When Anita Wuertz ’54 Strauss was a child, her family’s holiday dinners usually ended with a boisterous rendition of the North Central College Alma Mater. “So of course I always wanted to come to North Central!” she says. “It’s in my blood.”
For Strauss, attending the College is something of a family tradition. Both of her parents (Clara Pfauhl ’20 Wuertz and Oscar K. Wuertz ’24) as well as an aunt (Elma Wuertz ’30 Paul), uncle (Dallas Paul ’33) and sister (Shirley Wuertz ’51 Huff) graduated from North Central. Her mother even worked as the College’s reference librarian before marrying Strauss’ father and moving to Kansas.
When the time came for Strauss to apply to college, she hit a snag. “My mother had a nice job as a university librarian, but it didn’t pay a lot,” she says. “Since I could go to that school for almost nothing, that’s where I started.”
Fortunately, by junior year Strauss was able to realize her dream and transfer to North Central. Here, in addition to meeting the academic requirements for her psychology/sociology double major, she held jobs in the admission office, the psychology department and the dining hall. Most important, she formed several solid friendships—friendships that she has treasured throughout her life.
She and Bonnie Erffmeyer McLaughlin, Toni Smira Votava, Lois Chandler Stack, Lois Roesti Wisthuff and Val Uebele Dudley—all Class of 1954—landed a large room together on the third floor of Kroehler House. “You learn a lot about people in a hurry when you spend that much time together,” Strauss notes. The friends have stayed in touch over the years by gathering for Homecoming and reunion celebrations and by exchanging emails, “round robin” letters and birthday cards.
Strauss also got to know her other housemates—especially since the building’s fire escape led directly into her room. “It was a good alternate entrance for girls who missed their 10 p.m. curfew and didn’t want to face our housemother, Mrs. Dute!”
After graduation, Strauss returned to her Kansas home with the words of her sociology professor ringing in her ears. “He once told me, very casually, that he knew what I would do after graduation: Go home and become a secretary,” she recalls. “He knew that he was challenging me to aim higher with my degree. So his words really motivated me.”
She accepted a position as a claims representative for the Social Security Administration—where her own assistant reported to her. She met Dr. Paul Strauss at a book group hosted by a local church and the pair married in 1962.
Since then, the couple has built a successful real estate business together with their four children, following in the footsteps of so many North Central alumni who majored in a science before going on to thrive in entrepreneurial endeavors. Their longstanding generosity has made a world of difference to the College. And as part of the Brilliant Future Campaign and construction of the Science Center, they’ve pledged $1.5 million to support the greenhouse and neuroscience lab. Their gift reflects their interest in sustainability (they’ve installed solar panels on the roof of their home) and Paul’s career in psychiatry.
Says Strauss: “I just want to help the kids at North Central, and for the College to be as good as it can be for them. This really is the school I love.”