invented the "Calf Tote" for newborn calves (patented in 1992), and he designed a number of labor-saving techniques to make work on the farm more efficient.

Carolyn fondly remembers spring calving as her favorite part of the farming operation. "First-year heifers are especially vulnerable, so they had to be checked quite frequently," says Carolyn. "Even though we would be up all hours of the night, making sure birthing was going right, we would always say nothing is work if you love what you're doing."

Getting reconnected with farm life was not the only joy Len brought into Carolyn's life. Through their periodic trips to the campus of Colorado State, Carolyn was introduced to another part of Len's life that she absolutely fell in love with. "Just being on campus, talking about the times Len had there, and sharing what he wanted to do with his life estate at CSU was so exhilarating. CSU opened many doors for Len. His love for CSU just radiated, and I fell in love with it too," says Carolyn.

World traveling became another love for Len and Carolyn. Driving across the bush country of Australia, walking on the Great Wall in China, and crossing the Andes Mountains from Chile into Argentina were their most memorable vacations. "We count our blessings for being able to explore 52 countries in our 24 years of marriage," says Carolyn.

The Berghoefers' planned gift, designated to Universitywide scholarships, has special meaning for Carolyn, who sometimes wonders what her life would be like today if she had earned a degree. "So many students' dreams depend on how you can help them make those dreams come true," says Carolyn. "It's my dream to see that any determined young mind who wants an education is given the opportunity to make a difference."

Carolyn was accompanied by her daughter, Shawna, on her last visit to campus, where the two of them spent considerable time with personnel, advisers, and deans from the Division of Student Affairs, as well as several scholarship recipients from different program areas. "I had no idea of the struggles of some of these students," says Carolyn. "It really brought home to me how determined these students are to get an education. I was really impressed by the support they've received from CSU and how CSU has really become an extended family for many of these students."

Like other planned giving donors, Carolyn was so moved by her visit with students that she is now exploring the idea of establishing a scholarship that would allow her to see the impact of her gift in her lifetime. "I feel I didn't have the support I needed when I wanted to go to college and, now that I have the means to help, I am more than willing to do that," says Carolyn. "Not everyone can leave a large gift, but I really feel every dollar counts. It all adds up to helping a student earn a degree."