Class of '58
January 2008

50-Year Reunion

Reunion dates ― May 29-30, 2008

Dear ’58ers,

            I usually begin a class letter with a weather report (fitting for people our age), but not this time.  If you live in the Midwest, you are inside your home.  If you live in Florida, California or Arizona, you are laughing.  And, it is not funny.

            Remember, on May 30 and 31, 2008, the weather will be perfect, 70 degrees during the day, maybe 60 in the evening, sunny, a gentle breeze moving through the new leaves, the fragrance of spring flowers everywhere, classmates greeting you, lots of laughter, exaggerated stories, maybe some confessions and a good time to re-establish friendships, and make some new ones.  How could you miss it?

            One of the disadvantages of a long-time class agent is the absence of new stories.  But, here is one.  In a conversation with Karen Mattson Bruning, I learned about the history of the nursing program at Gustavus in our time.  She says, “I was in the three-year Bethesda Hospital/Gustavus nursing program (the next to last year of that program).  I graduated from Bethesda in 1957, attended the University of Minnesota for a year and later graduated from St. Francis University with a B.A. in nursing.  I loved even our short time at Gustavus and always wished that the four-year program had developed a couple of years earlier.  Even though we only spent one semester at Gustavus, we did make some good friendships.  I have always felt part of Gustavus, as all three of my children graduated from GA, Kathy Sutherland Lutes ’84, Steven Sutherland ’87, and Mary Sutherland Ryerse ’90.  While our nursing class never felt the closeness of being from GA, as we were there for such a short, intense time.  I would love to come to the reunion, if you feel we should be part of it.”  Yes, Yes, you should!

            We identified some other nursing majors that started with us in the fall of 1954, Barbara Holslin Haag, Meryl Nelson Jessen, Yvonne Kuske Tandberg, Marlys Chelgren Hebaus and Lenida Jepson Sandahl.

            I discovered I was contacting the right people since Karen is president of that 1957 nursing class and Lenida Sandahl is the editor of the annual Bethesda alumnae newsletter.  Here are some of her comments:

“Yes, I was one of the 57 nursing students in the fall of 1954 at Gustavus.  We probably carried one of the heaviest loads of all freshmen, 17 credits, including anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and chemistry.  We remember Doc Glass ’43, Arne Langsjoen ’42 and Ward Tanner.  Alfredella Noleen taught us how to make “gruel” in “Nutrition for Nurses,” a skill we never used!  We also remember two women in each room in Wahlstrom Hall.  Forty-one of us graduated from Bethesda in September of 1957, just about the time the rest of you became seniors!  We went to school 12 months a year for three years.  100% of our class passed the State boards for our RNs on the first writing!

Bethesda nurses began an affiliation at Gustavus with the class of 1948 and continued through the class of 1958 (GA 1959).  In the fall of 1956, the diploma nursing program began with the transition to the four-year degree program.  The first Gustavus nurses graduated in 1960.  They came to Bethesda for their clinical experience in their junior and senior years.

After graduation, Bethesda nurses worked all over the country in many different fields, including obstetrics, medical-surgical, emergency room, pediatrics, geriatrics, psych nursing, you name it!  Marlys Hebaus and Barbara Haag entered the occupational health field.  Bethesda nurses have always had an excellent reputation for giving excellent care.  Gustavus gave us a solid foundation in the sciences and in the Christian spirit of giving.  Thank you, Gustavus!”

            Wow, 57 prospective nursing majors with us in the fall of 1954!  I had no idea that the nursing program was that large.  (But then, I am not sure as a freshman that I knew anything!).  I knew Nancy Johnson Peterson was, and is, a nurse, but I did not see her name on the Bethesda list.  So, another email and Nancy verified that there were two tracks for nursing 50 years ago.  One, for those who took two years at Gustavus and then two and three-quarters years at the University (graduating in March of 1959) graduated with a Bachelors of Nursing.  This choice was often made by people who wanted to teach nursing, work in public health or pursue advanced degrees.  For example, Barbara Anderson Johnson taught psych nursing at the University of Toronto until she retired.


            Probably for you, as me, Gustavus was the first of many places we’ve called home between our “home paternal” and “home eternal.”  A place where we were nourished, nurtured, challenged and to which we were always welcomed back.  It is also a place where life-long friends were made―people who knew our history, struggles, joys and sorrows and who served our support system and we theirs.  And another plus, for some of us, Gustavus was the place we met the one who would become the “love” of our lives.

