Class of '55
January 2009

Dear Classmates of 1955,

New Year greetings from Fair Oaks Ranch and the Texas Hill Country.  Fair Oaks Ranch is a 36-hole golf course community of 5,000 residents located north and west of San Antonio, off Interstate 10 near the town of Boerne (Burn-e).

You may be wondering why Vic Schlefsky is writing this class letter.  The reason being that Dick DeRemee and I have exchanged several e-mails and he asked if I would be willing to write the January letter.

The alumni office informed me that there was no class news and I was on my own.  Therefore I would like to share a few memories and observations.  All tied back to four wonderful years at Gustavus.  For me these years were life altering.

First Impressions, Serendipity, In Remembrance:

The first Gustie I met upon arrival was Tom Mann.  We roomed together all four years, stayed in touch following graduation up until Tom’s untimely passing.

Freshman year our room was on the third floor of Uhler Hall.  The following three years we moved to our first floor command post joining George TorreyCliff Straka was with us for a semester (more on George and Cliff later).

Starting with our sophomore year a cute blonde with a great disposition entered our world.  Margie Wise ’54 had a double-major, physical education and Tom Mann.  Tom and Margie were Gustie sweethearts and married immediately following graduation.  Unfortunately they both fell victim to terminal cancer.  Tom first and Margie a few years later.  They are together in a quiet plot off the county road separating Burnsville and Lakeville.

God is good—sometimes I wonder about the ‘fair’ part.  I sure miss Tom and Margie.

Graduation and a Successful Career:

I was recruited on campus by AXA/Equitable (now French owned) for a management training position (can you imagine a ten month training program today).  The criteria; to remain single throughout the ten month training and a willingness to relocate frequently thereafter.

I trained in Oklahoma City, relocated to Albuquerque, NM; Portland, Oregon; New York City (Rockefeller Center); Stamford, CT; Chicago (Oak Brook and North Michigan Ave.) IL; and back to San Antonio, TX.  In between was military service in Arkansas, and summer reserve training in Tacoma, WA.

I also traveled extensively when assigned to corporate and regional headquarters in New York and Chicago.  Quite a journey for a blue collar kid from Chaska who hitchhiked to St. Peter and walked up the hill lugging two large suitcases and found a future.

Gustie Football:

Tom Mann frequently mentioned the 1954 football trip to Abilene, TX and the game with McMurry College.  Many years later at a sales rally in Rockford, IL I met Grant Taeff, the football coach at Baylor.  He was the McMurry coach in 1954.  We discussed the Gustie game and his recollection was as follows:  hot and windy, Gustavus showed up in dark long sleeved jerseys.  The Gusties were “gassed” by half time.  Holly was a fine football coach, but not much on weather.

Our two children graduated from Texas Tech in Lubbock which is in far west Texas.  On a visit to Lubbock in 1997, I made a side trip to Abilene, found the McMurry campus and stood on the 50 yard line and thought “if only Holly had known about short sleeve cotton tear away jerseys.”

Gustie Basketball:

My plan in attending Gustavus was to play basketball.  Early on it became evident with Gus Young’s recruiting that I needed to focus on baseball and go to plan B; get a good education.

However, I rode Gus’s bench for several years and was a loyal practice player.

As regional manager in Chicago, I traveled to Kansas City.  People there who remembered the NAIA Basketball tournaments would say “Oh yes, the school from Minnesota with the best Pep Band in the entire tournament.  Was Phil Eckman the Concert Master or First Chair?

While attending a Class Reunion, I visited with Evelyn Sponberg Young ’33 and said, “You probably don’t remember me”  Her reply, “Vic, you were one of Gus’s boys, and I remember all of Gus’s boys.  You boys made us so proud and Gus was so proud of his teams because they made Gustavus proud, and wasn’t it great fun to play for Gus.”  Gus Young had flair, remember those multicolor basketballs?

The Gustavus Education:

I’ve had so many positive life experiences because of my Gustavus education.  Here are some examples related to specific classes and professors.

