Class of '43
February 1999

Dear Classmates of '43:

At Gustavus we have just finished the January term. This week is Reading and Touring Week, after which the spring semester will begin. The Gustavus Choir is returning from a tour of South Africa. Most of the students are gone. Faculty and staff are hard at work preparing for the spring semester which begins February 8. Construction on the addition to the Campus Center continues. The steel skeletal structure for the third story is being completed, though it is too early to tell what the completed building will look like. By commencement time the external walls should be in place and the work should be finished by this coming fall.

Some of you may be wondering: What is life like for a retired Gustavus faculty member living in St. Peter? I can tell you about this morning, when some of us gathered in the Bernadotte Library common room to celebrate Chester Johnson's 86th birthday. Most of us remember Chester Johnson, for he taught geology at Gustavus from 1940-1978 and he married Marian (Pinky) Swanson '41. Emeroy Johnson, the historian of the Minnesota Conference and pastor at Scandian Grove 1948-64, moved to St. Peter when he retired from parish ministry and became the Minnesota Conference (later Synod) archivist. When Emeroy retired as archivist, Chester took over that position. Now at the age of 86 he still spends his mornings working in the library archives. Often, after the daily chapel service, I go down for coffee and conversation in the library common room with Chester. Usually Floyd Martinson, who came to teach sociology in 1945 and has an office in the library as Research Professor in Sociology, and Richard Karstad, Emeroy Johnson's son-in-law, a custodian in the library, are also there. The conversation ranges widely and we enjoy Chester's sense of humor. For today's party Richard Karstad had baked two angel food cakes (white and chocolate) and our wives were also present. In addition to the Happy Birthday song, we sang "Ja han skall leva, ja han skall leva, ja han skall leva uti hundrade år, (which was repeated, after which we shouted) Hurra, hurra, hurra!" Now that I think of it, we perhaps should have sung "Långt må han leva, långt må han leva, långt må han leva" the first time and followed it with "Ja han skall leva." In any case we were wishing Chester long life, even up to 100 years!

Chester has asked me to help him examine some old Swedish and German books kept in the archives. Many of them were published in the 18th century, some even earlier than that. They have worn leather bindings and paper of remarkable high quality that has not seriously deteriorated. One Swedish book that caught my attention was a large poetic work by Haquin Spegel (1645-1714). Spegel was bishop of Skara (1685-92), Linköping (1692-1711), and archbishop of Uppsala (1711-14). He was active as a Bible translator, reviser of church law and liturgy, and writer of hymns. He was one of the two foremost contributors to the Psalmbok of 1695 and Sweden's greatest hymn writer before Johan Olof Wallin (1779-1839). Two of Spegel's hymns are in the Augustana Hymnal, #234 "The death of Jesus Christ, our Lord, We celebrate with one accord" (some of us may remember it from communion services) and #445 "We Christians should ever consider What Christ hath so graciously taught." There were twenty-five hymns that Spegel had either written or translated in the 1937 Psalmbok. In the 1986 Psalmbok there were only eleven, and the language of all these hymns has been revised by modern hymnwriters. One must remember, of course, that old hymns must give way for the many new hymns that have been written in Sweden during this past century.

The book by Spegel to which I refer above is Guds werck och hwila, thet öpna, tilslutna, och återwunna paradiset (God's work and rest, the open, closed and regained paradise, Norrköping: Carl Fredric Broockman, 1745). The book was published after Spegel's death. I did not find any indication that an earlier edition had been reprinted, though that may have been the case. Spegel had been influenced by John Milton (1608-74) and the whole of his book is rhymed verse. In 297 pages the days of creation are described. 73 pp. are devoted to the life of Adam and Eve in the open paradise, 159 pp. to the closed paradise that resulted from the fall, and 34 pp. to the regained paradise. I read only a few lines, but it is amazing to think of the effort and skill that must have been required to tell the biblical story in this way.

Another interesting question is to consider the history of the book. Who brought it to this country? How many persons have owned it? How many of its owners have actually read it? How did it happen to come to the GAC library? What should be done with this book and others like it? Is it likely that these books will be read in years to come? I hope we can find space to shelve them and that at least some students during the next century will learn enough Swedish so that they can read these old books.

My own research continues in a number of areas. I shall mention only one. At Luther Seminary's mid-winter convocation, Jan. 6-8, Jon D. Levenson, professor of Jewish studies at Harvard Divinity School, lectured on "Abraham among Jews and Christians." What he had to say about the binding/near offering of Isaac led me to buy and read his book, Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: the Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity (1995), as well as to look again at two papers I wrote for presentation at annual meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature. One was "History and Story in the Offering/Binding of Isaac: Implications for Old Testament Theology" in 1982. The other was "Firstborn and Firstlings in the Covenant Code" 1986. I think much is to be gained by reexamining the Old Testament stories. In the case of narratives, should we attempt to determine what actually happened? Do we accept the interpretation of these stories that is presupposed in the New Testament? If not, what difference does this make?

