Class of '51
January 2007

Dear Classmates,

I have asked classmate, Earl Leaf, to write this January class letter and I’m sure you will enjoy hearing from him.  I’m disappointed that there isn’t much news from all of you this time!  A huge thank you to those who did write, I’ll share that news with you first and then we’ll get to Earl’s letter.

Some big news for the Lutz’s is that we finally sold our lake home.  We will be moving into our new residence in St. Peter in March.

Marion Odberg Olson, Minnetonka, MN writes, “Spend most of my time playing in the Minneapolis Police Band and the newly formed Thrivent Senior Band.”

Vern and Marie (Norberg ’50) Bergstrom live in Minneapolis.  Marie writes, “Our six children and their families held a beautiful, surprise 80th birthday party for Vern on June 17, 2006―his birthday is July 4!  Needless to say Vern was thrilled to greet all the friends who kept coming all afternoon.  Turning 80 can be great fun.”

I just received the obiturary of Pat Pool Hasse who passed away last January 2006.  Quote, “she was a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College (1951), a longtime, active member of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, a loving mother, devoted sister and aunt, faithful friend, avid quilter, wonderful cook and enthusiastic choir member.”

Well that’s all for now, enjoy Earl’s letter and I’ll be in touch with the spring letter.

Dorothy Johnson Lutz

1951 Class Agent

~by Earl Leaf, Willmar, Minnesota

Many thoughts go through my mind as I try to think of significant things to say in the unfamiliar role of a “newsletter writer.”  And my thoughts go back to the late 1940’s when we were students at Gustavus.  We didn't know or realize it at the time, but we were supposedly “The Greatest Generation.”  I don’t know about you, but I was pretty rough around the edges as I started college after three years in the Navy in World War II.

We can all point to various aspects of our college days that influenced us in one way or another―the friendliness of students and staff, the fraternities and sororities, the professors and the classes, the sports teams and athletic events, Christian service opportunities.  Each of us could pick out a teacher or teachers who not only taught, but who motivated and inspired.

The fine-tuning for me began with Dr. Oscar Winfield in my very first class at Gustavus―philosophy.  It continued as I developed an appreciation for the English language from Prof. George, Gerhard Alexis and “Triple E” Erickson, enthusiasm for journalism from Florence Fredrickson, love for Sweden from Doc Pete and Joshua Larson, a 55-year friendship with Chet Johnson, and a passion for sports from Holly, Gus, Vic, Lee, Tuddie and Jiggs, to say nothing of re-enforcement of my religious beliefs from Dr. Edgar Carlson ’33, George Hall, Rev. Esbjornson ’41, Emeroy Johnson’25 and Arnold Carlson.  And that’s only the beginning.

With the guidance of those and many others on the Gustavus staff, a wonderful and unique mixture of young women and not-so-young men were molded into what I, in my slightly prejudiced judgment would call “The Greatest Class” at Gustavus.  If that is so, let’s punctuate it with a record number of participants and a dollar total over the top in this year’s alumni giving.  We’ve been able to hold our heads high when it comes to supporting Gustavus through the annual Alumni Fund.  Let’s keep up the good work.

And, just in passing, I don't think that any class agent in any school has done a better job than Dorothy Johnson Lutz has done in motivating the Class of 1951 over the years.  Thanks, Dorothy, for your leadership.

Getting back to college professors, I think Dr. Conrad Peterson “Doc Pete” (and the Svea Society), got me thinking about the land of our forefathers as I sweated out two years of Swedish.  It has led to three unbelievable trips to Sweden―one with a sister, one with my wife and one with two of my three children.  I thought nothing could top my first two visits.  But when son, Jonathan and daughter, Heidi, in 2005, said they would like to visit the sites of their great grandparents’ birthplaces, there was no way I was going to let that pass by.

In Sweden two rubble piles about 15 miles apart were all that remained of the homes where my paternal grandparents were born.  The story I later wrote was titled “Two Rock Piles in Sweden.”  When I first visited the sites in 1981, an old gentleman, who had lived in my grandfather’s house after my relatives had left the area, showed me an artist’s painting of the soldier’s cottage as it was in the early 1900’s.  It was painted by the brother of the man who showed it to us.  I tried to bargain with him to obtain a copy and said I would pay any price for whatever cost was involved.  I never heard from him again.  I think he died within a year or two.

