Class of ’61
March 2010

Dear ’61 Classmates,

Campus is a busy place again following J-Term schedules and touring.  A group of 21 current Gusties and 2 faculty members feel especially fortunate to be back in cold, snowy St. Peter after being stranded for about a week in Machu Picchu after torrential rains and mudslides washed away the railway that was the only route out.  Almost 4,000 tourists and locals needed to be lifted out.

Christmas in Christ Chapel never fails to inspire.  “A Liturgy of Letters and Carols” was a beautiful way to observe Advent.  On Saturday afternoon we saw Ralph and Marlys (Schneider ’63) Swenson, Hudson WI, and Green Valley AZ—(they flew to Minnesota just for the weekend); Rev. Ted and Marietta (Bittrich ’63) Johns, Sunrise Beach TX; Dr. Arne and Miriam (Lind) Lagus, St. Croix Falls WI; and Dr. David ’60 and Karen Westman Carlson, Edina.  Let me know if I missed someone.

Our BIG 50th reunion is coming up in May, 2011, and planning is beginning.  Can you volunteer to help or do you want to share an idea for our important event?  Send an e-mail to

Three members of our faculty 50 years ago passed away during this holiday season.  Chet (Chester) Otto Johnson established the geology department at Gustavus.  He passed away on Dec. 8, at 96 years of age.  Chet did his graduate study in geology at the University of Chicago and taught at Gustavus as well as contributing in faculty and curriculum development.  He also was active with over a dozen scientific, archives and historical societies and was an archivist for the LCA and ELCA.  He and Marian (Swanson ’41) were loyal, supportive Gusties who came to telephone wherever Phonorama was being held.  They received the Greater Gustavus Award in 2002.

Marian (Swanson ’41) Johnson, Chet’s wife, died on Jan. 1, at 89.  She was a Gustavus magna cum laude graduate who served as class agent for 40 years.  Marian was also part-time instructor in English and library science (my freshman English instructor).  At Gustavus she belonged to the Gustavus Library Associates, the faculty women’s club, historian of the St. Lucia Society and member of the Linnaeus Arboretum.  She was very active with programs at Trinity Lutheran Church as the first woman member of the council, founder of the library and first woman council member in the synod.  Marian was a member of numerous boards, worked with archives for many groups, and authored two books about church libraries that were published by Augsburg Press.

The Rev. Dr. Clair Emery Johnson, Gustavus’ first chaplain and a professor of religion, passed away on Christmas Eve at the age of 84.  He had been battling failing health for a few years, but was always on campus before that to visit with alumni and students.  Clair came to Gustavus in 1958, after military service in the European and Pacific theaters during WW II, and then, educational work at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL, (magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa); Augustana Seminary and Union Theological Seminary in New York.  He taught until 1995 and received numerous awards and preached throughout the area as well as serving nursing homes and volunteering at the Nicollet County jail.

Campus News

Gustavus Announces Major Building Projects

At its Monday, Jan. 25 meeting, the Gustavus Adolphus College Board of Trustees voted unanimously to move forward with three major building projects.  The College will erect a new 125,000 square foot academic building with a large 3-story atrium at the center providing natural light to many of the spaces.  It will qualify for a “gold LEED” qualification as a green building.  This will develop a mall extending west from its iconic Christ Chapel.  It will house the largest departments on campus (economics and management, psychology, and communications).  Also, plans are under way to renovate A. H. Anderson Social Science Building.  Construction timelines for the projects are not yet finalized, but the College expects to break ground on the new academic building late this spring.

The effort is a significant early implementation step of Commission Gustavus 150, an innovative, constituent-based strategic planning process that has engaged hundreds of alumni, students, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders over the past year.  “These projects will greatly enhance learning and teaching, student recruitment, and institutional advancement for many years to come,” said President Jack R. Ohle.

Alumnus, Kurt Elling ’89, Wins Grammy Award

Kurt Elling, a 1989 graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College, took home his first Grammy Award Sunday, Jan. 31 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif.  Elling won the “Best Jazz Vocal Album” category for his album Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman. This year marked the ninth time Elling was nominated for a Grammy.

Elling typically performs annually at Gustavus and did so most recently on Oct. 10, 2009 in Jussi Björling Recital Hall.  He has also had the distinct honor to perform in front of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama and their 350 guests at the White House State Dinner on Nov. 24, 2009.