It would be good to hear what some of you are doing. I would be glad to include that information in forthcoming letters. If you use e-mail, my address is erling@gac.edu. I can also, of course, be reached by snail-mail addressed to GAC.

In my October 14 letter I explained some changes that have been made with respect to the Annual Fund, now known as the Gustavus Fund. Most of the calling is being done by student callers, with class agents only being expected to call in reunion years, i.e., each fifth year. A class agent may, of course, call the other years as well. Since last year was our reunion year, I chose not to call this year to see how successful this new system would be as far as our class is concerned. So far twelve members of the class have been called and twenty-nine have made contributions without waiting to be called. Heather Nancarrow in the Development Office tells me that students will be calling the remainder of the class by the middle of April. As of Jan. 14, $5,737.50 has been received and an additional $l,020 has been pledged. We are somewhat behind the amount that had been given by this time last year, though that may be due to the fact that the calling has been delayed. I was told that envelopes for sending gifts were included in The Gustavus Quarterly. There will also be a mailing about the first of March containing such an envelope, but any envelope will do. Write to the Alumni Office and include news notes. A hearty thanks to all who have given or pledged! We hope to hear from all of you before May 31, when the college's fiscal year ends.

Thus far I have not received much news. There is this to report: Howard Olson (Sun City Center, FL) was invited to Tanzania for three weeks in December for a conference of Lutheran missionaries. While there he led studies in theology and ethnic music. Leslie Peterson (Menomonie, WI) was accidentally injured while cutting down trees. The last one cut down that day struck him. He is happy to report that he is making a good recovery from the injuries suffered.

There are two news notes from the Erling family. On Sunday, January 17, Elsa Solveig was born to our son, Paul, and his wife, Lise Sveen. Paul and Lise live in Chicago within a block of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and the University of Chicago campus. Paul works with computers, teaching and as a consultant. Lise is engaged in cancer research at the University of Chicago. Elsa's birth brings the total of our grandchildren to five. Marilyn and I have heard her voice over the phone, have seen pictures, and later this week are traveling to Chicago to see her.

The other news note from our family is that our daughter, Dr. Maria Erling, has been called to teach church history at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. Maria and her husband, John Spangler, have been living in Nashua, NH, where John is pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church. They have two daughters, Marta and Johanna.

Best wishes from St. Peter, where we are still recovering from the tornado. Though most of what needed to be done at the college has been done, there is still much rebuilding needed in the town. As to the appearance of the town, we are waiting for spring when leaves will cover the trees that have been planted, so that the landscape will not look as barren as it does now. We are mindful of tornadoes that have struck recently in southern states and of the earthquakes in Colombia. May God stimulate all of us who can help to do what we can. It is when natural disasters strike that we realize how much we need one another!

Sincerely yours,

Bernie Erling

1943 Class Agent

P.S. The Alumni Office is providing this additional campus news:

Students and staff are in the midst of January Term and the campus landscape is covered with a beautiful blanket of snow. Once again, many students are taking advantage of J-Term opportunities with 127 on internships, 308 on study abroad programs, and 86 students studying at other domestic institutions. Despite the cold weather, progress is being made on construction of the new Campus Center due to be open in the fall of 1999. After a week and a half of classroom preparation covering the history and culture of South Africa, the Gustavus Choir will participate in a concert tour of the country January 14-February 2. The Gustavus Band will travel to South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, and Iowa for their concert tour during touring week, January 30-February 6. Athletic teams are in full swing with all teams looking to be competitive in MIAC play. Over Christmas break many teams traveled for non-conference games including men’s basketball winning a tournament in California, men’s hockey playing in Italy, and the swim teams competing in Bermuda.

Gustavus is once again in the news, making some national rankings. Gustavus ranked 12th among the top 22 leading small colleges in the nation providing active Peace Corps volunteers. Gustavus is ranked 15th in the listing of top 20 bachelor’s institutions that sent the most students overseas for international study during the 1996-97 academic year. Gustavus is ranked 18th of national liberal arts colleges in the number of National Merits with 17 students. Mark Anderson ’66, Dean of Admission, reports that applications for admission for the fall of 1999 are running 20 percent ahead of last year. The Admission Office instituted several new campus visit days in the summer and fall to account for the fact that few students could visit last spring. Alumni are reminded of the Alumni Scholarship Program ($10,000 over four years for children and grandchildren of alumni) available to qualified applicants. Call the Admission Office at 1-800-GUSTAVU(S) for applications.