Class of '50
October 2001

Dear Classmates and Friends of 1950,

By now some of you should have heard from your classmates on Phonorama and realized Gustavus is up and running for another year, in spite of my not keeping you posted early in the fall.  I have explanations but no excuses for not sending out this epistle earlier.  National events that far outweighed our imaginings stunned us, no matter where we were.  My daughter, Julie, and I were with the Augustana Heritage Society in Stockholm, the first day of our two-week trip throughout Sweden to examine the roots of the Augustana Synod in which many of us were brought up, on September 11, 2001.  I have seldom felt so surrounded by love and compassion as the next day when I saw all the Swedish and other flags at half-mast for the American tragedy and saw tears in the eyes of our Swedish hosts and friends.  Once our group had an opportunity to call home and learn that family and friends were safe, the tour continued as planned.  Except for added security at the airports on our return, and, of course, the daily reports we'd watched on Euronews, the full impact waited until we were home, at least for me.

Unwilling to let the terrorists win, I left less than two weeks later for another trip to Greece with the Adventure! Club.  This time we visited Corinth, in addition to Athens and Delphi, and stayed on Crete and Santorini, as well as stopping at other islands.  More emphasis dwelt on Paul's visits to Greece, and on the early Mycenaean and Minoan cultures than on mythology, although we received a good dose of that as well.  At times mythology and history are so closely inter-related that it is difficult to tell where one begins and the other ends.  (Anyone figured out how to make the diphthong "ae" on the computer?  Let me know if you have.)

It's a good thing I mentioned Gustavus at the very beginning or you'd begin to wonder where this letter was coming from.  As I said, the two trips and accompanying jet lag conspired to keep me from my duty as class agent.  The notebook of material, class notes, etc. was waiting for me and gratefully accepted.  The problem is that some of the class news that was already "old" the first of September is even older now; nevertheless, I send it along to all of you with no more apologies.

Oh, my, these notes really go back‑to the beginning of the year.  That's when Elly Barnes Dahlstrom in Oswego, OR "heard the Gustavus choir in Beaverton, OR.  "...It was great, but I didn't know a soul."  I know the feeling well; nice to know another generation of excellent musicians is coming from Gustavus, isn't it?

Then on June 8, 2001, Harold and Lois (Dickhart) Skillrud celebrated their 50th  wedding anniversary.  Theirs was a Gustie romance with their first date as freshmen, dating throughout college and being married one year after graduation.  Congratulations!

The rest of our notes are obituaries.  On January 16, 2001, Anna May (Swanson) Nirschl of Fergus Falls died at her daughter's home in Browerville, MN.  Originally from Two Harbors, she attended Gustavus and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor's degree in chemistry.  She worked for 3M in Minneapolis and Upjohn in Chicago before marrying Harold, later joining him in his podiatry practice.  Active in her church and community, she also enjoyed square dancing, gardening, cross country skiing, sail boating, needlepoint and cross-stitch, family genealogy, reading, swimming and walking.  She is survived by two daughters, three sons and 15 grandchildren.  Her husband had died the previous October.  Our sympathy to her family.

We also received word that Robert L. Nelson of St. Louis Park, MN died in April.  He was planning to attend our 50th reunion when he broke his back.  He was a retired Lutheran minister whose last call was visitation minister at First Lutheran Church in White Bear Lake.  He and Clara had four children who graduated from or attended Gustavus; in addition to two grandchildren, a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law.  Our sympathy goes to all of you.  He will be missed.

On May 23, 2001, another classmate, Dale A Chelberg, of Walker died.  After graduating from Gustavus, he graduated from Augustana Lutheran Seminary in Rock Island in 1954 and received a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Minnesota in 1964.  He taught at Mankato State University until 1969, when he became curator of biology at the Science Museum in Minnesota until 1981.  After that he taught at North Hennepin Community College, Normandale Community College and Willmar Community College.  After moving to Walker, he pursued his interests in flowers, bird watching and photography, as well as being actively involved with the Cass County Historical Society.  We extend our sympathy to his wife, Audrey, their two sons and one daughter and four grandchildren.

Joel R. Hoff and his wife, Betty, of St. Augustine, FL, were planning a trip to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary when Joel died suddenly June 5.  After graduating from Gustavus, Joel earned a master's degree in education of the deaf from Gallaudet, and a master's in education administration from California State University in Northridge.  He retired after 22 years of service from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.  He was a volunteer at Flagler Hospital, Learn to Read, and the Council on Aging; as well as a longtime member, secretary, and president of the Foundation for Schools for the Deaf and Blind of Florida, Inc.  Active in civic organizations, and the Presbyterian Church, he, too, will be missed by his family and friends.

I shall miss hearing from Everett B. Anderson of Prescott, WI.  A longtime teacher of English, he was especially proud of working with Gustavus in supervising student teachers for a number of years.  You may recall that he was an excellent master of ceremonies at one of our reunions at the Holiday House in St. Peter.  I welcomed his frequent, appreciative notes and Christmas letters.  Marvel, you have our deep sympathy.

