Elmhurst College: A Gift from a Family of Alumni Will Benefit Music Students

Alumni News

A Gift from a Family of Alumni Will Benefit Music Students

The Kross family’s love for Elmhurst College and for music will benefit Elmhurst students for years to come, thanks to a generous family gift that will fund a new scholarship and purchase new instruments for the Music Department.

The Kross family, which lived in Elmhurst for many years and has seen several members attend Elmhurst College, recently established the $50,000 Kross Family Endowed Scholarship for music majors, and donated $15,000 to the College to purchase instruments.

The gifts were from the estates of Theodore Kross ’38 and Robert Kross ’42. The brothers were not only Elmhurst College alumni but also lifelong Elmhurst residents and active members of the community, particularly in the areas of music and civic life.

“I am deeply grateful to the Kross family for their generous support of the College through an endowed scholarship and funds for musical instrument upgrades,” said Elmhurst College President S. Alan Ray. “I know Bob and Ted would be very pleased to see what their family is accomplishing on behalf of Elmhurst College.”

The Kross brothers died months apart in 2011. Both were bachelors and neither had left an official will, said Robert Plassman, a nephew of the Kross brothers and the son of Dorothy (Kross) ’39 and Walter Plassman ’38.

When family members sorted through documents in the brothers’ house on South Kenilworth Avenue in Elmhurst—the house where they were born—they found handwritten notes from each that described how they wanted proceeds from their estates to be distributed. Theodore Kross’ note was written in 1989 and Robert Kross’ in 1993. While each listed certain entities that should receive parts of their estates, by 2011 some of those no longer existed. Two that did were Elmhurst College and the Elmhurst Historical Society.

“They gave general ideas as to where their estate should be divided up” but nothing specific, Plassman said. After Robert Kross’ funeral, nine of his and Theodore’s nephews and nieces met to discuss their uncles’ last wishes.

“We as a committee decided that both brothers were strongly supportive of Elmhurst College and the Elmhurst Historical Museum,” Plassman said, and so the group decided to focus the estate proceeds on them.

Earlier this fall, they came to Elmhurst from all around the country to announce the gifts. They spent the morning at the College, where they looked through yearbooks for pictures of their family, and talked about their many connections to the school.

Not only did Theodore and Robert Kross attend Elmhurst, but so did their sisters, Dorothy and Rosemary. At Elmhurst, the sisters also met the men they would marry.

Dorothy Kross married Walter Plassman in 1940. During World War II, while Walter was overseas, Dorothy taught school in Markleeville, California. Rejoining her husband in 1946, she became a homemaker, raising five children in southern Illinois. She was an accomplished pianist and organist, playing often at her church and with symphonic groups. She died in 2009.

Rosemary Kross Hilberg ’44 was the youngest of the Kross siblings to graduate from Elmhurst College. After graduation and marrying Albert Hilberg ’44, she had five children in five different states, as her husband’s career in the Public Health Service required many moves. Her family finally settled in Maryland, where she became involved in politics and local school activities. She went on to serve as the elected president of the Montgomery County school board for two terms. In her 50s she returned to college and received a master’s degree in psychology, and also was awarded an honorary doctorate from Elmhurst College. She then worked full time as an employee assistance counselor for the Montgomery County schools until retiring at the age of 75. She loved classical music and enjoyed playing the piano and singing. She died in 2003.   

In addition to the Kross siblings, their father, Michael Kross, attended Elmhurst while studying to become a lawyer. And Claire Drillinger, granddaughter of Dorothy and Walter Plassman, majored in English at Elmhurst and graduated this past spring.

While on campus, the Kross relatives also toured the Music Department facilities and met with President Ray and Peter Griffin, chair of the department. Over lunch, the Kross relatives announced their gift, saying they had selected the Music Department for the scholarship and donation for instruments because all four Kross siblings shared a love for music.

“What I really admire about this gift is that it comes from a large family representing many generations,” Griffin said. “The entire Music Department benefits from gifts such as this in countless ways—most importantly, through how it benefits our students.”

“We hope to award the scholarship as early as next year,” he said. “As for the remainder of the donation, we plan to purchase instruments in various areas that will give our students greater learning and performing opportunities. This extraordinary and gracious gift is truly an honor to receive.”

During the same visit to Elmhurst, the Kross family representatives presented a check for $70,000 to the Elmhurst Heritage Foundation, which has earmarked the money for the foundation's Visionary Voices campaign. The campaign is raising money to create a new exhibit on the history of Elmhurst, set to open next fall.

Theodore Kross was a lawyer and trust officer at Chicago Title & Trust. He served as president of the National Alumni Association at Elmhurst College from 1961 to 1963, and was awarded the College’s Founders Medal in 1990. He volunteered thousands of hours to the historical museum, and also actively supported the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra and several other arts organizations. He also was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War.

Robert Kross was a businessman who owned and operated the Elmhurst Music Mart for many years and later worked for the Pfanstiehl Corp. in Waukegan, a company that made phonographic needles and cartridges. He received the Elmhurst College Founders Medal in 1990, and also served on the College’s Steering Committee. Skilled with a camera, he took many photos of the campus arboretum and later donated the extensive collection to the College. He was a veteran of World War II.

“They lived their whole lives in Elmhurst— they got their education and both earned their living in and around Elmhurst. In their retired years, they gave back,” Plassman said. “We’re proud to be able to do this, to be able to follow through on our uncles’ wishes.”


Back row (left to right): Pete Griffin, Jim Plassman, Eric Drillinger, David Drillinger, Mary Plassman Nicholson, Kristen Hillberg Henderson. Front row: Bob Plassman, Chris Plassman, S. Alan Ray, Michael Plassman, Krystal Plassman Huelsmann.

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