Class of '69
This letter, the first after a long intermission, comes in two parts. I found time to write the first half, but then put it aside until another window in my schedule opened a few days later.
February 19, 2006
Somehow, incredibly, it’s gotten to be Presidents’ Weekend! I know Christmas happened, but somehow I can only account for time up to November. At the current rate I will see a time when a year is only three months long.
It is with many apologies that I finally offer this class letter. Many good intentions have been pushed aside by other demands. Among them, my willingness to take on yet another middle school play. (When will I learn the folly of such things?) Since our school already purchased the rights to the play and many copies of the script, I embarked on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
We scheduled our performances for the 9th and 10th of December, unaware that on this weekend the Disney version on film would open in the Paynesville cineplex! When the editor of our paper interviewed me for a feature on our production, he wondered how Disney would make up the money they would lose to our opening.
As I suspected, this would prove to be an ambitious play for many of our middle school thespians. Our very active sixth and seventh graders offered quite a challenge; during rehearsals as they would come on stage close to their cues, say their lines, and then drop out of “character” to kick their swords about, grab their ankles, or chase each other around the stage. Fortunately, I had several talented freshmen to help with our rehearsals. Adding a narrator who spoke lines from the novel helped us guide the audience through some of the complex turns in the plot too difficult to dramatize. As dress rehearsal drew near, the play and cast finally pulled together to offer a creditable performance for their families, friends, and our community. The kids got many well-deserved compliments for their work while I enjoyed watching them take a few more steps toward maturity.
Now that our daughter is a freshman laying claim to more of our home for her exclusive use, we embarked on finishing our basement so that she can move out of the tiny "nursery" that was never really meant to be a bedroom for a near-adult-sized person. Her ever-accumulating mountain of "stuff" long ago exceeded all available closet and floor space.
This project was made more interesting by two unforeseen factors. The first was David’s summer being consumed again with the task of renewing the college education department’s state and national accreditation. In his absence I found that I’m not the best person for a task that requires careful organizing of many trivial details that can easily snowball toward expensive consequences, the second unforeseen factor. I have real talent for spending hours moving about and unpacking the endless mountain of boxes and bags that filled our basement, but could only form it into new piles that found a home in our living and dining rooms.
I also found little patience with "junk," as opposed to "stuff," that I uncovered. Junk is stuff I can’t see why anyone would save, such as obsolete computers, reel-to-reel tape recorders, or green phosphor computer monitors. If our Apple II+ will never see another surge of disciplined electrons, why keep it?
Some of what I found might have been mine, of course, but more was somehow related to projects David has in mind for some future time. I'm still on a first-name basis with the people at the Good Will, but after so many trips there was a great deal of the detritus left to process. At least I now have some insight into the work of archeologists whose talent is for unearthing layers of lost civilizations, after 18 years of accumulation, our basement could have been a “dig.”
In the final days of August, with no time to process and dispose of what remained in the basement, our contractor informed me as the “construction manager” responsible for everything, that all residual stuff had to be removed at once so that construction could proceed. We used a truck to get everything that remained into our garage, forming a new pile six feet high and 20 feet deep that would later displace our automobiles from their cozy winter home.
We are now among those heretics who welcome another warm and almost snow-free Minnesota winter, as our snow blower is now buried behind a wall of stuff! With spring I expect that we will see a large dumpster appear in our front yard to help us dispose of "stuff" that has devolved into "junk."
In October Barb Seeley Devlin and I attended Evelyn Young’s ’33 funeral at Mt. Olivet, an important milestone event for us in many ways. Joining hundreds of others, we celebrated an important part of our shared experience that began for both of us 40 years earlier. As I sat in that familiar church listening to the organist play the hymns selected for this occasion, I heard my confirmation hymn among them; "My God and I go in the fields together, we walk and talk as good friends should and so, we clasp our hands, our voices ring with laughter..."
That day made this hymn such a fitting choice. There was much talk of Evelyn’s love for everyone who was in her life. I remember her warm welcome for us when I took Karla to Mt. Olivet for breakfast with the Easter Bunny. She was always a member of the team that challenged us during our class agents’ meetings every fall to do our best. We recalled as well the many tributes from those who knew her on the occasion of her 90th birthday celebration a few years earlier.
