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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Donation for peace delivered with Post-it note

The Rev. Simon Harak opened the Marquette Center for Peacemaking’s mailbox last December to find a highly unexpected envelope. Inside was a $20,000 check with a Post-it note that read simply: “Call Renee if you have questions about this donation.”

After the note fell out of the envelope, Harak, the center’s director, made the call to the aforementioned Renee Kraft, a lifelong friend of the gift’s bearer.  Harak discovered the gift was courtesy of Henrietta Prehn – a 1946 alumna who died of cancer last June and left $20,000 to Marquette in her will.

“At first I thought it was some kind of mistake – I actually didn’t believe it,” Harak said.  “It looked like a legitimate check, and it was a legitimate note with a phone number but I waited until the staff had gotten there.”

This also raised a red flag for Dhwani Rawal, the center’s communications director.  She agreed the center was confused and originally feared someone had made a mistake.

“Honestly, I did not think that a donation like that would be such a big deal,” Kraft said. “I mean I know $20,000 is a lot of money, but I just assumed that they get large donations often.”

Harak discussed the matter with the center’s associate director, Patrick Kennelly, and office associate Carole Poth before deciding to call Kraft to confirm the gift.

Kraft explained to Harak that Prehn had researched where she wanted the money to go, saw the center’s Web site and decided that was the best place.

“She said Henrietta wanted to give money to her alma mater and to some project that Marquette was undertaking and that she entrusted her to do that for her,” Harak said.

Prehn and Kraft were close friends, although Prehn graduated the same year Kraft was born. As Prehn had no family of her own, she latched onto Kraft and never let go.

“(Henrietta) was a very private person,” Kraft said. “She never married and never had children. We became her family of sorts. We were what she had and there were parts of us that she loved.”

Their friendship lasted 30 years, until cancer caused Prehn’s health to decline in her late 60s. Kraft said this continued until last June when Prehn went into the hospital with breathing problems and never came out.

After looking through old photos from Prehn’s college days, Kraft said it was obvious how much she truly loved Marquette.

“Marquette were some of the happiest days of her life,” Kraft said. “Education was what helped her achieve her goals and so she believed in giving back.”

Rawal said the money has been invested in an endowment, allowing them to gather the interest to sustain the center.

She said this is important because the center, only three years old, receives no financial support from the government or from the university.

“(The center) receives grants specific for sponsoring programs,” said Rawal, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, “but we receive no money to reserve just for the center.”

Rawal said the center’s goals revolve around education. She said they would like to serve as a middle ground between people who want to act non-violently and the choice to act this way.

Harak said the center is trying to spread the knowledge and the skills for peacemaking beyond the Marquette community.

“It’s not enough just to have the will,” said Harak. “You’ve also got to have the skills.”

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