Class of '55
The end of the 7th February of this millennium….
To those of you who identify as Gustie ’55ers:
A happy March to you…and this is Don Gus writing from the very farmhouse I lived in while at college and where I now can sleep downstairs rather than upstairs. DeRemee asked me to give him a break in his letter writing and so here goes for what will probably be the shortest class letter ever. In thankfulness for brevity send in your annual fund contribution.
Let’s start with something I recently came across from a long time president of St. Olaf, Sidney Rand, who wrote in his autobiography: “College was a serendipitous experience. I went not knowing exactly what to expect and left college not knowing exactly what I had received. But as the years have passed, I have come to recognize that at Concordia I not only gained knowledge but also an increased appreciation of other people and a better understanding of myself. It all seemed to happen by the way. I wonder if that isn’t what the liberal arts are about.” Probably many of us could say “amen” to that.
Now, rather than running down grandchildren, cruises, wedding anniversaries, and assorted adventures, I decided to make some quick visits to a few of the faculty who were at Gustavus when we were there, and who are still around. What a fun adventure it was, at least for me…and I hope that one or two of these names will be familiar to you.
I started with Bob Esbjornson ’41...he was in his second year at Gustavus when we arrived in 1951. He vividly remembers the first day with some of us. It was Christianity (of course now it is Religion 101) and Bob asked each student what he or she wanted to learn. This one fellow looked up and said “Butter. I’d like to know about butter in the Bible.” Bob said he was too flustered even to answer but later realized he had missed a great opening into the dietary laws of the Hebrews and the concept of purity. (Maybe butter does fit with Rand’s idea of liberal arts.) I had an incredible and yet wrenching time with Esby last year as he prepared to move into the assisted living place where he now resides. His daughter-in-law insisted that he had to get rid of a major portion of his library (we all know what it is like moving books). And so Esby sat on his couch and I handed him book after book—this one went in the “give away” stack that one in the “maybe” pile, and then there were the “saves.” Almost every book had a story, an assessment, a comment about the author. It was an amazing window into the academic life of a professor. Bob’s mind is clear; his voice also—but oh, his body has really given out.
And then I wandered down Valley View Road just south of the campus, where a whole string of faculty were building houses while we were at college. First off there was Chet and Marian (Swanson ’41) Johnson. He spent years in the depths of the geology basement in Old Main and now continues to be in top form with his quiet and wry comments as he curls his lips in amusement. I recently sat with him in the Interpretive Center at a noontime session focusing on the great Swedish botanist, Linneaus. Being with him is a liberal arts encounter in itself.
Across from the Johnsons’ house is where Bea Martinson lives. She’s the widow of Floyd Martinson—how often have you thought of his family course and wanted then to add your personal paragraph to his notes? During our first year at GAC the Martinsons were in their fifth and last year of being dorm residents. But it was our assortment of famous chapel pranks that she wanted to chuckle about. Bea is on the Board of Friends of the Linneaus Arboretum.
Those of you who climbed the stairs in Main to the chem. labs will remember Arne Langsjoen ’42. Like the other retired faculty with whom I visited, he savors with great satisfaction his luck in having spent his life in a small college situation. Oh sure, he remembered Dick DeRemee and Dick Lundborg—“They were Kappa Sigs weren’t they? ―good guys,” but then, he added, “all the students I had seemed to be good people―they wouldn’t have been in chemistry if they weren’t good.” Arne and Carol (Gaustad ’42) lost the entire north wall of their house in the ’98 tornado (we’ve since added an ’06 tornado which hit the rural sides of the town) and now live in the house at the foot of Valley View where the Ross Bloomquists ’45 ’45 once lived.
And across from Langsjoens is Doniver Lund’s home where his widow, Gene, is as perky and energetic as ever. An amazing woman—last spring she was out in our woods tapping for maple sap and I suspect she’ll be out with us again this year.
Somehow I missed connecting with Vic Gustafson ’42, who also once lived on that street and whom I regularly bump into in St Peter. Of course, there are a few others (they must have been hardly out of their teens when they were our teachers) like George Forell and Art Glass ’43 who are here and there and around.
As to our peers…didn’t get anything from the alumni office so if you don’t approve of the above send in your news/comments to DeRemee. In a burst of enthusiasm to get at some kind of news I did call Bill Albertson. He can’t decide if he is with us or with the ’56ers. Remember he’s the one who came to our 40th at the Mankato Golf Club and upon getting his gin and tonic asked for a clergy discount! Only Bill. By the way, he no longer has a regular church but is eager and willing to do weddings and keeps hoping that some couple will come along wanting to exchange vows while sky diving. Any takers? In talking with Bill I mentioned the recent demand for India paintings (info gleaned from Antiques Road Show). Last week there was an excited call from Bill. He had rummaged in his basement, dusted off his 1954 Calcutta purchase of a Jamini Roy painting and had just sold it for a thousand percent return on his $9.00. He’s invited me to lunch! And I’ve gone out to the granary and rescued our Jamini Roy that has sat out there for years.
