Class of ’53

April 2012

Hi ’53 Gusties,

Tom is off in his motor home again exploring the Southeast so he has requested I fill in for him with a class letter.  There has been little or no news coming in to make this an interesting letter so I will have to make up some good stories for you.

Did you know that there was a secret society on our campus?  Not quite up to the reputation of the Skull and Bones Society, but nevertheless it was very restricted in its membership.  In fact there were only four members.  There were four guys all taking Dr. Swanson’s advanced math course, Theory of Equations.  A class held about 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon and it consisted of Dr. Swanson writing equations about 9 yards long across the blackboard, deep stuff.  Being held right after lunch, the challenge was to stay awake in the overheated rooms of the Classroom Annex.  To combat this dilemma these four guys decided to meet at lunch before class to devise strategies.  And thus was formed this secret society called “The Cheeseburger Club.”  They met in the Canteen at a back table and of course, as required by the group’s name, had cheeseburgers and probably a malt made by Carl, the nice old fellow behind the counter who would make malts to order, “easy on the malt,” “heavy on the chocolate” and such.

Being a secret group there had to be some security to avoid being discovered, so all references to each other mandated the use of a code name.  Since the CIA has given up its search for this organization I can now reveal to you these code names.  Gearhart, August, Edison and Alfred.  They never figured out that these were their middle names.

The first strategy initiated was to sit in the back room so that they could nudge one another before one’s head hit the desk top.  Of course part of the amusement of this class was to watch others nodding in the front row.  Second was never telling on a prankster, like the time someone propped some blackboard erasers on top of the door so that they fell on Dr. Swanson when he hurriedly entered the classroom.  As I recall he was quite sure who the culprit was and did something like pound the eraser so all of the chalk dust settled in his hair.

By this time it is probably obvious that I was one of the four.  I am Alfred, but there will be a prize at our 60th reunion, which will be held the last weekend in May 2013, (My how time has flown by), for the first one that can come up with all four names.

I can mention that the Cheeseburger Club still meets on occasion; the last one was in an area in Wisconsin that was near one of Al Capone’s hideouts.

I don’t know how many of you had the privileged of knowing Dr. Swanson, but in my mind he was a great mentor and typified the dedicated professors that we were privileged to have at Gustavus.

Since I have the microphone, so to speak, let me give you another example of this man.  I had a job with Culligan Soft Water delivering water softeners in those days and would at times arrive for class driving this huge truck.  One time as I came up College Avenue, Dr. Swanson was walking from his home which was near the street at the foot of the hill up to campus.  I don’t recall how we communicated, but he hopped right up there in the truck and off we went up to class together.  Nothing pretentious about that man.

While I am on the subject of great professors who taught us at Gustavus, there was a recent event in the sky where Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction (close together).  A friend emailed me about this and recalled Dr. Kaufmanis’ famous talk about the Star of Bethlehem.  On a chance I googled Karlis Kaufmanis and found not only a nice write up about him on a University of Minnesota site but also a site where you can download the Star of Bethlehem talk.  It is about the fifth site down when you google his name.

Now after all of this rambling, I would like to get your opinion on something.

Writing about memories seems to be a popular subject these days, especially among octogenarians.

  • My wife Ruth took a class here in Arizona last year on writing memories.  Since the class was 20 some students and they were read at the class they are relatively short.  She wrote some 25 memories, some one page, some two, and we had them bounded at Kinko’s for our extended family.  They were titled, “Memories of a Preacher’s Kid”.  They were so well received by the family that when we were asked by our two sons what we wanted for Christmas we said,” write down your memories of growing up.” They are very special.
  • A friend of ours has taken all of his letters, written to home, when he was stationed in Korea and had them bound into a book.  He is now in his third printing and when he attended book signing at his alma mater, St.Olaf, he said there were six or eight other Ole’s there with published memories.
  • Someone mentioned to me today that a friend just bought a computer, so he can write his memoirs.

The Question :

We have our 60th reunion coming up next year.  The dates are May 31-June 2, 2013.  What do you think of sitting down and taking the time to share a couple of your memories of your years at Gustavus?  We could put them all together in some sort of booklet so we could all enjoy them, and/or make up a Word file so those who have computers can read or print them at their leisure.  If our experience is typical, as mentioned above, some of you are doing this already, or at least have given it some thought.  What better way to get started than writing about a very significant time in your life.  Or, if you have already written some, how about sharing those that you think your classmates would find interesting.