I'm sure the Alumni Office will add current Gustavus news.  The 37th  Nobel Conference is history.  The Gustavus Library Associates will sponsor Delight in theSeason‑A Royal Affair on Saturday, November 17, 2001.  You still have time to participate by donating an item to the auction, volunteering in the preparation for the party, and/or attending the event.  Invite friends, fill a table, and welcome the holiday season together.  For more information call the Office of Public Relations at 1-800-726-6198.

Campus News:

The Alumni Office is sending this class letter via U.S. Postal Service Mail and also e-mail to those alumni for whom we have an e-mail address.  Eventually class letters will be sent via e-mail only, when an address is available, unless you notify the Alumni Office that you prefer to continue to receive your letters via U.S. Postal Service.  Contact the Alumni Office at

As Gustavus enters its 140th academic year, the 2001-2002 year opened with an enrollment of 2,540 full-time students including 670 first-year students.  The Class of 2005, selected from a record number of applications (2,163), includes 18 National Merit Scholars and 18 international students, doubling last year’s number of nine international students.

Last year Gustavus athletic teams finished 18th out of 395 competing in the NCAA Division III national Sears Directors Cup Standings.  Standings are based on national tournament finishes.  The Gustie women athletes won the MIAC All-Sports title for the first time in its 18-year history.

Gustavus ranked among top colleges – Gustavus is ranked in the second tier and one of the top 114 best national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report magazine.  Gustavus ranked in the first tier in two categories, retention and graduation rates.  Gustavus’ first-year to sophomore retention rate of 92 percent ranks in the top 15 percent of all national liberal arts colleges and graduation rate of 76 percent ranks in the top 20 percent of all national liberal arts colleges.  Alumni giving ranks in the top 25 percent, down from the top five percent and a tier one ranking five years ago.  Raising the percentage of participation of alumni giving is of highest priority for the college and the offices of Alumni Relations and Gustavus Alumni Fund.

Gustavus named Best Buy... Gustavus has been named one of the best colleges in America and a Best Buy by The Fiske Guide to Colleges.  In the 2002 guidebook, the College is one of 300 best American colleges and one of 43 Best Buys nationwide.  Within Minnesota, Gustavus is among seven best colleges and is one of two private college Best Buys.  To determine which colleges make the annual Best Buy list, Fiske researchers combine cost data with academic and lifestyle information about each college and university.  Those institutions named to the Best Buy colleges list are said to offer “remarkable educational opportunities at a relatively modest cost.”  Gustavus is also included in The Princeton Review’s 2001 edition of The Best 331 Colleges.

Nobel Conference XXXVII, What is Still to be Discovered?, was October 2 & 3.  This year’s conference included five Nobel laureates and three other experts who gave participants a foretaste of what the next big discoveries might be as we look toward the second Nobel century.  This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Nobel prizes and the conference included the premier of Steve Heitzeg’s ’82 The Nobel Symphony, two art exhibitions in the Hillstrom Museum, and an exclusive banquet with a menu recreation of the Nobel dinner 100 years ago.

Comprehensive alumni directory – In partnership with Publishing Concepts, the Gustavus Alumni Association is publishing its fourth comprehensive alumni directory.  Surveys were sent to all alumni in August and information will be used only for publication of the directory and updating database information in the Alumni Office.  The book is available for purchase only by former students of Gustavus.  Please correct or update any information and return to Publishing Concepts in the enclosed envelope provided with the survey.

New chaplain announced - The Rev. Rachel Larson has joined Rev. Brian Johnson ’80 in the Office of the Chaplain.  Larson will work in partnership with Chaplain Johnson and the other members of the Office of the Chaplain to provide spiritual guidance, worship, leadership, counseling, teaching, and other pastoral services to Gustavus students, staff, and their families.  Larson is a graduate of Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD, and of what is now Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

Christmas in Christ Chapel, A Celtic Pilgrimage, is November 30 & December 1-2.  A ticket order form was inserted in the Fall Quarterly.  Contact Office of Public Affairs at 507-933-7520.

Last but far from least, the 2000-01 Final Report for the Gustavus Alumni Fund shows that the Class of 1950 had 156 out of a possible 226 or 69.9% donors, contributing $10,190.50 unrestricted dollars, but a total of $209,198.33.  (I wish they'd let me know when the figure is that close to a round number‑I'd have been glad to chip in another $1.67 to even it out!) Our 1950 Scholarship Fund did not meet expectations, however, so we have to work on that this year.

We should have a guest writer for the January letter.  May we have at least one volunteer?  If we have more than one, we can surprise everyone by sending out more letters than the minimum.  Please let me or Alumni Office know of your willingness.  And send those notes and letters in.  We need to hear some information from more of you.  As I've said before, it need not be of noble deeds or distant travels, although those are interesting, too.  Let us know what you think about any number of subjects.  The ordinary days can be special enough.


Gloria Martell Benson

1950 Co-class Agent

P.S.  October 31 is the 125th anniversary of the dedication of Old Main.  As my father-in-law attended that event, along with his six siblings and parents Peter and Malena Benson, I consider it a privilege to attend the celebration and kick-off for a renovation project of the venerable building that once was the entire college.  Henry N Benson's parents had the foresight to have family pictures taken that day to commemorate the event.  Mr. Benson attended the dedication of every building at Gustavus until his death in 1960.  My husband Henry and I didn't quite make all of those events, but they are well worth noting.