Class of '54
January 2008

Dear Classmates,

We are in the midst of winter here in Minnesota with snow off and on almost daily and some below zero temperatures.  As I write this the snow dogs are out because of the ice crystals high in the atmosphere creating a most beautiful effect and the surrounding trees are full of frost producing a fairy-land of spectacular dimensions.

William Shakespeare in his play Richard III speaks of the “winter of our discontent.”  Yet as I think of Gustavus and its growth and accomplishments I think more of a winter of contentment combined with the warmth of the old Gustie Spirit which is alive and well.

Here’s hoping you read through this epistle and find something that warms your spirit concerning this wonderful campus we call Gustavus and heightens your love and loyalty for this place.


Clare Berntson Hibbard

Clare traveled last summer to Japan and Scandinavia over a period of two and a half weeks.  Her granddaughter, Laura Hibbard, graduated from the American School in Japan last spring.  Another granddaughter, Patricia Hibbard, graduated from Gustavus in the spring of 2007.

Helen Forsgren Hokenson

Our Co-Class Agent and her husband, Rod ’53 live in Adrian, Michigan, where they have been avid supporters again of Habitat for Humanity.  Helen and Rod and their group made “pasties” by the thousands which are meat pies surrounded by pie crust which were sold raising some $5,500 for Habitat for Humanity.  Last December she and Rod vacationed in Hawaii on the island of Maui.  We express our sympathy to Helen and Rod on the recent death of her brother, Kenneth Forsgren at the age of 98.

Jeanette Fetchenhier Jensen

Our sympathy is also extended to Jeanette on the death of her husband, Robert Jensen ’52 who died on May 24, 2007 from acute leukemia.

Janet Hanson Jones

Her husband, Ellis Jones ’52, Emeritus Economics and Management Professor at Gustavus, recently was presented with the first ever Delta Pi Epsilon National Leadership Medallion Award at the 2007 National Research Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Delta Pi Epsilon was founded in 1936 and is a national honorary professional graduate society for men and women devoted to the advancement and professionalism of business education.  Under his leadership membership in this society grew from 40 chapters with 3,500 members to over 90 chapters with more than 9,000 members.  Janet and Ellis have a daughter, Karen Wojahn ’79 (Windom, MN) and a son David ’83 (Minneapolis) and three grandchildren.

Marian Vorlicek L'Ivers

Her husband, Jim, who is now retired, is publishing a motivational mathematics book entitled Visits With Dr. Vectra.Congratulations!

Jean Simonson Rollff

Jean and her husband, Calvin, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last August and did some extensive traveling to celebrate.  Last spring they went to Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg and last October they took a Mediterranean Cruise and visited the Greek Islands, Croatia, Italy, and Turkey.  She writes, “We have a ‘Plus 60 Club’ here in the Quad Cities that has wonderful tours.”

Helen Swedland Scott

Helen and her husband, Raymond, live in Gaylord, Michigan, which is in the northern part and about an hour from Mackinac Island.  This is a place of great beauty that they love to visit when they can.  Raymond worked with the Gaylord Post Office for many years and Helen served as a bookkeeper in elementary education.  In their retirement they are very active in the community and in helping people who are shut-ins.


The Rev. Robert Esbjornson ’41 became a professor in the department of Religion in 1954 when we were freshmen.  Many of us knew him not only as an inspiring teacher but also as a very close friend through the years.  Esbj (pronounced "Es‑Bee") went on to excel in courses like “Ethics and Medicine” and “Ethics and Economics.”  He had a passion for helping students explore the big questions of life, and he was adept at bringing people together for conversations about their work and the ethical and spiritual issues they faced during the turbulent 1960’s.  For example, Esbjomson took students to Chicago for a month long immersion in urban culture for several years in succession.

In 1979 he received the prestigious Edgar M. Carlson Award for innovative teaching.  Retiring in 1983, he was a prolific writer who believed in the value of “journaling” and even with advancing age and illness maintained his participation in “Night Writers,” a community group committed to writing.  Esbj at the age of 89, died on October 26, 2007 at the Benedictine Living Community, in St. Peter.  His funeral was not only a commitment of his spirit into the hands of our God but also an act of praise for his life and work.

