Class of '54
March 2005

Dear classmates,

It’s good to have this “time together;” to take a few minutes, get a “mug of something” and to think about Gustavus and each other!!  Thanks loads to Woody Chaffee for generously writing and “connecting” us this winter.  Sharing this opportunity is a pleasure…and its always uplifting to think about our Alma Mater…and how it continues to influence our lives!!

How about the Spring 2005 Gustavus Quarterly??!!  Several articles got my attention!  It’s great to see the strong thrust forward on the college goals for diversity, global life education, increased campus facilities’ use in summer and the emphasis to strengthen Gustavus relationships with the ELCA and its congregations.  This Gustavus Quarterly Spring issue made me feel the great spirit, the energy, the commitment to move Gustavus into the future with gusto.

That helpful “Legacy” section invites us into that future, showing many great ways we can walk with current Gustie students and those yet to come.  A high percentage of Gustavus students NEED and receive financial aid.  I hope you’ve had the time to “check it out!!”

Remember that song, What the World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love?  Well, could it just be that what the world needs now is more Gustavus alumni…living out the inspiration Gustavus sends forth in its grads???

The three top advantages of Gustavus expressed in a recent alumni survey were:

  • Class size
  • Reputation
  • Relationships with other students

Yes, I would add, as well, the student/faculty relationships…the patience and understanding…the education.

Please permit me this personal note―Gene Casselman, college choir director and music professor whom I met in our frosh year became for me and Rod ’53 a lifelong friend―what a gift!  It was an honor for us to sing at his memorial service in 1997 along with Fran ’53 and Betty (Ness ’53) Dale.  Yes, we sang “Children of the Heavenly Father.”  Carolyn Gooder Towley was the organist…rich memories!!  Thanks be to God for it all!

So…that Gustavus “beat goes on” thankfully.  Through our gifts we can help make sure it continues!!  Let’s take a glance at how we’re doing.  Jim Isaak ’86, director of the Gustavus Fund graciously updates us.  Our gifts from June 1, 2004-February 28, 2005 totaled $18,076.  Thanks for your participation, but we’re actually down $16,181 from where we were last year at this time.  Granted it was a big year for us last year, but we look forward to doing what we can before the May 31, 2005 close of this “giving year.”  Gustavus is aggressively pursuing attainable goals and we can aggressively be ”louder and prouder”…as President Jim Peterson ’64 urges.

Our 50th anniversary reunion is a warm memory…and another Gustie class will be alums…we wish them all well…  By the way, do any of us have grandkids in this 2005 class? 

Ah—yes, we are now members of the 50-Year Club―remember?  Our welcoming and caring Alma Mater invites us to return each year now and to be guests for reunion/commencement weekend!  Tradition has it that during this weekend all meals and accommodations are at no charge to members of the 50-Year Club.  It may be a $ question as to how long this invitation can affordably be extended; but what a “thoughtful move” for us “rusting out” Gusties.  (I love that quote from Roger C. in his Nobel Symposium comments―it makes it all seem so gradual!) ☺

In February, the Alumni Board met on campus with their main focus on alumni recognition and finding ways to increase alumni engagement in the College.  At the meeting, the Alumni Board named the following award recipients:

            Greater Gustavus AwardGeorge Torrey ’55 for his service to the college throughout his lifetime including as class agent, member of the Board of Trustees, President’s Crown Council, member of the Three Crowns Campaign, member of the Building A Greater Gustavus campaign cabinet, and providing leadership to his 50th Anniversary Reunion Scholarship Class Gift.  In addition to his service, George and his wife, Shirley, have demonstrated strong personal philanthropy.

            Distinguished Alumni CitationsG. Barry Anderson ’76, Apple Valley, MN, associate justice, Minnesota Supreme Court; Deanna Nelson ’64, Cary, NC, president/founder, BioLink Life Sciences, Inc.; Rick Webb ’73, Edina, MN, owner of Ciao Bella, Zelo and Bacio Restaurants; and John Wirth ’75, Pacific Palisade, CA, writer/executive producer, Paramount Studios.

            First Decade AwardsJoe Gaugler ’95, Lexington, KY, assistant professor, Department of Behavioral Science, University of Kentucky College of Medicine; Debbie Lightly Mascaro ’95, Fargo, ND, research scientist, North Dakota State University Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering.

The awards will be presented on Commencement Weekend or Homecoming Weekend depending on the recipient’s schedule.  The Alumni Association will present faculty/administrator service and retirement awards at a dinner at Gustavus on May 19.

Congratulations to each Alumni Award recipient…with thanks for their significant lives!!!

