Class of '61
November 2007

Dear Classmates of 1961,

A year ago we were basking in the warm glow of our 45th reunion gatherings.  Now those youngsters from ’62 have held their May reunion and have set enough records to be called “Class of the Century” at the Volunteer Leadership meeting in September.  Great going, Class of ’62!  Their success does not diminish the luster of our effort; in fact, I noted that their Heritage gift was very similar to our total of $1,544,842.72 in estate-related money given to President Peterson in a ceremonial check at our Saturday luncheon on campus.  Thank you so much to the classmates who have planned ahead and remembered Gustavus.

The new football stadium is a winner; it is hoped that the teams playing there can shine, too.  At homecoming there was standing room only as many returned to campus for reunions and to see football played on the new field.  Rumor has it that the views from the top of the stadium are terrific.  With the former stadium moved, the space vacated is ear marked for needed classrooms someday.  Social science classes, for example, are held in the old library building, a very crowded facility.  Business-related majors are the most sought by current students and many of those are taught in this building.

Energizing events abound before the holidays.  The Nobel Conference’s topic relating to the need for new sources of energy and global warming was very well received and extremely timely.  The Gustavus Library Associates Gala took place just before Halloween this year and it was well attended.  Auction items were also available on the internet for about a week prior to the event.  Christmas in Christ Chapel ushers in the Advent Season.  We hope to see some of you at one of these performances.

Results for the 2007 Gustavus Fund show that our class sent $67,524.39, with $29,231.88 channeled to unrestricted funds and the rest given for special use funds.  The 2008 volunteers’ booklet says, “Gusties will shine!  It’s what Gusties do.”  The Class of 1961 has been shining for many decades with high percentages of you sending consistent, generous gifts to the college.  Thank you very much from Gustavus—you are appreciated.  Some of you may be receiving calls from student volunteers; there was a concentrated student Phonathon from Oct. 7-18.

Our class scholarship needs continued support if we are to put together $25,000 as a base before the three-year deadline arrives.  The latest statistics that I received show that we have now donated over $12,000.  Please keep the effort in mind because after three years the contributions return to the general fund if we cannot accumulate the minimum amount for a permanent endowment.  Let’s make it a true Class of 1961 scholarship with every classmate participating at some level.  The base amount contributed would remain perpetually as an endowment and the earnings are awarded to a current student who may reapply annually and who corresponds with the class that is involved in the stipend.

Two deaths in St. Peter call to mind personalities who were part of the college experience for many of us.  Rev. Robert Esbjornson ’41, professor of religion and ethics from 1950-83, died at home on October 26.  He was 89.  An expanded obituary in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on November 4, noted, “The retired Gustavus Adolphus professor said teachers should interact with students beyond the classroom.  He lived out that belief and made lifelong friendships.”  Rev. Dennis Johnson ’60, former interim president of the college, collaborated with Esbj to write Esbj!  The Heart and Mind of a Professor, which Esbj signed at homecoming on Oct. 13.  He had written other books and was very interested in the problems of medical care and pain, as noted by Dr. Dick DeRemee ’55, Rochester, MN, his former student.

Campus News

President Peterson Announces Retirement

President Jim Peterson ’64 announced in August that he plans to retire at the conclusion of the current academic year, capping a five-year term.  His early announcement will provide the Board of Trustees enough time to undertake a thorough search process and assist in a smooth transition to new leadership.  Peterson will serve through June 2008 and has offered to assist in an orderly transition beyond that date if needed.

Moes provide gift for Kendall Center

Gustavus parents Robert and Karin Moe have made a $1 million commitment to the John S. Kendall Center for Engaged Learning. This leadership gift brings the College closer to its goal of fully endowing the center, which is dedicated to advancing active and interdisciplinary learning across the campus. When fully funded, the endowment will generate funds to support two main areas: faculty development and student-faculty research.

New football stadium opened

On September 8, the football team played its inaugural game at the College’s new football stadium.  The synthetic-surfaced field is recessed below ground level and features an earthen berm surrounding the entire field.  The field will continue to be named Hollingsworth Field after the late Lloyd Hollingsworth, who served as the College’s football coach from 1942-1960 and athletic director from 1961-1978.

Athletics Hall of Fame Induction

On Saturday, November 3, Gustavus inducted the following people into the Athletic Hall of Fame:  Tim DeJarlais ’91 (golf), John Erickson ’81 (hockey), Dave Hultgren ’92 (baseball), Craig Miller ’91 (cross country), Mindy Mayerchak Oosten ’88 (softball & soccer), Mike Schumacher ’91 (football), Ann Sommerness Simms ’92 (swimming), and Ryan Skanse ’92 (tennis).