During my years as a student at Gustavus he was not only my teacher, but also my counselor and guide.  And when serving as a pastor in my first parish in New Prague, Minnesota, he invited me to come back to Gustavus and teach part-time in the department of Religion while I was also serving as a pastor, he remained an ongoing encouraging force in my life.  When we moved back to St. Peter three years ago I saw Esbj again after many years at First Lutheran Church and although we hadn’t seen each other for years and years he looked up at me from his wheelchair and remembered me saying, “Hi Woodie, how are you doing with your life?”

I am including here as a further memorial Robert Esbjornson’s final Christmas letter, delayed for medical reasons, so it was not mailed until Epiphany Season 2007.  This is an edited version and hope you find it helpful to your own life.  It’s entitled From Ordeal to Epiphany.

Ordeal is the word I’ve used to describe my trip to Rochester for surgery in November 2006.  I saw elements of the ordeal that Mary and Joseph experienced when they went to Bethlehem.  For them, the stable was a birthing place.  For me, the place of ordeal was the operating room.

The skin cancer went deeper than the doctors had thought.  I had to wait hour after hour for another specialist. Your past runs through your mind, and you wonder what the future holds.  You try to stay in the present, listening to the noises of Methodist Hospital, smelling the hospital smells.

We idealize the story of Mary and Joseph.  We don’t grasp how rough it really was for them until we have a similar experience ourselves.  Mary was in the last stages of pregnancy.  There was no place for them to stay. When we’re not in control of a situation that makes it doubly difficult.  It becomes an ordeal.

Unexpected blessings can arise out of an ordeal.  Until you’ve been through the ordeal there’s no revelation.  A word here and there and gesture here and there.  It all comes together.  I learned a great deal about compassion and caring.

Calls, visits and cards arrived, like shepherds and Wise Men coming to Mary, Joseph and Jesus.  The shepherds are surrogates of friends near at hand and far away.  Wise men brought gifts, and shepherds were themselves a gift.  Some light comes, like the Bethlehem star, like the angel choir singing on high.  Still it takes discipline to stay in the Now, not rue the past nor fear the future.

But there’s a more important thing, and that’s my faith.  I’ve had a real struggle in that area.  I live in a holy world.  There’s a splendid and strong Presence beyond all other gods:  The Lord of Light, of Life and Love.  Jesus Christ is the One God’s YES to all humankind, and that includes me.

Robert Esbjornson

Epiphany 2007


It was my privilege to join more than 6000 participants attending what was called “Heating Up:  The Energy Debate,” Gustavus’s Nobel Conference on climate change, October 2-3, was held on the campus.  I must admit that when I attended I thought that global warming was just part of the ongoing cycles of weather changes through the centuries and that we should just accept what’s happening and adjust.  Now I am convinced that the present warming trend is manmade and unless we take dramatic action we face catastrophic results.  There is a window of about ten years for us to act.

Stephen Chu the 1997 Nobel Laureate in physics and a professor of physics and cellular and molecular biology at the University of California, Berkeley, did give us a note of warning when he said:  “We don’t need 100% certainty.  Most scientists are 95% certain C02 (carbon dioxide) is impacting climate change, and we already know sea levels are rising, water shortages are increasing and other factors indicate the direction we’re going.  If there were even a 50% chance your house would burn down in five years if you didn’t take some reasonable action, wouldn’t you take the action?”

James E. Hansen, the lead climate scientist and director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York stated, “There needs to be a price put on carbon emissions.  We’re in a struggle against ignorance and it’s unfortunate that this has become political.  It seems to me that conservative people should be at the head of the line as far as preserving.  We have the technology to solve the problem.  I think we are also in a struggle against greed.

One of the notable speakers that I related to was a fellow Minnesotan, the increasingly known Polar explorer, Will Steger.  He pointed out that the Polar Ice Cap is melting and decreasing in size.  It is affecting even the migrations of animals like the antelope which are moving far inland and is causing the level of the oceans of the world to rise.  Another one to two feet will cause the coastal cities of the world to be flooded.  At the evening banquet Will Steger added:  “If greenhouse gases and climate change continue in the direction of the last 20 years, world maps will need to be redrawn and there may even be wars over fresh water in this century.”

