Class of '50
October 2005

Dear Classmates and friends,

After attending Volunteer Day (formerly known as Class Agents’ Day) at Gustavus and then the Augustana Service at Normandale Lutheran in Edina, which is almost like Homecoming, I figure this time is good for sending out the first class letter of the year.

At the latter I had a visit with Donn Escher of Brooklyn Center who is finished with chemo and radiation treatments but was coping with no electricity in his home for several days after a terrific thunderstorm and windstorm in the northern suburbs of Minneapolis.  All those involved realize it is not much compared to those who suffered Katrina and Rita, but there can be serious problems as it is.

I also chatted with Ralph and Yvonne (Anderson) Belin of Chaska, who are getting ready for a long auto trip to visit their daughter in Maryland, with other visits on the way out and back.  Sounded strenuous to me, especially if I had arthritis as bad as Yvonne has, but she handles it with aplomb.  Earl Nelson and Betty (Sampson ’52) were also sitting at that table―good to see all of you.

Goldie Johnson (H’50-George) of Wyoming, MN is one of the most faithful attendees at Gustavus and church functions whom I know.  At our reunion she told me interesting information about their children, but I didn’t have a place to write it down and, obviously, I can't remember it all.  Would you send it to me again, please?

Those of you who read the Quarterly and saw the picture of Goldie and our classmates who were there on Friday night, should know that several of us were there Saturday for the entire day, luncheon and banquet.  Donna Benson Barnett, Marlys Peterson, and Joyce Pauley Gardner and I joined the group for lunch.  Dallas Youngs and Goldie, as well as Len and Lael (Dahl ’48) Bjella were still there.  Rosemary Anderson of Marinette, WI attended the banquet, as a niece of Evelyn Olson Anderson’s ’29 was receiving a Distinguished Alumni Citation.  It was fun to see Richard Anderson ’53, her brother-in-law, too, as I hadn’t seen him for several years.  It was my sister’s 65th reunion, and her class picture was also taken only on Friday night.

Before they attended the reunion, Len and Lael Bjella of Springfield, MO, had written:  “Len is still very busy involved with music, though not directing right now.  I should qualify that, since this summer he’ll be directing "Senior Summer Singers" at our church, Messiah Lutheran.  His main focus has been on quartets―he has a gospel quartet at church, and a barbershop quartet called The Elder Statesmen.  Yes, there’s still a lot of music at our home.  Lael”  Thank you for that note, Lael.  I wish my handwriting were as lovely as yours (I can barely read my own), and I’m still receiving compliments on that skirt you made for me.  What a treasure.

Elly Barnes Dahlstrom of Lake Oswego, OR, wrote:  “Life is great.  Took car trip south and visited eight old friends, Nellie Nelson was one, in Bend.  Went to Minnesota last summer and will do so again June 05.  Taking Ian (?) to Washington D.C. for her 50th birthday.  Can you believe it and I’m only 39.  Brother, Richard Barnes, M.D. ’47 is doing well in Aurora, Minnesota.  His five children all graduated from Gustavus―Matthew ’76, Becky ’77, Sara ’79, David ’83 and Molly ’85 and all are doing well.”  Your notes are so much fun to read, Elly.  Keep them coming.

Speaking of traveling, Trudy Langsjoen Wolfsehr of Ellensburg, WA, went to Paris last May with her daughter.  I hope the trip was all you dreamed it to be, Trudy.  I’d be interested in knowing what the highlight was.

Donald E. Nelson of Goodyear, AZ wrote:  “Don and Yvette Nelson, former educators at Minnesota State University, Mankato and District #77 public schools, respectively, continue the undisciplined life of retirees in Southwest Phoenix.  Our home is comfortably nestled between two mountain ranges, still surrounded by cotton fields and grazing horses in the distance.  However, we are slowly being gobbled up by overly zealous land developers.”  I can just picture the area, having spent a few weeks so many years in that area.  Thanks for the update.

Richard C Priest is still enjoying frequently taking in activities at the two-year old elementary school named after him in Las Vegas, NV.  What satisfaction that must give you.  Thank you for keeping in touch.

Our Minnesota alumni are busy as well.  Marie Norberg Bergstrom of Minneapolis writes:  “Happy to be alive and well.  Enjoy having our large family all so close by.  Never a week goes by with some event with one of the families―grandchildren from ages 29 to 7 months and a great grandson [who was expected] in July.  Vern enjoys writing special interest editorials for the Cambridge Star―and softball.  My trip back to the land of my birth―Tanzania, in 2003 stirred memories that are with me always.  The thought of what the trillions our country is so willing to spend on war could do to help people is sobering.  A challenge in ‘turn the tide’ of militarism.”  Amen to that, Marie.  I can’t believe that Vern is still playing softball.  Let us know how long you keep at it, Vern.  More power to you.