By now, I trust, we’ve each received our reunion photos…thanks to the Alumni Office for getting them to us!  Don’t you think we looked pretty good?

You know, you’re on my mind often…but not a whole lot about you has found its way to 2880 Park Drive, Adrian, MI  49221 or to the Alumni Office.  It would be wonderful to hear from you…any exciting, challenging, fulfilling volunteer roles?  Fun visits?  New ideas?  Reflections?  Inspiration?  Can we nudge each other a bit?  Thanks for what we can/will do to keep each other “tuned-in!”

What a blessed gift this class of ’54 has given Gustavus!  Woody Chaffee and Janet Hanson Jones are lucky to hear it often… and from Prof. David Fienen, Gustavus organist, who assisted the Carillon Planning Group we have this update:


The Carillon is used to ring a bell peal (4 bells) about five minutes before each daily Chapel service, about 10 minutes before each Sunday morning service (6-bell peal) and at the start of each Sunday evening Taize service (a 3-bell peal).  Sometimes, it either plays automatically an appropriate hymn tune prior to the bell peal, or I play an arrangement of one of the hymns for that service.  In January, the Carillon was used as part of our campus-wide response to the Tsunami disaster.  (The Carillon tolled all day, from 10:30-7:30, while tables were set up to collect donations for relief efforts.)  The Carillon is also used to ring a toll at the conclusion of funeral or memorial services (when the deceased's age is rung).  Finally, at present, the Carillon rings an hour chime at 8, noon, and 6.  This hour chime was composed specifically for this Carillon by David Fienen, Organist/Cantor at Christ Chapel, and uses the three pitches G A C.  With the renovation of Old Main underway, we plan to connect the Old Main bell to the Christ Chapel Carillon so it can be controlled from there and coordinate when it rings with when the hour chime rings from the Chapel.


Part of the Class of 1954 gift was used to purchase an additional octave of hand bells for the hand bell choirs that ring in Christ Chapel.  We had already acquired a four-octave set of hand bells, and this added the fifth octave.  Our hand bell choirs have benefited greatly from the addition of the fifth octave since many composers now write for five-octave sets, and this now makes much more hand bell literature available to them.  This year we have two hand bell choirs, conducted by Dr. Al Wortman.  For Christmas in Christ Chapel, they also incorporated a set of hand chimes, which they borrowed from an area church.  Since many composers are also adding hand chimes to their hand bell compositions (which adds an additional color to the music), we hope to purchase a set soon for the Chapel.  Also, we will need to add significantly to the music library for the hand bell choirs.  --David Fienen

Thanks to David Fienen for telling us about how our carillon gift is “present” in campus life―hand bells, too!  As the Carillon Endowment becomes fully established and Professor Fienen’s schedule allows, more events like concerts and clinics will be planned and implemented.

Meanwhile, there is a “topping off” task for us to do to complete this awesome gift.  As this letter is mailed, our “carillon total” of pledges and dollars given is $117,171, with $22,192 needed to “top off” $140,000.  Can we focus our effort, pull together in 2005 and “go over the top???”

Wouldn’t it be enormous if we could “go over the top” by May 31, 2005 with pledges, plans and dollars?  Whatever we can do…LET’S DO IT!!

In our consideration as David Johnson said, “remember the money we need now doesn’t have to be in cash; it can be a deferred gift for it will be for the instrument’s endowment, an assurance of both its proper maintenance and that there’ll be concerts and clinics for visiting choirs forever.”

There are over 140 of us to “Top It Off!”  It will be a GRAND ACCOMPLISHMENT!!!  Thanks for your participation!!

I’ve asked a couple of classmates to write a few notes for this class letter.  The first one that we’ll hear from is Janet Hanson Jones:

“Notes from St. Peter~”

A recent article in The Free Press (Mankato) cited "Hidden Treasures of Area Colleges."  The Arboretum and the Hillstrom Museum were the Gustavus features.

The annual Valentine's Dinner on the campus is a popular Community Education offering―good food and a nice musical program.  We were told about it by three couples from Mankato who had attended; the men are all retired Mankato State professors.  They had visited the museum after the dinner and were quite impressed with it.  We were unable to attend because Ellis's ’52 barbershop quartet was busy doing singing valentines in Le Sueur, St. Peter, and Mankato.  We wives joined them at Whiskey River, their last gig of the day, for dinner.

Old Main is now a fenced-in construction area.  The departments and offices which were in Old Main have been relocated and remodeling is underway to air condition the building and make it handicapped accessible.  I think the plan is to have it ready by this fall.