Twin Cities Gustie Breakfasts

Join other Minneapolis/St. Paul area Gusties for a once-a-month morning cup of coffee and breakfast while getting an update on Gustavus. The group meets the third Wednesday of each month at the Doubletree Hotel, Minneapolis-Park Place, 1500 Park Place Boulevard (Hwy. 394 & Hwy. 100), 8:00-9:30 a.m., $10 per person.  Reserve by calling Don Swanson ’55 at 763/533-9083

Wednesday, November 21

Winter sports coaches – Jon Carlson ’88 (men’s and women’s swimming & diving), Mark Hanson ’83 (men’s basketball), and Brett Petersen (men’s hockey)

Wednesday, December  19

Margaret Kelliher ’90, speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives

Refer a Gustie

As the school year starts, many high school seniors are getting serious about their college selection. If you know of high school seniors or juniors who may 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.  Contact the Admission Office at 800/GUSTAVU(S).

Calendar of events:

  • Nov. 30, Dec. 1-2        Christmas in Christ Chapel
  • December 6                 St. Lucia Day celebration on campus

Razzle Dazzle” - A Royal Affair was a great event at which to meet Gusties in October, including ’61 classmates.  The Dr. John and Mignette (Anderson ’50) Najarian family was honored at the gala.  Attending were Roger ’60 and Nita (Swanson) Anderson, David ’60 and Karen (Westman) Carlson, Bruce and Sue Gray, Stu and Marlys (Johnson ’58) Johnson, Jim and Patty (Maedl) Krough, Arne and Miriam (Lind) Lagus, Rev. Jerry ’59 and Joan (Miller) Hoffman and probably others whom I did not see.

Class News

Dr. David Carlson ’60, Edina, MN, is serving on the search committee to identify a president to succeed Dr. Jim Peterson ’64 when he retires in 2008.  Karen Westman Carlson has agreed to another teaching assignment at Meadowbrook School in Hopkins—“probably just for one year,” she says.  Marlys Johnson spent all day on the day of the gala helping to set up her area for the evening’s entertainment according to Stu Johnson.  The decorations were elaborate (this year included a vintage automobile with a rumble seat and lots of chrome) so it is almost amazing that the work could be finished in a day.

Jim and Judie (Brown) Mortenson, Bloomington, MN, are moving to a town home in Eden Prairie after 37 years in Bloomington.  They plan to spend winters in Bonita Springs, FL, where they have owned a condominium for some time.  Judie retired from a position as church secretary from St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church on September 1 after serving the congregation for 29 years.  Rev. Don and Eunice (Holm ’63) Fultz, Shoreview MN, continue to volunteer from January to April in the Iringa Diocese, Tanzania, as coordinators of the partnerships between congregations in the St. Paul Area Synod and parishes in the Iringa Diocese.  When they return to Minnesota, they visit the partnering congregations and assist with group mission trips.

Bob and JoAnn Schwartz, Chanhassen, MN, enjoyed the winter of 2007 mostly in places other than Minnesota—warm places!  They were in Mexico and Costa Rica in January and February.  They spent almost a month in spring on a European junket including Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy and France.  Betty Estesen, Tucson AZ, sent a note written on a pad from the Villa Maria Care Center where she volunteers.  The quotation by American poet, Carl Sandburg, is a good one to keep each of us on track:  “Let a joy keep you.”  At the care center she “helps push people around, getting the persons in wheel chairs to the chapel for a non-denominational service and then to the lunchroom on Thursday mornings.”  She observes, “I am seeing another segment of people’s lives.  It is a new experience for me:  a combination of joy and sadness.”

Ralph and Marlys (Schneider ’63) Swenson, Hudson WI, spend the summers in Wisconsin but have a winter home in Green Valley, AZ.  Last spring they came back to the North in late April, driving through Greensburg, KS, less than a week before a tornado wiped out the town.  They observe that it will be a sobering experience to drive that way again.  In Green Valley they are associate members of Desert Hills Lutheran Church, a dynamic and growing ELCA congregation.  Last spring at the annual meeting members authorized buying land that they were leasing from the state of Arizona, setting up two satellite worship locations, calling another pastor and beginning a $5 million capital campaign.  A rare family gathering in spring included both of their children; Paul came from Shanghai for business in the states and Jodell, who lives in Milwaukee, was able to come for the family event.  Marlys, a former special education teacher, volunteers with two elementary students while they are in Arizona.  The fall Quarterly features a one-page article about Bruce Gray who is retiring—again from the Development Office at Gustavus.  He had planned to retire during the year that the tornado struck, but the college prevailed upon him to remain to help raise the funds that were needed.  The article is a good glimpse into what Bruce has been doing for Gustavus (page 44).  Bruce and Sue spent a memorable summer vacation in the East.  In addition to attending Sue’s reunion from college, they toured in Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and other New England locations.

