Remembering a Dear Friend and Colleague

I have to share some tragic and very sad news with you. A dear member of the Center for Rural Affairs staff, and a friend and acquaintance to many of you, Hank Rohling, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on October 24. 

I know many of you - Center donors across the country - had the opportunity to visit with Hank, our major gifts development officer, over the past two years. 

The Center for Rural Affairs family became a part of Hank’s family. When he had a stroke a few weeks ago, he was on the road in Missouri visiting Center donors. It is a testament to the Center family that those donors from Missouri were the ones who took him to the hospital. 

Hank's family met him there. He was released from the hospital a few days later and had returned home for further rest and recuperation. He collapsed four days later from a heart attack. 

I had talked to Hank soon after his release from the hospital. He sounded great and was eager to return to work just as soon as his doctors would allow. He had talked of beginning work part-time in a few weeks.

His colleagues and Center supporters who knew him remember Hank as dedicated, caring, and passionate. 
Hank endeavored to leave the world a better place. He spent his life raising money for causes he cared about. He enjoyed visiting with people who shared his values for social justice, compassion, and stewardship for the next generation. 

Hank came to rural and small-town issues late in life, having spent most of his life in suburban Chicago. Knowing a social justice cause when he saw it, Hank took to the work and values of the Center with ease and with passion. 

He was a vociferous reader. Early in his tenure at the Center, he borrowed nearly every book I own on small towns and family farms - books on history, philosophy and economics. He would return a stack of books to me when he returned from each road trip. Each time, he would casually say, if I had more, I could bring him those too. Hank read books from my bookshelf that even I have not yet read.

“I only wish I had found this place sooner," Hank told me late last summer when we were talking about his work here. And now I only wish he had been with us longer. 

Hank had developed the Center’s new land legacy program. It is an innovative new program to steward farmland, steward the Center, and help the next generation of farmers get a foothold. He was beginning to visit with longtime Center supporters about gifts of farmland to the new initiative. 

In his honor, we will name the initiative the Hank Rohling Land Legacy Program. It is our hope that, in this way, we can capture and honor a piece of Hank’s contribution to the cause of justice and opportunity in rural America.  

In closing, I invite you to share your memories of visiting with Hank and your condolences for his family. Please send those to me at the address below or by email to or reach me at 402.687.2103 ext 1015. 

With great sadness,

Brian Depew, Executive Director 
Center for Rural Affairs 
145 Main St
Lyons, Ne 68038