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A Fitting Legacy

by Sabrina Wong

In 1968, a lanky Olympian touring the company making her uniform had an impromptu request: could her jacket sleeve be made just two inches longer? Rosemary Bohlka got out her measuring tape. A teammate piped in and asked for her pants to be shortened by an inch. Bohlka happily obliged. The requests kept coming, and soon she had personally measured the entire Olympic Women’s Track and Field team for custom-fit uniforms.

Reputation for Integrity and Value

The personal care and attention Rosemary put into the Olympic uniforms exemplifies the practical way she and her husband, Dale, lived out Christian values in their business. Throughout their tenure, Darbo Manufacturing, an acronym for Dale and Rosemary Bohlka, earned a reputation for integrity and value.

Employees were treated fairly, one might say like family, with birthdays and holidays celebrated with potluck lunches and dinners. Tithes on company earnings were always given, even when it meant personal sacrifice. Along the way, Darbo outfitted three Olympic teams and supplied universities across the nation with beautiful and functional athletic uniforms.

Putting God First

The Bohlkas credit their business success with putting God first. So, it seems natural to invest their earnings in a university with the same motto. This year, the Bohlkas received the Marshburn Award for their many years of generous support, humble leadership, and exemplary service to Azusa Pacific University.

Ten years ago, the Bohlkas set up an endowment to provide scholarships for students who would not otherwise be able to attend APU. So far, the proceeds from the endowment have provided scholarships for more than 70 students. Through the endowment, the scholarships will continue to give beyond their lifetime.

“The Bohlkas are wonderful Christians and exemplary stewards of what God has given them,” said Dennette Miramontes, director of gift and estate planning. “They see the value in quality Christian education and want to see students grow in their gifts and talents.”

Family Ties

Dale and Rosemary first became acquainted with APU when their children, Jack Bohlka ’76 and Barbara Kolberg ’78, enrolled in the university more than 30 years ago. Their interest in APU grew as their grandson, Aaron Kolberg ’02, invited his grandparents to his choir performances.

“Whenever we came on campus, we could just feel the Spirit moving,” said Rosemary. The uplifting music in Aaron’s concerts drew the Bohlkas to APU often. The more time they spent on campus, the more they could see how closely their values aligned with APU.

The Bohlkas’ gift honors their family by providing scholarships for students in the same majors as their children and grandchild: theology (Jack), nursing (Barbara), and music (Aaron). Dale and Rosemary both grew up in Christian homes and are pleased with the Christian heritage passed down to their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

A Christian Legacy

Through their endowment, the Bohlkas leave a Christian legacy that goes beyond their own family line. “As a university, APU is bigger than one person or one family,” said Dale. “We’ve watched APU grow since our children attended, and we want APU to keep growing students for the Lord.”

Just as the Bohlkas have been a humble Christian witness in the world of clothing manufacturing, they want to see students live out Christ in whatever field they choose. “Our witness has always been through our attitudes and actions,” said Rosemary. “The endowment is our legacy, which is to promote Christian character in young people who can carry it forth into the world.”

Sabrina Wong works for a Christian nonprofit based in Azusa. sabrinawong@stanfordalumni.org

“The endowment is our legacy, which is to promote Christian character in young people who can carry it forth into the world.”

Originally published in the Winter '10 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).