Milt and Lorna Jafvert Reed, Friendswood TX, enjoyed an unexpected Gustie connection at their church brunch and egg hunt last Easter.  They visited with a family from Illinois who had come for the event as part of their holiday visit with friends in Texas.  When Lorna and Milt shared the information that they hailed from Iowa and Minnesota, the visitor said that he had graduated from a small college in Minnesota.  You can guess the rest!  Lorna says, “We had a great time talking about Gustavus for the rest of the brunch hour.  Mike graduated in ’91 and had taken his family back for his reunion last fall.  His daughter was quite impressed that I had taken swimming lessons in the pool that used to occupy the space of ‘The Dive.’    Anyway, it was a fun visit in this land of almost no Gusties.”  The Reed’s daughter, Sarah, resides in the Twin Cities and Lorna and Milt were here in the summer to celebrate their granddaughter’s birthday and the christening of their newest grandson.  Lorna met with the Gustie Club gals from our class for lunch.  Ken Nelson has a new address in Westminister, CO.  Ken is a part-time mathematics tutor at Front Range Community College.

Jim and Danielle Lehman have moved from Virginia to Gainesville, FL.  In Virginia, Jim was the owner and president of Colonial Virginia Corporation.  Virginia Gerdes, Waite Park, MN, retired after 19 years of teaching elementary students at St. Cloud Christian School, and she had taught in the public schools there for 21 years before that.  She has also volunteered for many years in adult literacy.  In addition, Ginny has been the chief care-giver to her extended family because both of her parents passed away in the 1960s.  At present she participates extensively in activities at her church, especially with prayer and Bible study groups; most recently she is active with a prayer emphasis that is part of the “Prepare the Way” campaign.

The St. Peter Herald reported on the Service Award that was bestowed on Mary Nelson, Chicago IL, by Gustavus President Jim Peterson ’64 during morning chapel service on October 30, 2006.  That evening Mary addressed the public in the Jackson Campus Center when she received the Church Relations Service Award.  The Service Award “recognizes alumni who, through a mature understanding of faith, have distinguished themselves in commitment and contribution to the service of others.”  Mary retired a year ago as the president of Bethel New Life, a nationally acclaimed 25-year-old faith-based community development corporation on Chicago’s West Side.  Al and Karin Erickson Gaskell, Sun City, TX, send greetings to classmates.  They are wondering where a Gustie gathering will be held near their location in the Georgetown, TX, area.  They came to Minnesota in summer and Karin gathered with the members of Gustie Club for a chatty luncheon.  Their daughter, Kathryn, resides in Hopkins.  Christine and Tom remain in New York.

Fiftieth high school reunions have been on the summer agenda for a majority of you.  Please send e-mails to or notes on the Gustavus Fund envelopes about the successes and/or adventures included in the event at your school.  Many gatherings were held during the summer months, but a considerable number of them are still meeting in connection with homecoming celebrations or other events at numerous high schools.  Some were dinners only and others were weekend-long events.  A recent homecoming reunion in Redfield, SD, drew Sally Enstrom.  Another in Montevideo marked the 50th for Jo Linne, Nita Swanson Anderson and, I believe, Jo Swenson Lippert.   Gloria Eckberg Swenson and Doriann Fredrickson Thompson were among those headed to Litchfield for another autumn gathering.  Dale Gustafson planned to come from the East Coast for the St. Peter reunion which may have had more ’61 classmates than any other school (I believe there were almost 30 graduates from St. Peter High School in our Gustavus class.)  Jean Stenstrom Eidsvold attended the Washburn High School event and commented on its success and the unexpected very positive reaction to a school tour which was one of the gatherings included in the weekend.  As the former students proceeded through the building, the organizers had planted some of their former teachers at desks in the rooms.  The attendees also ate box lunches in an outdoor area where they often had eaten lunch as students 50 years ago.  I know that there were other Washburn graduates in our class also, but I hesitate to name any for fear of missing quite a number of people.

While sorting through materials in preparation for our own 50th, (and that of David Timm and Bob Schwartz), I came across a notice in the ’58 yearbook of Arlington-Green Isle High School (now Sibley East) about the dedication ceremony for the new addition that took place in the autumn of 1958.  The guest speaker was Dr. William Wettergren, who was head of the Minnesota School Boards Association.  Forwarding a copy of that to Dr. David Wettergren generated the following response:  “Yes, I remember my dad venturing forth to deliver many of these types of speeches at dedications and graduations.  He really enjoyed this part of his job.  My mom would often go with him and sit there nervously during the presentations hoping that the audience would at least be accepting if not excited by his remarks.  He used to deliver them with great authority and, like his son, probably could have ended most of his speeches about 10 minutes sooner than he usually did.”

