Class of '43
May 2007

Dear ’61 Classmates,

The close of another year has come for Gusties on campus and commencement and reunion weekend is here for Gustavus.  The campus is in finest spring dress at this time; it is really more beautiful than before the tornado struck although the stately trees are missed.  Our friends in the Class of ’62 will be having their 45th reunion now, and we hope that they will be very interested in the CD that Dale Gustafson had burned last year.

May 31 is the end of the Fund year.  Thank you so much for your usual kind gifts for our alma mater.   They are appreciated very, very much.  Please check your records and send in your gift before the deadline, May 31, if you have not yet participated in the drive.  This year, because our reunion gift records were held open until October 6, we have a short year during which to send in the annual pledge for the 2007 Fund.

On May 23, a photographic exhibit of pictures taken by Anders Bjorling ’58 (he and Jan (Neidt ’58) operate Swedish Kontur, the great Swedish shop in downtown St. Peter) will come to the Swedish Institute in Minneapolis.  The pictures are available for sale.  Dr. Arne and Miriam Lind Lagus, St. Croix Falls, WI enjoyed a special day at Gustavus on April 25.  It was one of the events on campus described in the last Quarterly to honor the internationally famed Swedish activist and botanist Carolus Linnaeus on the 300th anniversary of his birthday.  He is noted for naming and classifying plants and animals and, of course, for being the individual for whom the arboretum on campus is named.  The Laguses noted that campus put on a proud display with greenness and spring flowers.  As part of the activities, they toured the arboretum, viewed the photographic displays on campus and at the Art Center in downtown St. Peter, and learned a great deal at lectures.  At the banquet they saw Bruce and Sue Gray, Dr. Bernie Erling ’43, and Chet and Marian (Swanson ’41) Johnson (our professors).  This special celebration of the arboretum is to be an annual event.

Kathy Erlandsen, associate director of the Alumni Fund, has returned to the Gustavus Fund Office after the birth of a daughter.  She was a great help in making our reunion such a success and some of you met her at our gathering on campus.

Please do not forget about our class scholarship that was set up at our reunion.  We have only three years to fund it completely.  Thanks to those of you who have been generous supporters of that effort.


Robert John Van Deusen, White Rock, SC, passed away in South Carolina on April 14.  John held a bachelor’s degree from Gustavus with a major in psychology.  John also earned an M. Div. and certification in sign language.  Other awards were given to him including South Carolina Handicapped Man of the Year.  He was a retired senior information specialist with Blue Cross/Blue Shield.  At the time of our 35th reunion, Gustavus established an award in John’s name to honor a senior at the college who had to prevail through extraordinary challenges to earn a college degree.  John and his wife, Linda, came to campus that year to be part of the events associated with the establishment of the award and to participate in our class reunion.  Linda, the Class of 1961 sends deepest sympathy to you and to John’s sister, Betty.  Rev. Dr. James Wiberg, Silverthorne, CO gave a memorial address at the service at Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Columbia, SC.  I am asking the Alumni Office to attach a copy of his address to our class letter if possible.  If all of that cannot be used, a few quotes will be extended to you in our fall letter.

Jo Linnee, Winona, MN enjoys living near her son, Andy, and granddaughter Mary (“I get a lot of hugs.”)  Music continues to be a big part of her life; she sings with the church choir and the Winona Oratorio Chorus.  Jo volunteers for Habitat for Humanity and the local historical society, and she ushers at the Great River Shakespearean Festival, which will run from June 28 to August 11 and feature “Macbeth” and “As You Like It.”  Jo writes, “Pick your date and come down!”  During the year she traveled to Florida to visit Amy and Jim, to New Hampshire on an Elderhostel to study old American music and to Utah to enjoy the luxuries of a spa.  Lowell and Mary June Rasmussen, Nevis, MN celebrated their 50th anniversary this year.  They continue to head for the warmth of the weather and the closeness of family in Florida during the winter months.