Last Friday (March 4) was St. David's Day in Chapel XXXIISt. David is the patron saint of Wales.  All of the college vocal ensembles form a massed choir of over 200 in the front of the Chapel to lead the congregation in singing four Welsh hymns in parts.  About 600 participated.  One off-campus visitor told me how pleasant it was to hear the carillon playing as she walked to the Chapel.  I proudly told her it was a gift from my class as we celebrated our 50th anniversary of graduation in 2004.

I recently learned that B. Jeanette Larson, our classmate and former bookstore manager, has moved from the St. Peter Community Health Care Center to Redeemer Residence, 625 West 31st Street, #306, Minneapolis, MN  55408.  She would probably enjoy hearing from old friends.

Jack Clark ’52 retired professor of religion and classics died on March 7 at the St. Peter Community Health Care Center.  His wife, Esther (Strege ’55) Clark predeceased him. 

Robert Esbjornson ’41, retired professor of religion, is at the St. Peter Community Health Care Center, recovering from back surgery.  He might enjoy hearing from former students.  His address there is:  St. Peter Community Heath Care Center, 627 Park Row, St. Peter, MN  56082.

Ellis and I enjoyed the Gustavus Choir Home Concert with our granddaughter Elizabeth Wojahn as a member of the choir.  They had a wonderful tour by bus from here to Boston, down the East Coast to Florida despite having to do a concert in street clothes because the robes were in the buses which were stuck in the snow in Jamestown, NY, and enduring record-setting snow in Boston.  I'm not sure if they followed the snow or the snow followed them!  They flew back from Florida.

Ellis attended most of the home basketball games this year and one away game at Bethel where he was joined by our grandson, Paul Wojahn ’03.  The team did very well this year winning the MIAC; however, they lost the first tournament game of the NCAA Division 3 play-offs.

One day last week we enjoyed lunch at The Gustavus Buffet, an "upscale" restaurant which is part of the Dining Center.  The local Lions Club eats there each Tuesday.

(Janet and Ellis Jones’ granddaughter is a 2005 Gustie graduate―super time!)  Thanks to Janet for the St. Peter view!!  We have news that our classmate Alan Slettehaugh left this life on January 25, 2005!  Our sincere sympathy to his family and all who knew him.

Can you imagine…Dave Johnson’s Transylvania hiking trip planned for September 2005 had a full roster in February?  What a fun time it must be!  Congrats to David and his traveling hikers who seemed to beat the “odds of aging…”  Good for them!!!

What fun it was to attend the Gustavus Choir Concert in Ann Arbor, MI in January, so many memories of choir tours 1951-53 came “flying” through!  How grateful I am for those experiences!  While in California this winter visiting our daughter, Stina…which is always fun…she and I drove to Stanford University to see Sharon Anthony Bower and her husband, Gordon.  It was pure pleasure to enjoy lunch and good conversation with them.  They’ve spent many creative and productive years involved in the Stanford University community…and beyond!  Sharon mentioned that she would really like to hear from more Gusties should you be “in town;” Stanford, CA!  Beautiful campus…beautiful country! 

John Chell is involved with an interesting story!  Thanks for telling us about it!

Helen phones and gets right to the point, “John, I need a story for the next class letter.  Do you have something on Gustavus, from recent months?"  I think quickly, and believe to have a fairly safe reply, "No, only St. Olaf has made the headlines lately."  "Really, in what way?" she inquires.  "Tell me about it, John.  I have heard scarcely a word about the Oles since’54, when we always trashed them royally, like in sports."

OK, Helen, here we go―my "Blog" for this edition.

Back in 1923 a small radio station at St. Olaf College known as WCAL, became a high frequency FM public service.  It was ambitiously financed by the college in early years, and eventually became a favorite in Minnesota and even nationwide.  Soon less of their income was flowing from the St. Olaf budget, and more and more primarily from their avid database of subscribers across the USA.

Recently, under a new college president, a more concerted effort was set in place to increase the general endowment funds at St. Olaf College (yes, the enormous endowment at Carleton, that famed liberal arts school just up the road, has always created "battles of embarrassment " for the Ole Board of Regents in comparison).  So about a year ago, the new prexy had a partial solution.  He brought directly to the College Board the suggestion and obvious challenge, "Let's sell WCAL.  We have had two recent offers.  We can quickly pick up $10.3 million or more and significantly increase our College Endowment.”  Regents were stunned, surprised and excited.  They tried hard to analyze the pros and cons (like those tough inner battles of reason and vision recalled from my own years on the Gustavus Board of Trustees).

