Meet Our Donors: Bob and Betty Kohn

A few years ago, Bob and Betty Kohn participated in the grand opening of a Stevensville, Michigan, athletic field they funded. Betty passed away without seeing the MLC facility named in her honor, but Bob Kohn did attend the fieldhouse dedication.

By Pastor Joshua Bishop MLC ’09, WLS ’13

If you were to stroll the campus of Martin Luther College, you would discover places like the Chapel of the Christ, with an impressive organ fixed in a wide-open space where voices can ring like the angelic choirs of heaven. In the background you’d hear the trickle of the baptismal font, reminding you of the waters that wash us and make us righteous in God’s sight.

Walk out those doors, and you’d see a new statue of Jesus called “The Fisher of Men,” which reminds students of who called them and what the task is at hand. Turn right, and on the far side of the mall stands Martin Luther, pointing at the Scriptures, which directs students back to God’s Word and reminds all of us that we’re Lutheran. We stand with Luther now, 500 years later, on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now drive a few blocks away to find the new addition to campus, the Betty Kohn Fieldhouse. Betty Kohn? Who is that?

That is the name of a soul who was also baptized and made righteous. That is a fish who was caught by the gospel. Bob and Betty Kohn are supporters of Christian education much like Luther was. And they were children of God long before they were donors.

Betty now sings with the angelic choirs of heaven as she rests in eternity with Jesus Christ. Long before, she sang with the choirs of St. Matthew’s Lutheran in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Bob and Betty later became members at Grace Lutheran in neighboring St. Joseph, Michigan, where I serve.

When I first met Betty, she did not sing. She didn’t even speak. She sat at a small table in front of a large window in the breakfast nook of the Kohn home. Across from her sat her faithful husband, Bob. Betty traced the placemat with her finger as Bob explained to me how she’d suffered a stroke years ago and had developed Alzheimer’s.

One of the joys of being a pastor is to bring God’s Word to people who can no longer make it to church. I sat and reminded Betty of her sins, which would have separated her from a holy God if it were not for Jesus. I resurrected the truths of the gospel cleansing that was hers because of her Savior. I placed that Savior’s very own body and blood into her hands so she could eat and drink the pledge of her forgiveness.

This is the reason Martin Luther College exists, to train men and women who are qualified to meet the ministry needs of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and who are competent to proclaim the Word of God faithfully and in accord with the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord.

This training is not simply theoretical. It is practical. Every graduate in ministry will use the hours of classroom instruction to fish for men and women like Bob and Betty Kohn. Every athlete who plays under the roof of the Betty Kohn Fieldhouse will impact other fish caught in the net of the gospel.

In addition to donating to the fieldhouse, Bob and Betty Kohn are donating to help Christian education at every level. At the time of this publication, a new gymnasium is going up at Michigan Lutheran High School. A new turf soccer field is being installed and a gym has been renovated at Grace Lutheran School in St. Joseph.

God has blessed his church at large with the generosity of the Kohn family. Far before they were donors, they were souls, bought by the blood of Jesus Christ.

The Lord decided to take Betty home to heaven in January of 2021, so she never saw the completion of the fieldhouse erected in her name. But the Kohn legacy will last for generations to come as many more join Betty singing the praises of God in heaven.

Pastor Joshua Bishop serves Grace Lutheran in St. Joseph, Michigan, where Bob Kohn is a member.