Class of '56
April 2008

Hello Class of 1956, from John 0. Annexstad:

Jo Johnson Lundborg and Carolyn Jens Brusseau, fondly known as the "Kona Kids," have reluctantly relinquished the composition of this class letter to me.  Carolyn caught me at a weak moment and I agreed to the job since it was some five months into the future.  Unfortunately, no good deed goes unpunished and the day of reckoning is here.

I did question the format and content needed for the newsletter and was informed by them that anything I chose was acceptable.  This of course presupposes that one would only write about subjects that were of interest and refrain from the use of four letter words.  In fact, even the alumni office suggested a few topics and stated that the letter could be written in any style I chose.

There will be no boring reiteration of my career so you readers can relax.  Since I was privileged to give a talk at our 50th Reunion, most of you heard the vitae at that time.  However, in these my later years, I now write a biweekly column for the local Walker, MN newspaper.  The column is usually about science themes and most of them center on space, glaciology, polar areas, global warming and planetary processes.  In keeping with those offerings I’ll present here an excerpt from a series I did on ethanol.

Ethanol―Snake Oil and Bio-fuel Follies?

Global warming is a fact but all the science is not in about the extent or the root cause of the problem.  Unfortunately we find that the media, politicians and uninformed notables transcend reason and use the ’sky is falling’ headlines to produce some type of action.  Too often the actions taken are either simplistic or have deleterious effects that were not considered initially.

The overabundance of ethanol use and plant construction in Minnesota is an excellent example of assigning a simple solution to a complex problem.  The upside to this argument is that our farmers are now receiving an excellent return for their labors.  My relatives in Nicollet County are among those recipients and may dispute my comments presented here.

There are three major problems that arise when we consider the use of ethanol that comes from corn.

1)  We are using a food supply to provide fuel for our voracious appetite in the United States.  This translates into increased costs at the supermarket and worldwide decreases in supply with a rise in corn prices.  The poorer countries of the world will be the most affected because they are the least able to deal with global food price increases.

2)  Ethanol is added to our fuel to help reduce pollution and our dependence upon foreign sources of oil.  Proponents of ethanol use demand the production of more E85 plus cars that will burn that fuel.  Looking at fuel efficiency it becomes clear that E85 results in a decrease of mileage that is so large that the fuel consumed surpasses that of gasoline.

3)  The worst situation that arises from the production of ethanol is that it takes nearly five gallons of water to make I gallon of fuel.  A recent article in the Tribune notes that present ethanol production in Minnesota is using 2 billion gallons of water per year.  Since this all comes from our groundwater the situation is frightening.

One solution that has been proposed is to switch from using corn as the fuel stock to using prairie grasses.  Some research will be required to produce fuel from grasses, but that work has already been started at the University of Minnesota.  This will certainly reduce the profits of the corn growers but it will result in a lowered C02 bi-product and will help provide wildlife habitats.  In fact, the use of cellulosic (grass) ethanol will result in a renewable fuel that will improve our environment at the same time.

The problem I’ve presented here is complex and the solutions presently being used are being touted as the answers.  My question is why can’t we view these small steps as advances, not final solutions, and continue to investigate the consequences on the road to realistic answers?  For some reason, we as a society are unable to view things in perspective.  It is as if we accept every new idea as a solution and fall in line to support it before we fully understand the consequences.

In many ways, we in the United States are the enemy and not the answer to all the problems.  We are gullible and tend to believe the media even though they seem to have an obvious bias.  We want a quick fix to everything and constantly look to the government for answers.  Our people seem to require immediate gratification for personal wants and to look to government for solutions to problems instead of relying upon individual enterprise.

To quote from George Will of Newsweek, “Energy policy has become a mare’s nest of environmental and national security fallacies.  Energetic rethinking is in order.”  And as a final thought a quote from Euripides, “In this world second thoughts, it seems, are best.

Now that I have bored you beyond reason, I'll close with the latest news from our classmates.