            Those of us in pre-nursing 50 years ago were torn between wanting to stay at Gustavus or move on to our next adventure.  That adventure was well provided for us at the University of Minnesota’s large teaching hospital.  Gustavus must have done a good job in preparing us, as all faired quite well in that arena―a fact, in my case, that would have stunned Docs Glass and Lindeman.

            There were seven of us from Gustavus in the program:  Barbara Anderson Johnson, Jo Olmanson Pedersen, Lois Ruotsinoja Swenson, Jean Hagglund Parshall, Audrey Peterson Johnson, Sally Clausen Taylor and myself.  There were 52 of us in the class, all 52 female back then―clad in stiff starched uniforms and sparkling white laced shoes―a sight to behold.  It was a whole new experience of challenge, struggle and, of course, making more life-long friendships.  But, I would guess that none of us have forgotten our two years at GA, the profs who challenged us and the friendships we made.

            Thanks to Karen, Lenida, and Nancy for educating me on the nursing program.  I hope all of you consider this 50th reunion as your reunion of our beginning together.  And to all non-graduates who were part of our class, welcome to the reunion!  There are 32 non-grads on our mailing list of 188 and they participate in the Annual Fund at the same rate as the graduates.  Well done!

            Thanks to those of you who have responded to my call for class letter contributions.


            Some thoughts about life after Gustavus, including retirement and our reunion.

            One more semester and we will be together again, renewing acquaintances in the class of ’58.  We should have had a get together before we graduated to share our vision for 2008; any thoughts I might have had back then would bear little resemblance to reality today.  How could we possibly imagined the computer technology available today, communications by email, data bases and data analyses, on-line libraries, and so much more?

            I remember the first long week and the first long semester, and how the next four years seemed like an eternity.  Astronomical time may be precise and regular, but emotional time is definitely not, however; each of the next three years seemed to go faster, and the last 46 years faster yet.  Could it be that life got to be more fun? Or more busy?  Maybe both.

            I left Gustavus with a big contract in my pocket ($3600 a year to teach and coach) and thoroughly enjoyed my first two years in Dassel, MN.  After three more years in three different high schools, a latent undergraduate desire to go to grad school became a driving force, resulting in a career, which included computer modeling, that I would never have imagined 50 years ago.

            One of my faculty colleagues passed away this past summer, and I was struck by the comments speakers made at the memorial service.  No one mentioned his significant academic accomplishments; the focus was on his life as a person, a husband, a father, and grandfather who took his grandson fishing.  I’m not suggesting that overlooking career accomplishments should be the norm, since all of you made significant contributions in your professions, but it did remind me that the most significant impact that we can have in this world may well be in the area of human relationships.  Gustavus reinforced that in me, and from what I read in the Quarterly, it may be even more emphasized in the Gustavus of 2008.

            While our class of over 180 was not as close knit as my high school class of 16 in Kensington, MN, I feel a sense of oneness with you as a group.  The good news about each of you in the class letters has made me happy, and I always feel an inner sadness when I read that another earthly life is finished and there will be one less at our reunion.  We have a milestone gift to share with each other on May 30-31―the gift of our time.  With just one semester left before reuniting, enjoy each retirement week of six Saturdays and a Sunday before becoming classmates on campus again.


The North Country

            I had always dreamed and read about the North Country.  But it never became a reality until 1957.  Vic Gustafson’s ’41 one-credit camping and outing course inspired me to sign up for a canoe trip he was leading to the Quetico-Superior Wilderness.  My friend, Andy Grant Janousek, was the only other female in our group of Gusties.  Vic could not know then how much that trip would help direct and inspire my life.

            Gunflint Lake was our departure point, and while the canoes were being loaded, I stretched my eyes across the shimmering blue lake, eager to paddle and wondering what lay ahead.  A voyageur at heart, my connection to the wilderness was beginning to take concrete form.  My soul responded to the sustenance and healing that nature offered.  And I learned that living simply brought freedom and satisfaction.  There was no going back.  Since that time, I have never been without a canoe, and this year I am buying a new canoe, replacing the aluminum clunker that my children took naps in so many years ago.  The North Country, a place for the spirit and a physical reality, is my home.


