Class of '41
April 2000

Hello, Hello, Classmates ’41:

April 8, 2000―We’re just coming down from a high after the festivities attendant to the dedication of the new Campus Center. Named for C. Charles Jackson, principal donor, it was saluted with herald trumpeters and appropriate flourishes. Gracious remarks were made by Mr. Jackson, Rep. David Minge, Rep. Jim Ramstad, Pres. Axel Steuer, and Trustees Chairman Clyde E. Allen plus Student Senate Co-Chairs Charlie Potts and Jayne Sommers. Chaplain Dick Elvee prayed for this new "House" for the campus family.

Tours of the amazing facilities and office suites were available. A luncheon was served in the Gustavus Market Place, the Evelyn Young Dining Room that will be dedicated later with its "wall of names” of contributors. And the cookies for the reception were by Evelyn “Ma” Young herself―wouldn’t you know!

Such an awesome contrast to the Gustavus we knew and (pre-tornado) that I’m still sort of breathless. It will make a nostalgic contrast to the other parts of this letter ferreted from my files.

Then we heard a standing ovation afternoon concert by the Gustavus Orchestra of sixty-four students with Dr. Jeffrey Stirling directing, just back from their tour to England, Scotland and Wales, playing Copland, Dvorak, Heitzig, Still and Ives.

Here are some thoughts to crunch, which have been harbored in my thirty-four years of class-agenting. A variety of dates will emerge, as we think of then and now, experiences we’ve shared in our fifty-nine years of friendship.

It’s Friday, January 20 in the new millennium. The moon is still up after last night’s eclipse. It shines fully white and serene above our perfect winter wonderland of fresh snow at -20 degrees. I find in Martin and Micah Marty’s Promise of Winter a theme for this letter. Via reflections to quicken the spirit on ordinary days and in fallow seasons, I found Remembrance, "I consider the days of old, and remember the years of long ago." Psalm 77: 5, 11 through 20.

The sun (rosy-fingered dawn) rising above the east ridge takes command of my day, also shining into the living room where on the bench in front of the big window, my October 15―planted fridge-stored bulbs are greening: Tete a tete daffodils, apricot beauty tulips, blue and white hyacinths.

Class president Arthur LaVerne "Batch" Johnson (White Bear Lake, MN) celebrated eighty with the total-family autumn weekend at Todd and Nancy’s on Ottertail Lake…enjoyed a thrilling sojourn to France together with wife, Dee (Borgstrom ’43), "April in Paris," discovering the world of the impressionists along with Bob Esby and others…and rejoiced upon return to the marvel of surgical repair of Batch’s aortic aneurysm.

Marv Henrickson (Arlington Heights, IL) celebrated eighty on August 14, with a big Minnesota-Illinois reunion. I suspect there are many more celebrants who haven’t told me. Here’s a look at being 80…(not original with me).

I have good news for you. The first 80 years are the hardest. The second are a succession of birthday parties.

If you forget your name or anybody’s name, forget to keep an appointment, promise to be at two or three places at the same time, or spell words wrong: you need only explain that you are 80. Everybody wants to carry your baggage and to help you up the stairs.

If you spill, your shoes don’t match or if you carry a letter around a week before mailing it―that’s all right, because you are 80. At 80 you can relax with no misgivings. You have a perfect alibi for everything. Nobody expects much of you. If you act silly, it’s your second childhood. Everybody is looking for symptoms of softening of the brain. It is a great deal better than being 65 or 70. At that time they expect you to move to a little house in Florida and become discontented, grumbling, a limping has-been. "BUT", if you survive until you are 80, they are surprised that you reveal lucid moments. At 70 people are mad at you for everything. At 80 they forgive you for anything. If you ask me, "Life begins at 80." Lucky you!

Written November 10, 1973:

There was a time…in the summers of ’42 (and the fall, winters, springs of ’37 – ’41)…that we came late to Doc Pete’s eight o’clock history class, laughed at Shakespeare’s sonnets for Doc Carlton, chiseled in the caf line to get two heels of bread for a penny, slunk out of Sjostie’s office without paying our bills in full, fussed about Skartie’s preference for female chemists or returned his sizzling tennis balls, quaked up three flights of Old Main to give an extemp speech for Prof. Evan, got extra help from Dr. Rundstrom with geometric formulas, failed to remember the 7th cardinal principle in Ove’s final Methods exam, sang Sjunga Studenten in the Triangle with Josh Larson on May Day, picked up a date after LSA for a walk down to Swedes’ for a 5-cent lemon Coke, or a ten-cent Georgia cobbler sundae, shared a box of brownies (sent in a laundry case from Mom) with roommates, got half servings of meat from Ponnie in the caf, cheered George Myrum’s winning teams in every sport, skated to music in the new fieldhouse, trekked out behind that impressive edifice to bury Algernon, the first of xx mice who got caught in South Hall’s girl-traps, danced at the Mankato Country Club after faculty advisors went home―or at the Crystal Pig Pen, or Hardeggers―or stood up in front of beaming parents to receive a leather-cased diploma from the hands of Dr. O.J. (who forgot, until reminded by Henry N. Benson).