I would appreciate some feedback on this.  Like so many things if the word gets out that there are many classmates participating in this project it might be an incentive to join the crowd.  (The old first olive out of the bottle theory).  Maybe we could even publish a couple of examples early on to start the ball rolling.  I have one in mind about my first year at GA.  I think “Foibles of Youth” would be a fitting title for what I have in mind.  Drop me a note at:

Marv Larson

1305 Ives Lane North

Plymouth, MN 55441

I look forward with great anticipation to your willingness to share Gustavus memories as part of our 60 reunion celebration.

A special thanks to all of you who have sent in your contributions to the Gustavus Annual Fund recently, if you haven’t made a gift yet, remember the Annual fund ends on May 31.  It goes a long way to provide the gift of Gustavus to others who someday will enjoy memories too.  Well, as Porky Pig would say at the end of his cartoons, Tha-tha-that’s all folks!!  The Alumni Office will add a few significant comments to fill this letter out with more Gustie information.


Marv Larson

1953Co-Class President

Campus News

2012 Alumni Association Awards Announced

The Gustavus Alumni Board of Directors has announced its 2012 award recipients:

Greater Gustavus Award – awarded to those “who by deed, have notably advanced and aided Gustavus Adolphus College”:

Jon and Anita Thomsen Young ’77 ’77, Eden Prairie, MN, for their volunteer leadership, service and philanthropy to the College.

Distinguished Alumni Citations – recognizing outstanding and exceptional professional achievement that brings unusual honor to the individual in his or her field of endeavor:

Scott Dee ’81, Farwell, MN, professor of veterinary population medicine, University of Minnesota, swine consultant, and international research veterinarian and director at Pipestone Veterinary Clinic;

Mark Elfstrom ’01, Anchorage, AK, middle school math and science teacher, recipient of a 2011 Milken Educator Award and finalist for the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching;

Kurt Elling ’89, New York, NY, Grammy Award-winning vocal jazz artist.

First Decade Awards – recognizing early professional achievement in the 10th anniversary class:

Amy Brown ’02, Pittsburgh, PA, neonatology fellow at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center;

Michael Bland ’02, St. Louis, MO, postdoctoral associate, earth and planetary sciences, Washington University.

The Alumni Association will present Faculty and Administrator Service and Retirement Awards at a dinner at Gustavus on May 16; honorees will be featured in the fall issue of The Gustavus Quarterly.

National Sesquicentennial Celebrations

Throughout the coming year, Gusties are gathering across the country to reflect on Gustavus’s past, celebrate 150 academic years, and engage for the future.  In conjunction with the celebrations on campus, the College invites all alumni, parents, and friends for a celebration in an area near them.  The president has gone to 14 different locations from New York to LA.  There are still a few left.  You can view them all and register for an event at

Chicago – Thursday, April 26, 2012 – Gleacher Center with Allison Rosati ʼ85

Madison – Tuesday, April 24, 2012 – Harvest Restaurant

Gustie Breakfasts

Join your fellow Gusties for breakfast and to learn something new about your alma mater at the monthly Gustie Breakfasts.  Speakers for April and May will feature former Gustavus presidents, Jim Peterson ʼ64 and Dennis Johnson ʼ60 (respectively).  The St. Peter Breakfasts are held in the banquet rooms on campus at 7:30 a.m. on the second Wednesday of the month and the Twin Cities Breakfasts are held at the Doubletree Hotel in Minneapolis at 8 a.m. on the third Wednesday of the month.  RSVP by calling 800-487-8437 or e-mail  Hope to see you bright and early!

McPherson Lecture

Gustavus alumnus, Civil War historian, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McPherson ’58 will return to his alma mater April 15-17 as a Sesquicentennial Scholar.  On Tuesday, April 17, McPherson will speak at Interlachen Country Club in Edina at an event that is also open to the public. McPherson’s lecture will be titled “Why the Civil War Still Matters” and will address the ways in which the war’s impact on America is still being felt today.  Those interested in attending this event, which will include a reception at 4:30 p.m., McPherson’s lecture at 5 p.m., and a book signing at 6 p.m., should RSVP by going online to, or by contacting the Gustavus Office of Alumni Relations at 507-933-7511.

Celebration of Minnesota Poetry

On April 17 from 7:30-9:30 p.m., Gustavus will host “A Celebration of Minnesota Poetry in Honor of Poet Laureate Joyce Sutphen.”  The renowned poet, and Professor of English at Gustavus, will read from her work, and she’ll be joined by six local Minnesota poets:  Candace Black, Rebecca Fremo, Matt Rasmussen, John Rezmerski, Richard Robbins, and Richard Terrill.  The event takes place in Alumni Hall and is free and open to the public.