Kuemper Eternal Kights walk for exercise in the Kuemper Field House. Eternal Knights have open access to the facility that opened in April.
Kuemper Eternal Kights walk for exercise in the Kuemper Field House. Eternal Knights have open access to the facility that opened in April.

August 8, 2017

Kuemper Catholic Schools President John Steffes stood on a free-throw line of a basketball court in the new Kuemper Field House and dribbled a basketball. “I love watching people react when they come (into the Field House) for the first time,” Steffes said as he picked up the ball and prepared for a shot. “They’re very impressed and proud because they helped build it.”  He released the ball and sank the shot.

“Eternal Knights get a pass to use the facility. They really have a deep love for the institution,” Steffes said.

Kuemper’s new Field House finished construction in April. It is part of a $5 million campaign dubbed “Kuemper Tomorrow” that was launched in 2011. The campaign involved several improvements to Kuemper facilities. The Field House accounted for about $1 million of the funds, Steffes said.

Beginning in August, Kuemper opened the facility for access during school hours to a club of Kuemper alumni who have placed Kuemper schools in their wills, or have arranged other future planned estate gifts such as a trust or insurance policy.

Kuemper calls this band of people its Eternal Knights. The group officially received the name in 2001. Today, there are 143 members on its roster — 91 of them are still living. Kuemper Foundation Director Sharon Olerich described their contributions as similar to placing Kuemper on the level of a family member in their estate plan.

“It’s very unique to put our Catholic schools at such a level in their future plans,” Olerich said. “Their access to the Field House is a big thank-you. It’s something to honor them for stepping up.”

Along with access to the Field House, the Eternal Knights are listed on a plaque in the high school front entrance and also listed on a special page in the back of the annual booklet for the schools’ Kuemper Ball fundraising campaign. They are invited to special events throughout the year such as school plays, Masses and baseball grill-outs. Olerich said the amounts donated are never disclosed to the public. Eternal Knights may also choose to keep their commitment private.

“We have a few Knights who don’t want any recognition,” Olerich said. “They just want Kuemper to know that they put us in their estate plan. Our obvious goal is to have many more Eternal Knights help.” Eternal Knight Jim Auen, 62, said that he and his wife, Deb, plan to utilize the Field House regularly for recreation. Auen, an Anheuser-Busch InBev wholesaler who graduated from Kuemper Catholic High School in 1974, has been instrumental in Kuemper fundraising throughout the years. He said that Kuemper is a great asset to Carroll.

“The new Field House is rather impressive,” Auen said. “The old Field House was dated. The new one gives Kuemper students a lot of opportunity for expanded activities.”

The steel building features basketball courts, wrestling mats, a locker room with showers and a practice area for sports such as football and soccer when the weather is harsh. It’s also utilized by the school’s marching band. The building is powered in part by large solar panels.

Steffes, who also is an Eternal Knight, said the building was very cost-effective considering its multipurpose intent.

Olerich added the Kuemper staff will be looking forward to homecoming, as many Eternal Knights have yet to see the new Field House.

“We feel that spreading the good news about Kuemper leads to more good news,” Olerich said. “May God send eternal blessings for (the Eternal Knights’) generosity and vision for the future.”