Class of '40
April 2009

Hello to the 24 survivors, at this writing, of the class of 1940, who are about evenly divided between men and women.

This comes to you from the sunny, summery shores of Balboa’s Pacific Ocean in La Jolla CA, where I’m visiting my daughter, Marty ’68, and her husband Sheldon.  My daughter, D.J, husband, Peter, and their daughter, Martha Margaret Hedstrom, G.A. x01, were also here.  This is my maiden voyage at writing a class letter!

So, to review the bidding―after a mere two weeks of practice teaching, I was fortunate to get a high school English and theater position at Fertile, MN, a seven hour train ride north from Minneapolis.  My aunt, Bertha Almen Vickner ’10 had taught there in the early 1900’s.

The next summer, my Truman High School superintendent who was then at Le Sueur, called to offer me a similar position there.  Hooray!!!  I taught at Le Sueur for three years until March ’44 when I was allowed to resign to marry my returned-from-combat Air Corps pilot in St. Petersburg, FL on March 11th.

Soon after the war, my father, Gustaf ’04, died so we bought my parents’ newspaper in Truman.  Mother and brother, John, home from the Navy, moved to St. Peter, where he graduated from Gustavus in ’50.

The rest is in the files.  Sixty-three years and counting, I continue to write my weekly column for our “Springfield Advance-Press” paper.  When persuasive Evelyn Strom Pearson conned me into writing the spring class letter, I had three immediate “wonders.”

1.  How popular is Gustavus in my Fairmont area?

2.  Would a Chapter or a periodic get together appeal to our Gusties?

3.  How could we make our ELCA church, Grace Lutheran, think Gustavus Adolphus instead of Luther and St. Olaf?

After trying to get a head count of fellow Gusties here, the Alumni Office smoothly supplied me with all the pertinent info.

Currently living in Fairmont are 49 Gusties―16 more in Martin County, 23 in nearby Blue Earth, and 10 in Faribault County towns.

Two Fairmonters are Newton Johnson, who left us after our sophomore year, and Esther Marie Johnson ’42, who came to campus in 1938.  She taught in Trimont (Martin County), married Atty. Arthur Edman ’38 (G.A. 2 yrs) and resides in Fairmont.  Newt and Art had very successful law practices in Fairmont.  I asked both of these “our era” Gusties for a memory of G.A. days.

Essie remembers her arrival on campus, meeting her roommate for the first time resulting in being roommates all four years, observing 9:00 p.m. dorm curfew and daily chapel hour, being part of the Gustavus choir with its fun tours, and treasuring the wonderful friendships she formed.

Newt recalls that when he returned for his sophomore year, he approached Mr. Sjostrom for a job.  “Many of us got a little help in those days.”  Mr. Sjostrand surprised him when he said, “Dr. Elson wants you to work for him.”  Dr. Elson was professor of biology and zoology, and though Newt had little interest in science, he took the job at $15.00 per month.  A standout memory of that job is the fairly large rectangular, glass fish tank at one end of the hall in Old Main.  It was occupied by a lonely garfish Dr. Elson had rescued from the Mississippi River.  Newt’s job was to feed the fish hamburger, to keep the glass free of green scum and to replenish it with water.  Nine months later the fish was still ALIVE!!!  To this adventure Newt adds, “I have good memories of Gustavus.  All my pals in section 2 of the boys’ dorm are gone.  I’m very thankful for a good life, my wife, Jane and our family” and, he sends his best wishes to those of you who are still with us.

A memory that hangs with me is the first day in Prof. Evan Anderson’s freshman speech class.  On the blackboard were a group of words that we were told to punctuate―that that is is is not that it it is.

My junior year, I lived at my aunt’s home with her and four cousins, two of them, Lou ’41 and Harold ’42 Benson were also attending Gustavus.  Professor Evan Anderson, whose wife had recently died, also lived there with his two young sons, maybe 8 and 10 years-old.

That year, my trio of friends, Irma Olson, Evelyn Wallin and Cosette Nelson, roomed at a house on College Avenue.  The newest addition to the speech department, Evelyn Olson, was also rooming there.

Working together, Prof Anderson and Miss Olson became close friends.  I was where he was and my friends were where she was, so, perhaps, I “carried the news from Ghent to Aix.”

Eventually, they married.  Later, they lived next door to my mother and brother, and we all became dear friends.  In 1964, my daughter Marty traveled to England as part of the “winter term” theater group with Evelyn Anderson at the helm.

It’s nice to touch base with all of you.  Sorry if I’ve bored you, but, anyone who knows me, knows I never leave much white space.


Martha Almen Peterson

1940 Guest Letter Writer

Congrats, Millie Gulberg Gilbertson on the 90th celebration!  Our Fairmont Film Society kindly feted me on that awe-spicious number.

At last count, over 100 descendants of our grandfather Reverend L.G. Almen have attended G.A.  Three are currently freshmen; two are my brother John’s grandchildren.

Campus News

Update on Commission Gustavus 150

Recently posted to the Commission website is a summary of the common issues and “big ideas” discussed at the first nine National Summit meetings regarding the College’s five core values (Excellence, Faith, Justice, Service, and Community).  The participants were asked how the College might ensure that the core values would be lived out in the lives of alumni, faculty, staff, and students.  The summary is being shared with all members of the eight task forces of Commission Gustavus 150.  The common issues and big ideas will help shape the recommendations made by the Task Forces to the Gustavus Board of Trustees and ultimately form the basis for the College’s long-range strategic plan.

Forensics Team Wins

Congratulations to the Gustavus Adolphus College Forensics Team, which won its second straight Minnesota Collegiate Forensics Association State Championship on Sunday, Feb. 22.  Gustavus finished with 446 points to beat out Minnesota State University, Mankato (408 points) and Concordia College, Moorhead (213 points).  Gustavus placed first in 6 of 13 events and placed four individuals in the top seven of the individual sweepstakes standings.  First-year student, Chloe Radcliffe, placed first in the individual sweepstakes and senior, Tasha Carlson, will represent Minnesota at the 2009 Interstate Oratorical Association National Contest―the oldest speaking competition in the country―on April 25 in Oxford, Mississippi.

Gustavus’s Day at the Capitol

Hundreds of students and financial aid supporters from Gustavus Adolphus College and other Minnesota private colleges and universities gathered on various days at the state Capitol this spring to advocate for need-based student financial aid.  Gustavus’s Day at the Capitol was March 5, shared with Hamline University and St. Mary’s University.

“Come on You Gusties” Breakfast

Join us for a cup of coffee, breakfast, and great conversation.  This month our featured presenter is Steve Wilkinson, men’s tennis coach.  All Gusties are welcomed and invited to the breakfast, Wednesday, April 15, 8-9:30 a.m. at the Doubletree Hotel, Minneapolis-Park Place, 1500 Park Place Boulevard.  Cost is $10 at the door.  Reserve your spot by calling Don Swanson ’55 at 763-533-9083.

Linnaeus Symposium

The Linnaeus Symposium is scheduled for Wednesday, April 22, 2009 and will include Dr. Margaret Lowman, a tree ecologist and Gustavus alumnus, Gail Johnson Speckmann ’73, whose water color art display will premier during the conference; and there will be a special choreographed dance production on the theme of trees.

MayDay!  Peace Conference

“Tiananmen + 20 Years” is the topic of Gustavus Adolphus College’s 29th annual MAYDAY! Peace Conference to be held Wednesday, April 29, 2009 on the college campus.