Jim and Marilynn Clark Tanner, Hot Springs Village, AR made the trip to St. Peter for our 45th reunion in October and then visited family and friends in Iowa on the homeward trip.  In Arkansas they enjoy the symphony, concerts, theatre, golf, committee work at church and Jim’s duties on the Board of Scully Pointe.  During the year Jim and Marilynn loved a cruise on the great rivers of Europe for 12 days from Vienna to Amsterdam.  They also went to Florida, Montana, Arizona, Kentucky, Chicago (for their 45th anniversary and to see the King Tut exhibit), and to Pender Harbor, British Columbia.  Dr. Milt and Marilyn Heier Gustafson, Fort Washington, MD relate strongly to bone breaking problems.  Milt initiated Whitey Skoog to college teaching when we were on campus by receiving a broken leg in a physical education class.  Marilyn remembers vividly what a process it was to recover from rotator cup surgery in recent years.

Elsa Cornell, St. Peter, MN reports that they coordinated activities from coast to coast for the wedding of her only daughter, Elisabeth, to Philip in Maple Plain at the home of one of the Eckhoff sons.  Elsa loves the quiet of her condo near the Gustavus campus compared to the house on Minnesota Avenue.  The natural beauty of the surrounding area is very peaceful.  She continues to teach adults who are preparing for the G.E.D. and others who are learning to speak English.  She adds, “May 2007 be a year for increasing our awareness and response to our planet Earth―which is in dire need of ‘medical attention’!  We call the doctor and ask for solutions to our needs―hopefully, we’ll push the envelope’―and do for the planet what it needs in order to get well!!”  David and Jo Larson Karvonen, St. Paul, MN had a wonderful time on a trip to Italy in early spring.

Don Bjorklund, Gladstone, MI, missed our reunion because he had visitors from out of the country and was involved with a barbershop quartet show at that time.  Don was mentioned by Dale Gustafson, Manchester, CT as one of the ’61 classmates who sang with the Gustie Gammas who made the recording, which those of you who attended the reunion, received.  Dick Skogg, Duluth, MN shares a great Gustie memory:  “A history of the Gamma Male Chorus:  In the spring of 1958, our freshman year, Louis Bittrich ’59 put together the group to sing at the spring formal.  The performance piece was a Sigmund Romberg medley that was such a hit that we did it a second and maybe a third time before the end of the evening.  Jean Hilding Stuart ’60 accompanied us.  A few weeks later we did it a’cappella for all the girls’ dorms and the chorus became a Gamma tradition.  I recall doing a second medley for the fall Pepperpot, but do not recall the composer.”

Peter and Julie Nelson Neyhart, Juneau, AK, came to our 45th reunion.  To celebrate Julie’s mother’s 90th birthday, they all cruised along the Mexican Riveria.  They continue to locate terrific Elderhostel trips:  this year they went to Miami’s South Beach and Branson, in addition to a Grand Circle Tour of the Canadian Maritime Provinces.  In Juneau they enjoy having their sons and their families nearby, attending concerts and plays, work at their church and helping to welcome visitors who come on the cruise ships.  Julie is a docent at the Alaska State Museum.  Ned and Sue Larson, Scottsdale, AZ will return to Minnesota this summer for Ned’s 50th high school reunion and then for their first visit to the North Shore in about 30 years.  Ned remains employed a few days a week in insurance and he enjoys the game of golf.  Both he and Sue sing with the church choir, and, Ned says, “Sue’s involved in way too many volunteer jobs.”  Ned worked on a Habitat for Humanity project in Costa Rica in February and calls that “an awesome experience.”  Last year they spent a month in Europe, including a river cruise from Amsterdam to Vienna and then ten days in Austria and Switzerland.  In Switzerland they spent three days in Lauterbrunnen, where Ned and Dr. Mike Blaese camped during the summer between their sophomore and junior years at Gustavus (“Brought back some great memories”).