The quick fix to the endowment fund was enticing.  Minnesota Public Radio would make the purchase.  WCAL lost out.  This sudden action of the College Board of Regents was kept secret (hopefully for some time), while regents began to struggle over a PR release.  But news of their sudden actions leaked out.  Disappointment, even anger flared everywhere.  Thousands of alumni were furious.  Longtime WCAL patrons (with no other connection to St. Olaf) declared they had been swindled.  Thousands spoke publicly and in the media that their money over the years had not been given to St. Olaf College, but specifically to WCAL Inc.  Opposition mounted everywhere.  Petitions were signed.  Save WCAL became an incorporated protest.

Ruth Sylte, Northfield, graduate from St. Olaf and president of SaveWCAL, writes, "For eight decades, tens of thousands of donors contributed millions to create the value of WCAL.  St. Olaf Regents abandoned the donors and breached their fiduciary duty to use the donor―created assets of the WCAL charitable trust (the station, license and endowment)."

I think you get the picture.  SaveWCAL finds thousands of supporters who are willing to exceed the bids of the two initial offers.  Even then the Regents will not relent.  WCAL is sold to MPR.  WCAL...lost forever.  Our favorite....the only remaining college privately owned, mainline religious, culturally diverse, FM station in USA....gone!

Questions remain―will the loss of WCAL be a plus or a minus for St. Olaf?  Their endowment has increased by $10 million.  But has this and will this offset the fall-out?  Reports are surfacing that total losses from the recently revised Estate Planning documents of hundreds of St. Olaf alumni, who are removing their college as a benefactor, have already far exceeded the 10 million dollars added to the endowment.

By now, some of you Gustie classmates are asking, "Are you still the retired Rev. John Chell we celebrated with last year at our 50th Reunion, or Sherlock John?"  Well, as you know―in retirement we are more likely to have time to do our homework.  It has been highly beneficial in my research on WCAL, to be a member now of Central Lutheran in downtown Minneapolis where WCAL had a subsidiary studio, to have friends in the St. Olaf administration, and to have a scientist as a son-in-law who along with his St. Olaf classmates did their WCAL research.

I do not wish evil times upon any of our fine Minnesota Colleges, but if it has to come―why not St. Olaf?  We trashed them good back in ’54 as we remember so well, so let it happen again in ’05.  Only this time the wounds are not from Gusties, but self inflicted!

This is my "Blog" for our Class Letter.  Helen may phone you next!  Hey, picture this before signing off―David Johnson and I had a two-hour breakfast on Tuesday of this week―two Gustavus sociology majors "decoding" the politics of today's conflicted world!

John Chell

Class of ’54

Now, I’ll have the Alumni Office add some campus news here:

Campus briefs

Gustavus has been known for its strong tradition of alumni participation in annual giving.  Gusties support their Alma Mater in many ways and show their pride with their gifts.  All alumni and current students have benefited from previous and current support.  Gustavus will be as strong as its alumni want it to be.  The 2005 Alumni Fund closes May 31.  Make sure you are included with many members of your class and other alumni that have chosen to keep Gustavus strong.  Three easy ways to give – send your check to the Alumni Office, call 800-866-3863, or on-line at 

Senior Rachel Batalden, a double major in mathematics and secondary education with a 3.898 grade point average and two-time MIAC All-Conference selection at setter for the women’s volleyball team, has been selected as one of 56 student-athletes from across the country to receive a $7,500 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship.

The Gustavus women’s hockey team finished third at the NCAA national championship after winning the MIAC title, the men’s basketball team won the MIAC regular season title and conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA national tournament, the men’s swimming and diving team won the MIAC title and placed seventh at the NCAA national tournament and had seven swimmers earn All-America honors and the women’s team had four swimmers earn All-America honors.

Senior Paul Fraser, a music and computer science major has been selected as the winner of the second annual Caltech-Occidental Composition Contest for new music for concert band. The contest drew entries from all over the world, and as the winner, Paul will receive a cash award and a recording of the world premiere of the work at a concert by the Caltech-Occidental Concert Band in Pasadena, Calif., in May.

Upcoming Events

  • Association of Congregations Meeting – April 23
  • G.I.V.E. Community Service Day – April 30
  • Class of 1955 and 50-Year Club Reunions – May 27 & 28
  • Commencement – May 29
  • Alumni Fund closes – May 31
  • Reunions on Homecoming – October 7 & 8
  • Nurses Reunion – October 8

While you read these pages, let’s hope we’re all enjoying the newness and joy of early SPRING…the fun of planting and enjoying the miracle of growth in creation, also noting the growth in our life’s journey…God bless!

’Til next time…I’ll be eager to hear what’s happening with you…some reflections too!  Thanks!

Helen Forsgren Hokenson

1954 Class Agent