David and Janet Wettergren, Stillwater MN, had a challenging summer dealing with Janet’s aunt’s difficulties in Pierre, SD.  Ultimately they relocated her to an assisted living facility in Stillwater.  From July 20 - August 5 they enjoyed a cruise of the Baltic Sea region accompanied by dear friends with whom they travel frequently.  Mark ’59 and Kathy Bunde Thorsell, Golden Valley, MN, have devoted years of effort to restoring Kathy’s parents’ former home in St. Peter.  An internet posting of the residence, which is now for sale, makes it appear that they completed a fantastic job.  The yard looks very spacious and well planned, too.

Carolyn Wedin, Frederic WI, shares an article that is not about a classmate, but it relates to current events at Gustavus.  It will be a difficult piece to convey to you and still cut to size, but I will attach part of it at the end of this letter for your contemplation.  Carolyn worked with women’s studies in her college positions.

Sid and I fare better than in spring but we have not yet reached our goals.  I walk a lot without a cane now, but neither very fast nor very far.  Sid is gaining benefits from much work at Lifetime Fitness with a personal trainer and he is reasonably mobile, but doctors indicate that his balance system (vestibular) is permanently impaired from an antibiotic that he had to take to survive.  Although the holiday season is not quite upon us, each of you is wished an inspirational observance of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  These wonderful holidays change little but, also, very much as our situations within our families change.  But then, isn’t it great not to have final tests coming up right after the two holidays?  Because the real meaning of Christmas is always there, we can adjust to any change that develops.

Virgene Grack Sehlin

1961 Class Agent

P. S.  Here’s the news article I mentioned earlier:

“Politeness and Authority at a Hilltop College in Minnesota”

by Verlyn Klinkenborg

The New York Times

October 15, 2007

“Last week I spent a couple of days in western Minnesota, giving a talk and visiting some classes at Gustavus Adolphus College.  The campus covers a hill above the small town of St. Peter, and the wind cuts across it like old news from the west.  Gustavus Adolphus is a Lutheran College.  I asked a number of students how it differed from St. Olaf College― another Lutheran institution in a small Minnesota town, where I once taught―and they said, ‘They’re Norwegian.  We’re Swedish.’

Once, a town like St. Peter would have seemed like destination enough.  After all, small farm towns with good colleges are not that common.  But now, more and more of the faculty live in the Twin Cities, an hour and a half away, and, as one professor told me, the college describes itself to new recruits in terms of its distance from a city, not its presence in a town.

I sat in on four classes, which were marred only by politeness―the deep-keeled Minnesota politeness that states, as a life proposition, that you should not put yourself forward, not even to the raising of a hand in class.

Things always warmed up, but those first lingering notes of hesitation were something to behold.  I tried to think of it as modesty, consideration for others and reluctance in the presence of a guest―from New York nonetheless.  And yet I kept wondering just how such bright, personable students had become acculturated to their own silence.  I had grown up in a similar place and knew a little how they felt, but that was a long time ago.

Midway through lunch one day a young woman asked me if I noticed a difference between the writing of men and the writing of women.  The answer is no, but it’s a good question.  A writer’s fundamental problem, once her prose is under control, is shaping and understanding her own authority.  I’ve often noticed a habit of polite self-negation among my female students, a self-deprecatory way of talking that is meant, I suppose, to help create a sense of shared space, a shared social connection.  It sounds like the language of constant apology, and the form I often hear is the sentence that begins, ‘My problem is…’

Even though this way of talking is conventional, and perhaps socially placating, it has a way of defining a young writer―a young woman―in negative terms, as if she were basically incapable and always giving offense.  You simply cannot pretend that the words you use about yourself have no meaning.  Why not, I asked, be as smart and perceptive as you really are?  Why not accept what you’re capable of?  Why not believe that what you notice matters?

Another young woman at the table asked―this is a bald translation―won’t that make us seem too tough, too masculine?  I could see the subtext in her face:  who will love us if we’re like that?  I’ve heard other young women, with more experience; ask this question in a way that means, ‘won’t the world punish us for being too sure of ourselves?’  This is the kind of thing that happens when you talk about writing.  You always end up talking about life.

These are poignant questions, and they always give me pause, because they allow me to see, as nothing else does, the cultural frame these young women have grown up in.  I can hear them questioning the very nature of their perceptions, doubting the evidence of their senses, distrusting the clarity of their thoughts.

And yet that is the writer’s work―to notice and question the act of noticing, to clarify again and again, to sift one’s perceptions.  I’m always struck by how well fitted these young women are to be writers, if only there weren’t also something within them saying, who cares what you notice?  Who authorized you?  Don’t you owe someone an apology?

Every young writer, male or female, Minnesotan or otherwise, faces questions like these at first.  It’s a delicate thing, coming to the moment when you realize that your perceptions do count and that your writing can encompass them.  You begin to understand how quiet, how subtle the writer’s authority really is, how little it has to do with ‘authority’ as we usually use the word.”