One of my first visits with Mrs. Young occurred when I went to her office to ask if we couldn’t have hot-dogs wrapped in cheese-bread again for lunch soon. That simple request warranted one of her hugs!
Later I would be one of her volunteer cafeteria workers for a dinner during the summer that history professor Jon Wefald ran for congress against Anchor Nelson. Hubert Humphrey came to speak on his behalf. I discovered that in this new role I was expected to race-walk to the table with food-laden plates, place them neatly before each guest, and then return to the kitchen at top speed for two more plates so I could repeat the journey.
Evelyn’s granddaughter shared a delightful story of going up to the lake with Grandma. Riding in the big Cadillac, Evelyn would announce that it was time for her to take a rest. She’d pull off to the side of the road, "power nap" briefly while the grandchildren sat quietly, and then awaken to race on.
Others told stories of the years during which Mrs. Young also contributed to her husband Gus’s successful coaching career by serving as the “mother of Gustavus basketball.” Joining Gus and the boys in the team bus for the long journey over back roads to Saint John’s may have even encouraged her use of rye bread to raise money for Gustavus. Evelyn often returned from those journeys with armloads of Father Gunther’s highly praised “Johnny Bread” to fill requests of her Saint Peter friends and neighbors. If the monks could sell their bread, she could sell her mother’s Swedish rye bread.
A second memorial service was held for Evelyn in Christ Chapel as part of December’s Saint Lucia celebration. Meaningful reminiscences and music were followed by a reception in the Evelyn Young college dining room. There were lovely cookies and loaves of her famous rye bread for sale. During the luncheon we learned that those small loves of rye raised $35,000 for the college! The cookies and candies, visiting with friends, all reminded me of the tasting teas that Evelyn had in the cafeteria.
I apologize again for my delay in getting this letter out of my computer and out to you. I have accumulated a fair amount of news about our classmates since my last note. I'll include the more recent information from the archives.
Gerry Hippensteel is a physician at Medical Center of Vincennes in Vincennes, Indiana. His two grandchildren, four-year-old, Gracie and six-year-old, Jackson, no doubt claim much of his free time.
Richard Diercks has recently passed the ten-year mark as the executive director of the Minnesota Dental Association.
Bill and Susan Tews report recent retirement as full-time counselors with Cumberland Schools in Cumberland, Wisconsin. They are now working part-time in the same position.
David Showalter is the director of planning and urban design for URS Corporation and involved in various transit projects in the U.S., including the Hiawatha Light Rail in Minneapolis. Susan’s (McNamara) consulting practice serves philanthropic foundations. They report enjoying three grandsons.
Dave’s work made my first ride on our new light rail line a very enjoyable experience last summer. I only made one slight error; I was inspired to get off the train at Fort Snelling with Karla and a friend who missed the school trip to the historic fort. Looking at the route map on the ticket kiosk, I suggested we use the train to visit this important site of Minnesota’s history. We purchased our tickets and boarded the train at the Mall of America transit station―nothing could be easier. The only glitch was that when we got off at the Fort Snelling stop we were nowhere near the historic park and could see no way to get there short of crossing the freeway on foot. We got back on the train, returned to the mall, purchased new tickets, and this time rode the train to the end of the line in Minneapolis. Instead of touring Fort Snelling we toured the Borders bookstore and enjoyed the store’s coffee.
Julius Del Pino is senior pastor at First United Methodist Church, Dearborn, Michigan.
John Wall, St. Paul, was in 2004 appointed as the first professional music director of Emerson Congregational Church in Richfield. He is also serving two Saint Paul churches as an organist and works for a local pipe organ builder. Together with his wife, he is raising two young adopted daughters from China.
A note from Candy Jones Holland was included in the envelope of notes I received from the Alumni Office. “We couldn’t get either of our daughters to go to Gustavus― these West Coast girls! But they did graduate from fine liberal arts colleges; Alison from Whitman in 2004 and Gillian from Willamette in 2005. I am still in construction with Davison Iron Works. Al continues as a history professor at Sac State.”
