Henry D. Epp – Teacher
Henry D., “Hank” Epp, was a man with humble and challenging beginnings. Born in 1922, Cottonwood County, Minnesota, Hank lost his mother six months after birth, his father five years later. He was raised by relatives. This type of upbringing does not typically “spawn” a remarkable person. Hank was anything but typical.
Hank went from serving our country in the Navy during World War II to become the first All-American basketball player at Mankato State to teaching at Tracy High School, Tracy, Minnesota. In 1952 Hank began teaching industrial arts at New Ulm High School. In the 1970‘s he studied in California for two summers, training to develop a cutting edge electronics curriculum. For thirty years, Hank taught industrial arts and electronics in New Ulm.
Hank was dedicated, working individually with students. He prepared them for life in the real world. Since his popular classes were overloaded, he taught extra sessions. Hank cared about each and every one of his students. In return, his students respected and admired him.
Hank and wife Elvira also showed their love for children by becoming foster parents to twenty-one teenagers from 1968-1981. They were given difficult children. Hank and Elvira mentored these teenagers with high expectations. Hank told each boy, “You will be trusted completely until I have a reason not to trust you.” Hank and Elvira turned the futures of these young people from bleak to hopeful.
Hank served in the United States military for twenty years, ten years in the Navy, and ten years in the Army as Commander of the New Ulm National Guard 125th Field Artillery. After military retirement, Hank remained on the National Guard Citizens’ Committee. He was an active United Church of Christ board member and served on the Union Hospital Board of Directors. Hank received the Sertoma International Service to Mankind Award and the Mankato State University Distinguished Alumni Humanitarian Award.
Hank was a humble man, not willing to talk about his accomplishments and personal experiences. He deserves to be honored by the citizens of New Ulm. People like Hank are rare. Although he is gone, his legacy lives on in the lives he touched.