Class of '53
February 2003

Dear Classmates,

It was the year 1930.  A depressing year.  The previous year, 1929, the stock market crashed and took down American business with it.  Unemployment hit new records and almost no one had unemployment insurance.  The agricultural economy had been in decline for about five years due to overproduction and now was really in the pits.  The weather had changed and the summers were dry and winters were cold.  The dust bowl had begun.  The president of country was an out-of-touch Republican with no plan to solve the nation’s woes.

Nobody in their right mind would think of starting a family in 1930, or adding to their family.  Money was tight.  Medical insurance was a distant dream.  People were losing their jobs.  Yet somehow, our parents got together one night in the back of a model A Ford, or huddled together in the balcony of the local movie theater, or bundled up under an old comforter, and made love.  And we were conceived.  The Gustavus class of ’53. 

Maybe it was an accident but most likely, given the culture of the times, it was a thoughtful decision.  These were optimistic people, or maybe foolhardy people.  But they believed that, in spite of all the terrible news and economic woes, they could make it and carve out a good life for themselves and for us.

It was not to be an easy decision, increasing the size of the family in 1930.  There were nine more years of depression ahead.  And then there was to be five years of terrible warfare.  Have you ever wondered if our parents knew what lay ahead of them if they would have made love so passionately that night in 1930?  Probably wouldn’t have changed a thing.  They were optimistic people. 

By the fall of 1949 the war was over and the economy had improved.  At Gustavus, the last of the ex-soldiers on the GI Bill were finishing up their education at Gustavus.  The trailer courts by the fieldhouse still had some young families but in a year they would be gone.  In the next couple of years the enrollment on campus would decline dramatically and faculty were released.  The college was so financially strapped that they couldn’t afford to water the grass in the summer or heat some of the classrooms in the winter.

But the class of ’53 hung in there.  We had come from optimistic parents and now those parents wanted to see their dream come true:  And in May of 1953, it happened.  Most of us graduated, or came close enough, to walk across the stage in Myrum Fieldhouse.

So we owe it to our parent’s dreams and memories to gather again in late May of 2003 to celebrate.  Celebrate that our parents were not foolhardy to bring us in to this world in such a supposedly dismal time.  Celebrate that they thought Gustavus was a perfect place for us to try out higher education.  Celebrate what we have accomplished.  Celebrate that we have been blessed by a gracious God.

Like most of my classmates, I sat though about 700 chapel services.  Some of them were unforgettable like the day the panties drifted down from the organ pipes during a long and relaxing piece by the college’s designated organist.  It took a while for people to notice since most were either dozing or reading their assignment for the next class.  The chuckling started slowly and then built to a near riot.  The organist played on.

I remember a chapel homily given by Rev. George Hall, one of the religion profs.  He was a gifted storyteller and his homily that day was about a pearl merchant.  The merchant lived in the time of Jesus and was traveling along the coastline seeking unusual pearls to purchase.  He would march through town with his regal entourage and gather a crowd at the seaside.  He would show his collection and then finish his presentation with a plea:  “I seek a pearl of great price, of great beauty, of elegant luster, something more wonderful than almost life itself.”  When no one had such a pearl to sell, he would share his disappointment and move on.

Later, he meets up with Jesus and they talk.  The merchant is enthralled.  And convinced.  This is his pearl.  He returns to the villages he has previously visited.  But this time he enters quietly.  He distributes food to the hungry and money to the impoverished.  A few townspersons recognize him as the wealthy pearly merchant who visited their town with much pomp and ceremony and seeking a pearl of great price.  The merchant smiles and replies that he is that merchant and he has found his pearl of great price.  He has found Jesus.

I suspect that we all carry a variety of stories from our days at Gustavus.  Some of us know who rigged the panties, or how it was done.  Some of us came under the spell of certain profs that shaped our lives.  For me, it was George Hall and Arne Langsjoen ’42 and Kyle Montague ’34 and . . . . . the list could on.

So now we have a chance to gather again on campus to share stories, renew acquaintances, and walk on hallowed ground.

Do come to the 50th reunion on May 30 and 31.  The reunion committee has planned a spectacular weekend.  They claim to have saved the panties.  They promise that if you come you will find some pearls for your life.

Oh yes, think seriously about the class of ’53 scholarship fund.  Consider a contribution now so it can start for 2003-04 and a major gift, either of real assets or a deferred gift, to create a significant endowment.  Dwight Jaeger and Dick Engwall are the endowment co-chairs so they have all the details, as does Teresa Harland ’94 in the Advancement Office at Gustavus.

Keep warm, if you are in the northern latitudes.  Keep the sunscreen on, if you are in the southern latitudes.  And don’t forget your diet. 


Tom Boman, Co-class agent along with Bobby Krig