The generosity and care that Dr. Ralph Otto and his wife Dianne gave to Wartburg were reflected on by faculty and family on Thursday, Oct. 15.
Dr. Darrel Colson, president of Wartburg College, officially named the north and east wings of the Science Center after the Ottos in the courtyard of the Science Center.
“What we’re honoring is this tradition, this steady tradition in their family of supporting our science program,” Colson said.
Dr. Ralph Otto was a world renowned cardiothoracic surgeon and he graduated from Wartburg in 1963.
Upon graduating, Otto went to Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. where he received his medical degree in 1967.
Otto served on Wartburg’s Board of Regents from 1992 until his death in 2008.
Otto’s son, Bill Otto, was at the dedication and he recounted just how much Wartburg meant to his father.
Bill Otto remembered his parents getting into an argument over how unfairly Ralph Otto donated to Wartburg over Northwestern.
“He said ‘you don’t understand, Wartburg is the reason I am as successful as I am,’” Bill Otto said.
The Ottos set up a number of endowments and scholarships over the years.
Dr. Brian Ernsting, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, shared how the Otto’s gifts have helped maximize the teaching and learning between professors and students.
“Donors can be proud to know that they are not only ensuring academic excellence, but securing gifts for the future,” Ernsting said.
One of the beneficiaries of the Ottos’ contributions to the college is Dr. Shawn Ellerbroek, Ralph E. Otto Endowed professor in Chemistry.
An endowed professorship is a professor that is permanently paid from an endowment.
Ellerbroek talked at length about how much that honor has meant to him and the college.
Dr. A.W. Swensen meant a lot to Ralph Otto during his time at Wartburg and how Otto credited Swensen for much of his academic and professional success, Ellerbroek said.
Ellerbroek also shared the words of wisdom Swensen imparted on Otto during his time here.
“Achieve greatness and don’t be afraid of it,” Ellerbroek said.
In a tribute, the plaque commemorating the Otto Science Hall will be displayed next to a portrait of Swensen in the north wing.