Class of '63
Volume 43 Number 2
We are in the dog days of winter. People are still in Naples, Sun City, and Australia. Those of us remaining in Minnesota had a fabulous January, a VERY seasonal February, and are excited about the daylight increasing about 25 minutes each week! The Winter Olympics are soon over. Basketball, hockey, swimming conference playoffs are occurring. In Minnesota, we will soon have infamous March weather for our high school basketball and hockey tournaments. Some things never change!
Many of you get the news from the campus on e-mail so I really don’t have much to tell you. January Term is over. Traveling musical organizations are back on campus. The Gustavus Symphonic Band toured in Eastern Europe and had fabulous crowds every place that they went. Students went to the four corners of the world to study. A group of 23 volunteers ventured to Katrina land near Biloxi, MS and worked on cleaning out houses. They slept on the basement floor of a Lutheran church. I suspect that they were too exhausted after a hard day’s work to even care where they slept. The second semester is well underway with mid-term examinations soon to begin! Ah, those were the days!
I direct you to a spot on the Gustavus website to view a virtual tour of a new football stadium that is planned for the campus. Over twenty years have passed since the building of the Olin Science Hall and with it a promise to the Olin Foundation, who provided all the money for the building and furnishings, to move the football field. Now, plans are developing to develop a mall going west from the Chapel. However, the current football field blocks the way. A new stadium will be developed to the north of the present stadium and immediately to the west of the Lund Center. It will be a state-of-the art facility with artificial turf and room for about 3,000 fans. As you remember, the stadium is also the site for graduation and is being designed to handle other outdoor events as well. The artificial turf will accommodate many more activities than might be possible on grass turf. Paste the following web address on your browser and take the virtual tour: gustavus.edu/campusprogress/footballstadium.
As you may recall, this mid-winter letter usually has a guest writer. This year I asked Ken Johnson if he would write and tell us of his journey as a business entrepreneur. He and Elouise have a fabulous track record in the business world. Catalog Marketing Services processes the names and addresses that are placed on 13.5 percent of the catalogues mailed in the US. The average mailing fills up 7-10 semi-trailers. CMS is #2 in market share in the country. It is one of Minnesota’s 50 fastest growing private companies.
I talked with Ken about their journey. What came clear is that while the journey may appear to go well, it doesn’t always come easily. Ken was emphatic about the need to always remember one’s roots and to give back because one doesn’t achieve accomplishments all by oneself.
KEN AND ELOUISE (ANDERSON) JOHNSON ’63 ’66
Paul asked me to write about my journey as an entrepreneur. Twenty-three years ago I was a reluctant entrepreneur. I had 18 years of experience in the data-processing industry and had worked for three companies. In 1982, I was vice president of information services at a direct mail company. That company, after experiencing several years of explosive growth, was headed for bankruptcy. I needed to start looking for different employment.
As I evaluated my opportunities, I remembered my father’s responsibilities as owner of a retail hardware store. Both his father and grandfather had owned hardware stores during their business careers. They worked long hours and could never depend on a paycheck, but that’s what I thought I would like to do also. My father sold the business shortly after I entered Gustavus. It took a couple of weeks for the shock of the sale to wear off and then I came to the conclusion that I would never want to own my own business. In November of 1982 we started CMS!
While working at the direct mail company, I had developed a business plan designed to help turnaround the company; however, it became apparent it wasn’t going to help them. With the company going down and a very tight job market, I determined it was only “retail” ownership that I had an adversity to. So I dusted off the business plan I was working on, recruited two other partners, and became an “entrepreneur.”
My wife, Elouise (Anderson ’66), had been a third grade teacher prior to our children being born and after they were in school had resumed teaching part-time as a Title I teacher. In 1982, faced with school district cutbacks, we convinced her to manage our office. She agreed to do it for a year and when her year was up the other partners begged her to stay. Back then she handled all the accounting (never had an accounting class), payroll, invoicing, phones and office administration. As vice president of administration, she has been called the “glue” that kept our company together.
In the beginning we raised seed capital, used all our savings and our children’s college funds. We ran out of money and went months with no income for us or the other partners before we turned the corner. In our small company, I was the president and the back-up programmer and back-up salesman. I used to say we didn’t know how bad it was or how to fail, so we kept going. It was during this time of my career that I realized what I was drawing from my studies at Gustavus. The things learned in accounting, finance, marketing and economics became the core of running a business when we needed it most.
