Class of '50
April 2006

Dear Friends and Classmates of 1950,

For those of you who are not nature watchers, skip to the next paragraph.  Just as I sat down to type this letter, I saw ducks on our wide-open stretch of Green Lake―ice is still on the other side―so I had to go to get the binoculars to see what they were.  Megansers were swimming around a marker/buoy that broke loose last fall and has just been released from being frozen into the ice.  We heard the first loons last Wednesday, and mourning doves sounded their cooing call this week.  We didn't receive the heavy rains the Twin Cities and southern Minnesota had this week, but the grass is slowly greening.  Tulips are up six inches, encouraged by the milder than usual weather we’ve had―most of the winter, in fact.  End of nature report.

A heartfelt thank you to Donna Benson Barnett for guest-writing the last class letter.  I really appreciate your taking care of that responsibility.  Would you believe we’re halfway through the sixth decade since graduating?  I know―we can say it’s been almost 56 years since that day, but sixth decade makes us sound ancient.  Once we reach the seventh decade, the Alumni Office doesn’t separate the classes into decades any more.  It is interesting to note, however, that the Class of 1930, Hildur Anderson Swenson, class agent, still has a couple contributors.  They constitute half the class with 50% participation.  On the other hand, we have 102 contributors so far for 54% participation.  Let’s get going on those gifts―and remember our scholarship gift we’re still trying to reach since our 50th reunion.  Donna gave us good information on reaching that goal.  If you are one of those who have not sent Gustavus an alumni gift this year, please remember that the deadline is May 31.  (I'm still getting used to that earlier date.)

Usually I save the notices of our classmates who are no longer with us until last, but I’m breaking that routine this time.  On February 5, John Almen passed away in the McAllen (TX) Heart Hospital.  His funeral was in Kerkhoven, MN, where John had been the publisher of the Kerkhoven Banner for many years.  A letter from Jeanette Seibel Almen told us that John had been failing for several years.  They had spent the past 22 winters in Donna, Texas, and she plans on gong back there “as we have lots of good friends” there.  Their children:  Catherine ’75, St. Cloud; Konnie and Ellen ’82 and their families live in Plymouth, MN; their son, Ted ’80, took over the Kerkhoven Banner, plus publishing the Clara City and Raymond papers.  “It’s good to have them all in the area,” she adds.  We’ll miss seeing both of you at Gustavus summer reunions in Willmar, but I hope when we have another one; you’ll be there.  Our deep sympathy to you and your family, Jan.

On March 15, Donn H. Escher passed away in Brooklyn Center, MN.  He had been fighting cancer, as we’ve related to you.  His wife, Eileen (Ludtke ’51), and a daughter preceded him in death.  He is survived by his son, Gary, and wife, Beth, of Watertown, daughters Dawn and husband, Ben Berg, of St. Cloud, Sandra and husband, Kirk Bergner, of Coon Rapids, and Chris and Scott Otis of Zimmerman and eight grandchildren.  His obituary in the Star Tribune stated “He was a man of remarkable integrity, civility, warmth, and strength, characteristics that guided him in his family life, his profession, community and faith.”  He was a mentor to seminary students, and they expressed regret that he would not be able to see them graduate and be ordained.  Our sympathy is extended to the family, to his half-brother, Jack Varner, and to his friend, Ruth Lundquist.  I met her last September when we visited at the Augustana service at Normandale Lutheran.

A welcome note from Harold and Lois (Dickhart) Skillrud reads:  “After 26 years of living in Atlanta, GA, we have moved to 104 Hawthorne Lake Drive, Bloomington, IL 61704.  14 reasons:  our three children, spouses, and nine grandchildren all live in this community where Harold served his first congregation for 25 years.  Great to be near family again, and we thoroughly enjoy our new condo on a small lake that hosts an abundance of geese and ducks.  You’ll have to write us a few nature notes to let us know what’s going on at your lake!  Good to have you back in the Midwest again.

Chuck Anderson of Norwood-Young America, MN, wrote:  “Visited Hawaii for the first time in 2005!  Visited campus for Old Main dedication!  Fantastic!”  I’m glad you enjoyed both visits.  The first time I sent out a mailing from church, addressed simply, “NYA, MN” I wondered what that was.  I should have figured it was Norwood-Young America.

Jodie Thommen Pieschel of Springfield, MN is retired, as is her husband, Michael.

Charles R. Kiecker in New Ulm, MN, retired in December of ’96 after 47 years in banking.  He is active in his church, the Chamber of Commerce, and serves on several boards.  He has five children and has been married for 52 years.  Good to hear from you, too.

Irene Carlson Moore writes:  “Nothing new!  Still live in Brooklyn Park [MN], still go to Elim Church in Robbinsdale, still no new family members―but there is a possibility of two ‘grandchildren-in-law.’  Enjoy getting the class letter―didn't know many who graduated (I only went freshman year.).”  Good to hear from you.  So many students came to Gustavus for one or two years or made their four years in three―most often for financial reasons.  They started with you and graduated before the class of 1950 or began in 1947 and graduated in 1950.  When the Alumni Fund first began, we class agents were supposed to write a personal notes on EVERY letter we sent out.  I was in that latter group and had not ever met those such as yourself who went only one year.  That was a challenge and a half, believe me!  Although I sometimes wish I could add a personal note to some of these letters, it would take me forever to do so―thank goodness, that effort was dropped, as well meaning as it might have been intended.

