Father Paul Rutten was a beloved member of the Aquinas Catholic family all the way up until his March 20 death.

Rutten, a long-time priest and guidance counselor at Aquinas High School from 1965-1984, is remembered for his kind words and caring actions, positively impacting numerous students during his tenure.

And although he is gone, his memory continues living on through a $1.2 million gift recently presented to the school’s endowment fund by Rutten’s power of attorney in the wake of his passing. The donation is the single largest endowment gift received since the fund was created in 1981 with gifts totaling just over $100,000.

The fund was created by donors with the desire that the fund would grow into something that would help support the school’s annual budget down and keep parish assessments down, according to information released by the school.

With the gift from Rutten, the fund has grown from about $4.7 million to $6 million. The school receives about $200,000 from the fund yearly which goes toward its annual budget. The gift from Rutten, school officials said, will add about $50,000 to that total moving forward for years to come.

The gift came as a complete surprise, said Deb Svec, assistant development director/alumni director for Aquinas and St. Mary’s Catholic Schools. Many monetary gifts are prepared leading up to people’s passing through the school’s Heritage Club. This one, however, was not.

“It’s people who have come forward and shared with us that they are remembering us with a planned gift,” Svec said of the Heritage Club. “We did not know about this gift, it was a complete surprise. A very pleasant surprise.”

Prior to Rutten’s contribution, the largest endowment gift was donated by Father Gerald Messman in the amount of just over $1 million in the early 2000s, said Father Sean Timmerman, chief administrative officer at Aquinas High School.

Rutten, a Butler County native, graduated from Assumption High School in Dwight in 1950 before attending Saint Thomas Seminary in Denver, becoming ordained in June 1958 at Saint Francis Church in David City.

After serving at Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Falls City, as well as Sacred Heart Parish in Lincoln, Rutten taught at Pius X High School before settling into his career at Aquinas. There, he emphasized the importance of education while forming bonds with staff and students.

“Fr. Rutten was a nice man and a great priest! He was a people person,” said Mike Adamy, in a written statement to Svec. “He gave the best sermons, attested to by many who were fortunate enough to be present for any of his sermons. They were personal, to the point and short. He would always be available to people and he knew everyone’s names and what they did … I’m sure he’s enjoying heaven now, as he definitely deserves.”

After retiring from active priest duty in 2008, Rutten moved to the Bonacum Retirement Home for Priests. Rutten served the Lincoln Diocese for 60 years prior to his passing at Madonna Rehabilitation Center in Lincoln. He is buried in St. Francis Cemetery in David City.

Timmerman noted how Rutten’s presence will be long felt, and that his generosity will continue benefiting students for the foreseeable future.

“He was so well-known and respected,” Timmerman said. “… And we are just very fortunate that he did this for us.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net

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