Documenting the Past and Preserving the Future

Inspired by their passion for Humboldt, history, and lifelong learning, Jerry and Gisela Rohde have made a transformational gift to the Cal Poly Humboldt Library and its Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) of more than $2 million through a planned bequest. The gift commitment is the second largest in University history. 

“We’re excited to support our beloved Library and OLLI during this pivotal time in the University’s history,” says Jerry. “The Library directly supports students with hands-on learning, mentorship, and resources, while OLLI encourages education throughout our local community.” 

The Jerry and Gisela Rohde Estate will create three endowed charitable funds to support staff positions for the University Library’s The Press at Cal Poly Humboldt, Special Collections & Archives, and OLLI. Jerry will also give  his extensive archives, the Rohde Research Papers Collection, which includes historical records about communities across the North Coast region. 

“We know the Library plays a big role in educating both Humboldt students and the community,” says Jerry. 

The bequest gift is an expansion of the Rohdes’ previous donation, two endowments created in 2020 which fund paid student internships and assistantships with the Library and OLLI.

“As a 21st-century polytechnic institution, our priority is to create enriching opportunities for students to cultivate career-ready skills,” says Humboldt President Tom Jackson, Jr. “With this incredible gift, the University Library will continue on its path of innovation to help students gain practical experience in research, publishing, and teaching. We’re so grateful to the Rohdes and community members like them for investing in our students and the future-forward vision of Cal Poly Humboldt.” 

The University Library is a special place to the Rohdes. Gisela worked in the Library’s serials and periodicals department from 1988 to 2015 and Jerry has been a Research Associate in the Anthropology department’s Cultural Resource Facility for more than 20 years. Now through their legacy, the Rohdes’ dedication to the University will continue to support Humboldt students for generations to come. 

The Rohdes were first drawn to the North Coast in 1979 by their love of nature, hiking, and history. In 1992, they published their first book, a guidebook to Humboldt Redwoods State Park. In the process of writing and publishing more books, the Rohdes decided to set aside funds to help other independent authors like themselves do research and self-publish. 

Part of their bequest gift will support the Press, which publishes University-affiliated research and scholarship, and the Library’s Special Collections & Archives. Jerry published a book about sea level rise in Humboldt Bay with the Press last year and his book about local Native American communities is currently in preparation by the Press. 

In addition to the Press and the Library Special Collections, Jerry and Gisela are also happy to support their passion for lifelong learning and community with their bequest gift to OLLI, which offers classes and experiences for learners aged 50 and better. Jerry and Gisela have both taught classes on hiking, history, and more with OLLI for almost 20 years. “It’s an important way to reach the community,” says Jerry. 

Cyril Oberlander, Library Dean and Interim Dean for the College of Extended Education & Global Engagement, says “The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Cal Poly Humboldt cultivates a vibrant community of learners, and the transformational gift made by Jerry and Gisela Rohde will have profound positive impacts in the lives of students and community at large, in perpetuity.”