Lorene Johnson Johnson, Fairfield, TN wrote a letter collecting her thoughts in 2005 shortly after the death of Dr. Mary Towley Swanson, St. Paul.  (Lorene, I am sorry that your letter danced from file to file at my home until now!)  Lorene shared some memories of Mary:  “I particularly look back to her wedding day when Joanne (Larson) Karvonen and I watched the bridal consultant ‘crown’ Mary with the Swedish crown from the Swedish Institute.  It was an enlightening process to us, never having seen it done before.  Mary looked lovely wearing it and her wedding gown.  You mentioned receiving notes from her covered in sketches.  In one of my college scrapbooks there is a postcard from Mary with an original ‘Tomten.’  Because it was an original, I admired and liked her.”  Rev. John and Romona (Ulrich ’62) Swenson, Red Oak, IA recently toured the Boston and Glouster, MA area for ten days in connection with John’s officiating at a wedding there.  While they were in the area, their daughter, Kris, and grandson, Jack, were available to spend some time with them on the East Coast.

Dr. Maury and Jan Sanftner Elvekrog, Birmingham, MI were sorry to miss our 45th gathering in October, but they had a new granddaughter to visit in the Chicago area.  Kiera Elizabeth Kurt was born to Kirsten Elvekrog and Alan Kurt on September 28, 2006.  Jan and Maury really enjoy their grandchildren, which now total six.  Everyone was coming to their home for Christmas.  Some sad news was also part of this year:  Jan’s 97-year-old mother, Esther Sanftner, passed away in March in Iowa.  Jan continues to serve as a dean at Oakland University in the Detroit area, and she writes, “Best wishes for a successful Fund drive this year.  We are in the midst of a capital campaign at Oakland University and I know how much effort that takes.”  The Elvekrogs treasure their family visits in Chicago and Boston, and they traveled to Cancun last spring.  A trip to Scandinavia is planned for next year.  Bob ’60 and Jean Stenstrom Eidsvold, Sanibel Island, FL and Edina, MN, spend a fair amount of their summers in the Northland at a Wisconsin cabin.  Bob has completed the totem pole at the cabin which many of you may have heard about.  Jean traveled to Boston and Cape Cod with gal friends in September.  In Florida during the winter they interacted with construction repairmen who were correcting the roof and window damage done on their newly remodeled condo by the hurricane.  One day a roofer’s leg came through the ceiling!

Dr. Milt and Lorna Jafvert Reed, Friendswood, TX will be in the Twin Cities throughout May to welcome a new grandchild who will be born to their daughter, Sarah and Paul Newman.  They are enjoying babysitting responsibilities for Grace.  Lorna continues to do substitute teaching, including a “challenging” kindergarten class.  Milt remains a consultant at the Johnson Center in Houston.  They recently had a fun Gustie connection which I will share in our next class letter.  Harlan ’60 and Judy Fairbanks Sandberg, New Hope, MN can be found at the Golden Valley Byerly’s store from time to time.  We have had the pleasure of visiting with them there.

Enjoy a great summer with good health and happy adventures.  Thank you for all that you do for Gustavus.  The Class of ’61 is a classy group.

Your Class Agent,

Virgene Grack Sehlin

1961 Class Agent

News from Gustavus follows:

Gustavus Forensics Team Continues to be National Leader

The Gustavus Adolphus College Forensics Team participated in the 30th American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament (AFA-NIET) in April, earning a top 20 national ranking for the first time in school history.  Fourteen of the top 20 schools are Division I institutions.  The team has had a full schedule of tournaments this year, although the AFA-NIET is considered by many to be the most competitive collegiate forensics tournament in the country.

Refer a Gustie

Are there outstanding students in your church or neighborhood?  Are there sophomores or juniors in high school who are related to you or are friends of your family and whom you think could be a good fit at Gustavus?  Please send their names to the Office of Admission at Gustavus to help recruit the next generation of Gusties.

Gusties Gather!  Hosts Needed

Gusties around the world are called to gather on Sunday, September 30th.  The Alumni Board is designating this day as a day to intentionally connect with other Gusties.  In its inaugural year last August, 60 hosts planned events.  Want to do more to be connected with Gustavus?  Sign up to host a Gusties Gather! event for your neighborhood or with your friends.  Sign up by contacting Alumni Board member Dick Swenson ’62 at: or 612/824-8052.

A Royal Affair — Razzle Dazzle

Save the date!  Saturday, October 27, 2007 is Gustavus Library Associates’ biennial benefit for the Gustavus Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library.  It will be held at the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel in Bloomington, MN.