Career Phases, Or What Does A Philosophy Major Do

            My checkered college career seems to have carried over into my professional career.  In Phase I, I was conventional.  After graduate work at the University of Minnesota, I taught philosophy for nine years at Knox College and Western Michigan University.  I consider these years (1964-73) to be some of the most dynamic and innovative in our universities.  Students were activists and profs were experimenting with teaching techniques and new material.  Phase II was less conventional.  I bought a farm (sort of) and like many others at that time, I was going back to nature.  My plan was to farm in the summer and make furniture in the winter.  Two things made that a bit dicey, the oil crisis of 1974 and my family’s desire not to live in poverty.

            Phase III was a return to the conventional as I started with Baker furniture, a manufacturer of very high end furniture and was plant manager at facilities in Michigan and North Carolina before assuming the position of vice president for manufacturing.  (This proves again that a philosophy major prepares you for any career, except farming.)  I had the opportunity to travel extensively in South America and Asia, sourcing parts and overseeing installations in Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons hotels.  My biggest challenge was the successful construction of a furniture plant in Samerung, Indonesia.  Now in Phase IV, I am still on the farm, with a workshop where I make Japanese Shoji lights and exquisite tables and benches.

            As an old friend, I asked Don what does a philosophy major do when he leaves the classroom?  The above is his answer to my question.

            Let’s take a break for some news…Noel Behne retired from full, part-time employment as senior vice president with First Community Bank on December 31.  But, he will continue to contract work for the bank in 2008 and join the bank’s Community Advisory Board.  Noel serves on many non-profit boards, but two that are special to him are ones that deal with economic development endeavors of two Indian tribes in New Mexico, “which are really rewarding because we see first hand the job and wealth creation on the Indian Reservations”.  He also continues to serve as President of Acts (a Chance to Sow) Worldwide to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world, with a current focus on Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria.

            Noel says “I am looking forward to attending our 50th class reunion May 30-31, and hope to see and renew old times with a good number of classmates.  This is “our time” and ‘our year” to celebrate the many blessings the Lord has poured out to us over the fifty years since we graduated from Gustavus.  May we now have the unmitigated joy to reminisce with each other, and the generosity to give back to Gustavus during this reunion time?  I think so because this is “our time” and “our year.”  God bless.”

            I am very sad to report the passing of Janet Neidt Bjorling on January 4.  Jan had fought a courageous battle with cancer and died in her home, surrounded by her family.  She retained her sense of humor and care for others until the end, sharing memories with her family and friends.  Jan and Anders were married shortly after graduation and then moved to Sweden.  They returned after four years and opened Swedish Kontur Imports, first in their garage and then in downtown St Peter.  Jan’s business savvy, taste in selecting inventory and care for her customers made their store a popular stop for visitors to St Peter.  She will be missed by her family, friends, and classmates.

            Ellwood Johnson made his annual visit to Minnesota last summer and had the opportunity to visit with John and Elizabeth (Johnson ’59) Dahl, Herb and Sylvie Lundeen and Darrell and Patti Lorsung.  He also was able to spend some time in beautiful downtown Lowry.  He will journey from Mesa to attend the reunion.  Carl Johnson is a retired teacher in Sheboygan, WI.  His son, Tim ’93, also a Gustie, is a tenured professor of political science at the University of Minnesota.  Glenn Sampson continues as executive director of the Powderhorn Community Council in Minneapolis.  Jane Schonberg Chase will miss the reunion as she will be with her family on Finger Lakes, NY at that time.  Hoping to come are Ruth Raarup Mitchell, Ruth Lind Christenson, Norene Heine Becker, and Judy Hanson Turnlund.

            Marcia (Amundson) and Chet Janasz are retired, but Marcia plans and escorts trips and tours for the Osseo Retired Educators and has done so for the last fifteen years.  As a result they have traveled to Nova Scotia, Alaska and many other places.  Roger and Judy Roettger are retired in Florida, but plan this spring to rent out their house for a month and rent a motor home and travel Arizona, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico concentrating on the National Parks like Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon.  John and Dorothy (Rylander ’59) Johnson spend three months each winter on Mustang Island in the Padre Islands.  Don Loomer recently retired from the ministry, and was the first classmate to submit a Reflections piece for the reunion.  (More on this later!)

