May 11, 2023 Print This Article

Living and Giving for Now and the Future

For Dr. LeRoy and Jane Wilke of Woodbury, Minn., their life together has always been about the mission of the Gospel. “We’ve been given incredible opportunities and it’s very humbling,” LeRoy said. “Not everyone gets the chance we have of looking back and seeing how God has been preparing us for each next step in our lives,” added Jane.

It all started with business school and a banking job in Minneapolis for LeRoy. After a short time, he was drafted into the Army and served as a chaplain’s assistant in Fort Riley, Kan., where he was in charge of bookkeeping, accounting and other similar tasks. “This turned out to be a turning point in my life,” he said.

While he had a job in a bank waiting for him when he got out of the Army, LeRoy decided to go back to school. He attended Golden Valley Lutheran College and then was one of the first five students of the new Director of Christian Education (DCE) training program at Concordia University, Saint Paul, Minn. (CSP). He graduated with a bachelor’s degree and DCE certification in 1972. He served his congregation for a number of years and then received a call to serve as the first full-time director of the DCE training program at CSP. “He really is a patriarch of the DCE program,” Jane said. “He was a part of opening the door of a ministry that has had such great impact.”

A 1975 graduate of CSP herself, Jane began her career as an admissions counselor there. “When LeRoy and I got married in 1979, I went into teaching. My mom had been a kindergarten teacher in a Lutheran school, and that was my desire all along.”

Jane spent about 20 years in Lutheran schools as an early childhood educator, first in Minnesota, then Missouri. In 1985, LeRoy accepted a call to serve in the Department of Youth Ministry for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). He had been involved as a volunteer with the LCMS Youth Gathering while in Minnesota, work that was to continue for the next 15 years in a leadership role.

“LeRoy was part of those two really huge ministries, the DCE program and the LCMS Youth Gathering, almost from the inception, building that legacy,” Jane said.

In 1990, LeRoy became the executive director of the LCMS Youth Ministry office, and then in 2000, became executive director for LCMS District and Congregational Services. He retired in 2005. During that time in St. Louis, Jane also served in a variety of ways beyond the classroom: as an editor for Concordia Publishing House, working in creative services at Lutheran Hour Ministries and as director of communications at Lutheran Senior Services.

LeRoy and Jane moved back to Minnesota in 2009 where for several years he became involved in training and supervising colloquy DCE students at CSP and traditional DCE students at Concordia University Nebraska, Seward, and she works part-time as director of church relations for CSP. “It came full circle for me,” Jane said. “I’m ending where I started!”

As part of their life of service in the church, LeRoy and Jane also spent significant time involved in the ministry of Concordia Seminary. In 2007, LeRoy was elected to the Seminary’s Board of Regents and served two six-year terms, totaling 12 years. During those years, he really came to understand the academic and financial expectations of a Seminary education. “It was a time of transition for all of higher education,” he said. “Institutions weren’t receiving the direct support they needed anymore and had to find and source the dollars to help students and fund the institution itself.” The Seminary wasn’t immune to these industry changes.

LeRoy’s banking background gave him an interest in the Seminary budget, the audit committee and the day-to-day budget operation. “I also took a particular interest in the endowment aspect of funding,” reflected LeRoy. “It goes back to when I was on staff at Concordia Saint Paul and working with students, understanding their financial obligations and obstacles. I really have a heart for students. Being on the Board of Regents put me back in that sphere.”

The need for church workers is great, yet Jane and LeRoy understand that the financial obstacles also are great. “We want to break down some of those obstacles, and allow more men and women to walk through the Seminary doors to be trained and sent,” Jane said.

The couple gives to the Seminary annually, helping to meet the financial needs of students and the daily operations of the Seminary today, and they have made provisions in their estate plan for meeting needs for the future.

“LeRoy and Jane’s understanding of and love for the Seminary is inspiring. They have great joy in sharing their financial blessings, which will touch the lives of Seminary students for generations to come,” said Michael Flynn, director of principal gifts at the Seminary.

“Giving is a part of our life, our DNA,” LeRoy said. “It’s who we are,” added Jane. “It’s not, ‘We’ll give annually and stop when we’re no longer living.’ Nor is it, ‘We don’t need to do annual giving because we have deferred gifts in our will.’ It’s both.”

“We sing the song ‘I Love to Tell the Story.’ We want it to be ‘We Live to Tell the Story,’” smiled Jane. “And, we want to live in a way that the story goes on. As we support the Seminary through our gifts now and tomorrow, it’s our way of living so the story, the mission of the Gospel, will continue even after we’re gone.”

Deaconess Rebekah Lukas is a communications specialist at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.