The final exam for Rufus Logan’s upper level economics class consisted of five Bluebook questions.  Question #5 was in two parts:  1) Explain fiscal and monetary policy and 2) Explain in detail how the federal government might use both in stimulating a weak economy.

The New York Times reports that 30% of the U.S. Congress today could not answer those questions correctly.  I wonder how ’43 with his Harvard MBA would do.

I also remember Doniver Lund’s American history class and the segments on segregation in the Old South.  While working in Oklahoma and Texas I observed segregation first hand:  I paid a poll tax to vote and drank from separate drinking fountains, married a Hispanic gal with a Coke Bottle Figure and was told it would limit my career potential.

Ironically, in New York, we were welcomed as a progressive young couple; Jewish boy with an Italian wife.  I’ll bet that I hold the class record for attending Bar Mitzvahs and Jewish weddings.  Still have my Yamaichas, one black and one white.  In order to host a Long Island Bar Mitzvah, the mother of the Bar Mitzvah boy needed three outfits; one for the Temple ceremony, one for the reception dinner and one for the dancing.  Great stuff!

Defending GAC:

I wonder how many classmates have been confronted with defending Gustavus.  The setting:  New York City, 45th floor Chartroom over-looking Rockefeller Center.

The confrontation by a Yaleie:  “Gustavus Adolphus College, never heard of it, is that a toothpaste college like Colgate?”  My answer:  “anyone with a good education would already know the answer.”

At that moment I thought of speech class at Gustavus and Mrs. Evelyn Anderson ’29 saying “go for it,” so I did!

George Torrey and I had a great time in speech class; we debated and challenged one another and others.  That class was a springboard for me, as I joined the Toastmasters in New York and was very comfortable with public speaking.  Public speaking is a skill essential for advancement.

I can still visualize the Andersons strolling across campus together, looking like transplanted thespians from New York’s East Village.

Some Odds and Ends:

Dick DeRemee is a published author.  His books are available via Amazon and his essays “From a Solitary Room” are excellent.

While serving on active military duty at Ft. Chaffee, AR I received a message “call Arlo Lien.”  Arlo was “cutting orders” and wanted to know my preferences, Germany or Japan?  Fortunately the Korean conflict ended and I returned to an Active Reserve Unit.  I did have dinner with Arlo and Patti (Monk) Lien in Ft. Smith.

This was 1957 when North Little Rock High was being integrated by President Eisenhower.  Arlo and Ike brought in the 101st Airborne to Ft. Chaffee, I remember it well!

Will the New Gustie Football Coach utilize Don Swanson?   I’ll bet that Swanee knows most of the Minnesota high school football coaches on a first name basis.

How about Joan Bonn Wright?  I listened closely to her talk at our last reunion.  She evaluated the available male talent while at Gustavus and made John Wright ’54 her #1 draft choice; then signed him to a long term contract.

Ralph Sonday gave out a quality print of a Minnesota winter landscape at a reunion; I have it framed and hanging in our loft.  It is a nice reminder of Minnesota snow.  Considering that its 77 degrees today in Fair Oaks, thanks Ralph.

I wonder about classmates.  Did Dick Lundborg watch the high school basketball championship in Hawaii and a skinny bi-racial kid named Barry?

You never know, over a Labor Day weekend on New York’s Fire Island, while walking the beach I met the following people:  Eartha Kitt (singer), Herman Wouk (author of Cain Mutiny) and Carl Reiner (film producer).  In swim suits they looked rather ordinary J

George Torrey and I continue our friendly competition.  George leads in all categories including the tie-breaker:  “hip replacements.”  George leads with two and I only have one.  George was a great roomy, study first and fun second; always strive for excellence!

George and I are Marchers, in Yiddish, “Big Shots.”  The last time I visited with George in Arizona, the two Gustie Big Shots informed the girls that we were taking them to an upscale restaurant in Chandler.  The girls got all “gussied up” and ready to go; “hold on we said” as the Big Shots checked out discount coupons in the East Valley paper.

Cliff Straka was a good roommate and the best athlete in our class.  Cliff was a natural in football, baseball, basketball and swimming.  Many years after graduation I was relieved to observe that Cliff was human after all.  His golf swing was on par with Obama’s bowling.

