Elayne and Paul Lohr experienced great blessing from their family’s egg business, which they helped grow from a small farm to a 60,000-bird ranch. That blessing has flowed down in their own family, and in thirty-five years of impact at CUI where their generosity has helped build the campus and support students through scholarships.
“The Lohrs have been generous with the blessings God has given them, and have a longstanding commitment and love for our programs,” says Tim Jaeger, Executive Vice President of University Advancement.
Paul, now deceased, graduated from Concordia River Forest (now Concordia University Chicago), then moved to Anaheim and was serving as a school teacher at Zion Lutheran when he met Elayne Winger. Elayne’s father owned a chicken farm and citrus groves in Anaheim.
“Anaheim was a nice little town at that time,” Elayne, who is now 92, remembers. “It had one high school, and then Disney came in and Anaheim grew by leaps and bounds because Disney bought so much of the citrus land.”
That turned out to be a blessing, because many citrus groves had been hit hard by disease. Elayne’s family transitioned from orange farming to egg farming, and Paul married into the family—and the business.
“Money was awfully tight,” Elayne says. “It was during the Depression era so you didn’t have any grandiose ideas about what you were going to do.”
Elayne helped out, going down the rows of cages with a cart to pick up eggs. In those days, eggs went straight from the ranch to the store, so all the washing, grading and candling to look for imperfections was done on their property.
We’ve seen the university through all its phases. It’s changed a lot in forty years, and it’s been wonderful watching its growth.
In the 1950s, the family moved the chicken ranch out near Riverside. Soon it grew to around 60,000 birds. By this time, Elayne was raising their two children, Kristen and Stuart. She also began volunteering for philanthropic work.
“I joined the Assistance League which helps children by supplying clothing and food,” she says. “It’s a wonderful organization and I met a lot of new people through it.”
In the late 1970s, the Lohrs learned of a new Lutheran college taking root in Irvine. Elayne’s sister Eunice had married Herb Grimm, whose brother Ray Grimm was a founding trustee of the Christ College Irvine Foundation, now a part of Concordia University Irvine.
“We would get together on weekends and have dinner, and we always heard from Ray and his wife Helen what was going on with Concordia,” Elayne says.
That was the beginning of our involvement with the Pacesetters support group, and we’ve been members ever since.
Herb and Eunice’s sons (Elayne and Paul’s nephews) Rod and Bob and their families also became generous supporters of Concordia. One day after dinner with the Lohrs, Rod and Bob asked Paul and Elayne to consider supporting Concordia in an even more significant way. “We’ve seen the university through all its phases. It’s changed a lot in forty years, and it’s been wonderful watching its growth. We are appreciative of the leadership they’ve had through the years, very fine men.”
Through the years, the Lohrs have supported a number of building programs and continue to support student scholarships.
“Getting young people educated to go into various forms of ministry, whether as a DCE or school teacher or in pastoral leadership—that was near and dear to Mom and Dad’s heart,” says their son Stuart. “One thing that provided them a lot of joy is when they financially supported a student, then went down and met the student on campus. Dad talked about that many times.”
The ranch continued to prosper, and amazingly, Paul ran it himself with one hired hand. That kept labor costs down, as did increased automation which sent eggs down a conveyor belt and into a work room. Paul also loved music, and for thirty years served as the volunteer choir director at their church, Immanuel Lutheran in Riverside.
“It was a very successful choir. He just loved it,” says Elayne.
They created a family legacy of commitment to their faith and to generosity, and inspired others to get involved.
Giving to Concordia has always been important to them, to “bring up the next generation to carry on in the ministry in these local churches,” says Stuart. “Mom and Dad wanted to give and never wanted a lot of credit for it. They just wanted to know in their hearts they were doing something good.”
Elayne’s grandson Todd and granddaughter Summer graduated from CUI, as did several other relatives. Jaeger says Paul and Elayne went beyond giving and often attended Friends of Concordia events—galas, special dinners and concerts—and introduced friends to Concordia’s mission as well.
“They created a family legacy of commitment to their faith and to generosity, and inspired others to get involved,” Jaeger says.