Gisela Schilling Keller announces major gift to NDSU Libraries

July 20, 2001

Gisela Schilling Keller Gift
Program and Reception Photos, July 24, 2001

Former North Dakota State University employee Gisela Schilling Keller, Fargo, will present a generous financial gift to the NDSU Libraries' Germans from Russia Heritage Collection at a program schedule for 3 p.m., Tuesday, July 24, at the NDSU Alumni Center. The endowment, the amount of which Keller wishes to remain confidential, is given in memory of her late husband, and will be called the Udo Gerhard Keller zu Kellerrode Fund, NDSU Development Foundation.

Udo and Gisela Keller and two children, Gero and Uta, immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1955 with assistance from the Lutheran World Federation. The Kellers' children, Ingo and Carola, were born in Fargo.

Keller said, "We came here from Germany with practically nothing and we were grateful for the opportunities we had in this new country. This gift is a thank you to Fargo for the opportunity to build a home and to NDSU for the opportunity for work."

Gisela Keller was employed at the NDSU Varsity Mart from 1967 to 1994, retiring at the age of 75. While working at NDSU, she completed her bachelor's degree in 1981 and her master's degree in 1986. Details of her Gisela's life story are published in parts one and two of her memoirs, "Refugees - One of Many," published in "Heritage Review," Germans from Russia Heritage Society, Bismarck, ND. She is presently translating her memoirs of the era from 1929 to 1950 and later times, from German to English for publication with the theme, "Remember always to act as if the fate of the whole nation depends on you, and you alone would be responsible for it."

Dr. Timothy J. Kloberdanz, NDSU, a longtime friend and former teacher of Gisela Keller, writes: I have many fond memories of Gisela Keller and her late husband, Udo. Whenever I think of the Kellers, the word `gracious' immediately comes to mind. They exemplify the spirit of so many dedicated, hardworking immigrant Americans who always intended to give more to this
country than they ever hoped to receive. NDSU and North Dakota are better, prouder places because of outstanding citizens like Gisela and Udo Keller."

Bradley Steen, NDSU Varsity Mart employee, who worked with Gisela from 1978 to 1994, writes: "I've had the pleasure to know Mrs. Keller since 1978. I know how important family is to her and honoring one's heritage. I trust that she is pleased at this opportunity; and, in the same manner will continue the tradition of honoring the legacy of the Keller name and family as has been in the custom in Germany in the past."

Michael M. Miller, Germans from Russia Bibliographer and colleague, comments: "Gisela Keller's story unfolds the difficult transition of leaving her homeland and beginning a new life in North Dakota. In the early 1940s, Udo and Giesla helped many Bessarabian and Black Sea Germans in their resettlement to Germany from Russia. People from these same areas were among those who decided to immigrate to the Dakota prairies in the 1880s and 1890s. The Keller Endowment recognizes the need for preservation of the history and culture of the Germans from Russia, so important in the history of North Dakota."

Gisela Keller shares: "By presenting this gift, I continue a family tradition by supporting the community, either with donations of land or money, to benefit where aid is needed most and can be used by everybody. But why, one might ask, would I request my donation to the NDSU Libraries be directed to benefit the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection? Our family does not belong to that group. When I got married in 194l, I followed my husband to his estate in the Warthegau. This was the eastern region of Germany that fell to Poland after World War I by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Hitler regained it in 1939. He then made a pact with Stalin to return the Germans in Russia "back to the homeland," and to resettle them in our Warthegau region. My husband volunteered in the resettlement of these ethnic Germans, while I helped him by visiting and comforting displaced families in an effort to lift their spirits. I empathized with them very much, not knowing I would have a similar experience four years later."

Udo had already been drafted into the German Army, when Gisela and her neighbors had to flee from Russian tanks during the winter of 1945 with chilling -20F temperatures. They led a trek of seventy-three covered wagons, with mostly Germans from Russia families, on side roads into safety. With this endowment, the circle comes to a close. Gisela's married life with Udo started in the Warthegau with the resettlement of the Germans from Russia. Therefore, this donation to a collection, dedicated to documenting and preserving resources on the culture and history of these people in memory of Udo Gerhard Keller, is appropriate to honor what they had in common. It also continues their philanthropic family heritage.

For additional information, contact: Michael M. Miller, NDSU Libraries (Tel: 701-231-8416; E-mail: Further information about the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, can be seen at the website:

Note: For a personal letter from Gisela Schilling Keller of her gift to
the NDSU Libraries, and photographs of their life in West Prussia of Udo
and Gisela Keller, go to the following GRHC website pages:

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller