Member Spotlight: The Stegners, Community Builders

The Stegners with their grandchildren

By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)

John (B.S., ’68; M.S., ’70) and Bonnie Stegner (B.S., ’69; CERT., ’69) open their home and hearts to others and give their time to bettering the larger community. They met when they were 10 years old; his family owned a dairy farm in Laporte and hers moved there from Timnath. At Colorado State, he was a first generation student and she had a Boettcher scholarship. Both were involved in University Lutheran, where they “joined with other students who had similar values to support one another, explore social justice issues, and translate that exploration into action.”

Stegners and “Cousins Camp” in front of tipi in their back yard

That perspective is evident in their home, which is a delightfully warm, welcoming place. One focus of their lives is helping their eight grandchildren “grow and become.” They have been “a safety valve when little ones got sick or during school breaks.” They gather them at their home every summer for “Cousins’ Camp,” a part of which involves an authentic Arapaho tipi in their backyard, which honors the Native American heritage of two of their granddaughters as well as the original occupants of the land upon which Fort Collins now sits. The Stegners have hosted many other young people in their home over the years. This summer the 14-year-old son of a German exchange student who had lived with them will visit for several weeks.

While at CSU, the couple enjoyed eating lunch together in the back of their VW bus camper. John played trombone in the marching and pep bands as well as in the Fort Collins Symphony. “Inspiring liberal arts professors” set him on a course of asking, “How may I serve my community?” They helped him develop “a moral code of conduct that I try to live by every day. Their voices continue to be in my head all these 50 years later.”

While pursuing his masters in sociology, John worked full-time at CSU Printing and Publications, supervising layout and production of Extension Service and 4-H publications. Bonnie started and ran a home preschool, then became involved in developing Rivendell, a grade school that focuses on individualized learning and the whole child. They both served on its board of directors, and Bonnie taught 4- to 7-year olds at the school.

They returned to the family dairy farm in the early 1970s. John served as president of the Fort Collins Milk Producers Association, on local and state committees associated with preservation of farmlands, and on the State Board of Agriculture. He also helped draft the first Larimer County Land Use Plan. They closed the dairy 25 years later, and he became a financial planner. For the last 14 years, both have been realtors in their son John’s (B.S., ’94; M.S., ’99) Your Castle agency.

The three other Stegner children also have CSU degrees: Timothy (B.S. ,’90), Susan Brady (B.S.,’97), and Shana Bode (M.S., ’01). There will be 12 CSU degrees among their immediate family when their grandson graduates this May. Their extended family has amassed a long list of prestigious CSU awards, including the William E. Morgan Alumni Achievement Award. The quirkiest entry on that list is Homecoming Royalty Candidate; in 1964 or 1965, Bonnie’s sisters launched a write-in campaign for Agamemnon the Duck. Apparently, this “nonhuman family member” received a fair number of votes. John shrugs, “it was the ‘60s, after all.”

We salute these two Alumni Association Life Members for their stalwart service in support of others.