Class of ’54
April 2010

Dear Classmates,

After one of the worst winters full of storms and blizzards and several feet of snow in the drifts around St. Peter we are now experiencing a spring that is “busting out all over.”  The month of March came in like a lamb and went out like a lamb and the weather in the middle was also like a lamb.  In fact, the month of March had some rain, but no snow which set some kind of record, since Minnesota has not had such a month of March since 1878.  I wish we all could take a walk through the Linnaeus Arboretum on the western and southern edge of the Gustavus campus and see the explosion of color on the trees and in the spring flowers.  Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), the English poet and critic wrote:

“For winter’s rains and ruins are over…

And in green under wood and cover,

Blossom by blossom the spring begins.”

Here’s hoping that wherever you are and whatever your state of being you are experiencing spring like new beginnings in your hearts and spirits.


Rod’53 and Helen (Forsgren) Hokenson (Adrian, Michigan)

            A note was received from Rod Hokenson concerning the great record of both the Gustavus Women’s and Gustavus Men’s Hockey teams.  Rod writes, “We alums can be proud that this year’s Women’s Hockey team ‘beat the best of the best in the whole Midwest’ and are rewarded by entertaining this Friday and Saturday, March 19-20, the three best teams in Division III, all from out east:  Norwich, Elmira, and Amherst, all prestigious private colleges in New England I believe.  I send this on as an enthusiastic supporter of women’s and men’s hockey, having been a rink rat all my life and most recently here at our local Adrian College.

            “Gustavus women played here against our fledgling Adrian College team at the beginning of last year and LOST THEIR ONLY GAME of the season.  As loyal Gustavus alums, Helen and I went all out to spread the red carpet for those wonderful gals, their coaches and supporters who were our visitors.  I ‘knew they were comin’ so I baked a cake!’  Go Gusties, once a Gustie always a Gustie!”

Ellis Jones’52 and Janet (Hanson) Jones (St. Peter, Minnesota)

            The Mankato Free Press and the St. Peter Herald has featured a remarkable story of this couple who have written special Christmas letters for fifty years and have preserved them as an historical record.  Their 2009 letter was gold-colored to commemorate the 50th edition which contains the same sort of anecdotes as the previous 49.  Ellis continues to be active with the Minnesota Welsh Association and the Kiwanis Club.  Janet is recovering from multiple hip surgeries late in 2008.

            Concerning this remarkable preservation of their history in the form of Christmas letters Ellis will be the first to tell you this is unadorned, utilitarian writing.  “This isn’t a priceless piece of prose.  It’s just, ‘That’s the way it is,’” he said.  But the anecdotes in a Christmas letter somehow avoid feeling trite or parochial to Ellis.  He likes reading other people’s letters.  They make him feel like he’s part of their family and their lives.

            Before Ellis begins writing these letters, which are only one page long he compares calendars with Janet to ensure they don’t miss anything important.  Then Ellis writes a rough draft and Janet makes corrections.  As an economics professor at Gustavus, Ellis was a notorious stickler about spelling and so has a pretty good incentive to avoid mistakes in his letters, especially because former students are on the mailing list.

Wow! Congratulations to you two on a remarkable historical record.

Betty “Babs” Lindstrand Abrahamson

Babs lives in beautiful Grand Marais, Minnesota, which is located on what is called the “North Shore” of Lake Superior.  She still takes care of her own property and appreciated a winter of only 5 ½ inches of snow.  Her children, Eric and Lisa, live in the Twin Cities and she is proud of 4 grandsons ages 17 to 23, three of them still in school, and she loves to watch one of them play hockey and tennis, so she is a busy person.

            Babs had a long teaching career spending 2 ½ years in Lincoln, Nebraska, and then 27 years teaching in the St. Paul school system 7th and 8th graders.  After retiring in 1995 she has been living in Grand Marais and is seemingly still full of boundless energy.  Her mother lived a long life reaching almost 100 years and shortly before she died she was singing hymns sitting in a wheelchair!  Babs says she wants to live to be over 100 to beat her mother’s record.  Her spirit and energy made my day and when we closed our conversation she extended an invitation to the Class of 1954 to stop at her home for the best Swedish Coffee ever.


Groundbreaking For New Gustavus Academics Building

            On Friday, April 16 a ceremonial groundbreaking was held at the future site of a new state-of-the-art 125,000 square foot academic building west of Christ Chapel.  The academic departments that will be housed in the new academic building include Communication Studies, Economics and Management, History, Psychology, and Sociology and Anthropology.

            The College’s Board of Trustees, as well as members of the Board of the Association of Congregations, students, faculty, and staff attended the public ceremony.  Construction will begin on the new building this spring, and it is expected that it will be ready to serve Gustavus students and faculty by the beginning of fall semester in 2011.

            The new academic building is part of a $44 million commitment made by the College’s Board of Trustees in January to move forward with three major building projects.  Also included in the plan are two other projects, the development of a West Mall extending from Christ Chapel and a major renovation of and addition to the Anderson Social Science Building.

Nobel Conference October 5th and 6th, 2010

            Following the dedication in 1963 of the Alfred Nobel Hall of Science at Gustavus the Nobel Foundation granted approval for an annual science conference to be held at the college.  Now in its sixth decade, the Nobel Conference continues to set a standard for timeliness, intellectual inquiry, and free debate of contemporary issues related to the natural and social sciences.

            This year’s theme is on the subject of “Making Food Good” and speaks to our choices related to diet, farming, and processing which are inextricably linked to human health and the health of ecosystems.  Considerable public debate swirls around such issues as genetic modification and food security.  Seven distinguished presenters will offer thought-provoking looks into what makes food look good.

            Having lived in St. Peter for eight years it has been a special privilege to attend these Conferences seven times in a row.  There is a sense of excitement to be with nearly 6000 people and to hear lectures and group discussions which are quite lively and full of debate.  Excellent well placed large video screens bring the presenters up close, as well as the beginning music from the superb music groups of Gustavus before each session no matter where you sit.

The David C. Johnson Endowed Scholarship Fund

            As of February 28, 2010, the market value of this fund was $33,225.  My understanding after talking with Kathy Erlandsen and Kristine Straumann ’07 who is in charge of the Scholarship Department is that the amount available for a scholarship is based on the value of our fund as of November 30 of the previous year.

            The good news is that next fall we will have available for a scholarship to some needy student the amount of $1,278 (maybe that will buy the books needed for a semester!) which just could be enough for such a student to make it through for a year.

            I wish I could tell you the testimony and enthusiasm of Kristine, a graduate of Gustavus just a few years ago, who said she would never have made it through Gustavus without the scholarship money she received through the generosity of alumni donations.

            1954 was a long time ago and all our expenses were less but many of you, including myself, would not have made it through without scholarship monies.  Please remember that only the interest on the money is available for scholarships so that our Scholarship Fund will continue to grow and always be there.  Special thanks to everyone who has participated in the giving to this Scholarship Fund and to everyone who will keep on giving.

Best Wishes Always,

Forrest “Woody” Chaffee

1954 Class Agent