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Meet Joe Trecek

"My hope is that these gifts will help make it possible for young people to pursue their call to ministry. The church desperately needs strong preachers and strong leaders—and I want to help prepare quality leaders like Dr. Hancock and other Garrett-Evangelical graduates I have known."

What inspires a layman in Iowa to support a seminary in Illinois for 28 years?

According to Joe Trecek, perhaps it was God speaking to him through a couple of individuals.

Joe, now 81 years old, still remembers the day in November 1986 when he got a phone call from his friend, Bob Yaw, inviting him to a 7:30 a.m. breakfast to meet a young man from Garrett-Evangelical. “I can’t,” Joe replied. “I’m at work then.”  “Call them and tell them you will be late!” was Bob’s response. So that is what Joe did—and the rest, as they say, is history! 

Bob and Joe were both active members of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and both shared a deep appreciation for their pastor, Eugene Hancock, a 1951 Garrett graduate. Bob had been introduced to the seminary a couple of years earlier and was working with David Heetland at Garrett-Evangelical to create an endowed scholarship in Dr. Hancock’s name. Bob thought Joe would be interested in learning more about the seminary and plans to honor Dr. Hancock. Hence, the breakfast meeting.

At the breakfast, Joe shared with Bob and David his story of growing up on a farm near Boscobel, Wisconsin, majoring in business administration at the University of Wisconsin, spending two years in the army, and then moving to Cedar Rapids to begin work at Collins Radio (today known as Rockwell Collins). He listened with interest as David told him about Garrett-Evangelical and how it had been preparing Christian leaders like Dr. Hancock since its founding in 1853.

Joe commented that he recognized the importance of higher education. Since he was a bachelor and had never sent anyone to college, he was thinking that perhaps he should help someone through school. Upon learning about the financial challenges seminarians face in funding three years of graduate theological education, he became convinced this was where he could make an important difference. At the conclusion of the visit, Joe remarked that perhaps God was speaking to him through Bob and David.

Shortly thereafter, Joe made a leadership gift to the Eugene Hancock Scholarship at Garrett-Evangelical—and he has continued his leadership support to the seminary every year since. In addition, Joe has made a significant planned gift commitment to the seminary through his will. “My hope is that these gifts will help make it possible for young people to pursue their call to ministry,” Joe says. “The church desperately needs strong preachers and strong leaders—and I want to help prepare quality leaders like Dr. Hancock and other Garrett-Evangelical graduates I have known.” 

In addition to his own gifts, Joe has hosted several Small Informational Gatherings over the years to introduce others to the seminary. He has also served on the seminary’s Council of Laity. 

Joe worked his way up in management at Collins to the position of Manager of Credit and Financial Operations. After 32 years with the company, he took early retirement at age 57 so that he could pursue other interests, including volunteering on numerous church committees, working with delinquent boys, and playing the clarinet with the Collins band and the Shriners Band—something he still enjoys doing.