$150,000 Fenstermacher donation to Minnesota West honors 2 favorite teachers
Jack Fenstermacher, Jr., was a student at Minnesota West during the 1949-1950 school year, and considered two of the teachers there to be the best he’d had in his nine-year academic career.
WORTHINGTON — Though John "Jack" Fenstermacher Jr. went on to earn a master’s degree, serve in the U.S. Army and become a project engineer for Fluidyne Engineering, he never forgot his year at Minnesota West Community & Technical College — and now $150,000 from his estate will go to the school he loved so much.
Jack was a student at Minnesota West — then called Worthington Junior College — during the 1949-1950 school year, and considered two of the teachers there to be the best he’d had in his nine-year academic career. They were Marcella Gosch, who taught freshman-level English, and Richard Solberg, who taught chemistry and physics at the school.
Jack died in 2017 without a will, and it took some time for his brother Joe Fenstermacher to get the estate sorted out, but he knew Jack had wanted to honor his favorite teachers and the school he’d loved.
“He was so impressed with them, he just kept talking about how good they were,” Joe said of his brother. “He and I would talk and he would tell me how those two teachers were so important to him, and set the pattern of his life.”
Jack was an excellent student throughout his education, playing the baritone horn in band and becoming the valedictorian at Worthington High School in 1949 despite stiff competition. He was also a three-sport athlete, a class officer and, as Joe recalled, was also popular with his classmates.
Jack’s favorite teachers reflected his lifelong interests, and while he was tempted to study English in college, he took the scientific route to a career instead, earning a bachelor of science degree in ceramic engineering from Iowa State University and a Master of Science degree in ceramic engineering from Pennsylvania State University. But he never stopped loving literature.
Even after he developed dementia in his later years, Jack remained an omnivorous reader, going through every single book in the library at his assisted living facility before he died, Joe said. He’d read until midnight and then go to bed, and he remembered a lot of what he’d read, too.
Jack was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1953, and eventually became a baritone player with the 71st Infantry Division Band. He was honorably discharged in 1955.
He worked for Hazel Atlas in Pennsylvania, Ford Motor Company in Michigan and Amphenol-Borg in Illinois, before returning to Minnesota in 1971 to work for Fluidyne. While he never married, Jack cared deeply for his family, and made sure to get to every family gathering, whether it was a wedding, funeral or reunion.
“Jack was very much a part of my life all the way along,” Joe said. “He was a great big brother.”
Jack’s donation will go toward the Minnesota West endowment, and the interest earned will be shared between the English, Chemistry and Physics departments to provide new learning opportunities for students, said Treva Graves, executive director of the Minnesota West Foundation. That could mean field trips, equipment or other supplements to the curriculum.
“We are so blessed to have received such an amazing gift,” Graves said.