Some Final Thoughts:

I was very conscious of expenses at Gustavus because my father gave me this admonition:  “we are making a big sacrifice, don’t mess it up.”

As I recall my semester bill:  tuition, room and board was $600.00 and the total cost for four years $6,000.00.  Value?  Priceless!

Goals For 2009:

To shoot my age on the golf course.  The plan:  to strengthen the inner core via Pilates reformer classes 3x weekly, along with weekly weight training and a move up to the senior tees.

The challenge:  getting roomy George Torrey to “attest to my score.”  George is a CPA and by the rules; no mulligans, no gimmie putts, no rolling the ball to improve the lie.

Need to call George and set up a date for my review.  I talked to George, he says, “hello to the class of 55.”

I hope you enjoyed this letter!  I sure had fun writing it―thanks Dick, for the opportunity!

Vic Schlefsky

1955 Guest Letter Writer

Campus News

Haugen Named Head Football Coach

Peter Haugen was named the new head football coach in mid-December.  Haugen posted an 111-44 record in 15 years at Washburn High School.  He is the 17th head coach in the 93-year history of Gustavus football.  Haugen started the second week of January.

President Ohle is on the road!

Please join President Ohle, his wife Kris, and other Gustavus staff at a dessert reception near you.  President Ohle will be visiting 11 cities around the country in the coming months and all alumni, parents, and friends of the College are invited to attend a reception.  Dates are listed below or check out the Alumni website to find out more details.

Mustaphi Named Michelle Obama’s Deputy Press Secretary

Semonti Mustaphi ’03 was recently named Deputy Press Secretary for First Lady Michelle Obama.  Mustaphi worked on the Obama campaign, and has also held communications positions for three senators.  Mustaphi graduated with a political science and communication studies double major, danced in the Gustavus Dance Company, and was an Anderson Scholar.

Gustie Breakfast

Join us for the “Come on You Gustie” Breakfasts.  The breakfasts occur the third Wednesday of each month at the Doubletree Hotel, Minneapolis-Park Place, 1500 Park Place Boulevard (Hwy 394 and Hwy 100).  The breakfast runs from 8-9:30 and is $10 per person.  Reserve a spot by calling Don Swanson ’55 at (763) 533-9083.  February’s speaker will feature Kristofer Kracht communications; forensics head coach.

Gustie Pages

Want to support Gustie professionals?  In need of a doctor, pastor, or financial adviser?  Look in the Gustie Pages, an online database of Gusties who have submitted information about their profession.  Use the Gustavus network to meet your needs, or submit your professional information if you would like other Gusties to become your customers.  Go to the Gustie Pages at the alumni website.

Music Ensemble Tours

Both the Gustavus Wind Orchestra and the Gustavus String Orchestra will be touring at the end of January and beginning of February.  The Wind Orchestra will tour mainly in the Denver area, but will also make two appearances in South Dakota.  The String Orchestra will travel from Stillwater through Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

Upcoming Alumni Events

  • Chicago Alumni Gathering - Jan. 29, Hyatt Regency O'Hare, 7 p.m.
  • 100th Anniversary of Gustavus Men's Basketball - Feb. 7
  • Twin Cities Gustie Breakfast, Kris Kracht, communications; forensics head coach - Feb. 18
  • Tucson Chapter Gathering - Feb. 19, Westward Look Resort
  • Phoenix Chapter Gathering - Feb. 20, Millennium Resort, Scottsdale
  • Los Angeles Chapter Gathering - Feb. 28, Art Director's Guild, Studio City
  • Boston Chapter Gathering - Mar. 14, Hyatt Regency Cambridge
  • New York Chapter Gathering - Mar. 16, New York Marriott East Side
  • Twin Cities Gustie Breakfast, Ken Westphal, vice president for finance - Mar. 18
  • Seattle Chapter Gathering - Mar. 21, Trinity Lutheran Church, Freeland, WA
  • San Francisco Chapter Gathering - Mar. 23, Hotel Vitale
  • Twin Cities Gustie Breakfast, Steve Wilkinson, retiring men's tennis coach - Apr. 15