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FAMILY SUPPORTS PRIVATE UNIVERSITY TO THE 11TH DEGREE

When Albert and Adeline Ostermann's youngest child graduated from the University of Dallas it marked a milestone for the entire family: Louis Ostermann was the last of 11 siblings to get his degree from the private school.

"We finally made it," Albert said triumphantly.The graduation was the culmination of a story of faith, sacrifice and hard work in a family with 15 children.

When the Ostermann's eldest daughter, Theresa, enrolled at the small Roman Catholic liberal arts school in 1969, tuition, room and board was about $2,100 a year. By the time Louis graduated Saturday those costs averaged about $14,000.

"We just didn't take too many vacations. I also held down two jobs," said Albert, 71, who still works about four hours a day as a grocer at the Windthorst General Store.

He didn't go far to his second job, as postmaster for Windthorst, a town of about 370 residents 100 miles northwest of Dallas. The post office was in the general store.

The Ostermanns have been a fixture at the 3,000-student university for most of the past 27 of the school's 40 years. So constant was their presence that Box 263 at the campus post office remained in the family since 1969.

"I still get mail addressed to brothers and sisters who haven't been there for years," Louis said.

Although the Ostermanns helped pay their children's tuition and fees, student loans, financial aid, scholarships and grants also helped. And half of the children's earnings from odd jobs went into a college fund.

Education would have been far less expensive at state universities, but the Ostermanns gave Theresa two fundamental criteria for selecting her university: It had to be Catholic and in Texas.

"That was our priority," said Adeline Ostermann, 66, a housewife. "This is a German Catholic community, and Catholic education is important here. Also, that was toward the end of the hippie generation, and the morals at a lot of the colleges weren't too good."

Louis, 22, was the 14th Ostermann to attend the University of Dallas and the 11th to graduate. When he received his bachelor's degree in theology, the school gave his parents an engraved silver bowl.

"There have been families that have sent four or five kids, but never anything like this," spokesman Alan Van Zelfden said.