Class of '41
Dear Gustavus 1941 Classmates,
When Pinky Swanson Johnson, our indefatigable Class Agent, asked me to write a newsletter this month, in a moment of exuberance and filled with the requisite amount of Lutheran guilt, I hastily consented. I have greatly appreciated over these past decades the superb job Pinky has done in keeping us in touch with Gustavus and with one another. Hence jotting down a few thoughts for your perusal is one way I can reduce my feelings of being a free loader and reduce to manageable size my ever present Lutheran guilt.
Together we can recall the memorable November 11 Armistice Day blizzard that literally blanketed our campus with huge drifts of snow in 1940, our senior year. I'm not sure where all you guys and gals spent that memorable day, but I recall a few details: stuffing towels in our windows in Uhler Hall to keep the gale force winds from blowing snow into our rooms, struggling along "Hello Walk" between the Aud and Old Main holding on to ropes strung between trees so we wouldn't be blown off the sidewalk, and helping to gather firewood so a warm fire could be started in the parlor of Rundstrom Hall. Those snow drifts remained till the next spring. [That event pales relative to the tornado that struck the campus in March 1998.] We are all thrilled at the amazing and prompt recovery of the Gustavus campus after the tornado had shattered most windows, demolished most trees and damaged old Johnson Hall to the extent that it had to be torn down. Rejoice in the tremendous outpouring of support, the new dining area and Campus Center, spectacular landscaping and all the other ambitious plans being fulfilled on campus. Gustavus recently received a national award for prompt execution of its excellent disaster plan and recovery. You are entitled to be truly proud of your Alma Mater, "Thrice hall, Alma Mater, Thy children are true. We love you forever. Our love we renew!"
Another recollection may be timely, considering all the hype and possible hysteria associated with the end of the millennium, whether it be the gloom and doom among the religious Armageddonists, the projected calamities associated with Y2K computer bugs, or the siege mentality of the militia crazies. As our old Psychology Prof., Sven Froeburg, introduced each lecture "I invite your attention…" I invite your attention to the radio drama by Orson Welles, War of the Worlds, which took place on October 30, 1938, terrorizing millions of listeners, including students at Gustavus. I was saved from the panic by being involved in the beginning of a life-long romance with my beloved wife, Dee (Borgstrom ’42) Rather than worry about the advent of the millennium and all the fearful predictions, I hope you are reserving a place on your calendar to assemble at Gustavus in late May, 2001, so we can celebrate in style the 60th anniversary of our graduation. If health or other conditions do not permit your being with us, please plan to send us a greeting and an update on your life pilgrimage.
Four distinctive Gustavus events of this fall season typify and symbolize the diversity of experiences likely to leave lasting impressions on Gusties. Each in its own way adds depth and breadth to our well being. One event highlighted in grand style the academic emphasis in higher education--the Nobel Conference on Genetics October 5 & 6. It was awe-inspiring to be part of an audience that filled Lund Arena, showcasing researchers at the frontiers of knowledge about genetics in general, and particularly about the human genome. Although highly specialized, the speakers communicated with a general audience about unfolding mysteries of our genetic makeup, the struggle to locate the genes on the chromosomes and identify their purposes. I suspect that some in the audience felt they were at the Tower of Babel, somewhat incomprehensible; for others, it was like being with the disciples at Pentecost. In any event, the Nobel Conference added luster to the quality of education available at Gustavus to the motivated student.
The second event dramatized the role of extra-curricular activities in the life of Gusties, as symbolized by the title football game in the Metrodome between Gustavus and St. Johns on November l2th. Had the Gusties won, it would result in a four-way tie for the title-Bethel, Gustavus, St. Johns, and St. Thomas. The Gusties lost 31-16, (five interceptions) although they outscored St. Johns 13-3 in the second half. This may seem to some of you as movement from the sublime to the ridiculous. Yet a football game can symbolize a host of extra-curricular activities that focus our interests, enrich our lives, and quicken our spirits and loyalties. We jocks and our faithful supporters know that football and other sports have been an integral part of our Gustavus experiences. Do you remember our first All-American, Wendell Butcher? Our own triple threat, Russ Buckley and Blond Bomber Lloyd Parsons? Frankly, I have more vivid memories of some sports events than academic events while at Gustavus. Being engaged in sports each afternoon, I had little chance after supper to dash to our dinky library in South Hall for a seat because all of you eager-beaver gals hogged all the seats and reference books we needed. With that rationalization, I must seriously confess that role models for my subsequent adult life have been professors at Gustavus, my adviser Doc Winfield, Coach Myrum, and my religion professors, Edgar Carlson and George Hall. No subsequent persons have replaced them in my esteem.
The third event symbolizes in glittering style the social and interpersonal ties that bond Gusties in life-long friendships as well as support for their Alma Mater. This was the biennial Royal Affair banquet for 1,200 Gustie supporters in the ballroom of the Radisson South in Bloomington on November 13. The social aspect of this extravaganza stands in a similar relationship for many alumnae and alumni as that of the typical sorority or fraternity banquets we attended at Gustavus. Although back then we didn't have as many gorgeous gowns, jewels, furs, tuxedoes, nor as elaborate a menu, I believe we had more pulchritude and perhaps more fun and true appreciation! The prime purpose of this festive event was fundraising for the Gustavus Library, sponsored by the Gustavus Library Associates and featuring a silent auction of over 900 items, plus a live auction of five items. My guess is that they were very successful in raising more than $150,000, a sum more than the total value of the library and then some in our days at Gustavus.
Finally, the fourth upcoming event puts all of the others in proper perspective, the annual Christmas in Christ Chapel, which blends the visual and performing arts in a magnificent celebration of the Incarnation. It is a feast for the ears, eyes and spirits of those fortunate to attend one of these concert/worship experiences held in Christ Chapel on the first weekend in December. It is a fitting summary and glorious climax for what Gustavus testifies to as a college of the church. I hope each of you may again cherish during the Advent and Christmas season many similar experiences.
This newsletter would not be complete without telling you we have lost two classmates and dear friends this summer, Angelo Pergol died in August. Dee and I felt privileged to attend his memorial service in St. Cloud. A packed sanctuary included many of Angie's former players, some with inspiring tributes to Angle's influence on their lives. Blanche is doing as well as could be expected; we saw her briefly at both the Nobel Conference and the Gala Royal Affair. Geraldine Brown Miller passed away in August of lingering ailments, having lost her husband, Everett '40, four months earlier.
Thank you for many years of loyal support to the college that brought us together and still binds us in common fellowship.
Arthur "Batch" Johnson
1941 Guest Letter Writer