Class of '53
Last week I had the opportunity to sit at lunch with Axel Steuer, President of Gustavus Adolphus College. He described some new fascinating tales of the great recovery following the tornado of last March. I'll repeat a couple of them that I think you will enjoy.
Axel decided that the college needed to make an early statement about reopening. Seems that the media was interviewing everyone in sight and some people, having surveyed the damage, expressed the opinion that the college could not possibly open until fall, or ever. So Axel put together a news conference on day two (I think that was the date) after the tornado and announced that the college would be up and going in two weeks.
Near the end of the two weeks it became obvious that the college would not be safe to open in Axel's timeline. Some officials argued that the college should stay closed until fall. Axel then approached the construction firm, Kraus-Anderson, who was coordinating the recovery effort, and asked the question, "How long would it take to make the campus safe for students to return?" K-A officials said one more week of round the clock efforts would make the college safe, even if many classrooms were still out of commission and lots of housing was still disabled. So Axel went back to his administrative team and announced that the college would open in one more week.
As you recall, the college did reopen three weeks after the tornado. Some classroom facilities remained closed, but portable classrooms were hauled in from around the country to make it possible to finish the school year. Students doubled up in dormitories. And the college was up and running. Commencement was held on campus at student insistence. They had started in St. Peter and they wanted to finish in St. Peter.
The St. Paul Companies held the insurance policies on the college and the company performed amazingly well. Their representatives were on campus the day after the tornado and making settlements on the spot. That made it possible to start on reconstruction immediately. By contrast, some of the insurance settlements for the city of St. Peter were not agreed to until just this past week.
One of the items in the insurance package was an amount for students to cover disruption and dislocation. Every student became eligible for a $3,000 tuition refund. Seniors were given a check right up front and lower class-persons were given credit on the next tuition statement. That $3,000 was a big morale factor and helped the student body stay positive.
As you may have heard, the fall of ’98 incoming class was the largest in Gustavus’ history. In fact, one wag at St. Olaf mused that it was too bad that the Olies couldn't have had their own tornado. The news for the incoming class of 2003 (this group is still being recruited) looks very good. Applications are running about 20% ahead of last year!
All of this points out the power of the "Self Fulfilling Prophecy" (SFP). The SFP says that people act on a prophecy that may, at the time, not be true, but their actions make it happen. The great Gustavus recovery following the tornado is a good example of the SFP. Good people believed the college could recover even if the odds seemed stacked against it. They worked hard, stayed focused and positive, and made the recovery work.
I have to tell you one more tale. The late fall day the Christ Chapel steeple was replaced dawned clear and bright. A gigantic crane assembled the spire section by section against a cloudless blue sky. As the last piece was put into place an eagle appeared and hovered effortlessly over the cross for what seemed like minutes. A stunning event.
Recall another story from the tornado. The wind and flying debris broke all the chapel windows. The tall chapel spire was toppled by the winds. The inside of the chapel was a disaster. Water and storm damage was everywhere. Nothing was untouched. Except for the eternal light, a candle in glass vessel that was suspended from the chapel ceiling by a slender chain. It was undamaged and still burning bright following the storm when all about it was strewn with wreckage and water.
Well, all of this makes for good story telling and helps to remind us that our alma mater is indeed worthy of our continued support and prayers.
It is not too early to remind that you in May of 2003 we will be gathering for our big 50th. I know that some of you will have trouble with that date because your new electronic planner, that your kids gave you for Christmas, will malfunction due to the Y2K problem and you'll lose everything. So write this down on something that will survive the turn to the new millennium and we'll be sending you plenty of reminders as the time approaches.Someplace in here the Alumni Office puts in some college news that you should have so I suspect that it will come right here. Keep reading and you'll eventually get to some of the news of your classmates.
Some news from campus:
Students and staff are in the midst of January Term and the campus landscape is covered with a beautiful blanket of snow. Once again, many students are taking advantage of J-Term opportunities with 127 on internships, 308 on study abroad programs, and 86 students studying at other domestic institutions. Despite the cold weather, progress is being made on construction of the new Campus Center due to be open in the fall of 1999. After a week and a half of classroom preparation covering the history and culture of South Africa, the Gustavus Choir will participate in a concert tour of the country January 14-February 2. The Gustavus Band will travel to South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, and Iowa for their concert tour during touring week, January 30-February 6. Athletic teams are in full swing with all teams looking to be competitive in MIAC play. Over Christmas break many teams traveled for non-conference games including men’s basketball winning a tournament in California, men’s hockey playing in Italy, and the swim teams competing in Bermuda.