There was that time, but they are nearly all gone―the profs we loved and hated by turns, feared and revered, but knew us each one by name (or IQ, Dr. Sven)―and gave us their best for better or worse, in sickness or in health. One more of our classmates has left us, too. See obituary for Skidmore Olsen (Minnetonka, MN, March 2, 2000) at the end of this letter.

Our class advisor, George F. Hall, is remembered by a fellow class agent, June Naplin Christensen ’46, in a special way (1/24/00). Dr. Hall is the chaplain of Swedish Retirement Home, Evanston, Illinois. "It was so good to hear that Dr. Hall is enjoying his life in that home and doing so well. He is sort of an everlasting kind of person. I just loved him and his classes as it was during that time he gave me a new living slant to being a Christian. I had come from such a pious background of preachers that I was hardly able to do anything socially that didn’t leave me with a lot of good old fashioned guilt!!!!! I remember going to a movie when I was a young teen-ager and thinking that God would cause a storm and I would get killed in this den of iniquity. I am sure it sounds familiar. So, then when Dr. Hall made the Bible more alive and acceptable, it was truly a relief for me and freed me to be a person with normal values. It was always fun to be in his classes as he used humor to tell those old stories about Paul and the other disciples." Dr. Hall’s Millennium Message: Christ the Same― Yesterday, Today and Forever.

In every attic there generally is an assemblage of chests and boxes containing letters, documents, clothing, Christmas decorations and much else―a veritable family archives. Chet and I have checked boxes received years ago from my parents’ attic for materials for the Dunnell Centennial celebration. Can we enumerate the intangible, most enduring, invaluable inheritances of dear and loving parents and grandparents? Let’s see:

A sturdy faith God and His inscrutable ways and His Church―right or wrong. A deep, abiding love of the land, the homestead and all it produces. A quiet pride in, and devotion to, family. A strong sense of community, the importance of belonging, roots deep, with respect for the quality of life in rural small towns. An intensity of support for marvelous Minnesota. A glory about being a patriotic citizen of America, giving allegiance to its president, eloquent about its history. An active understanding of the human predicament. And a sensitive and perceptive appreciation of the worth and dignity of each individual. A tremendous capacity for friendship with persons of all ages.

An uncommon regard for education at all levels―most particularly, unbounded enthusiasm for Gustavus Adolphus College, a love affair that began with Mom’s own academy and college days nearly 60 years ago, blossomed during the ’40s, and ripened into mutual admiration during the three decades when she so closely associated herself through us with campus activities. Each new building, enriched course, growing enrollment, distinguished faculty members, winning athletic teams, academic accolades and stellar music performances were a personal triumph for her. (Written Feb. 27, 1973).

Bessie Hobart Chenault (Abilene, TX) brings up the things we are experiencing now, sharp contrast to the "good old days," as many senior citizens are turning to computers to keep up with their grandchildren by e-mail.

" Not long ago we had a visit from grandchildren when the conversation turned to “the good old days.” The youngsters were fascinated when I told them of my time at Gustavus―1937 to 1941. With a background of the great depression and the value of a dollar, they were incredulous at the idea of "ten-cents night" at a downtown theater, walking all the way there, and afterward going to Swedes for a 5-cent cherry coke, or sometimes extravagantly indulging in a 10-cent hot fudge sundae.

These grandchildren now have personal computers, word processors, cars for sixteenth birthdays, ski trips to Colorado, and closets full of clothes.

One granddaughter, age four and a half, has learned to spell out words and read new materials by sitting for hours at a computer. Now I am the incredulous one.

Most of us of the Class of ’41 are thankful to wake up each morning. Many at 79 or 80 have friends with one or more dreaded ailments that come with aging (I find myself scanning the obituaries in the daily newspaper.)

Several of my friends on the other hand, are venturing into second marriages and flushed with youthful glow. My own second trip to the altar was fifteen years ago, years of contentment and peace. It is twenty years since I left the mission field in southern Africa.