Wind Orchestra Tour

The Gustavus Wind Orchestra, under the direction of Conductor Douglas Nimmo, has returned from a 15-day concert tour through Germany, Poland, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary and Austria.  The Choir of Christ Chapel will be traveling to the Phoenix/Tucson area during spring break.  On April 15 they will be at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Sun City West, April 16 at All Saints Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Phoenix, and on April 17 at Lord of Grace Lutheran Church in Tucson.  For other campus news please check the website at

Admission News

Applications for next year are ahead of where they were last year at this time which makes Mark Anderson ’66, the director of admission, very happy.  We graduated two very large classes in the last two years so we need to have somewhat larger classes in order to maintain our enrollment at about 2,500.  Mark Anderson will retire at the end of the academic year so a search is going on to replace him.  Gustavus has had only three directors of admission since 1950 (Howard Holcomb ’49, Owen Sammelson ’58, and Mark Anderson ’66) which is quite an amazing track record.

Attend a Chapter Event Near You!

There will be Gustavus alumni chapter events in the following cities:  Naples, March 14; Seattle, March 19; San Francisco, March 20; Los Angeles, March 21; Boston, April 25.  Other events in New York, Chicago, and Denver are still in the planning stages.  President Ohle will be attending all of those events so we hope that you will make an attempt to attend and hear what he has to say.  He is providing outstanding leadership!

Winter Sports Update

Winter sports are well under way!  Men’s hockey is currently #1 in the MIAC and women’s hockey is #3 with 7 straight wins.  Women’s basketball is #1 and men’s basketball is #2.  Visit the Athletics website at for more news and information.

“Come on You Gusties” Breakfast

Once a month, Gusties gather for coffee, breakfast, and great conversation along with a campus speaker.  All Gusties are welcomed and invited to the breakfast, third Wednesday of the month, 8-9:30 a.m. at the Doubletree Hotel, Minneapolis-Park Place, 1500 Park Place Boulevard.  Cost is $10 at the door.  Upcoming speaker:  Amanda Nienow, assistant professor of chemistry will speak of her January term class “Chemistry & Crime:  Examination of CSI-type TV Shows & Real Life Forensic Science.”

Upcoming Events

  • Feb. 27 – Reunion Committee Winter Retreat
  • Mar. 6 – Breakfast with the Easter Bunny
  • Mar. 14 – Naples Chapter Event – Naples Grande Beach Resort
  • Mar. 17 – Gustie Breakfast – Amanda Nienow, assistant professor of chemistry
  • Mar. 19 – Seattle Chapter Event – Bellevue Club
  • Mar. 20 – San Francisco Chapter Event
  • Mar. 21 – Los Angeles Chapter Event – Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Apr. 25 – Boston Chapter Event – Back Bay Hotel


Dr. Mary Annexstad Francis resigned in November as executive director of the Alaska Council of School Administrators, a position that she says, “…has been one of the best experiences of her professional career.”  Dr. Francis had accepted that position eight years ago after serving as superintendent of the Petersburg District, Wrangell Schools, associate superintendent in Fairbanks and curriculum director in the Lower Kuskokwim Schools in Bethel.  President of the Board, Pete Swanson says, “Her ability to advocate for and represent the school administrators of Alaska with the legislature and many statewide committee forums is considerable.  Dr. Francis leaves a legacy of working hard for the concerns and issues of Alaska’s school administrators.”  Pauline Matson Smith, Pelican Rapids, MN, has retired also.  She was an accountant with Rebuild Resources, Inc.

Rev. Ronald ’59 and Lorene (Johnson) Johnson, Fairfield Glade, TN, were disappointed to miss Ron’s 50th Gustavus reunion.  Ron is recovering from neck surgery that was performed in late July.  Prior to the surfacing of that health issue, they enjoyed an active year.  With friends they spent time on the beach in South Carolina, went to Houston where their son, Gary, lives; came to Minnesota to visit their daughter, Jamin ’88 and her family and then they gathered with the entire family in Orlando, FL.  Tom and Marlene Vartdal Meyer, Mission Viejo, CA, have both retired.  Marlene’s final employer was the Capistrano Valley High School.  Tom has been an instructor at Saddleback Community College.  For Rev. Dr. Jim Lehman the new year began with completion of a M.Div. and Ph.D. in divinity with faculty honors from Faith Lutheran Seminary from where he was ordained minister and chaplain nearly two years ago in record time.  Presently he is doing volunteer service in “The Gray-haired Ministry.”  It involves senior residences, nursing homes, Alzheimer’s centers and hospices.  Ministry is conducted, while remaining handicapped for several years in a wheelchair.

Mary Erickson Lindahl, Cannon Falls, MN, may be getting to campus a little more frequently now since her grandson, Adam Bischoff, is a first-year student at Gustavus.  Dr. Marv and Nancy Williams Rensink, Pleasanton, CA, went to the Outer Banks with their Washington, D.C. family last August.  Other travels during the past year took them to a family reunion in July and to Yosemite National Park in May.  Their grandchildren range in age from 8 to 18, with two of them now attending college.  Marv has been returning to the laboratory one day per week to mentor a physics post-doctorate student.