Another classmate who is busy keeping up with grandchildren is Dennis Halverson, but with a few complications.  He wrote:  “I've been retired 22 years and have had 5 major surgeries―1 total knee replacement, 2 total hip replacements, back surgery and aortic valve replaced in my heart.  I feel fine, but can’t walk very far.  With15 grandchildren I can get to most of their little games.  Ten play the piano, 4 play football, 5 play hockey league, 2 play basketball, several play softball and some play soccer.  So my time is filled up trying to keep up with the evening activities.”  I get tired just thinking about keeping up with all those.  Better tell them about Vern and see if they’d be willing to play softball all those years.

Delpho Peterson in Brooklyn Center writes:  “Hi―I'm not good at hand writing.  I'm a victim of Parkinsons.  Presently, I’m living in Minneapolis in a retirement home.  I have an apartment.  I moved from Keokuk last August.  It was difficult, naturally, but I have a son and family living just two miles from me.  He stops in every day or calls.  I did spent three months in Florida this past winter, and I attended the Gustavus reunion at Marco Island.  I’ve enjoyed fellowship with…choir members and other alumni...God bless you.”  Most of the omitted words were lifted off with the glue of the envelope.  Anyone who’s read student themes and served as a proofreader can make out almost any handwriting, Delpho.  I've had friends who’ve requested for years that I type.  The important thing is we hear from you.  Thank you for the new address.

Mary Harper Schultz of South Haven has a granddaughter, Jessica Jordan ’08 who is a fourth generation family Gustie.  Good for her―and you!

I saw John and Carl Ostgaard Esbjornson at the first concert of the series in Willmar, and they said their son, David ’75, is now director of the Seattle Repertory Theatre.  Those of you in that area will have occasion to see him and their productions.

Reading the obituary columns in the Minneapolis papers, I sometimes come across a familiar name.  The 94-year-old mother of Dick Sommers of Long Prairie recently passed away.  That brought back memories of the two years I taught in Long Prairie and had his sister, Janet ’59, in my eighth grade English class.  I later knew Janet as a Gustie, and now she is married to a second cousin of mine.  My sympathy to you and Betty, Dick.

In mid-July I received an email from Paula Swenson, Earl Swenson's daughter, informing us that he died of a sudden massive heart attack at the age of 73 on July 22, 1996.  He and her mother “were on the verge of setting out for an adventure to live and travel in Central Mexico when he passed away.  She promised him to follow through with their plans, and has been living there ever since.  Since they had spent a sabbatical year there earlier in their lives, she had some lovely memories of their time together there to help her heal from the shock.”  Paula has pursued the arts and is also teaching English as a foreign language, so has a lot of connections back to her Dad’s life.  She still has his KIK frat mug that she keeps her artist brushes in and thinks of him every time she paints.  I'm so glad she wrote―I don't know how we missed the information before.

Another classmate who is no longer with us is Merle J. Vernone of San Antonio, Texas, who passed away June 29, 2005.  He has been such a faithful correspondent―remember the letters he wrote from England when he was stationed there?  He also returned for some of our reunions.  My sympathy goes out to Anna and their family.  I wish I knew what happened.

The college lost a good friend and inspiration when Evelyn Sponberg Young ’33 passed away at her home September 29, 2005.  Her funeral was October 8 at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, and a memorial service for her will be held on campus December 8, after the Saint Lucia observance.  She came to Gustavus to take charge of the food service in 1949 when her husband, Verl “Gus,” came to coach the basketball team.  The service and food at banquets, her rye bread, and her enthusiasm on the sidelines of the basketball, court were legendary.  Even after she retired, she fulfilled responsibilities in the Development Office at Gustavus.  She will be missed.

Opportunities abound for us to support Gustavus and its students. The Alumni/ Annual/Gustavus Fund, our Class of 1950 scholarship fund that needs a few thousand dollars to make it an endowment, the athletic program, the arboretum, the remodeling of Old Main‑‑one could go on and on, but the unspecified funds are also vitally needed.  At the meeting in September, we were asked, “How do you motivate alumni who have not remained involved with Gustavus?”  My answer (we wrote answers down on post-it notes and pasted them to the wall for others to read) was, “If I knew how to do that, they wouldn’t stay uninvolved.”  Right, I’ve run out of ideas for some of you who seldom, if ever, contribute.  I know, some of you are on fixed incomes; you’re besieged with requests to give to worthwhile endeavors constantly; you may have mounting medical bills, for example; but Gustavus needs you, too.  Other people helped put you through school―parents, churches, the GI Bill, scholarships, and you worked hard for your education.  Even a modest contribution is acceptable.  For others of you, a larger one is welcome.  Now it’s time to help other students receive an excellent education from outstanding professors.

