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Cultural Trust Fund Named for Dale Owen

Quad Cities Cultural Trust

The former president and CEO of Ascentra Credit Union, Dale Owen, died in November at the age of 52, but his wide-ranging generosity and large legacy will live on in a new fund established by the Quad Cities Cultural Trust.

While battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer, Owen in 10 months worked to raise $500,000 from 11 local lending and banking institutions, including Ascentra. Together, those participants renamed this project The Dale Owen Art and Culture Match.

It will match every $1 given up to $500,000 to support art and cultural programs in the Quad-Cities through QCCT. The collaboration created by Owen among the financial institutions is unprecedented, according to trust executive director Jen Dobrunz. Owen became one of three QCCT board chairs, or “tri-chair,” in January 2020, asked by outgoing tri-chair John Anderson, CEO at Quad City Bank and Trust, who was scheduled to leave the board.

Dobrunz says Owen’s initial goal from the Q-C financial community was to raise $250,000 and leverage those dollars as a public match.

“Covid hit and he was like, we’re gonna do this and we just started having Zoom dates. Obviously, he got hit with that personal news, and I will never forget that phone call when he was calling to tell me his world had been shaken, but through it all, he kept reiterating how important it was to him that we fulfill this project – that we see it to the end.”

Credit Quad Cities Cultural Trust
Jen Dobrunz

She learned by June that Owen was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which took his life just five months later. Owen was a personal donor to QCCT and Ascentra was a corporate donor.

“I can’t even put it into words, just what it was like to watch – to watch him stay engaged, be notifying me when he was the strongest in between his treatments, to communicate with me. To have him go back to John, a personal friend and colleague and ask John to step back in to help to facilitate these calls when he couldn’t.”

A Rock Island native and Augustana College alum, Owen became tri-chair – in the midst of an ambitious trust fundraising campaign ($12 million by the end of 2021, boosting the endowment to over $32 million) – with Ruhl & Ruhl President Chris Beason and retired executive Linda Bowers.

Founded in 2007 by The Bechtel Trusts; Hubbell-Waterman Foundation; and the John Deere Foundation – the QCCT had never publicly solicited funds before. Owen’s desire to bring the community together in this way led to the “Culture Matters Here Community Banking Project.” Dobrunz says when Covid hit the community, he didn’t waver. The banking and lending sector came together as never before, for art and culture, like they did seeking Covid relief.

“That’s what is so cool about this – the lending community, these are competitors, and they have partnered in an amazing way during Covid – exchanging notes about PPP and SBA loans.”

“I just feel like this project – this community lending united project that Dale put together was just a subset of that. They were already having new collaborative conversations in 2020 that they weren’t having before and now they had an opportunity to come together, and invest in an economic driver that is going to awaken our community and help us be the tourism destination, the cool place for the creative people that we’re aspiring for.”

Reaching the half-million-dollar milestone was bittersweet as Owen passed away at 52 on Nov. 14, 2020. The QCCT exceeded its $12-million fundraising goal last fall, and it gives annual funding to River Music Experience, the Figge, Putnam. Quad City Symphony, Quad City Art,s and the Botanical Center.

“We were so excited and we wanted to celebrate with him, and we were heartbroken that we weren’t able to do it the way we wanted to. The minute that happened, our tri-chairs, our board really started talking about – how can we honor this man?"

“He did all of it; he told us exactly what we needed to do and how to do all of it, and without him, it wouldn’t have been made possible. This is the only thing we could think of that would even be a fraction of what he deserved, for his contribution to our community, to art and culture in our community and to the Cultural Trust.”

“This is a great way for the individual Quad Citizen, for locally owned, for-profit organizations to lift each other up by lifting up art and culture. Because it’s in our school system, it’s an economic driver, and it’s the fabric that creates the vibrancy in our community.”

“Our culture matters here and it always will. I feel like we won’t always have the Dale Owen fund connected to it – but ultimately what he’s doing, what he did, is creating impact today but creating funding forever.”

For more information on the trust, visit qcct.org.

A native of Detroit, Herb Trix began his radio career as a country-western disc jockey in Roswell, New Mexico (“KRSY, your superkicker in the Pecos Valley”), in 1978. After a stint at an oldies station in Topeka, Kansas (imagine getting paid to play “Louie Louie” and “Great Balls of Fire”), he wormed his way into news, first in Topeka, and then in Freeport Illinois.