Alum posthumously donates $1.8 million to Elmhurst University

  • Elmhurst University has received $1.8 million from the estate of a Class of 1950 graduate.

    Elmhurst University has received $1.8 million from the estate of a Class of 1950 graduate. Courtesy of Elmhurst University

Updated 9/11/2020 5:25 PM

The estate of an Elmhurst University alum has donated $1.8 million to his alma mater -- one of the largest gifts ever bestowed on the liberal arts school.

Elmhurst officials announced Friday the donation from the estate of the late George Howard Baechtold, 91, a longtime donor and college professor who earned his degree in mathematics from the school in 1950.


The donation will pay for a new scholarship for students from underrepresented groups and other efforts at Elmhurst.

"George had the foresight to leave the designation of his gift unrestricted, and to be used for the institution's most pressing needs," university Vice President Valerie Day said in a statement. "A portion of his gift will go to support the newly established President's Scholarship for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which aligns with his passion and lifelong work."

After graduating, Baechtold, enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served as an officer during the Korean War. He left the Navy as a full lieutenant.

Baechtold received his law degree from University of Southern California law school and practiced law in the San Fernando Valley for about 15 years, according to his obituary.

In the 1970s, he found "his calling and true love" teaching as a professor with the business law faculty at California State University Northridge in the 1970s.

"George was passionate about teaching," friend Melanie Stallings Williams said in a statement. "He loved the intellectual inquiry of it, and he was made fresh by all the questions and engagement with students. He was also passionate about standing up for the underdog, so I know he would be very pleased that his gift will help marginalized students."

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Baechtold donated to Elmhurst over the course of more than 43 years, supporting the chemistry department, the campus arboretum and the university's American Dream Scholarship for first-generation college students.

Baechtold died on Dec. 7, 2019. He is survived by his husband, Joseph Baechtold-Moreno.

"Alumni like George represent the best of Elmhurst University," school President Troy VanAken said in a statement. "George was a positive influence on our campus during his days as a student, and as an alumnus he made the world a better place. I am personally grateful that George's philanthropy will assist so many of our current and future students."

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