Kelli Makenna Kuttruff
The life and legacy of Karen Lange, associate director of compliance in the Office of Financial Aid, was celebrated on Jan. 31 in the Ludwick Center Sacred Space.
Family and friends gathered to share their memories of Ms. Lange, who died on Dec. 17, 2023, and to honor her life.
Ms. Lange had been with the University of La Verne since 2003, when she started as a temporary employee, then became a full-time financial aid counselor, and even served as interim director of financial aid for a time.
She was described by those closest to her as an endlessly peaceful person, who had a profound impact on those around her.
The celebration reflected her deep faith in Christ through scripture readings and by playing the worship song entitled “Goodness of God” for a time of reflection.
ULV Chaplain Zandra Wagoner helped organize this celebration of life for Ms. Lange, and attributed her sense of peace to her faith.
“I imagine that Karen would attribute whatever peacefulness she had to her daily walk of faith… this was her source… the breath of life that sustained her,” Wagoner said.
She said that the choice of playing “Goodness of God” was intentional, as it was Ms. Lange’s favorite song.
“A song that celebrates and offers gratitude for the infinite goodness of God in her life; a goodness that is always present, always faithful, always reliable, always running after her,” Wagoner said.
“It’s an invitation to enter Karen’s world…. a song of thanksgiving to God who brought goodness to her life every day,” she said. “She lived her life nurtured by this source, and it made her such a beautiful colleague.”
Wagoner read a bible verse: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
This was chosen by Wagoner and Grants and Scholarships Manager Kerri Love as a metaphor that connects Ms. Lange’s race with her surprising hobby of NASCAR races. It was a verse that encompassed her deep faith and that she modeled her life after.
“She fought the good fight, and to our sadness, she finished the race on this side of life; however, she left us with a blueprint for living,” Wagoner said.
Love worked with Ms. Lange for the past three years and she said they got along immediately when they first met. She shared that they had many lunches and dinners together, knew each other’s children and sat together at church on Sundays.
The two of them had a running reminder for one another when either of them became overwhelmed. They would ask, “where do we get our hope?” and the other would answer, “we get our hope from Jesus” which reflects the depth of Ms. Lange’s faith.
Love said that the celebration of life spoke to Ms. Lange’s character as a Christian woman, and that everything shared reminded her of Ms. Lange’s saying, which was “people over processes.”
“I was just so honored… honored to be a part of that remembrance.. but also honored to have been able to work with her because it turned out that it led me to finding my best friend,” Love said.
The day before Ms. Lange died, Love was able to spend the afternoon with her which she said was a gift and she is thankful to Ms. Lange’s family for sharing her.
“We talked, we laughed, and we hugged each other one last time, and I’ll never forget it,” Love said.
Director of Financial Aid Laura Evans spent the last three years working with Ms.Lange and will remember her patience and kindness.
“She had a really big bright smile, it was like it was trying to pull her cheeks all the way back to her ears,” Evans said.
She said that all those who spoke at the remembrance service continuously conveying that Ms. Lange was immensely kind spoke to the impact she had on those around her.
“I think that it’s telling when it comes to a remembrance service, when someone who didn’t know the person feels like they understood who that person was,” Evans said. “We did a good job of honoring her.”
Ms. Lange’s dedication to sharing her deep knowledge of financial aid with everyone around her and equipping them with the tools to be successful was apparent. By the time her health worsened and she took leave, Ms. Lange had left her team with all the knowledge they needed and was sure they would be able to accomplish what they needed to in her absence.
“Such is the success of a strong leader who has empowered others… and her knowledge and experience have imbued into each of them,” Evans said. “They are able to step forward and lead themselves. That is her legacy, and it’s one that will not be easily forgotten. Lange was our mentor, our colleague, and our dear friend, and we miss her very deeply.”
Associate Vice President of Finance Lori Gordien worked closely with Ms. Lange during yearly audits and on several large projects.
Through this time, Gordien admired her work but also recognized that Ms. Lange was one of the most pleasant, calming, and friendly people she had the pleasure of working with.
“Any time we were working together and had a moment to just visit and be people, I always walked away feeling grateful that I knew Karen, and I was so glad that she was in my life,” Gordien said.
She said that Ms. Lange’s priority was always helping the students, and that Ms. Lange had shared that one of the main reasons she stayed in financial aid as a career was due to her love for the students, and her determination to ensure that they would be able to get their education.
Ms. Lange wasn’t one to simply talk the talk, but she walked it and carried herself each day according to the principles of her faith in God, Gordien said.
Gordien added that Ms. Lange was quiet by nature, but whenever she spoke she knew it was going to be something that needed to be listened to.
“She modeled beautifully everyday how to be a good person, and being a good person can translate into being an exceptional employee for an organization…. I think that’s why it resonates that she loved the students so much,” Gordien said.
“She’s in my heart forever, I will never ever forget her. And there’s a bit of a comforting feeling that she’s another guardian angel that we all have.”
The celebration of life was filled with people who had worked closely with Ms. Lange for years, to those who knew her, to people that no longer worked at the university, which was a testament to how far her impact stretched. The service perfectly highlighted Ms. Lange’s kindness, her faith and the love she held for those around her.
“She would be completely blown away to realize how impactful she was,” Gordien said.
“We can all take solace in knowing that anyone who touches your heart is with you forever. Karen, this is not goodbye, this is so long. Rest in peace, my dear friend.”
Ms. Lange is survived by her loving family including her husband of 41 years, Jim Lange, her son Michael Lange, her daughter-in-law Chelsea Lange and two grandchildren, Camden and Sierra.
Kelli Kuttruff can be reached at: email@example.com.
Kelli Makenna Kuttruff is a senior communications major with an emphasis in public relations. She is the arts editor of the Campus Times, and is in her second semester as a staff writer.