Diesslins gift $100,000 of stock to VCC Foundation

Local educators and long-time community service members, Blaine “Butch” Diesslin and Lucille “Lucy” Barnes Diesslin recently made a $100,000 gift of stock to endow a scholarship with the Vermilion Community College Foundation.
When asked why they made the decision to give a large gift to establish an endowment Diesslin said, “A major reason for my endowing a scholarship at VCC is my receiving scholarships when I was in college. I am the second oldest child in a family with eight children.
“I received a ‘Tuition and Fees’ scholarship when I was earning my Bachelor’s Degree at Mankato State College (now Minnesota State-Mankato).
“Over the years, I was able to save and invest a portion of earnings while I was employed. Now that I am comfortably retired, I’ve reached a point where I want to ‘give back’ to others that want a college education by endowing two scholarships; one at VCC and one at UW-Superior.
Butch Diesslin made his first trip to Ely at the age of 15 as a member of a Boy Scout Explorer Post in St. Paul, MN to go on a canoe trip through the Region Ten Canoe Base; now known as the Northern Tier High Adventure Canoe Base. It would be the beginning of a life-long commitment to the area.
“I was the youngest, smallest, lightest and weakest member of the group. I couldn’t carry a canoe on portages and could only carry the smallest and lightest pack in our outfitting set. My greatest asset was my experience in campfire cooking for our group.
“I returned two years later, after getting slightly taller, much stronger, able to flip and carry a canoe and paddle and steer the canoe.”
It was at this time that Diesslin learned about a three-week long training available for 17-year-old scouts interested in working as staff-members guides for the following summer. He successfully completed the training and worked as a wilderness guide summers throughout college.
Diesslin is a St. Paul Johnson High School graduate and participated in an accelerated science and mathematics curriculum of the St. Paul Public Schools.
He then attended Mankato State College and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education with a Major in Mathematics and a Minor in Physics.
After Diesslin began teaching, he continued to be a summer staff member of the scout base as a staff trainer and summer maintenance supervisor.
Diesslin also continued his support of the base serving as a member of the Northern Tier National High Adventure Base Advisory Committee of the Boy Scouts of America from 1983-2020.
Diesslin taught junior high and high school mathematics, physics and physical science in Welcome and Renville, MN and also taught in Forest Lake, MN.
He was a participating student in a National Science Foundation Academic Year Institute of Graduate Studies in Physics Education at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and received his Masters of Science in Teaching in 1971.
Diesslin’s opportunity to teach college physics, engineering statics and engineering dynamics for spring quarter 1973, as a ‘temporary full-time’ employee for one quarter came upon the sudden and unexpected death of the Vermilion’s physics instructor (two weeks before the end of winter quarter 1972-73).
His teaching skill and experience led him to a permanent faculty position. During his tenure at Vermilion, Diesslin developed an introduction to astronomy course as a general education elective, the introduction of personal computers (Apple, IBM PC and Atari) into the facilities of the college.
This also necessitated having a computer maintenance person on staff. He completed training courses in computer maintenance, repair and the college’s local area network.
In a quickly changing technological world Diesslin explained, “I completed additional coursework to be able to develop and teach the college’s “introduction to computers” computer use and literacy course, which became a mandatory course for A.A. students when not everyone owned or used a computer.”
Diesslin also played a significant role in facilitating the innovative “Access to Excellence” or “Post-secondary Education Option” giving high school juniors and seniors the option to take college level classes through a community college’s curriculum, or to allow high school teachers with a master’s degree in their science or math discipline to teach a college credit class - with a quality assurance collaborator from a community college visiting the class periodically to ensure college credit worthiness, comparable content and rigor of the in-high school taught course.
He served as the quality assurance instructor through Vermilion for math and science courses being taught by high school teachers at Cherry, Crosby-Ironton, Aitkin, Staples, Babbitt and Ely.
In addition to his contributions to education in the Ely area, Diesslin has also served as a member of the Ely-Bloomensen Hospital Community Liaison Committee for over 15 years and served the full allowable term as a board member of the hospital board of directors, has served on the Dorothy Molter Museum board since the early days of the organization and served as president for over 10 years and has been an active member of the Kiwanis Club of Ely for many years.
It was during his time taking additional graduate studies in computer science at Bemidji State University that Diesslin met Lucy Barnes. The two had a lot in common; mathematics, teaching and a love of education.
Lucille “Lucy” Barnes Diesslin earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Winona State University, majoring in Mathematics.
Lucy taught junior high and high school mathematics in Highland WI, Lake Geneva, WI and St. Anthony Village, MN prior to meeting and marrying Butch and moving to Ely in 1983.
Lucy was a member of the faculty at Ely High School and retired after 38 years of teaching at the end of the 1998-1999 school year. Lucy volunteered as a tutor for the after school “Homework Club” for 15 years.
Lucy also served as a volunteer Board member of Northwoods Partners, is a member of the Ely Branch of the American Association of University Woman and continues to volunteer at the special events of Ely Community Resource.
Lucy has also established a scholarship at Winona State University and has also contributed to the funding and endowing of the VCC Diesslin Scholarship.
When learning of the gift, Interim Provost Chris Koivisto said, “Butch and Lucy have long been strong supporters of Vermilion and our work to make the educational dreams and aspirations of students a reality.
“Butch’s service to the college began in 1972 when he joined the Vermilion faculty and it continued into retirement as a member of the Vermilion Advisory Board. Butch and Lucy’s generous gift to the Vermilion foundation is the latest addition to their legacy of support for higher education, Vermilion, and the larger Ely community.
“On behalf of Vermilion, we cannot thank Butch and Lucy enough for their generosity and unwavering support. Gifts of scholarship mean more than ever to our students in these difficult times.”
There are many ways to support the students of Vermilion Community College.
Gifts of appreciated stocks, bonds, or mutual fund shares can be a tax-advantaged way to provide immediate support for Vermilion. Gifts of any size benefit students, faculty and our unique programs.
As with any gift to Vermilion, it may be directed to a specific degree program.
For more information 2visit https://www.vcc.edu/ways-to-give or contact Sarah Guy-Levar at sarah.guy-levar@vcc.edu or 218-235-2166.