            Linda Eckblad Knochenmus hoped to make the reunion, but an important organization in her life has claimed the reunion weekend.  She and Darwin ’60 are active in Friendship Force, an organization established to bring world peace through cross cultural, one to one home visits around the world.  They also volunteer in Baton Rouge inner city schools providing teaching, reading, and encouragement to teachers.  Sonya Johnson Pitt retired as a medical technologist three years ago and now volunteers as a foster grandmother in the local schools teaching biology and algebra.


            I believe in a liberal arts education and having a background in teaching also helps.  You know how to research, prepare, present, engage, and evaluate, all while having the time of your life.  These attributes are important to any career.  As a visiting professor at Gustavus during January Term for the past three years, I have seen my career experiences and results come full term.  In my class on nonprofit management, are students with Dollars for Scholars scholarships from their local communities as well as students who have scholarships, managed by Scholarship America, from the companies where their mom or dad works.  In many cases, these awards have been matched by Gustavus through Scholarship America’s Collegiate Partners Program.  Today’s students are more like we Traditionalists than any generation before them.  They know service, and they understand the responsibilities of leadership.

More news about Susan Elam O’Connor, who lives in New Brunswick in the farm house built by her great, great grandfather around the time of the Civil War.  Susan and her husband are now in the process of restoring a timber-frame barn on the homestead.  Susan plays violin in the area orchestra, is first violinist in the Boundary Lakes String Quartet and is an avid cross-country skier.

Lois Walfrid Johnson, author of the Viking Quest series, recently received a Bronze Medal in the 2007 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards – Multicultural Fiction, for her fifth Viking Quest Novel, The Raider’s Promise.  These awards are intended to bring increased recognition to exemplary children’s books and their creators to support literacy and life-long reading.  Professionals in six countries helped Lois with the research for her books.  Her characters travel from Ireland to Norway, Iceland and Greenland, then sail with Leif Erickson to what is now known as L Anse aux Meadows, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Newfoundland.  Lois is grateful for the Lord’s help and encouragement.

Charles Busch is now a resident at Riverhaven in Springfield, MN.  Several of his paintings were displayed in an art show this fall.  His family has many of his beautiful works from years gone by.  Check page 150 of your 1958 yearbook to remember his great smile!

Joanne Nelson McCarthy is leaving soon for a trip to Africa, including a nine-day safari and a chance to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  We hope she will return in time to be able to attend the reunion.

John Sternaman is semi-retired with his asphalt company in Black River Falls, WI and has a granddaughter, Michelle, attending Gustavus.

How about some reunion dates, deadlines and projected goals!

May 30 and 31 should be on your calendar!

            February 1 –15:  Our goal is that every classmate will have an invitation to attend the reunion from another classmate.  The committee continues to work to meet that goal by early February.

            March 1:  We invite classmates to submit a page on “reflections” for the 50th anniversary booklet published by the College.  “Reflections” might be your thoughts or emotions fifty years after graduation or your remembrances and reflections as you choose to remember them or thoughts you wish to share with your classmates.  Please send your “reflections” to Marlys Johnson of the reunion committee at or to her home, 726 Lower Johnson Circle, Saint Peter, MN 56082.  If you have questions, phone Marlys at 507-934-6135.

            Mid-April:  The College will mail to you the 50th Anniversary Booklet containing the names of all classmates, information about the class, short biographical sketches of everyone (remember to return THAT form to the Alumni Office!) and the “reflections” your classmates submitted.

            Mid-April:  The College will send you the registration forms for the reunion.  They should be returned to the Alumni Office by the middle of May or no later than May 23.  Our goal is to have 60% of our class attending.  You and your friends can make that goal a reality!  As Aaron Moen said, “we have a gift to share with each other, the gift of our time.”

            Today:  Information on housing should accompany this class letter.

            Thanks to those classmates who have made a pledge or a contribution to one of the class projects or to the Gustavus Alumni Fund.  Our goal is 80% participation, a record for our class and for the reunion.  We are currently at 35%, so the challenge is there!

            Half of you have increased your contribution this year for our 50th reunion to help meet the goals of our two projects, Christ Chapel Accessibility and the 1958 Scholarship Fund.  We encourage the other half to consider digging a little deeper to support one or both of the projects.

            Quoting Noel Behne, “May we now have the joy to reminisce with each other, and the generosity to give back to Gustavus during this reunion time?  This is ‘our time’ and ‘our year.’”


Owen Sammelson

1958 Class Agent

Campus News

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.