Stritch Magazine

Fulfilling her wish: Husband of late alumna honors her with a lasting gesture

Friday, January 24, 2014 4:40:00 PM

OwensonOwenson (2)
Tom Owenson journeyed to the Milwaukee campus from his California home to visit the
alma mater of his late wife Christine (Suminski) Owenson, '60 (left). He visited Heritage Park with his wife Mary Jo Owenson (center) and Chris' sister Elaine Galligan, whose daughter, Julie Galligan Catanese is a 1997 Stritch nursing alumna.

During her life, Christine (Suminski) Owenson, ’60, often reflected on her gratitude to the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi for the education she received from then-Cardinal Stritch College. Her husband, Tom Owenson of La Canada Flintridge, Calif., said, prior to her death in 2002, Chris Owenson sometimes marveled that she had the opportunity to attend college at all, since tight family finances and a mother who did not encourage her daughter’s college ambitions made higher education an unlikely prospect for Chris.

Yet, after attending St. Mary’s Academy, her situation caught the attention of her high school teachers – the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi – and they offered her a  tuition, room and board scholarship at Stritch.

“Without their generosity, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go to college,” Tom Owenson said.

More than a decade after her death, Tom Owenson remembered his conversations with Christine Owenson and found a win-win-win opportunity to honor his late wife. That’s how Tom Owenson describes the Charitable Gift Annuity he set up earlier this year.

“This gift really originated with my wife, Chris. She told me during our lifetime that, when we can afford it, she wanted to give money back to Stritch because she went to school there for free,” Tom Owenson said.

He said establishing a Charitable Gift Annuity made sense for several reasons.

“I accomplish a number of things: I fulfill her wish; I provide something for the University long term; and I get a continuing income from it for the rest of my life.”

In what he described as a “seamless” process, Tom Owenson worked with Stritch Director of Planned Giving Chris Lange, ’11, to set up the Charitable Gift Annuity, which is a giving option that transfers cash or property to a charity in exchange for a partial tax deduction and the charity’s promise of a lifetime stream of annual income. Upon the donor’s death, the charity keeps the gift. At Stritch, a gift like this allows the University to address areas of need, including student scholarships, new programs, professional development for faculty, Franciscan pilgrimages, and many other initiatives that enrich the student experience and support the University’s mission.

“I continue to get income for the rest of my life at a rate that I couldn’t get anywhere else on a guaranteed basis and I think that would be appealing to many people,” Owenson said.

Graduating from Stritch with a bachelor’s degree in education, Chris Owenson dedicated her life to children – both to her own three and to the hundreds she taught. Starting her career in Milwaukee Public Schools, her husband’s nine-year naval career then led them to Virginia and Puerto Rico during his deployments before the young family settled in Long Beach, Calif. Chris Owenson eventually started teaching full time again as her kids grew and she spent 26 years teaching first grade at schools in the Los Angeles area. She earned a master’s degree in reading from California State University as well as several professional credentials.

“Chris liked California. We lived in Long Beach, which is a beach community, and that beats the heck out of Milwaukee weather!” said Tom Owenson with a chuckle.

Aside from work, Chris Owenson felt proud of her Polish heritage, which eventually led to her interest in folk dancing, “an almost obsessive hobby,” according to Tom Owenson. She enjoyed dancing for more than two decades with her sister, Pat (Suminski) Cross, ’65, a Stritch chemistry alumna, prior to Chris’ death.

Charitable Gift Annuities: A gift to Cardinal Stritch University provides income for YOUR life

If you would like to help underwrite Stritch student and faculty support, and receive an annuitized income stream for life, a Charitable Gift Annuity may be right for you. For a gift of $10,000 or more, you may enter into a simple contract with Cardinal Stritch University.

Here’s how it works:
You agree to make a donation of cash or appreciated assets such as stocks to the University. In return, you are guaranteed a rate of investment return that is based on your age (or the age of one or two recipients or annuitants) that will pay you an annuity amount every year for life.

Other benefits include:
• Donor receives a charitable income tax deduction
• Charitable gift annuity payments are partially income
• Gift provides a steady income for life
• Charitable Gift Annuity can be created with payments
    to one or two people

Rate of return
(effective April 15, 2013, by the American Council on Gift Annuities)
Age    Single Life Rate    Two Lives Rate
             (both same age)
55            4.0%                3.5%
60            4.4%                3.9%
65            4.7%                4.2%
70            5.1%                4.6%
75            5.8%                5.0%
80            6.8%                5.7%

To discuss how you can support Cardinal Stritch University and its mission, contact Director of Planned Giving Chris Lange, ’11, at or (414) 410-4207 or Vice President for University Advancement Robert J. Buckla, Ed.D., at or (414) 410-4201. Visit the University's giving page for information on your full range of options for providing a gift to Stritch.