Class of '41
January 2004

Some Reflections on Decisions

I invite you to think about decisions you have made in your life that had important consequences for your future.

What makes a decision important?  Edmund Cahn in his book, The Moral Decision, calls "the principle of route" the factor that points to decisions that set forth the over-all route that strongly influences subsequent stages and decisions of one's life…the business of embarking on a major enterprise acquires exceedingly great significance.  Marriage is such an enterprise.  Choosing the person one wants as a life partner is an awesome affair.

I've been thinking about decisions I have made during my lifetime that affected the rest of my life.  Surely the decision about marriage to Ruth (Bostrom) is one of the most important.  As I look back on my life, there was a decision that influenced all subsequent decisions, including choosing Ruth, or being chosen by her.

This happened on July 4, 1939.  The memory of that day is so vivid that I still remember what happened.

It was a quiet day on the farm a mile west of Wright in Carlton County where I was living after I had graduated from Duluth Junior College.  I was home alone.  Nothing was going on until a car came up the driveway.  I went out of the house to see who had come.  A trim young man with blond hair stepped out, "I'm Art Johnson," I had heard of him.  He was "Swede" Johnson, a graduate of Gustavus who taught Swedish at Central High School in Duluth and in the summer worked for Gustavus recruiting students.

"I wonder if you have decided about college in the fall."

I didn't know Gustavus had its eye on me.  I had not applied for admission.

It was hot outside, so we went in the house and sat in the front room, he on an old rocking chair and I on the sofa.

I told him that I was considering four places―Duluth Teachers' College, Superior Teacher's College, University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, and Gustavus.

"Why have you chosen these?"  Johnson asked.

"I've decided to go into teaching."  I answered.

"Why is Gustavus last on your list?"

"It is my preferred choice, but it costs too much," I replied.

I had heard that estimated cost for a year was $500 tuition, $75 a semester.  It seemed like a lot of money.

"If you want to go to GA, money is no problem," Johnson said.

"Oh I do!  It's my first choice, but I don't understand what you mean."

He told me about campus jobs and loans available and then he said, "I'll fix up a deal with Sjostie―Sjostrand, the treasurer."

"Can you, really?  I'll decide right now to go if you can."

And so he did.  It was true that money was not the problem.  I was getting some support from home, so I didn't work during my junior year.  In my senior year I had a job in the library.  When I graduated I signed a note for the remaining debt and paid off that debt the summer after graduation with the money I earned selling photos of homes in Detroit.  That's another story.

"Money is no problem."  Those were Johnson's words and they were the key factor in making the decision to go to Gustavus.

What a different place Gustavus was in those days.  Those were the depression years, so there was little money available for students and also for the college.  Sjostrand was not only treasurer, but also supervisor of student workers and money raiser and a master of a few other jobs as well.  He had to find some way of financing both, by appealing to churches for help and by making deals with students.

Nowadays the college has a large staff of people who work on finances, raising money, managing the budget, and finding grants to finance the much larger costs.

I told this story to my granddaughters who were going to make their decisions about college soon.  I said, "What if I hadn't been home that day?  What if I had gone swimming in a lake?

"What if there hadn't been persons like Swede Johnson so devoted to GA and so interested in me that he came to see me on July Fourth when he could have been fishing or somewhere else?  That loyalty and devotion was typical of Gustavians then, and still is.  That's what makes GA such a special place to get an education.

"My life was set on a journey that day, but I didn't realize it at the time.  If I hadn't gone to Gustavus, I probably would not have become a pastor and later a professor at Gustavus.  I would not have met and married your grandmother, Ruth.  Your dad Carl, and your Aunt Louise '68 would not have existed and you would not have been born.  I'm glad I decided to go to Gustavus!  Aren't you?"

That's my story.  What is yours?  Maybe my account will trigger memories of your own.  Write an account for the next class letter and send it to Marian Swanson Johnson.  Think about what you would tell your grandchildren.  Our stories are interesting, and each of them adds to the mosaic of the Gustavus story.

Bob Esbjornson

1941 Guest Letter Writer

Campus News:

Building a Greater Gustavus Reaches Target

Gustavus celebrates reaching the $100 million target for the Building a Greater Gustavus capital campaign.  The campaign includes reconstruction projects following the 1998 tornados, the creation of the Center for Vocational Reflection, growth of the Christ Chapel Endowment, the C. Charles Jackson Campus Center, the Curtis and Arleen Carlson International Center, the Barbro Osher Svenska Huset (Swedish House), the new soccer and track complex, and more than 100 new scholarships.  Efforts continue to raise funds for campaign projects, such as Old Main renovation, Gustavus Alumni Fund, and further endowment growth.  Special thanks! goes to the volunteers and donors who contributed their resources to assist current and future Gusties. 

January Term

The theme for this January Term is "Undergraduate Research and Creativity," to promote course offerings and activities in all fields, not just natural sciences and fine arts.  In addition about 375 students are on travel programs abroad in such places as Europe, Australia, Malaysia, Fiji, and Israel.  Also, 180 students are participating in internships and career explorations, now so essential for many students in securing a job, no matter what career field. 

New Gustavus Video

Have you been to campus lately?  Can you remember your first time seeing Gustavus?  The Admission Office has created a new video/DVD for prospective students to take a look at the College.  Take a look online if you wish at <>.

Fine Arts

The Gustavus Symphonic Orchestra will take a 16-day concert tour to China performing in such places as Beijing, the Great Wall, and Tianjin.  The Gustavus Choir will take a 10-day concert tour to selected cities in North Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, and Minnesota, and will also present a concert in the Twin Cities on Friday evening, January 30, 2004, 7:30 p.m., at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, in St. Paul.  The Gustavus Wind Orchestra, formerly the Gustavus Band, will tour during Spring Break.

Extraordinary People

Peter Krause '87 returned to Gustavus in November to meet and conduct workshops with students.  Krause has been nominated for Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Emmy awards for his role as Nate Fisher in the critically and commercially acclaimed HBO drama, "Six Feet Under."  With the hope that the day would focus more on the students than on his newfound fame, Krause spent the afternoon doing acting work with classes and theatre and dance majors.

Great Teaching

In case you missed the note in the Fall 2003 issue of the Gustavus Quarterly, we are asking alumni to send in short reminiscences, tributes, and anecdotes about professors who made a difference in their education - "the teachers and mentors who have made a lasting impression, who have imparted life lessons, whom you remember for their wit, or their mastery, or their encouragement, or their exacting standards . . . or their idiosyncrasies." We are planning to focus an upcoming issue of the Quarterly on "great teaching" and would like to hear from those who experienced the classes of those great professors.  Send your paragraphs and stories to either Randall Stuckey '83, director of alumni relations (, or Steve Waldhauser '70 (, managing editor of the Quarterly, or in the mail to the College.

Upcoming Chapter Events

  • Washington DC, Gustavus gathering - February 6
  • Atlanta, Georgia, Gustavus gathering - February 26
  • Tampa Bay, Florida, Gustavus gathering - February 27
  • Naples, Florida, Gustavus gathering - February 28
  • Vero Beach, Florida, Gustavus gathering - February 29
  • Sun City, Arizona, Gustavus gathering - March 19
  • Phoenix, Arizona, Gustavus gathering - March 20
  • Tucson, Arizona, Gustavus gathering - March 21