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Gerald Rauenhorst, longtime friend of the University, dies

Gerald and Henrietta Schmoll Rauenhorst '49.
Gerald and Henrietta Schmoll Rauenhorst '49.
Portrait by Cyd Wicker.

Businessman, philanthropist and St. Catherine University benefactor Gerald A. Rauenhorst died peacefully on April 24, 2014, surrounded by his family. He was 86 years old.

The father-in-law of St. Catherine Board Chair Karen Dolan Rauenhorst, Gerry Rauenhorst was married for 60 years to the late Henrietta (“Hanky”) Schmoll Rauenhorst, a 1949 graduate of St. Catherine for whom the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health is named.

The St. Catherine University community extends its deepest sympathy to the Rauenhorst family.

Mr. Rauenhorst was founding chairman of what is now The Opus Group, a family of nationally known commercial real estate development, construction and design companies headquartered in Minneapolis.

Together, Gerry and Henrietta Rauenhorst were a positive, proactive force in Catholic higher education. Honored by the National Catholic Educational Association with the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Award in 2005, the couple was praised for their “quiet generosity and firm commitment to their Catholic faith.”

Among the numerous building and renovation projects that the Rauenhorst-led company undertook on Catholic campuses were two signature structures at St. Catherine: Coeur de Catherine, the student center and learning commons, dedicated in 2004, and the Rauenhorst and Morrison residence halls, dedicated in 2007.

The Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, named for Gerry’s beloved wife, is one of the premier healthcare educators in the country and reflects Mr. Rauenhorst’s indomitable spirit of innovation and quality.Rauenhorst secondary

In many ways, however, Mr. Rauenhorst’s primary contribution to St. Catherine University in particular — and to Catholic higher education overall — was his wise counsel.

“Mr. Rauenhorst was an advisor to many university presidents, including me,” says St. Catherine President Andrea Lee, IHM. “Although Gerry was certainly one of St. Catherine’s most generous benefactors, his most valuable gift to me has been his friendship and his wisdom, which he readily shared during our many conversations. I loved and deeply respected him.”

To see Mr. Rauenhorst’s extensive influence on St. Catherine University, one only has to look around the campus quad, attend a celebration in the ballroom that bears the Rauenhorst name or visit the gracious residence halls.

“Many of the most important activities and celebrations at St. Catherine take place in the Rauenhorst ballroom in Coeur de Catherine, made possible through the generosity of Henrietta and Gerry Rauenhorst, and the work of The Opus Group,” says Executive Vice President and Provost Colleen Hegranes. “In the residence hall that Mr. Rauenhorst built to honor his wife, the walls breathe her spirit, especially in Visitation Commons,” she adds.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Gerry Rauenhorst was born in Olivia, Minnesota, on December 8, 1927, to a strong Catholic family. His hard-working parents instilled faith-based ethics, integrity and a strong sense of responsibility in each of their children. Growing up during the Depression, Gerry learned from his parents’ example to share with those in need.

After graduating from the University of St. Thomas (then the College of St. Thomas) at age 20, Mr. Rauenhorst entered Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to study engineering. He married Henrietta Schmoll in 1950 and received his Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Marquette the following year. By age 22 he was teaching civil engineering at the university.

Mr. Rauenhorst went into business for himself in 1953, working out of a home office in Richfield, Minnesota. Four years later, Rauenhorst Corporation — later renamed Opus Corporation — had completed more than 50 buildings in the state.

The Rauenhorsts raised seven children: Judith, Mark (husband of Karen Rauenhorst), Neil, Joseph, Michael, Susan and Amy. Their eighth child, Gerald Anthony Jr., died as an infant in 1966. All seven Rauenhorst children attended Catholic colleges or universities.

According to a biography of the Opus company and its founder, A Better Way, Gerry Rauenhorst involved his children — sons and daughters alike — in his work. “I remember telling my friends and classmates, ‘My daddy builds buildings!” the youngest child, Amy Rauenhorst Goldman, recounted in the corporate history, published in 2003. “To me, Dad’s always been larger than life, charismatic, inspiring.”

Mr. Rauenhorst’s distinguished life and career earned him many honors, including the Design Build Institute of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Corporate Report Minnesota Executive of the Year, and Alumnus of the Year designations from both the University of St. Thomas and Marquette University.

Giving Back

Profoundly influenced by his wife, Henrietta — a longtime and distinguished St. Catherine trustee — Mr. Rauenhorst wove a rare combination of creativity, compassion and entrepreneurial business acumen into his philosophy of giving back.

“My mother was regularly the heart behind the family’s philanthropic efforts,” the couple’s eldest son, Mark, said upon Henrietta’s death in 2010. “She has been a gentle and determined inspiration that has led her family to a deep commitment to their communities and our world.”

Along with other Twin Cities corporate executives, Mr. Rauenhorst helped create the Keystone Club, in which members contribute 5 percent of their companies’ pre-tax profits to charity.

On the St. Catherine campus — as at St. Thomas, Marquette and elsewhere — the influence of Gerry and Henrietta Rauenhorst is evidenced in academic excellence and a vibrant student life. The couple co-chaired the Campaign for St. Catherine in the early 1990s and served as honorary co-chairs of the University’s Leadership in Mind centennial campaign, which concluded in 2005.

The 2012 Opus Prize ceremony at St. Catherine University was a grand celebration of a brilliant man’s passion and vision: to extend Gerry Rauenhorst’s entrepreneurial spirit toward solving some of the world’s most pervasive social problems. The annual Opus Prize honors a social entrepreneur somewhere in the world who creates transformational change because of her or his faith.

Sister Andrea’s friendship with Gerry provided her with “a personal window into the depth of his love for Hanky,” she says. “Over my 16 years at St. Catherine, I have been so privileged to know Gerry, enjoy significant time with him and benefit from his wise counsel. I’ve also done my best to respond to his formidable challenges!”

The Visitation will be Monday, May 5, from 4 to 7:30 p.m. The Mass of Christian Burial for Gerald Rauenhorst will be Tuesday, May 6, 10 a.m. (with Visitation one hour before). Both will be at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Edina.


April 24, 2014 by Amy Gage

See also: Alumnae/i, Catholic Identity