Last year, 24 years later, a relative introduced me to the present owner of the land on which the little cabin had stood for over 200 years.  I told him about the painting I had seen years ago.  Before I could finish my story, he told me to wait a minute.  He hopped on his bicycle and I saw him go into a house down the road, which turned out to be his mother’s place.  He came back with a book―for me―in his hand.  “Turn to the first page,” he advised.  I opened the book, and there it was―the featured soldier’s cottage in a book of small “stugas” and soldiers’ cottages.  It was an artist’s sketch of my grandfather’s birthplace by the same artist whose painting I had seen 24 years earlier.  I turned to the back side of the page, and there was a key to where every last item on the farm had been located, from the floor plan of the cottage right down to the sections of the barn, manure pile and the outside toilet.  Before I had the chance to let my imagination run wild picturing my grandpa and his six brothers and one sister living in that small cottage 125 years ago, the tears welled up, and I was speechless.  When he told me the price, I took out my wallet and paid him much more than the book was worth.

That was only a part of my reward.  The next day, while I was at a meeting in town, Jon and Heidi felt compelled to get back to the site.  They rooted around with their bare hands in the rubble pile for anything they could pack into their suitcases and bring home as a remembrance from the site.  They “rescued” a beet fork, a piece of fencing and a portion of a rain gutter made from the bark of a tree.

But the greatest thrill of all was to have my daughter call this “the trip of a lifetime.”  My son wanted to bring his wife and three children there.  The quality time with my (fifty-ish) children and their appreciation of their Swedish heritage made the trip “priceless.”

It all says to me don’t underestimate the value of learning all you can about your heritage.  For me it has been a 30-year passion in the fields of genealogy and history, sparked very early by teachers like Doniver Lund and Emeroy Johnson ’25.  At age 83, I am grateful that I can still dig into the lives of relatives and others who came in the 19th Century, and learn so much about how they left loved ones, risked everything to brave the North Atlantic, to plant their feet in a strange land, to become the founders, the teachers and eventually the students of schools like Gustavus, not forgetting that people like my grandfather came with nothing, had children like my father, with a 4th grade education, who in turn had five children and 19 grandchildren, almost all of whom became college graduates.

The pattern is a familiar one and alone is enough to make me want to dig deeper and deeper into the lives of the pioneer Swedes to whom we owe so much of our rich heritage.  Stories filled with joy or inspiration, tales of tragedy―all await discovery by persons like you and me.

Nothing illustrates this fact more than the story of a relative, Frans Nygren, about whom I wrote in a family history in 1986.  From family tradition down through the years, I had thought that he, his wife and two children, along with his aging mother, all drowned in the North Sea when their immigrant ship sank in 1883.

Through some later research I learned “the rest of the story.”  Of the Swedes aboard the NAVARRE, Frans was the only survivor.  He was rescued, unconscious, and lifted aboard another boat.  His eye witness account of what happened next was published in a Swedish newspaper.  After regaining consciousness, he told of helplessly seeing his wife, clutching their 9-month-old son, struggling in the water and finally disappearing beneath the waves after spotting him and waving frantically.  He never did see his other son, and I am not sure that his mother was even on the trip, since her name does not show up in the list of victims found in a New York newspaper.

The infant boy’s body eventually was washed ashore near Hull, England, where local citizens gave him a decent burial in a nameless grave.  The other bodies were never found.  Frans returned to Sweden and decided, after asking the advice of his pastor, not to try the journey again.  He remarried, had a large family and remained in the same community where he had grown up.  I knew I must find and get to know some of his living descendants.

With a little detective work I located Frans’ great grandson, a 38-year-old young man, married and with three children.  He was happy to find out that he had American relatives and sent me the detailed information about the sinking of the ship (in 1883)―and also information on all the descendants from Frans’ second marriage, down to the present day.

The real gratification, for me, in collecting stories from the past is always keeping in mind that our descendants in future generations, a hundred years and more down the line, can be inspired to write their own family histories, including what we have preserved for them.  I thank the Lord that my mind still allows me to continue in the most gratifying hobby I can conceive of.