Susan Brekke Benson wrote that husband Dave “continues to be retired,” enabling him to serve as church council president for First Lutheran Church in Aitkin as well as doing much other volunteering in the community. Sue is still media specialist and director of media services for Aitkin High School.
Rebecca Lund Otterness works at Immanuel St. Joseph’s Mayo Health System in the Family Birth Center and also cares for her husband, David, who is at home with advanced multiple sclerosis.
MS also prompted the retirement of Lispeth Patrick Buettner from the clergy. Her husband is planning his retirement from Martin Luther Lutheran Church in Chicago. They are looking forward to moving to Minnesota.
John Ondov was recently appointed director of regional development for the Minnesota State College and University System. His wife, Debbie, is in her 33rd year at Hopkins School District as director of professional development. Last May daughter Megan gave birth to Logan Michael Grover. Their daughter, Libby, joined the development staff at Tubman Family Alliance.
Congratulations are due Sheryl Reque Peterson who now has three children’s books to her credit; "Egyptian Pyramids," "Machupicchu," and the newest, "The Empire State Building."
Kathryn Nelson Burks shared joyous news in her note; her son had just returned home from his year-long deployment in Iraq.
Congratulations to Kay (Krusemark) and John Schuller on their 35th year of marriage on 28 November. Now, that’s a milestone to think about! I suspect most of us were not thinking 35 years into the future in the 1970’s.
Jill Grise Nelson recently did two Boundary Waters Canoe Area trips with the Minnesota Rovers and notes that her son is in law school.
Jean (Nord) and Dale Searles became first-time grandparents in April.
Judith (Jagusch) Johnson (Jack ’65) retired in December from teaching at the University of Minnesota after ten years.
As a class we’ve managed most of our life transitions with some degree of grace. Most of us have changed jobs. Many report enjoying their shift in roles from parents to doting grandparents. More of us each year find the pathways that will lead us away from work to some variation on active, meaningful retirement. Only a few have left us, their stories shared by some of you through this informal record.
Among those few thus far, we celebrated John Wolff's life at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Apple Valley on 9 February. John’s long and difficult battle with cancer ended in late January. He will be missed by all who had an opportunity to know him.
John was quirky, interesting, delightful, kind, creative, and generous. Some of us can recall the phantom radio station he and Kirk Metzger ’70 operated out of their fourth floor dorm room using war surplus radio equipment. Occasional broadcasts swept along the Minnesota’s valley, eventually ending when a suspicious FCC field engineer stopped by for a visit. Such “experiments,” like so much of his professional life to come, were testimony to his belief that “physics was a way of life.”
During high school John worked for Hutchinson’s local telephone company, advancing his technical knowledge as well as beginning a lifelong collection of unexpectedly useful objects often employed in ways never intended by their designers. What better choice for the pressure vessel needed to contain his experiments with home-made root beer than the old brass canister sodium fire extinguisher he had saved from the recyclers? Needing to call ahead when traveling, why not use his lineman’s spikes and hand-set to climb a telephone pole and tap into the network to call ahead? Even when he had a dime for a pay phone, John would rather climb the poll in an open field somewhere West of Belle Plaine to report on weather conditions thirty feet above the frozen ground.
Those who knew him found that John’s caring generosity was a cornerstone of his life. There was nothing within his capacity that he wouldn’t do for someone who needed help. His infectious sense of humor brought delight to anyone in his presence. Humor and generosity combined to encourage the love and respect, in which he was held by the men who served with him, during his many years as an officer in the naval reserve.
Farewell to this dear friend of forty years as well as to the others among us whose lives we cherished. They have made their final transition, finding the blessed peace we all seek. We feel their absence and realize how much we will miss them in the years ahead. As we celebrate their lives among us, could there be a better mark of their contribution to our lives? Concluding John’s memorial service, his pastor reminded us of the consoling promise made long ago.