Attending a Nobel Conference is emotionally encouraging and intellectually stimulating.  Some of the greatest minds in the world are presenters and there are large screens so that you see their wrinkles and the emotions of their hearts on their faces.  The Conference is well organized and carefully planned even down to the noon lunches and parking for thousands is easily accessible.


Forensics Team Continues Excellence

The Gustavus forensics team continues the tradition of excellence, with major team and individual wins this season.  Last season the team ranked in the top 20, which is impressive since 14 of the top 20 schools are “Division I” schools that have more funding and more coaching staff.  While many schools have several full-time forensics coaches, the Gustavus coach also is a full-time professor.  So a unique aspect of the Gustavus program is the team meets weekly for peer coaching, a technique the team has found to be very successful. 

Gustavus Dancing With the Profs

Inspired by the popular television show Dancing with the Stars, a standing room only crowd of students, faculty, and St. Peter community members filled Alumni Hall on November 2 to watch Gustavus students and faculty/staff members swing dance to raise money for the St. Peter United Way.  The event, “Dancing with the Profs 2,” featured six teams of one Gustavus student and one faculty/staff member.  In preparation for the evening competition, the Gustavus Swing Club gave the teams dance lessons, while members of GAC-TV documented the learning to provide a video showcase on each couple.

Alumni Insurance Programs

The Alumni Association sponsors insurance products for alumni, spouses, children, and parents.  Products include life insurance, auto, home and renters insurance, and short-term medical insurance to fill temporary needs of new alumni without insurance after graduation and others who may have gaps due to unemployment.  For information about life and short-term medical insurance, call 800-635-7801.  For information about auto, home, and renters insurance, call:  800-524-9400, (800-328-0705, ext. 552 in the Greater Twin Cities area).

Gustavus Music Showcase

The three international touring music ensembles at Gustavus Adolphus College — The Gustavus Choir, the Gustavus Symphony Orchestra, and the Gustavus Wind Orchestra —  will perform at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 9 at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.  Tickets for the concert are on sale through the Orchestra Hall box office and may be purchased in-person, online at:, and via fax or phone at 612-371-5656.  Tickets are $22 for adults and $12 for children ages 6-18 and current Gustavus students with a valid I.D.

College Relations blog

Gustavus College Relations staff has introduced a new blog that will offer commentary and news on a variety of topics pertinent to the campus community as well as some photography, video, and audio content.  During the month of January the blog will feature the Gustavus Symphony Orchestra’s China tour and observations on several January Interim classes.  The new blog can be read at:


Men's tennis coach Steve Wilkinson has been named the national winner of the United States Tennis Association (USTA)/Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Campus Recreation Award.  This awards program, which began in 2003, was open to more than 2,000 ITA head and assistant coaches at the NCAA Divisions I, II, and III, NAIA and junior/community college levels.  Senior goaltender Trevor Brown became the first men's soccer player in Gustavus history to be named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America Men’s Soccer Team as released by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Fine Arts Events

“Destination Anywhere:  A Juried Exhibit of 15 Award-Winning Young Artists With Disabilities,” is now on display at the Hillstrom Museum of Art at Gustavus.  The exhibit, a product of a partnership between VSA arts (formerly Very Special Arts) and Volkswagen of America, Inc., strives to recognize and showcase young artists with disabilities, ages 16-25, who are living in the United States.  In November the Department of Theatre and Dance presented a Festival of Student Work.  A miniature “Fringe Festival” in its own right, this collaboration of more than 60 actors, dancers, designers, and technicians, operating on 10 different production schedules, filled Anderson Theatre, the Black Box, and the Schaefer Fine Arts Center for four days of artistic celebration.


Where we are living now which is on the southwest edge of the Gustavus campus gives us a daily reminder of the beauty and wonderment of the Carillon Bells which were given as a gift to Gustavus from the Class of 1954 at the time of our 50th Reunion.  We can see the spire of Christ Chapel and hear the bells ringing calling people to worship and marking the hour of various times during the day.  When the bells ring out a hymn it is truly an encouragement to one’s faith.

