Honoring a family heritage

Rob and Celeste Habiger created the Habiger Heritage Fund to honor their family’s K-State heritage.

Family is important to Rob and Celeste Habiger.

Rob’s roots stem from the Sudetenland of Europe and into the soil of Rice County, Kansas, where the Habigers settled as farmers. Both Rob’s grandfather, Francis Joseph, and father, Edwin Otto, graduated from Kansas State University. They cultivated the land and their rural community — establishing service as an essential part of the Habiger legacy. Rob and Celeste created the Habiger Heritage Fund to honor their family and further agriculture-related research within K-State’s Department of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences.

They hope their gift harvests a global impact on agriculture, food and environmental sustainability.

“I’m really proud of my agricultural and educational heritage,” Rob said. “My grandfather earned his K-State degree in 1899 and my dad in 1930, when people typically assumed farmers didn’t need a college education. My brother, E. Francis Habiger graduated from KSU in 1962 in agriculture. My maternal grandmother attended college and my mother, Louise Habiger, and my sister, Sue Dahlsten, were both Bethany College graduates. My family always placed a high value on education.”   

Rob’s dad and grandfather were educated farmers and active in the community, county, and school board. His grandfather was a Master Farmer and his dad was the chairman of the Rice County Soil Conservation District for 40 years. Edwin Habiger, Rob’s dad, built some of the first terraces in the county and was always looking for methods to improve the land.

Though Rob did not pursue the family business of farming, he did follow his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps to Kansas State University where he earned his Master of Science and doctorate in physics.

Growing up on the farm, he always wanted to understand how things worked and once made his own functional model of the family’s hay stacker. Combining physics and agriculture seemed right then and seems right now to Rob.

Celeste is from Galesburg, Illinois, born to parents who grew up on farms. Her church pastor suggested she attend Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, where she met Rob. After they both received BA degrees from Bethany, they married and the Habigers began their life together spanning careers and continents. Celeste worked as a social worker while Rob was in graduate school and took continuing education courses at K-State.

After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Rob took up the family legacy and completed masters and Ph.D. degrees in physics at K-State. Rob’s subsequent international work as a geophysicist took him, Celeste and their family to Oklahoma, South Africa, Texas, Switzerland, and Colorado. In addition, Rob traveled throughout the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and South America. They met people who experienced food insecurity across cultures and people that relied upon both age-old farming practices and state-of-the-art agricultural innovations. The Habigers wanted to make a difference in the world that they had moved through over the years.

Both Rob and Celeste decided a gift to K-State was an investment that would make a world of difference.

Celeste gave stock she had purchased years ago as an in-kind gift to help students and researchers today. She knew that gifts of appreciated securities will also help her family save on taxes. Rob gave a percentage of his individual retirement account as a deferred gift. This way, neither K-State nor the Habiger children will have to pay taxes on that gift.

With the help of the KSU Foundation, the Habigers have created a good plan to boldly advance K-State and research into global food and sustainability.

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