Class News

We extend our sympathies to Lois Ledin Anderson who recently lost her husband M. Charles “Charlie” Anderson on 11/21/07.  He was a member of the class of ’51 and I personally remember him.  I was a freshman in the fall of 1950 and he was a mighty senior.

Rolf Mohwinkel is a candidate for re-election to the District 877 School Board.  Rolf has served for 12 years on the board and has an impressive list of qualifications.  Good for you Rolf, don’t let retirement hold you back.

We have heard from Erland Nord who lives in Edmonton, Alberta.  He reports that his health is okay and his work in outreach to non-Christian World Religions is ongoing.  I remember Edmonton as a stop on my trips from Minnesota to Alaska during the early 1960’s, a real prairie town at that time.

Campus News

World Renowned Primate Expert Speaks in the Twin Cities

Frans B.M. de Waal, a Dutch psychologist, primatologist, and animal behavior expert, presented two public lectures as part of a residency through the Rydell Professorship at Gustavus Adolphus College funded by Drs. Robert E. and Susan T. Rydell.  De Waal spoke on “On the Possibility of Animal Empathy” and “Our Inner Ape:  Human Nature as Seen by a Primatologist.”  DeWaal’s research centers on primate social behavior, including conflict resolution, cooperation, inequity aversion, and food-sharing.  In 2007, de Waal was named to the “TIME 100”—a list of the 100 men and women whose power, talent, or moral example is transforming the world according to Time magazine.  As part of his residency at Gustavus, de Waal is also co-teaching the course “Neuroscience Capstone” with Gustavus Professor of Psychology Janine Wotton.

Gustie Breakfasts

Join other Minneapolis/St. Paul area Gusties for a once-a-month morning cup of coffee and breakfast while getting an update on Gustavus.  The group meets the third Wednesday of each month 8-9:30 a.m. at the Doubletree Hotel, Minneapolis-Park Place, 1500 Park Place Boulevard (Hwy. 394 & Hwy. 100) $10 per person.  Reserve a spot by calling Don Swanson '55 at 763-533-9083.  Upcoming dates:

  • April 16 - featuring Linnaeus Arboretum Director, Cindy Johnson-Groh
  • May 21 - featuring Sports Information Director, Tim Kennedy

Alumni Awards Announced

The Alumni Association announces the following 2008 awards selected by the Alumni Board of Directors.

Greater Gustavus Award - Given to those who by deed, have notably advanced and aided Gustavus Adolphus College:

Jim and Susan (Pepin) Peterson ’64 ’65

Distinguished Alumni Citations - Recognizing outstanding and exceptional professional achievement:

Craig Johnson ’69, bishop, Minneapolis Area Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Talmadge King ’70, chair, Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco School of Medicine.

Barbara Berry Leonard ’63, nursing professor, University of Minnesota.

First Decade Awards - Recognizing early professional achievement:

Miho Ihara, senior consultant, CPCS Transcom Limited.

Jason Smerdon, Barnard Environmental Science/Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Environmental Science, Barnard College.

The Greater Gustavus Award and Distinguished Alumni Citations will be presented at the Alumni Banquet on Saturday, May 31 and the First Decade Awards will be presented during Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 4.

Athletics

The women’s hockey team became the first team to finish the MIAC women’s hockey season undefeated.  The team is currently ranked #3 in the country going into the playoffs.  The men’s tennis team claimed its fourth ITA Division III Team Indoor Title in the eight year history of the tournament.  The men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams both won the MIAC Championship.

Upcoming Alumni Events

  • Seattle Chapter Gathering – April 13
  • Austin, TX Chapter Gathering – April 13
  • Class Reunions - for 50-Year Club, 1958, and 1963 - May 30 and 31

Well folks, it is time to close and for me to personally thank you for the opportunity to correspond with you.  If you like, do not hesitate to email me at iceman58@eot.com.  Comments, critiques and personal opinions are always welcome.

Have a good summer!