As you know not only were monies needed to give the Carillons as an outright gift to the college but also to establish a $100,000 endowment fund to provide monies for the upkeep and repair of the bells.  Our goal of funds needed has now been completed through a final generous gift from Paul Vollan.  Special thanks to Paul and to Roger Carlson, Carillon Project Chairman, and of course to all of you for all that you have given.  Your generous response will keep the bells ringing for all time to come.


Plans continue to move ahead for our 55th Reunion which will be held on graduation weekend, May 29-30, 2009.  Preliminary plans include a short Memorial Worship Service in Christ Chapel followed by a wine and cheese fellowship hour and then the Friday evening banquet. Saturday morning will feature a choice of lectures, programs, and musical presentations.  A Saturday Celebration luncheon will conclude our reunion festivities.  All events will be held on the Gustavus campus and a special folder with registration information will be mailed several weeks before the reunion.

Sharon Anthony Bower, Roger Carlson, John Chell, Jean Kirkvold Emholtz, Rollie Herbst, David Johnson, Jim Anderson, Howard Ruggles, John Sandquist, as well as Helen Forsgren Hokenson and Woody Chaffee as Class Agents are involved as a planning committee.  We continue to be thankful for Betty Lindstrand Abrahamson and Marilyn Reiten Meyer who are serving as volunteer callers.  Please feel free to call any of them to make any suggestions, and if you would like to be a part of this group let us know.

We also continue to be thankful for the assistance and guidance of Kathy Erlandsen in all of our planning.  She is the associate director of Reunion Giving and coordinates reunion committee volunteers.  I can assure you that whenever we call her she responds with that cheerful Gustie Spirit and always knows where to find things and how to proceed in the right direction.


As we have gathered to make plans for our 55th reunion we wanted to make a special gift to Gustavus which would be available to students in need, a gift that would keep on giving for all time to come, certainly a gift that would keep on giving when all of us are gone.  I would not have been able to complete my college education without the help of summer work and scholarships.  When you look at the price of tuition along with room and board today you just know that a high percentage of students wouldn’t be there without help.  For this reason the CLASS OF 1954 DAVID C. JOHNSON ENDOWED SCHOLARSHIP has been established with a goal of raising $100,000.  It will take $25,000 to begin making the scholarship fund a reality.

By now you have received a mailing suggesting giving amounts to this fund over the next three years of $5,000, $3,000, $1,500, or whatever you can and whatever you desire to give.  It is our hope that by the time we have our 55th reunion that the Scholarship Fund will have begun to award scholarship dollars to a student and that we can introduce our first scholarship award recipient at the reunion.  We encourage your generous ongoing giving with the knowledge that such giving will outlive us and continue to reach out to students in ned.


Thanks to all of you for your ongoing gifts to the Alumni Fund.  My understanding is that 60% of this fund also goes to scholarship dollars for those in need.  You should be happy to know that the number of those who gave this last year has increased by 789 donors and that the amount of undesignated gifts is $71,174 more than last year at this time.

We are also proud of our class of 1954 which increased the numbers of donors in the 2006-07 fiscal year.  There were 91 donors representing 65% of our class who gave $29,380.  Congratulations to all of you for such loyalty to Gustavus.  The dollar numbers for the 2007-08 fiscal year have already surpassed last year’s and we hope the participation numbers will too!


The Gustavus Presidential Search committee held its third meeting in December and report that six candidates have emerged from the initial pool of applicants.  The semifinalists will be invited to the Twin Cities area for formal interviews on January 20-21.  Following the January interviews, the final candidates will be selected for campus visits in February.

Thanks for reading this and for all of your support.  It may be winter time here in the Midwest with the wind blowing, snow flying, and temperatures plummeting, but that old Gustie spirit is still warm and the spring of new growth and life will continue at Gustavus and also in your hearts and spirits

Best Wishes Always,

Forrest “Woody” Chaffee

1954 Co-class Agent

(with Helen Forsgren Hokenson)