If you know Mustard Seed School, then you know that we started in 1979 as a scrappy school with a big dream. The mission has always been ambitious: to provide excellent education to students of all backgrounds with an intentional mission to the economically disadvantaged. The school has always relied upon supporters who have given of their time, treasure, and talent to make this possible.
It would be hard to overstate the importance of Agnes and Peter Steenland in the history of Mustard Seed. Agnes and Peter were active supporters of Mustard Seed from the school’s founding and influenced significantly and positively the school’s development. From serving on the Board of Trustees to encouraging a young faculty and staff, to giving financial support, to praying for our success, Agnes and Pete provided support and guidance at many critical junctures.
Today I am honored and humbled to announced that the school has received a gift of $250,000 from the family of Agnes and Peter. The gift will establish and fund the Agnes and Peter Steenland Memorial Chair for Professional Development. The Endowed Chair will fund an annual budget to provide professional development opportunities for Mustard Seed’s teachers.
I am so grateful for the decades of friendship and the legacy of learning that this gift will provide for many years to come.
The Steenlands are survived by their five children: Pete, Sally, Doug, Pat, and Deb, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. “Our parents believed in the power of faith-based education and especially in the importance of young children from less advantaged backgrounds having access to high quality schools. They committed themselves to Mustard Seed as it was established to meet both of these goals. They were joyful and proud of the school’s success. We can think of no better way to honor them than to provide opportunities in their name for Mustard Seed’s teachers to advance their learning and skills,” said Doug Steenland on behalf of his brother and sisters.
The Steenlands were lifelong residents of New Jersey. Agnes was a kindergarten teacher at Passaic Christian School. Her classroom was filled with color, light, learning, imagination, and play. She loved to tell stories of antics in her classroom. Pete served in the Coast Guard during World War II in the Pacific on the USS Scott. After the war, he started at American Electric Power in New York and remained there for the rest of his business career, rising from the mailroom to Senior Vice President. The Steenlands were active members of their church. Pete passed away in October, 2013, and Agnes in December, 2014.
Many things have changed over the years. The school has grown. Become much more stable. But the mission, the culture, and the heart of Mustard Seed remain the same. We owe a great deal to Agnes and Peter. To their hard work and support. And the way that they continue to bless the faculty and students of a school they loved so much. I am deeply, deeply thankful.
Note: A press release about the gift is available here.