An Inspiring Legacy of Giving

Hester Fassel (in orange) with Planned Parenthood volunteers

Planned Parenthood Arizona recently dedicated the lobby of their administrative headquarters in Tucson in honor of two of their longtime supporters, Dr. Hester and Raymond Fassel. I was lucky enough to meet up with Hester to ask her about her relationship with Planned Parenthood. And I have to say, Hester Fassel is one inspiring lady!

Mrs. Fassel was born in a suburb of Chicago, but she grew up in Northern Indiana. Hester became a professor of zoology at Iowa State University, and her husband Ray was a publisher at ISU Press. The two of them relocated to Tucson in 1987, after abandoning their initial plan to retire in Spain. They picked Tucson because it had a similar geography and climate to Spain, and the transition from Iowa to Arizona was fairly seamless.

The Fassels’ relationship with Planned Parenthood started when they lived in Iowa. Hester served on the Board of Directors for Planned Parenthood, but the Fassels were also donors. Hester explains that she got involved with Planned Parenthood because “I feel very strongly about their work. I believe that every child should be wanted.”

Hester and Ray decided to focus their support on one organization, rather than supporting multiple nonprofits. “Our thinking was that we would rather support one organization to our best ability rather than spread it out,” says Hester. “I like the Boy Scouts. I like the Girl Scouts. But we decided to concentrate our donations.”

Dr. Fassel says that her role as a professor also had a lot of influence on her decision to support Planned Parenthood. Hester explains that “I taught this lecture course in human reproduction, anatomy, and physiology. And the students knew they could contact me about anything.”

Dr. Fassel started teaching in 1960, just as the birth control pill became available to women. One of the ways that she encouraged her students to talk about issues related to reproductive health was by asking them to bring in newspaper clippings they saw about the birth control pill.

“The journalists took out after the Pill,” says Hester. “They said, ‘If you take the contraceptive pill, you’re going to die.’ And the kids would come to me, and say, ‘Hester, is it safe?’ So I included plenty of information in my lectures. I tried to push the good of the Pill. I would ask the kids to bring in those newspaper clippings, and then I would comment on them in my lectures. I tried to give them the facts.”

Ironically enough, I met with Hester on Friday, April 8, 2011, the day that members of Congress were on the verge of a federal government shutdown over the issue of federal funding for family planning services. When I asked Hester about the significance of that, she said that it reaffirmed for her the importance of Planned Parenthood’s work.

“I don’t know how you do it,” she says. “Planned Parenthood does it, and you do the best job that anybody can do. And we need you.”

Hester hopes that the Fassels’ legacy of giving will inspire others to get involved with Planned Parenthood, either financially or as volunteers. “Support Planned Parenthood,” she explains. “It’s a good organization.”

In spite of the harsh political climate we live in, Hester remains “optimistic” that Roe v. Wade is here to stay, and that supporting Planned Parenthood can make a difference for women’s health. It’s a tough job, but we all have to step up to the plate, and Hester says, “Carry on.”

To follow Hester’s example, click here to visit Planned Parenthood Arizona’s donation page.

4 thoughts on “An Inspiring Legacy of Giving

  1. I was fortunate to know Hester when she was teaching at Iowa State; in fact, I took every course she ever offered while I was a student there. To this day, I will remember her as the most entertaining, effective, and influential instructor I have ever known. I ran into her at a grocery store in Tucson one day (I worked at the University for many years before relocating to Oregon), and I have regretted to this day not staying in touch with her after that. She’s a gem, and your organization — which I support at the national level, much because of her early influence on me — is so lucky to have her!

    • The only “A” I got in an ISU science course was Dr. Fassell’s Zoo155 — Human Prenatal A&P. That was 40 years ago and her teaching style and effectiveness are still completely memorable. She is indeed a gem!

  2. I too took Hester’s class and she was the perfect teacher even in an auditorium with a few hundred students in it. It took a phalanx of teaching assistants to keep up with her energy. I remember more from that particular class, human reproduction, than any other course I took through my college career (and I have 4 degrees). Thank you Hester!

  3. Thank you Hester! Your legacy is living on, and I am thrilled to read about you and your work in AZ. I am looking at my Zoo 358 spiral notebook from Winter 1976 now. This was one of THE popular classes at ISU!! I remember your entertaining lectures and i have not been able to get rid of my notes from Human Prenatal Development! I is wonderful to see your photo and read comments from other former students. What a joy!

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