Esther’s gentle legacy
Esther Klages brought warmth and beauty to campus
Esther Klages’ bond with George Fox University was so strong that, even though her wealth would have allowed her to live anywhere around the world, she made her home a single room in a retirement center so she could be near the campus.
The gentle, well-loved alumna, volunteer, and benefactor, whose name is often heard and seen on campus, died Dec. 13 at the age of 100.
Klages did not want to be known as a benefactor and was reluctant to have her name used, but in recognition of her nearly $2 million in gifts, her name is carried on in the Klages Dining Room, the Klages Plaza that fronts the Edward F. Stevens Center, and through the Klages scholarship program for international students.
Her influence is seen by everyone on campus because of her interest in the look of the campus quad. Her gift of $126,000 in 1990 allowed construction of the Centennial Tower, which now defines the campus center and recently became the symbol portrayed in the university logo.
Initially, Klages thought the tower, designed by famed architect Pietro Belluschi, might be a frivolous use of her money. But one morning, awakening in her room to a dazzling sunrise, she decided “the Lord likes beauty, too.” It convinced her to fund the tower, with the carillon that sends bell chimes across the campus. The quad’s period light poles with the flowering baskets and brackets for banners also were made possible with Klages’ encouragement and financial support.
“She was intensely interested in the things of God,” says George Fox President David Brandt. “That’s why George Fox was her place — because of our Christ-centered mission. Her purpose in life was to be a godly person.”
In February 2004, the university celebrated Klages’ 100th birthday with more than 1,000 students singing “Happy Birthday” to her at a chapel service.