CMS initially began helping catalog companies with the computer processing required to produce their catalogs, such as eliminating duplicate names, sorting by zip code and printing address labels. What started as a simple service bureau has evolved into a rapidly growing leader in the network database industry. CMS Direct is presently the combination of two companies, Catalog Marketing Services (CMS) and Prefer Network, which helps catalog companies grow their valuable customer base as well as target ideal prospect markets. Essentially we help connect buyers and sellers through our industry experience and solutions in direct marketing. We have 173 employees in three offices located in Minneapolis, New York and Wisconsin.
Throughout my entire business career, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by very talented people. The company we started has never been about what Ken and Elouise have accomplished; it’s about the great and talented people that we work with. They are the core of the growth and success of CMS Direct. However, many of the entrepreneurs I know joke that we are not very employable as we don’t take direction very well – we always have a different idea of how to do it. That is the good and the bad about working (and living) with an entrepreneur.
Elouise and I feel we have been truly blessed to have had the opportunity to attend and meet at Gustavus. We feel so strongly about how Gustavus impacted our lives that after our two daughters attended Gustavus, we established a scholarship for nephews and nieces that attend a Minnesota private college and graduate in four years. Seven of the eight that have participated chose Gustavus as their college of choice. Thinking back on those college times at Gustavus, what I experienced was so much more than the course materials we studied―the life experiences I gained with the Class of ’63 is what prepared me for my journey.
NANCY JOHNSON KNOELL and her husband enjoy traveling. They also enjoy their five children and seven grandchildren. They sing in their church choir and she is also involved in Delta Kappa Gamma Society International. DARLENE YOUNGQUIST KRESS writes from Joliet, IL, that Dennis has sold his optometric practice after 37 years. He still works two days a week for the new doctor. Darlene is enjoying more tennis, bridge, church activities, golf and hospital volunteer work. She plays on several USTA teams. They also enjoy travel and spending time with grandsons who live close to them. KEN ABRAM has retired from his work in the selling of car washes for the last 17 years. He plans to consult in that area for a few months. Ken enjoys spending time painting and watching six grandchildren play basketball. Ken invites Gusties traveling in the Noblesville, IN, area to call and stop by! CHARLENE LUNDAHL NORRIS and Lyle are enjoying their retirement by dividing time between Arizona in the winter and the YMCA of the Rockies in the summer. They have 10 grandchildren. ROSE OMODT JOST is still working as the family health manager with Bloomington Public Health. She enjoys the love of three grandchildren.
DOUG ROSZELL retired as a psychiatrist from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City. He is currently doing part-time disability evaluations for the V.A. He enjoys outdoor activities year round in Utah and the Pacific Northwest. NORMA (SAARI) and CURT ’62 JOHNSON moved from Waconia to Woodbury last May and are enjoying the new area. Norma enjoyed visiting Bolivia and Peru to visit her daughter’s family in LaPaz with a side trip to Machu Picchu, Peru. Her daughter, Cathy ’85, is a nurse at the American Embassy. Her husband works with Third World projects to improve the lives of native Bolivians. JANET RYAN TIDEMANN is now on full disability as an ELCA pastor, but continues to do some part-time ministry at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis where she has been associate pastor for 16 years. She and Paul enjoy their five grandchildren.
BONNIE LEWIS MCCLEES is knee-deep in tax preparations working for H & R Block. She purchased a truck with a pop-up Eagle camper and is enjoying traveling around the West. She is into astronomy and has enjoyed stargazing in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. She is enjoying living in her new condo after selling the “big house” to her daughter and son-in-law. KAREN LINDBORG JONAITIS and Chuck are enjoying retirement in Tucson and wondering how they ever found time to work. Karen is hiking again after having two hip replacement surgeries. They visited Holden Village last summer and then took in the Pacific coastline. SHELLIE DAHLEN REED also visited at Holden Village last summer at the same time that Ruth Anderson Tillquist and Paul were there. Paul is on the Board of Directors for Holden Village. Shellie loves to travel and has been to Italy, France, Norway and Sweden in the last few years. She comes home to love up her grandchildren!!! It should be noted that KAREN LINDBORG JONAITIS, KURT BJORKQUIST, NED ’61 and SUE PETERSON LARSON and TOM LINDELL attended the Gustavus alumni gathering in Tucson on February 11. EDEN HUTABARAT, BILL LAHTI, and KAREN PIERSON TOMMERAASEN represented the Class of 1963 at the alumni gathering in Sun City, AZ on February 12.
LOIS JOHNSON THABES passed away on Friday, February 3, 2006 in Minneapolis. She is survived by her husband, Rudd ’64, daughter, Marte ’96, and son, John. She worked for several years as a social worker in Crow Wing County, MN, and in Fairbanks, AK. She liked to spend time at the family cabin, watch birds, take rides in the woods, and listen to her loved ones and friends. Our sympathy to Lois’ family.