Eldon C Johnson of Torrington, WY writes:  “Dear friends at Gustavus, I have been retired from the U.S. Army since 1972 and have done some administrative work for Burn & McDonnell Engineering Company after that.  But now at 79 years of age, I help my daughter care for her children, etc.  I am proud to share the wonderful heritage of Gustavus Adolphus College with you!  We can do all things through Christ who provides us the opportunities and strength!”  Thank you, Eldon―we appreciate that.

Now the Alumni Office will add some notes on the college activities.  I can see why many people retire to St. Peter.  So much is going on at Gustavus, and it’s not far from the Cities.  Just remember to send in your contribution―no matter how big or small―we’d like to hear from ALL of you.  Wouldn’t it be great to have 100% participation from a class our size!  Keep those notes, letters, and e-mails coming, too, or there won’t be anything to write in the next class letter.  Peace and good health, strength for the weary, and love in abundance this blessed Easter-time.


Gloria Martell Benson

1950 Class Agent

Campus News

The Alumni Board met on campus in February and made the final selection for the Alumni Awards:

Greater Gustavus Award:  Gustavus Library Associates, for providing financial resources for Folke Bernadotte Library, and engaging and introducing alumni and friends in the mission of the College.

Distinguished Alumni Citations:  Karen Bossart Rusthoven ’66, St. Paul, MN, founder and principal of Community of Peace Academy, St. Paul; Susan Semple-Rowland ’77, Gainesville, FL, professor of neuroscience, University of Florida and director, Neuroscience IDP Graduate Program; and Magnus Ranstorp ’85, St. Andrews, Scotland, chief scientist at the Centre for Asymmetric Threat Studies, Swedish National Defense College; and a Senior Honorary Research Associate and former Director of Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

First Decade Awards:  Rebecca Konrad ’96, Washington, DC, investment officer, global transaction team, The World Bank International Finance Corporation; and Milo Martin ’96, Philadelphia, PA, assistant professor, Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Pennsylvania. 

The awards will be presented on Commencement Weekend or Homecoming Weekend depending on the recipient’s schedule.

Gustavus Alumni Directory

The 2006 Gustavus Alumni Directory will be published soon and our goal is to represent your information as accurately as possible in the printed edition.  PCI:  the data company, is publishing our directory and a short phone call will update or verify your information.  Call toll free:  1-800-982-1589, Monday-Saturday, 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. CST, and Sunday, 11:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. CST.  International callers dial:  1-972-386-0100, Monday-Friday CST.

Short Term Medical (STM) insurance Available

Short Term Medical Insurance can fill the temporary needs of those without health insurance, usually at a lower cost than other alternatives.  Alumni and their families may apply.  This is perfect for children of alumni who are graduating (even if they did not attend Gustavus) and aren’t yet covered under an employer’s health plan.  Contact the program administrator at Meyer and Associates at:  800-635-7801 or about this and other sponsored life, medical, auto and homeowners insurance.

Gusties In Volunteer Endeavors (G.I.V.E.)

Gusties love to serve while they are students and after they graduate.  Gusties In Volunteer Endeavors (G.I.V.E.), the annual day of community service, will focus in the Twin Cities’ Phillips Neighborhood.  This 1.6 square mile section of Minneapolis has 3,100 families, and 31 percent of those families live below the poverty level.  This neighborhood also is home to the American Swedish Institute.  Come out to help make the community a little better.  To learn more about G.I.V.E. Day and to register, go to

MAYDAY! Peace Conference:  "AIDS + Africa, the Unfolding Crisis"

The 26th annual MAYDAY! Peace Conference will be held on Wednesday, April 19.  This year's topic is AIDS in Africa.  The conference will feature a keynote address by Robert Gallo, co-discoverer of the HIV virus, and Marjorie Mbilinyi, social activist and professor in Tanzania.  The AIDS Memorial Quilt will also be on campus for viewing.  Robert Gallo is spending time on campus during March and April sponsored by the Robert E. and Susan T. Rydell Distinguished Professorship, a residency program for Nobel Laureates and similarly distinguished scholars.  For more information, go to

Gusties Gather!

Gusties around the world are called to gather on Sunday, August 6!  The Alumni Board is designating this day as a way for Gusties to stay connected with each other.  In research among alumni, we know that Gusties already stay in contact with many alumni, and we know that Gusties have a strong interest in staying connected with other Gusties and with the College.  Ever think you want to do more to be connected with Gustavus?  Now is your chance, signup to host a Gusties Gather! event.  Complete event checklist, host kit, and details will be provided.  Sign-up via e-mail at <> or call 800/487-8437.

Upcoming Alumni Events

  • MAYDAY! Peace Conference on AIDS – April 19
  • Rydell Distinguished Professorship lecture by Robert Gallo, co-discoverer of HIV virus, professor and director of the Institute of Human Virology – April 20
  • Gustavus Association of Congregations Meeting, keynote address, "Discipleship in Today's World:  Religion and Ecology," by Larry Rasmussen – April 22
  • Gusties In Volunteer Endeavors (G.I.V.E.) Day of Community Service in Minneapolis – April 29
  • Gustavus Library Associates Author Day with Robert Alexander – May 3
  • Reunion for Class of 1956 and 50-Year Club – May 26-27
  • Commencement – May 28
  • Gusties Gather! – August 6
  • Reunions for the classes of 1961, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001 – October 6-8
  • Homecoming/Family Weekend – October 7 & 8