When President Marshall visited with Jim and Jeanne O’Dell about the need to sustain Central’s future, they were eager to help. She asked the O’Dells to consider endowing Central’s Global Christianity initiatives, which include the collaboration with Myanmar Institute of Theology, a global immersion experience for students, and ongoing instruction of resettled persons from Myanmar.
“You can’t help everybody but if you can help a few do what their passion is – what they feel God is calling them to do, we would like to do that,” said Jim about their decision to make a gift to the seminary. He continued, “[With the recent sale of Valley Bank and Trust in Brighton, Colorado], we got more than we expected. We have more than we need, our kids are doing fine, so we simply would like to share with Central to do some things they need to have done.”
O’Dell said the first gift he gave to Central was when he stopped by to visit the old campus in Kansas City, Kansas, and saw a computer lab with no computers. He bought the computers for the lab. He recounted that his connection with Central began when he was in high school and his father became friends with then President Paul Losh. His father thought so much of Losh that Jim has had a soft spot for the school ever since.
Although Jim’s father was a farmer in western Kansas, and Jim farmed with him for about five years after completing his college degree, O’Dell built his career in banking. In the mid-sixties he and a partner purchased the First National Bank of Otis, Colorado. In 1971 he moved to Brighton to start Valley Bank and Trust, which the O’Dells owned for forty years.
Jim passed on his love of banking to his and Jeanne’s daughter Donna. She was the President of the bank in Brighton from 2000 until it was sold last year and she retired. Jim and Jeanne have a second daughter, Debbie, who is a teacher in Sioux Falls and a son, Richard, who is a musician and owns a sound company in the Denver/Brighton area. His passion for music came from Jeanne who is an accomplished violinist and plays in an orchestra in Brighton, as well as in the church orchestra of Crossroads Baptist in North Glen where they are members. Jeanne was also very involved in the bank, having served on its board from its inception. The O’Dells also proudly claim four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
More recently, the O’Dells have watched with interest as Central moved its campus to Shawnee, Kansas, as well as made other strategic changes under the leadership of President Molly T. Marshall. They have been impressed with how the seminary has turned around and would like to help the seminary keep moving forward.
Jim observed, “There will still be a lot of changes that will take place in the next 10 years. If we can be just a little part of that, we would like to do it. We wish we could do more.”