Class of '41
Still in the afterglow of June 1¾
You are all still in my thoughts as we strive to review (in three to five minutes) a lifetime of service to Gustavus. June 1 was the day of the presentation to Chet and me of the Greater Gustavus Award, the highest award given by the Alumni Association to "those who have notably advanced and aided Gustavus." Both Chet's and my responses are included in this mailing.
Present at the reunion Alumni Banquet was our whole family ‑ Oh, the wonder of it all ‑ Our daughter Christine Feldman ’71, husband Ira, and their son, Joey, from Chicago, IL; their daughter Lisa Feldman from Montreal; son, Martin ’76, his wife, Gail, and their daughter Amelia from San Jose, CA; my brother Keith Swanson, ’49 and his wife, Joyce Holcomb Swanson, ’51 from LaCrosse, WI. We hadn't been together in one place for a long time.
In our honor the kids selected a laurel leaf willow planted near the Gilbert Teaching Pond in the Linnaeus Arboretum. Bless them, and bless you all for our "fan mail" ‑ a great thrill for both of us.
Thank you, too, for your kind attentions to us through these sixty years ‑ your phone calls, your sharing of your Gustie jewelry (which I wear so proudly), your surprise seasonal gifts to us, your continuing support of the Alumni Fund and especially Old Main renovation now. Thank you for remembering that "You belong to GA College, and Gustavus belongs to you."
There's a fresh mint bouquet for lemonade on our porch. Come and join us. We can talk about new celebrations on our calendar. About Evelyn Sponberg Young's ninetieth birthday party at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis at 6:30 p.m.; program 7:30 p.m., on Thursday, July 25. Reservations should be made with the Alumni Office 800‑487‑8437.
Minnesota Valley Sommarfest "The Smiling Beethoven" July 11, 18, 25 and August 1, 2002 at Bjorling Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m. Call the Office of Fine Arts (507-933-7363) for tickets or pay at the door. Price for seniors: $ 6.00.
Sunday, July 21, 12:30 to 4:00 p.m. Friends of Linnaeus Arboretum invitation to a Garden Tour by motor coach of four exquisite gardens in the Twin Cities‑led by naturalist, Jim Gilbert ’62. For information call 507-933-7520 or Denise Fleming, 651-787-0883 by Wednesday, July 17.
October 1 and 2, 2002. Nobel Conference XXXVIII "The Nature of Nurture." Call the Office of Public Relations, 507-933-7520.
Read on, if you like, our Greater Gustavus Award responses.
Response by Marian Swanson Johnson upon receiving the Greater Gustavus Award, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota. Saturday, June 1, 2002
Chet and I wish to acknowledge with great appreciation the recognition given us in the form of the Greater Gustavus Award. It never occurred to us that we would receive this honor, but we find it to be heartwarming and highly gratifying. It calls up remembered family relationships and other thoughts about Gustie friendships. We like it.
This award would have particularly pleased my parents ‑ Emil Swanson, School of Commerce Class of 1907, and Laura Peterson Swanson, Academy Class of 1911. My dad lived in Old Main, ate at a boarding club at Fifth and Pine, and attended classes in Commerce Hall. Our son Martin still wears his grandfather's School of Commerce gold class ring.
My mother was one of the first residents of Johnson Hall, which had just been completed. A souvenir from her college days is a small gilded jewel chest, lined in pink silk, containing the message "With the compliments of the Class of ’11 to Laura Peterson on her eighteenth birthday, September 23, 1910.’
My parents’ stay at Gustavus was a happy one. They made lifelong friends here, some of whom in 1917 became members of their wedding party. They spent their lives in Dunnell, participating in school and village activities and in the life of Immanuel Lutheran Church. They always remembered their college and were untiring in their championship of Gustavus.
I was raised on Gustavus stories, some of campus high jinks, affectionately told and retold by my parents, three aunts, an uncle, and my cousin Floyd Linder, Class of ’37, who also attended Gustavus. Uncle Ben Peterson graduated from the Academy and then from the College in the Class of 1910. His courageous espousal of intercollegiate athletics was in defiance of a Synod ban on such activities in those days. My mother was briefly campused for dancing in the halls of Johnson with her roommate. Aunt Ellen Swanson, Class of 1913, went out through a Johnson Hall window to see a movie at a theater downtown, and she lost her sewing class in consequence. She no doubt enforced good order later as Principal of LeSueur High School. My generation, which, besides me, includes my brother Keith, Class of ’49, and his wife, Joyce Holcomb Swanson, Class of ’51, accumulated more stories to add to the ancestral collection.
When I came to Gustavus, I lived in Johnson Hall one year and then moved to South Hall, where I lived for three years of new adventures. This was adjacent to Commerce Hall where I slaved to produce multitudinous hometown specials for Florence Myrum Fredricksen, head of the College Publicity Bureau.