Gustavus is once again in the news, making some national rankings. Gustavus ranked 12th among the top 22 leading small colleges in the nation providing active Peace Corps volunteers. Gustavus is ranked 15th in the listing of top 20 bachelor’s institutions that sent the most students overseas for international study during the 1996-97 academic year. Gustavus is ranked 18th of national liberal arts colleges in the number of National Merits with 17 students. Mark Anderson ’66, Dean of Admission, reports that applications for admission for the fall of 1999 are running 20 percent ahead of last year. The Admission Office instituted several new campus visit days in the summer and fall to account for the fact that few students could visit last spring. Alumni are reminded of the Alumni Scholarship Program ($10,000 over four years for children and grandchildren of alumni) available to qualified applicants. Call the Admission Office at 1-800-GUSTAVU(S) for applications.
What follows is translated from handwritten notes taken by faithful callers from Phonorama this past fall and from notes sent in along with gifts to Gustavus. Insure yourself space in future publications by sending in some news when you send in your annual contribution to the Alumni Fund (now called the Gustavus Fund).
Some news of Classmates:
Charles and Beverly (Molstre) Leistico write from Illinois that they read about the tornado in the San Francisco papers. No idea why they don't take a paper from closer to home, but maybe they get a better rate from the San Francisco paper than from the local Arlington Heights Daily Bugle.
Lois Kruger Tureen sends a big hello to the class of ’53 as she wanders off to her volunteering responsibilities at the local elementary and middle school.
Philip and Judith Olson are about to buy, or have just purchased, a R. V. and promise to write the complete handbook for successful RVing and send complimentary copies to all members of the class of ’53 who request a copy. Write RR 1, Box 156, Laona, WI 54541.
Last report from Betty Hennix Bennett is that she had fallen and broken a hip. Hope all is going well and recovery comes quickly. More in the next letter.
Jean Olson Karl is substitute teaching someplace around Lansing, IL. Good, the kids can always use a good substitute who brings treats.Dick Tillquist, the transportation entrepreneur, received the "1998 School Bus Driver of the Year" in Minnesota. Must be he has found the formula to keeping his cool when all about him is in chaos.
Lowell Larson continues to putter around in Southern Pines, NC. Must be he gets a senior discount at the local golf course?
Ronald Nelson probably has recovered by now from shoulder surgery. Suppose that his old rotator cuff injury from college that he incurred throwing snowballs over the chapel roof finally caught up with him?
James Sandelin lives on the lake in Hakensack, MN, but claims that he much prefers sabotaging nearby jet boats than spend his time fishing.
Carl Norberg, a shy and retiring classmate in ’53, has become a TV celebrity who stars in an ad for a new golf club that hits further and more accurately. Guess we can understand why they would feature Carl in the ad since he has been noted for his many hours spent in the rough looking for his ball.
Marilyn Bloom Taylor returned to Australia and New Zealand this fall. Color slide presentations to follow. Willing to book for your local church social.
Bev Jacobsen Nestigen apparently has remarried. We need details Bev. The editor can't read the handwriting on the notes taken at Phonorama this fall.
Vern Huse has assumed most of the housekeeping duties in his household following his wife' s triple by-pass. I’ll bet that she decided that he was good at it and is letting him continue his new duties even as she is recovering.
Rod Hokenson, the singing troubadour, checks in occasionally via e-mail. Others of you might follow his example. Could always use a couple of good jokes.
Speaking of e-mail jokes: Sven and Ole died and went to hell. The devil checked in on them and found them relaxing in the warm weather. "Love it", said Ole, "Beats the cold in Minnesota." Distressed, the devil turned up the heat and checked again. Sven and Ole were even happier. Determined to get to them, he decided to turn down the heat. When he next checked, Sven and Ole were ecstatic. "Great," they said. "We figured the Vikings would never get to the Super Bowl until hell freezes over."
Of course you now know, hell is not going to freeze over and the Vikings are not going to the Super Bowl. The state is in mourning as the mighty Vikings let the Atlanta Falcons slip by them in the conference championship game. Oh well, there's next year. Keep the heat off.
Well, that is the brief news from classmates. Phonorama has been modified with an emphasis on classmates calling during reunion years. We're not a reunion class this year so our calling was pretty light and done by students therefore; there is less news than usual. So, compensate. Send news directly. Use email. Use the new 33-cent postage stamp. And by all means, send in something in the usual gold envelope.
Drop by the college when you are in the vicinity. The new dining center is under construction. About 800 new trees have been planted to replace the 3,000 that were destroyed. Flowers are everywhere (except now, in the winter). The arboretum is getting bigger and better than ever with a new director and alum, Jim Gilbert ’62. The performing arts center has new lighting and sound equipment, thanks to the insurance company. And every window is new, thanks to the tornado.
But some things stay the same. The hospitality is still there, warm and open as always. Coffee flows like rainwater. The music is outstanding. Christ Chapel looks as beautiful as ever centered in the campus proclaiming Gustavus a college of the church.
Your faithful editor,