If you have volunteer time to offer . . .

If you have an auction item to donate, or know someone who does . . .

If you know someone who should receive an invitation . . .

If you would like to contribute financially to defray expenses . . .

We’ll welcome your call today!

Co-chairs:  Susan Engelsma Wilcox ’73, 952/944-5972 and Nacia Dahl ’92, 952/808-3212.

Rare Flower Bloomed at Gustavus

A Titan Arum or Amorphophallus titanum, otherwise known as a Corpse Flower, bloomed in the Department of Biology’s greenhouse.  The first known Corpse Flower to bloom in Minnesota, this rare flowering plant is found only in the tropical rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia.  The largest un-branched inflorescence in the world, the flower’s name comes from the repulsive scent it omits during and after its bloom period.  The plant’s cluster of flowers can grow to almost 10 feet.  “This plant is one of the wonders of the botanical world,” says Brian O’Brien, associate professor of chemistry who received and planted the seeds in 1993.

Upcoming Alumni Events

  • Class of 1962 - 45th Anniversary Reunion — May 25 and 26
  • Class of 1957 - 50th Anniversary Reunion — May 25 and 26
  • 50 Year Club Reunion — May 25 and 26



Robert John Van Deusen by the Rev. Dr. James W. Wiberg

The 17th day of April, 2007

Ebenezer Lutheran Church, Columbia, South Carolina

Linda and Betty, I bring you greetings from a number of John’s High School and College Friends:  Cameron (Scooter) Johnston and his wife Jeanette; Terry Denley and his wife MaryLee; The Rev. Dr. Paul K. Hanson and his wife Kay; your other college roommates:  Russ Raven and Dave Dahlgren.  I have talked with all of them this last weekend and they join with me in offering their condolences and prayers for your comfort and grief healing.

In addition, sitting with me today is Dr. Rex Adelberger, Physics Professor at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC and one of the members of the youth group at Augustana Lutheran Church in Washington D.C. to which all of us belonged in our younger days.  Rex especially remembered our “adoption” of John (JVD as we nicknamed him).  Four members of our youth group used to carry John around in a lawn chair as we moved from place to place in the church or traveled to conferences and retreats.  John soon became a part of our lives and of the many activities of our youth group.  Rex recalls a retreat in the Shenandoah National Park for our High School Church Group.  The planning committee had chosen Corbin Cabin which required a one and a half mile walk down the mountain from a parking lot along Skyline Drive.  At the time no one thought of the difficulty of getting John down that trail, but JVD’s friends carried him down the mountain in his lawn chair to the Corbin Cabin.

John’s adventures away from the loving care of his parents at home began when Scooter Johnston and Terry Denley invited JVD and me to join them in an off-campus living arrangement in a “walk-in” basement apartment near Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN.  Terry and Scooter had departed Washington, D.C. and started school in January and then invited the two us to follow the next September in 1957.

The bonds of fellowship, concern and love had started in John’s High School Years and continued now at College.  It was my task to cook for John and during that first year at school, JVD accepted my attempts at meal preparation with patience and good humor but not without practical jokes.  JVD had a mischievous sense of humor and so he schemed with Scooter and Terry to make a special pie for my birthday.  I am sure that it was designed as some sort of “tit-for-tat” for those “rubber meals” I often served up.  The day for the celebration came….the others cooked and then for dessert served this tasty looking apple pie.  They cut my piece first and invited me to enjoy.  As I ate and chewed and chewed and chewed and chewed, they were soon split with laughter and rolling on the floor for they had inserted a cut-up sock in the filling and I could not understand why this piece of pie I was chewing would not dissolve.

No one can ever say JVD that your physical afflictions took away your sense of humor.

At your wedding day to Linda held here at Ebenezer Church in Columbia, SC we all decided to have a little fun after the rehearsal dinner.  We were staying at a hotel with a large swimming pool, so all those who had come to Columbia joined in and gave you a royal dousing in the pool, clothes and all.  Coming out of the pool, JVD managed to crawl into my bed without my knowing it and thoroughly soaked my sheets with his saturated clothes and then remade the bed.  That night after soaking my PJ’s thoroughly when climbing into bed I ended up sleeping on the couch cushions in my underwear.