During my student days I made it a point to take courses from Doctor Carlton, Doc Pete and Doctor Inez Rundstrom, all of who had been Gustavus teachers in my parents' day. Like my parents, I made many friends here, and these friendships continue to the present day. These are renewed regularly by means of the class letters I have been writing for some 37 years. Gustavus gave me the training, which made possible my teaching career in high school, and my careers at Gustavus as a teacher and librarian. All of my people were prepared at Gustavus for their careers, which in most cases were in the field of education.
In 1944 when I became a faculty wife we marched to a different drummer. We made footprints in the campus sands by means of the Dames Club, (later, Faculty Women's Club) providing Faculty Follies to entertain students and earn money for scholarships and a piano for Rundstrorn Hall.
I like to think of my time at Gustavus as student, teacher, librarian, and faculty wife as being a continuation of the Gustavus tradition shared by all of us. Each new building, enriched course, distinguished faculty member, achieving student, winning athletic team, academic accolade, stellar music performance, and work of art ‑ represents a personal triumph for every Gustavian.
It has been a wonderful experience for Chet and me to be at Gustavus for nearly six decades and to witness the march of events as the College has grown and developed far beyond our hopes and expectations.
I have always treasured the words inscribed in stone above the entry to Rundstrom Hall. And here is an interesting bit of history.
In December 1938 this motto was the winning entry of seventy-six submitted in a contest judged by the Gustavus Board of Trustees. The competition was open to members of the Minnesota and Red River Valley Conferences of the Augustana Synod, and their active Luther Leagues.
Delores H. Lundell, Red Wing, Minnesota, was the winner with her entry "in keeping with the ideals for which Gustavus stands." Miss Lundell, who won a one-semester scholarship at Gustavus, captured the spirit of the program of the College, which is ever building for a "Greater Gustavus." Here are the words that are inscribed:
"May all who through these portals pass bring peace and joy within."
Response by Chester Johnson upon receiving the Greater Gustavus Award Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota. Saturday, June 1, 2002
As you have heard, Marian had the advantage of coming to this college bringing with her a Gustavus family tradition. I came here in 1940 with a Swedish Augustana College background, which was O.K., but still not quite the same. Nevertheless, I arrived with some knowledge of Gustavus thanks to the stories I had heard from the Gustavus boys in Augustana Seminary. There were many tales and also impersonations of Gustavus Profs. Ted LeVander's were by all odds the best. Thanks to him; when I arrived here I could recognize many members of the Gustavus faculty with my eyes closed. It was like identifying birds by their calls.
I had an even earlier meeting with a Gustavian in the spring of 1931 when I was a senior in Moline High School, and our debate team lost to Rock Island. The judge was a student from the Seminary, and I felt obliged to call his attention to certain errors in his analysis and judgment. It was then I discovered that if you set out to match your logic against that of Edgar Carlson, you had better do your homework.
So I came eventually to Gustavus and settled in on sort of a provisional basis. It was after Marian and I had concluded an alliance that I became a member in good standing of a Gustavus family and also of the Gustavus community.
Marian and I have lived for almost fifty years in Valley View, a Gustavus outpost across the street from the College. There Christine and Martin grew up in a warm, supporting community of friends and neighbors. To them the Gustavus campus was an extended playground, existing for the benefit of themselves and their Valley View playmates. In time they crossed the campus on their way to St. Peter's public schools, and later they lived in college dormitories and studied in classroom buildings which they had seen built and dedicated. Some years later still, Ira, Joey and Lisa joined Chris, and Gail and Amelia joined Martin in dedicating the Prairie Overlook ‑ a family gift for the Arboretum.
From Valley View we have watched the College grow and prosper. In terms of buildings, the College is largely a new creation. Only Old Main, the old Gym, Uhler, Rundstrom and the Stadium remain from the college we first knew. From our house we can see Christ Chapel and its spire, reminding us that Gustavus is a college of the church. The College farm has become playing fields and our wonderful arboretum. In our time the student population has increased four-fold and the faculty by a factor of six. The talent and scholarship of faculty and students are continually on display here and in the so-called real world. Gustavus has gone out into that real world by providing study experiences for Gustavus students throughout the United States and in other lands. There is ample testimony that Gustavus has attained a well-earned place of distinction among America's liberal arts colleges.
All of this indicates that gratifying progress has been made since the school came into being a hundred and forty years ago in a Lutheran parsonage in Red Wing, Minnesota. At it’s opening, the school consisted of one student, Jonas Magny, and one teacher, Eric Norelius. The school was founded to meet the need for teachers and pastors who could serve the immigrant pioneers and their children, scattered in farms and villages on the frontier. This school began in response to a call to service. Since its beginnings, circumstances have greatly changed, but the call to service remains. A measure of the true worth of our College lies in the response to that call which each generation chooses to make.
Marian and I are deeply touched to be honored here tonight. Recognized for our service, we see ourselves as representatives of that great host of Gustavians who, in their careers and daily lives, have also served. In recognizing us, Gustavus also recognizes them.
Through the years,
Class Agent '41,
Marian Swanson Johnson