RALPH “PUDGE” JOHNSON married a lovely lady, Bonnie Ressler, in Lancaster, PA. Tom Anderson performed the ceremony and Mike and Pat Holm also joined in the celebration. Pudge and Bonnie will divide their time between their lake home in Aitkin, MN, and St. Petersburg, FL. HELEN NELSON MELSNESS’ son moved to New Zealand for a year. She and Larry enjoy three grandchildren. FRED THUNHORST retired after 33 years as Area Wildlife Supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in 2002. They spent some winter months in McAllen, TX. NANCY BECK STROM enjoyed having a grandson and daughter-in-law live with Nancy and Dick for a year while their son, Michael, took language training in Monterey, CA. Mike is a flying linguistic translator in the US Air Force. Nancy retired as a librarian with the Dakota County Library System. Her health has improved dramatically and is active in promoting “TNJ” (Tahitian NoniJuice) with friends around the world. You will have to contact her in Eagan, MN, (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Aloha from SANDY BROWN JOHNSTON who continues to live in Hawaii where 1.2 million residents will entertain seven million guests who generously leave behind more than $11 billion. There are another 3,000-4,000 guests who arrive in December and don’t leave a dollar or even eat a meal. The humpback whales are in the area just for fun with family and friends and perhaps a little romance! Sandy is busy with several causes. She still conducts tours at Washington Place, and works on fund-raising events for the Contemporary Art Museum and also for the Hawaii Theater. They have moved to a ninth floor coop practically hanging over the ocean in the shadow of Diamond Head. Should you wish to experience what causes the whales to swim as far as Hawaii, you are encouraged to include Sandy and Jim in your plans for a vacation!!! ROBERT “BUD” EKSTRUM has three grandchildren. He is semi-retired, but works with Ken Johnson at CMS Direct. JOHN MONSON will retire after the 2006 golf season as the superintendent at the Long Prairie Country Club where he has worked for 30 years.
STEVE ROE writes from his retreat at Crosslake where he and Beryl built a year round home on the site of a family cabin. His grandfather purchased his first place at Crosslake in 1935. They have five grandchildren. They both remain active in community activities: Church, Lions, community politics, and various associations. DEANNA DIRKS BOE has finally retired. In her 45 years since graduation from high school she has lived in eight different states, eight foreign countries, and in 34 different rooms, apartments, condos, or houses during that time. Her husband (a high school sweetheart) finally put his foot down and decided to build a home in Akron, IA, where they grew up!!! Retirement is grand in Akron!! ALICEJEAN LEIGH DODSON retired as the program manager for the Marine New Parent Support Program at Quantico and Henderson Hall Marine Bases. Her plan is to write a bit, sort photographs, sort and toss “stuff,” spend time with six grandchildren who live in Tacoma, WA, and travel with husband, Jon. They still live in Springfield, VA, but talk about perhaps leaving there at some time in the future.
JANET HEABERLIN lives in Shoreview after retiring from elementary teaching. She has five grandchildren. STEVE BENSON continues his illustrious career with the University of Minnesota heading up their senior-learning program. He and Judy are enjoying a new grandchild. KAREN NIELSEN NAU spent 3 ½ months teaching English in China and is back to teaching in Prior Lake. CHAR LUECKE ENGSTROM and JOHN ’62 are living in the Sturgeon Lake area near their cabin on Sand Lake. John completed a stint as interim pastor at Gloria Dei Lutheran in Duluth, the church that he served from 1983-1993. The past 12 years they have lived in Seattle and served at Gethsemanae Lutheran Church in downtown Seattle. Most of those years they lived on their 1969 57-foot ChrisCraft boat, the “Pacific High.” Not only was it their home, but it also provided opportunity to cruise the waters of the Puget Sound, San Juan Islands, and Northern British Columbia. This gave them a chance to experience close views of whales, dolphins, eagles and also provided them with fresh salmon, prawns and Dungeness crab. We are glad to welcome you back to Minnesota, Char and John!!
My apologies to you who had sent news notes, which got buried in my file. But, we are all reading these notes for the first time and even if the notes are a few months old it is still fun to hear what people are doing. Thanks to all of you for including news notes in your gift envelopes. And thanks to many of you who sent e-mail notes to me at email@example.com.
So, I close with a thought for the day shared with me by Chris Swenson Wilmot:
“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: ‘Wow, what a ride!!’”
Thanks for your continued friendship and support!
Paul Tillquist, Class Agent
79 East Pleasant Lake Road
St. Paul, MN 55127