Let not your hearts be troubled;
believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many rooms;
if it were not so, would I have told you
that I go to prepare a place for you?
And when I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and will take you to myself,
there where I am you may be also.
May the peace this promise brings, guide us all as the first signs of another spring slowly emerge from snowy fields.
Jane Norman Leitzman
1969 Class Agent
P. S. The Alumni Office will add some campus news here:
The Alumni Board met on campus in February and made the final selection for the Alumni Awards:
Greater Gustavus Award: Gustavus Library Associates, for providing financial resources for Folke Bernadotte Library, and engaging and introducing alumni and friends in the mission of the College.
Distinguished Alumni Citations: Karen Bossart Rusthoven ’66, St. Paul, MN, founder and principal of Community of Peace Academy, St. Paul; Susan Semple-Rowland ’77, Gainesville, FL, professor of neuroscience, University of Florida and director, Neuroscience IDP Graduate Program; and Magnus Ranstorp ’85, St. Andrews, Scotland, chief scientist at the Centre for Asymmetric Threat Studies, Swedish National Defense College; and a Senior Honorary Research Associate and former Director of Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.
First Decade Awards: Rebecca Konrad ’96, Washington, DC, investment officer, global transaction team, The World Bank International Finance Corporation; and Milo Martin ’96, Philadelphia, PA, assistant professor, Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Pennsylvania.
The awards will be presented on Commencement Weekend or Homecoming Weekend depending on the recipient’s schedule.
Show your Gustavus pride every time your write a check. You can now order checks with Old Main, Three Crowns, or the Gustavus football helmet at: www.mycollegechecks.com.
Fine Arts Events
Bat Boy, The Musical, written by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming with music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and directed by Gustavus’ Amy Seham, opened in Anderson Theatre February 17. The American Horn Quartet, recognized as the premier horn quartet in the world, performs on campus on February 26. And acclaimed pianist, Teresa Walters, performs on campus on March 3.
Gusties Helping Hurricane Victims
A group of 23 students spent three weeks during January in Mississippi aiding in the clean-up and rebuilding efforts of a town hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. The group was student-led and sponsored by Men’s Christian Fellowship at Gustavus and coordinated through Lutheran Disaster Response. While there the students provided many services, including clearing houses to the bare structure, rebuilding homes, working in kitchens, distributing supplies, and working in pastoral care, child care, and medical clinics. The group was housed and fed in a “tent city” on the grounds of Christus Victor Lutheran Church. This was one of the several vocation month experiences from which Gustavus students had the opportunity to choose.
Nordic Ski Team senior Erich Ziegler had a first-place finish among collegiate skiers in the15K freestyle at the NorAm SuperTour stop at Telemark Resort in Cable, Wisconsin. Ziegler’s win was the first by a Gustavus skier in an NCAA/CCSA qualifier. Men’s hockey continues to win, with a 7-1 record in the MIAC. Men's swimming is 7-0 on the season and recently set two Lund Center pool record times. Brad Hanson ’08 was victorious in the 1000 freestyle in a pool-record time of 9:51.46, and Matt Stewart ’09 posted a pool-record time of 1:44.49 to win the 200-freestyle.
Gustavus Music Showcase Tickets On Sale
Order your tickets now for the Gustavus Music Showcase at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis on Sunday, March 12. The Gustavus Choir, Gustavus Symphony Orchestra, and Gustavus Wind Orchestra will perform. This is a unique opportunity to hear three premier ensembles from Gustavus in one concert. This showcase also allows prospective students, parents, and alumni from the area to meet and connect. Tickets are $20 for general admission, and $10 for students 18 and under. Tickets are on sale through the Orchestra Hall Box Office — in person, via phone, or online.
Upcoming Alumni Events
- Gustavus Music Showcase at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis - March 12
- Gustavus Library Associates’ “Breakfast with the Easter Bunny” at Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis — March 25
- MAYDAY! Peace Conference on AIDS — April 19
- Gustavus Association of Congregations Meeting — April 22
- Gusties In Volunteer Endeavors (G.I.V.E.) Day of Community Service in Minneapolis — April 29