Frank and Sue (Appelquist ’60) Jorgensen, Dunnell, MN were battling rainy autumn weather to get the corn combining completed when Gustavus heard from them.  Sue is a retired teacher and is now, “trying to keep the ‘Dunnell Book Room’ operating since January, 2004, when the Martin County Library system decided Dunnell did not need a branch.”  Bob ’60 and Jean Stenstrom Eidsvold, Edina and Sanibel Island, FL, got their entire family together for a Disney cruise between Christmas and New Year’s.  This was their second such venture since one grandchild did not qualify to swim with the dolphins during an earlier year’s trip.  Their property on Sanibel Island is finally repaired after being damaged by two hurricanes.

Peter and Julie Nelson Neyhart, Juneau, AK, negotiate a busy retirement that focuses mostly on volunteering, family contacts and traveling.  Julie’s mother, Millie Nelson, lives near them now and thrives with the help of her family.  Trips this year have included Greece, Croatia and Slovenia; the Southwest U.S.; Panama and Minnesota.  Two of their sons’ families live in Juneau but another son and his family are in Memphis, TN, and Brook lives in Atlanta, GA.  Mary Ann Swanson Strand, Centreville, VA, has retired as a kindergarten teacher with the First Steps Preschool.  She is now working with BJ’s Warehouse.

Robert and JoAnn Schwartz, Chanhassen, MN, enjoy seeking sunshine in Mexico.  With friends they spent about three weeks in January in Ixtapa; Bob reports that observing your 70th in Mexico is not a bad idea at all!  Later in the winter they returned to the Cancun area for the wedding of their daughter’s sister-in-law.  This time their daughter, Kris and Matt, and the two young granddaughters accompanied them for the family wedding.  In March they went on a cruise in the Caribbean and the Panama Canal.  Bob is finance chairman on the church council and financial director on the Thrivent Financial Chapter Board.  Sally Enstrom, St. Louis Park, traveled to Spain in November.  She notes that Spain is a very different travel experience from many other parts of Europe.  Sally continues to be a very busy volunteer, especially at her church, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Hospice program.

Jim and Marilynn (Clark) Tanner, Hot Springs Village, AR, maintain contact with friends from many of the states where they have lived.  2009 was ushered in with California, Wyoming and Arkansas friends in Santa Fe, NM.  With Connecticut neighbors they toured 2,600 miles in New England states and Canadian provinces including New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.  Numerous relatives and friends, as well as the group of 11 Gustie ladies from ’61 were part of an autumn Minnesota and Wisconsin visit.  A favorite and educational excursion took them to Springfield, IL, to Lincoln’s library and to Truman’s library and “special” home in Independence, MO.  They observe, “The trips were great reminders of challenges of the presidency, and how truly great men handle those challenges.”  Sandi Nordstrom, St. Paul, MN, is retired.  Her employment was with the Department of Defense in Philadelphia, PA, where she was an inventory management specialist.

Rev. Roger ’59 and Nita Swanson Anderson, New Brighton, MN, the sympathy of your classmates is shared with you.  Nita’s youngest sister passed away in January.  At Christmas in Christ Chapel we visited with Roger and he alerted us to the current health situation and said that Nita was in Washington to be with her sister at that time.  Rev. Jim and Luray Wiberg, Silverthorne, CO, remain active in retirement.  Jim is invited to preach occasionally at their church in Dillon and Luray is often at the musical keyboard.  Both serve on the Board of the American Foreign and Christian Union (AFCU) and in spring they attended the annual meeting in Vienna.  The meeting was hosted by the Vienna Community Church where Jim was the pastor for five years.  Their entire family gathered for a relaxing 45th anniversary and 70th birthday celebration in Yellowstone National Park.

Carole Paulson Olson, Wautoma, WI, observes that the former Gustavus president James Peterson ’64 is reversing her college pattern.  Carole started her studies at Northland College in Ashland, WI, and then transferred to Gustavus.  Former president Peterson apparently is helping Northland by covering the presidential position there after retiring from Gustavus.  Carole teaches painting.  Eric remains in Wausau, WI and Johanna works in Chicago; both are Gustie graduates.  Check out page 30 in the winter 2009-10 Quarterly for two pictures that contain quite a few ’61 classmates.  All of you are looking great!

A BIG valentine thank you is tucked in for every ’61er who has gotten checks off for the 2009-10 Annual Fund, and for all of you classmates.  Gustavus truly appreciates your remembering!  So many people gave time, money and considerable effort to help us when we studied on the hill.  Remember, too, that our Class of 1961 scholarship still needs donations to increase the benefit to a worthy current student as the costs rise.  The gifts that you donate become part of the endowment and the interest earnings are awarded beginning next September.

Your news (even one idea is OK—Please!) is sought for the spring letter so add that to the envelope when you send your check.  Sid and I are doing pretty well and hope to join our son Scott ’88 and his family in a trip to California in March if possible.

Virgene Grack Sehlin

1961 Class Agent