Response Magazine

Seattle dairy king Jerry Teel known for generosity and a kind heart

Seattle Pacific University alumnus, trustee, benefactor, and long-time friend E. Gerald “Jerry” Teel died January 24, 2018, at the age of 76.

Known for his upbeat, encouraging, and generous spirit, Jerry was a champion of Christian education and charitable business practices. The Teel family has staunchly supported the University for more than a century.

For 40 years, the 1963 Seattle Pacific business and economics graduate headed Vitamilk Dairy Inc., a Teel family business and a Seattle institution. The business philosophy, “Quality Always,” defined work and home life for the family. Jerry ate lunch with his employees, listened to their ideas, and went the extra mile to render the finest in customer service.

He and his wife, Kathi Huddle Teel ’65, launched the E. Gerald and Katherine Teel School of Business and Economics Scholarship Endowment at SPU. The Teel family established the Teel Charitable Foundation to support many charitable causes, including Young Life and Youth for Christ. Over the years, the Teels provided thousands of scholarships to Seattle Pacific students.

Jerry’s strong faith and character showed in his service to Seattle’s First Free Methodist Church, where he was a trustee. For more than 50 years, he and Kathi were active participants and leaders of the Samaritan Sunday school class at First Free.

Jerry was also an enthusiastic adventurer who boated the British Columbia coast from Seattle to Alaska. He liked hiking to small lakes, fishing, hunting, skiing, and exploring wilderness areas. He was a member of Shoreline Rotary for more than 30 years and served on the board of Quality Chekd Dairies Inc., assuring safety and excellent quality in the dairy industry.

In many ways, Jerry received the leadership mantle from his father, Edwin Teel ’36, who founded Vitamilk Dairy during the Great Depression. Edwin Teel also was the 1963 SPU Alumnus of the Year, served on the SPU board, and gave the leadership gift that established the Wellspring Scholarship Endowment.

Kathi, Jerry’s wife of 52 years, shared SPU Alumni of the Year honors with Jerry in 2006. She says there never was a time when he didn’t ask, “Where should we be helping next?” Even in the last week of his life, she says, he wanted to know, “Did we do enough to help?”

Jerry is survived by his wife; three daughters, including Kimberly Teel Feir ’90 and Molly Teel Oien ’93; seven grandchildren; a sister, Claudia Teel Vander Pol ’66; and a brother, Charles Teel ’75. Daughter Julie Teel Cain is a former assistant coach of the SPU women’s soccer team.

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