It is always great to get the class letter even though it often includes an item or two about departed classmates. You are to be commended for keeping on with this task. Looking forward to our next letter." BHC 4/13/99

All these years later I’m still trying to stir the Gustie Spirit. Now it’s Gustie Pride. It’s time to remind you of pledges or additional gifts you want to give to the alumni unrestricted goal of $950,000. Now is the time for that extra gift or outstanding pledge to be paid by May 31st 2000. There is the reunion visit of the 50-Year Club to look forward to. ORBISC, a Granlund sculpture in memory of Emeritus Vice-President for Alumni Affairs Cec Eckhoff ’56 will be dedicated on campus Saturday, May 27, at 3:30 p.m. near "Hello Walk."

The other BIG attraction is the new International House being built south of the Stadium. Ground was broken during the first week in March for the new international house. The residence hall will house Crossroads, the Swedish House, and the Office of International Education. This new facility will support the mission of bringing an international perspective to the curriculum and preparing students to communicate and compete in the new millennium. The 80-bed, 30,000 square-foot facility is scheduled to open in the fall of 2000. The $5.4 million building is going up west of Olin Hall.

Reunion Weekend for the 50 Year Club (including The War Years), Class of 1950, and V-12/5 is May 26 & 27. A schedule of events and registration material will be sent in mid-April. Homecoming 2000, September 29 & 30, will feature gatherings for anniversary classes from 1955-2000. Class reunions will be in the Twin Cities Friday evening, and events will return to campus on Saturday. A schedule of events and registration material will be mailed in August.

Everyone is invited to an hors d’oeuvres supper and tribute to retiring Chaplain Richard Q. Elvee on Tuesday, May 16, 5:30 p.m. at the Hotel Sofitel in Bloomington. A program will begin at 7:00 p.m. The cost of the event is $25 per person. RSVP to the Alumni Office by May 12, 800-487-8437, e-mail alumni@gustavus.edu, or in Alumni Events at gustavus.edu.

Forensics Team Earns International Awards ― The College speech and debate team captured two championships and six other awards at the recent International Forensics Association tournament in Paris, France. Both Gustavus debate teams compiled a 3-1win-loss record. The team's strong overall performance earned Gustavus a fourth-place Sweepstakes Award. Gustavus attends international forensic competitions every other year.

Men’s swimming and diving team completed its most successful season in Gustavus history finishing undefeated in both non-conference meets, with a record of 7-0, and conference meets, at 6-0. At the MIAC Championships, Gustavus placed first for the first time since 1960. They beat conference power St. Olaf, who had won 20 consecutive MIAC titles before this year. Earlier in the year, the Gusties also handed the Oles their first conference dual meet loss since 1981, breaking an Ole streak of 96 straight wins. Please read the Spring Quarterly for complete winter sports recaps or visit the athletics site at gustavus.edu.

Other exciting upcoming events to make you dizzy―and busy―

  • MAYDAY! Conference/"Vietnam: 25 Years On," April 26, Campus
  • Arbor Day Celebration, April 28, Campus
  • Chicago Chapter, May 6, Chicago Cubs baseball game and barbecue picnic
  • Tribute to Richard Q. Elvee, May 16, Hotel Sofitel, Bloomington, 5:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m. program
  • ORBISC dedication, a Granlund sculpture in memory of Cecil Eckhoff, May 27, 3:30 p.m., Campus
  • Reunion Weekend for 50-Year Club, Class of 1950, War Years, V-12/5, May 26 & 27, all events held on campus
  • Homecoming/Reunion Weekend for Anniversary Class 1955-2000, September 29 & 30, Friday night events at the Hotel Sofitel, Bloomington, Saturday events on campus
  • Gusties in Volunteer Endeavors, October 7, Twin Cities and national chapter locations

A Chinese proverb fits here:

"If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people."

The Campus and Arb are greening and wonderful―the crocuses and forsythia are bright spots of color on Eckman Mall.

Speaking of computers on the campus―hundreds at least―maybe the best thing is to encourage you to visit the Gustavus Home Page http://gustavus.edu

You probably discovered May Sarton a long time ago. I’m sensitive to a poem in her book Coming into Eighty (1994), called "Friend or Enemy."

I can look

At my body

As an old friend

Who needs my help

Or as an enemy

Who frustrates me

In every way

With its frailty

And inability to cope.

Old friend

I shall try

To be a comfort to you

To the end.

That’s the way it is this time―

See you soon?

Marian Swanson Johnson