All of JVD’s friends and associates can tell similar stories of his love and laughter and good humor.

PK Hanson shares a story about JVD’s generosity.  During an internship in Berlin, Germany while John was in Seminary.  PK and Kay decided to endure that awful bureaucratic process of getting a marriage license in Germany and getting hitched in Berlin where Paul was also serving an Internship.  When John heard about the wedding he demanded the right to host the wedding rehearsal dinner since none of the family could be there to perform the honors.

Soon into his first year at GA John obtained an electric wheel chair and a motorized go-cart which became his prime means of transportation.  Unable to obtain a driver’s license John’s lawn mower engine powered go-cart served to get him around the town.  Come Friday night, off he would go to the St. Peter Movie Theatre, rain or shine.  Since the Go-Cart was a campus fixture one of the Frats decided that it would be great to build a float for the homecoming parade.  So they designed one to fit on top of JVD’s Go-Cart.  They failed, however, to plan for an exhaust outlet and nearly asphyxiated John in the process.

One of John’s great passions was Chess.  He and Scooter always had a chess table at the foot of his bed.  They both waited for the chance to sit and engage in another session of mental gymnastics.  Scooter and John continued these games of chess via the internet long after they had moved to other parts of the country.

In JVD’s senior year, Terry and Cameron and Russ Raven had graduated or left the campus and the “ol rummies” began to separate.  JVD then moved into the campus men’s dorm with David Dahlgren as his roommate.

There are many more such stories about JVD but suffice it to say JVD was afflicted with serious physical deformities, yet not overcome by them;  he was crippled, yet still in motion; he was overwhelmed yet possessed with hope and humor; he continued to challenge the “naysayers” and demonstrate the power of will when possessed by the love, power and justice available to all in Jesus of Nazareth.


John…..what a journey it’s been! 

Who would have thought one so physically impaired, one so afflicted in body,

could overcome so many obstacles!

Who would have thought one so overwhelmed with pain and suffering

could still possess such an indomitable spirit!

Who would have thought that out of you, despite twisted limbs and unresponsive muscles

            would come such a power of mind and will

Who would have thought

That teachers, professors, college administrators, students could be changed.

Because of you John:

            A little college in St. Peter, Minnesota was transformed;

Ramps built; doors made accessible;

Teacher’s and professors giving oral exams.

Students typing while you, John, dictated reports and term papers

With a little bit of effort and the redirection of some college resources,

You showed them what physically challenged people can do.

Your degrees testify to it:  B.A.; M.Div; certificate in sign language and honors and awards of all kinds----South Carolina Handicapped Man of The Year….to mention only few.

Because of you JVD….the NaySayers had to eat their words.

Many thought that people like you should be placed in “Homes for the Incurables”.

            But not you, John:

With loving parents like Bob and Ruth and a sister like Betty, who often 

Took a back seat because of your needs.

                        With a cadre of close friends in church and community you faced the formidable

Odds which life threw at you.

                        You faced these odds because of the love that is at work in the gospel of Jesus of

Nazareth to demonstrate to the world: LOVE, POWER, AND JUSTICE.

Paul Tillich’s little book by this title set the tone for your years of service


            I know you were motivated by His love, JVD, because, it was not just for yourself that you were struggling, but for all physically challenged people who needed ramps and elevators, changes in building codes, alterations to buses and trains and automobiles.

            You understood well that it takes power to accomplish these things and that people with power must be motivated to see the contributions that physically challenged people can make to society; you learned this from your parents, Robert and Ruth Van Deusen, who for years represented the Lutheran Church in Washington D.C. testifying before Senate and House Committees bringing the moral voice of the church to people with power on the Hill.

            You realized that institutions which oppress those who are specially challenged respond to people whose power is made manifest in love.  People can be energized and brought together around common goals which can improve the conditions and alter the obstacles that people must face in our society.

Robert John Van Deusen......I believe that because you have lived the world is a better place for physically challenged people.

Robert John Van Deusen…..May your tenacity, bravery and courage continue to be an inspiring force in the lives of all those who have known you.