Please call and stop by when you are in the Willmar area.  But beware!  I may bore you with a couple of even more bizarre stories from my Swedish past.

I must mention that my closest neighbor and good friend in Willmar has been Wilt Croonquist, 1959 class agent, and his wife, Betty.  Wilt died of cancer in October.  He was one of Gustavus’ biggest boosters and very proud of his Swedish ancestry.  Pastor Paul Youngdahl ’59 gave the funeral sermon before a packed Bethel Lutheran Church in Willmar.  I will miss Wilt a lot.


Alumni Starring in The Cherry Orchard

The Department of Theatre and Dance is celebrating 75 years of theatre at Gustavus this year with two featured events:  Theatre Reunion May 11-12 and a gala performance of The Cherry Orchard followed by admission to the cast party on February 10.  The Cherry Orchard will be Professor Rob Gardner’s final directing work before retirement.  A cast of professional theatre alumni will join the student actors for this very special production.  The alumni cast includes:  Peter Breitmayer ’87, Karen Esbjornson ’80, Kevin Kling ’79, Scott Novotny ’75, and Michael Glenn (Waldhauser) ’97.  A sold-out performance is expected for this unique celebration, so order your tickets soon.  For more information and to order tickets, go to the Cherry Orchard site from <>.

Gustie Pages

Looking for a dentist, doctor, lawyer, pastor, Realtor, or other professional?  Make it a Gustie!  Look in the Gustie Pages, an online database of Gusties who have submitted information about their profession.  Use the Gustavus network to meet your needs, or submit your professional information if you would like other Gusties to become your customers.  Go to the Gustie Pages at the alumni website at:  <>.

Career Connections with Students

Sign up now for the 2007 Gustavus Career Connections Reception.  The reception will be Monday, February 19, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Minneapolis Hilton.  The gathering allows Gustavus alumni to provide advice, encouragement, and career networking opportunities to Gustavus students seeking internships and career opportunities.  Alumni are invited to attend and assist current students in their career search.  You do not have to be hiring at your company to attend – just willing to share your experience.  E-mail the Career Center at or call 507/933-7586 if you can attend or want more information.

Give Every Year to Gustavus?

Do you give to Gustavus every year and plan to give every year in the future?  Then you should become a member of the Cec Eckhoff Society.  Members of the Cec Eckhoff Society simply make the public commitment that they plan to give financially to Gustavus every year.  It does not matter how much you give and this is not a formal pledge for a certain amount of money.  Cec Eckhoff ’56 led the alumni office from 1963-1994.  Cec believed that part of being an alum of Gustavus was to give monetarily each year to the College.  To become a member of the Cec Eckhoff Society, please call The Gustavus Fund office toll-free at 866/487-3863 or e-mail <>.  Thank you for your support of Gustavus!

Summer Sport Camps at Gustavus

Gustavus’ strong athletic tradition is evident with numerous summer sports camps featuring knowledgeable coaching staffs, acclaimed athletic facilities, and quality dining service and housing accommodations.  Camps offered this year include: golf, hockey, basketball, tennis, volleyball, soccer, throwing, and swimming.  For more information go to <> or contact the Athletic Department at 507/933-7617.

Upcoming Music Tours

This year nearly 300 students will participate in music tours as members of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra, Gustavus Choir, Gustavus String Orchestra, Gustavus Jazz Lab Band, and Choir of Christ Chapel.  The Gustavus Choir will tour Spain and Portugal January 11-30.  Performances are scheduled for Lisbon, Seville, Malaga, Grenada, and Madrid.  The Wind Orchestra will tour Minnesota, Madison and Milwaukee, WI and Chicago.  The String Orchestra will be in Nebraska, Kansas, and South Dakota.

Upcoming Alumni Events

  • The Cherry Orchard Gala Performance – February 10
  • Orlando Gustie Gathering – February 13
  • Tampa Bay Gustie Gathering – February 15
  • Naples/Marco Island Gustie Gathering – February 17
  • Tucson Gustie Gathering – March 16
  • Phoenix Gustie Gathering – March 17
  • Sun City Gustie Gathering – March 18
  • Celebrating 75 years of Theatre Reunion – May 11-12