The Alumni Office will add some other college news at the end of this letter.  That way I can concentrate on you, my classmates and friends.  Keep those notes, letters, and emails coming. 

Take care and God bless,


Gloria Martell Benson

1950 Class Agent

Campus News

A New Year Begins

The 144th academic year began September 7 with 2,600 students and approximately 710 new students, the largest enrollment and new class in college history.  Some changes in the general education curriculum will also be implemented this year, including a foreign language requirement for graduation.

Wind Orchestra Tour

Join Gustavus alumni and parents on a companion tour with the Gustavus Wind Orchestra to Eastern Europe January 17-27, 2006.  The trip includes visits to the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and Austria and will be hosted by Tom Emmert, professor of history, and Jon and Anita (Thomsen) Young ’77 ’77.

Announcing the Gustavus 2006 Alumni Fund Campaign

“When you get your invitation in the mail or receive a call from a Gustie student or classmate, commit to making your gift to the Alumni Fund this year,” encourages Jan Michaletz ’74, alumni board member, class agent, and 2006 Alumni Fund Chair.  The Michaletz family―Russ ’74, Mara ’02, Annie ’05, and John ’08―have agreed to chair this year’s alumni fund drive.  The 2006 Alumni Fund goals are to achieve 9,000 donors and $1,185,000 dollars in alumni giving.  The 2006 fiscal year began June 1, 2005 and ends May 31, 2006.  Gifts to the Alumni Fund will immediately support current Gusties in the classroom, in labs, on the playing field, in the library, and more.  Tuition does not cover the real cost of educating students today, nor did it when you were a student at Gustavus.  Since its inception in 1954, the goal of the Alumni Fund has been to help keep the Gustavus educational experience accessible for current students.  Give the gift of Gustavus to a current Gustie by making your Alumni Fund gift this year.

The 2004-2005 Honor Roll of Donors is now available online at:  The Honor Roll of Donors recognizes those who have made gifts to Gustavus between June 1, 2004 and May 31, 2005.  To find your name or to check out your class results, point and click from your home or office computer.  To have your name included in the 2005-2006 Honor Roll of Donors, go to to make a gift online.

Nobel Conference

The College’s 41st Nobel Conference, The Legacy of Einstein, was held September 27-28.  The panel consisted of scientists in the areas of statistical physics, relativity, cosmology, and unified theories, who discussed current work in the areas of Einstein’s greatest contributions.  In addition, a historian of science explored the impact that Einstein’s discoveries and his social and political views have had on science and humanity.  Also, a play, Clockworks:  Einstein Time, was premiered, the Physics Force group performed, and a symphony orchestra concert celebrated Einstein through music.

Alumni Directory

In partnership with Publishing Concepts (PCI), a comprehensive alumni directory is being produced and will be released in 2006.  PCI will be contacting alumni to get current information.

First Frost * A Royal Affair

Since 1977 Gustavus Library Associates has helped raise funds for the endowment of Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library located at Gustavus.  Over 1,000 guests will attend First Frost * A Royal Affair, the biennial gala dinner/auction benefit at the Sheraton Hotel in Bloomington on Saturday, October 29.  This year Evelyn Young ’33, a long-time GLA supporter, is being honored.  The program will feature tenor Mark Thomsen ’78 and will be hosted by former Miss America Gretchen Carlson and physician and Gustavus parent John Najarian.  Contact the Office of Public Relations at 800/726-6198.

Athletics Hall of Fame

On Saturday, September 24, Gustavus inducted the following people into the Athletics Hall of Fame:  Holly Brodmarkle Cervin ’87, track and field; Marc Illies ’85, baseball and football; Marc Iverson ’89, football; Gretchen Koehler, coach; soccer; Rich Skanse ’84, tennis; and Dick Walters ’75, hockey.  Jay Rooker ’85 and Mary Mansour ’85, softball, have also been selected but will be inducted Fall 2006.

Campus Progress

Whether it’s planning for brand new buildings or renovating old ones, the Gustavus campus is always changing.  A new web site has been designed to keep you updated on the changes taking place on campus.  Check it out at:

Upcoming Alumni Events

  • New York Chapter gathering ― October 21
  • Washington, D.C. Chapter gathering — October 23
  • A Royal Affair * First Frost — October 29
  • Christmas in Christ Chapel ― December 2-4
  • St. Lucia Day ― December 8
  • Wind Orchestra Companion Tour to Eastern Europe — January 17-27