Enuf…doing this letter has given me a chance to say some overdue thank yous and to again appreciate what we had a chance to experience in the first half of the ’50s. It has also made me glad that this letter is normally DeRemee’s job!
But…Earl Austin has promised one of his recent prints to anyone who can not only track down Jerry Tweton, but also get a peep (a tweet?) out of him. Loie Wall Hellberg called from San Diego to get a receipe for skorpar which I didn’t have but my wife could deal with. And isn’t it time for another report from Mayor Marilyn Anderson Stephan in Berkley, Michigan? And I’ve just realized that Dean Abrahamson lives only four houses up the street from our house in Minneapolis where I stay while teaching. But we somehow manage to avoid each other.
Finally…stay alert…one never knows what may come next. This last week I encountered a new one in my 46 years at Augsburg. In the first major test of the term one fellow correctly identified the given name and for its significance he stated: “This was important because I remembered it.” That deserved full credit!
1955 Guest Letter Writer
Alumni Awards Announced
The Alumni Association announces the following 2007 awards selected by the Alumni Board of Directors. Greater Gustavus Award – Given to those who, by deed, have notably advanced and aided Gustavus Adolphus College: Russ and Jan (Ledin) Michaletz ’74 ’74
Distinguished Alumni Citations – Recognizes outstanding and exceptional professional achievement
Paul Peterson ’94, principal, St. Peter High School, Minnesota State High School Principal of the Year.
Margaret Anderson Kelliher ’90, house speaker, Minnesota House of Representatives.
First Decade Awards – Recognizes early professional achievement
Jennifer Pleuss Spande ’97, diplomat, Political and Economic Section, U.S. Embassy, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Alexander Hill ’97, senior scientist, Medtronic, Inc.
The Greater Gustavus Award and Distinguished Alumni Citations will be presented at the Alumni Banquet on Saturday, May 26, and the First Decade Awards will be presented during Homecoming Weekend, October 13.
Minnesota colleges and universities competed during February in the Campus Energy Wars. The Campus Energy Wars challenge was to see which campus conserved the most energy throughout the month. Gustavus students and faculty made a concerted effort to change their behaviors by turning off unused lights in their dorm rooms or classrooms, unplugging appliances, and lowering thermostats to reduce energy consumption. The culminating event was a campus competition to pedal stationary bicycles to see who could pump the most energy into an electrical generator supplied by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
Linnaeus Symposium Celebrates Birth of Carl Linnaeus
In celebration of the 300th anniversary of the birth of Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist who established genus/species used today, Gustavus will host its second Linnaeus Symposium: Linnaeus @ 300 on Wednesday, April 25, 2007. The daylong conference will feature presentations by ethnobotanists, Mark Plotkin and Paul Alan Cox, Linnaean scholar and impersonator Hans Odoo, and author Paula Robbins, who has written about Pehr Kalm, one of Linnaeus’s “apostles” to America. The day will also include tours of Linnaeus Arboretum, a special photography exhibition by Anders Bjorling ’58, music, dance, and a Scandinavian feast. The festivities begin at 10:00 a.m. and close at 9:00 p.m., so save the date and join us at Gustavus this spring. For more information, go to <gustavus.edu/arboretum/> or call 507/933-6181.
Building Bridges Diversity Conference
The 12th annual student-led “Building Bridges” Diversity Conference is scheduled for March 10, 2007. The conference is titled “Finding Your Voice: Putting Awareness Into Action.” The Conference focuses on the power we have within our society, culture, and world to provoke and promote change. The keynote speaker this year is Lisa Ling, special correspondent for the Oprah Winfrey Show, host of the award-winning documentary series Explorer on the National Geographic Channel, and contributor to the Oxygen Network. For more information, go to: <gustavus.edu/diversity/buildingbridges/>.
Upcoming Alumni Events
- Building Bridges Conference - March 10
- Tucson Gustie Gathering - March 16
- Phoenix Gustie Gathering - March 17
- Easter Bunny Breakfast at Mt. Olivet Church in Minneapolis - March 17
Sun City Gustie Gathering - March 18
- Linnaeus Symposium - April 25
- Gustavus Association of Congregations – April 28
- MAYDAY! Peace Conference: Community Food Security - May 2
- Celebrating 75 years of the Gustavus Choir - May 5
- Celebrating 75 years of Theatre Reunion - May 11-12 <gustavus.edu/alumni/reunion/Theatre/index.cfm>
- Class of 1962 - 45th Anniversary Reunion – May 25 & 26
- Class of 1957 - 50th Anniversary Reunion – May 25 & 26
- 50 Year Club Reunion – May 26