Class of '69
I apologize for my tardiness in writing class letters. This is, I believe, the first class letter I’ve written in several months. In doing so I want to first thank all who have supported Gustavus in so many ways during the past year. Our college’s first year class is again strong, reflecting the efforts of many to encourage talented candidates for admission. Alumni Fund contributions from about one-third of all our alumni again topped one million dollars! Thanks to all who shared their time and resources to advance Gustavus’ mission and programs.
I lost any possible hold on time about the first of April. While I often envy the retired set (not a single person of which is willing to indulge me by claiming that retirement was a mistake), I still have at least four years to go before I join that group. Because I enjoy working with students in a variety of extracurricular roles, some of which also contribute a few dollars of extra income during my “high five” years prior to retirement, I seem to always get busier each year. Time might seem to slip faster through my fingers as I more frequently forget what I’m doing and must make a number of unnecessary trips to places because I can only focus on one thing at a time. Why, oh why, is the ability to “multi-task” wasted on the young who have ample energy and strong knees for those extra five trips across the building to the office!
Paynesville’s high school play this spring was Arsenic and Old Lace. Our graduating seniors and their younger peers pulled together to offer an excellent performance of that chestnut of the American stage. Our set included an outstanding stairway eighteen feet high, a result of the stage designer I work with who figures out such things and executes them. It was hard to spend the two hours after our final performance reducing that set, a living room with its grand stairway to the third floor, to a pile of scrap lumber left by the loading dock. We saved what we could for the next show, but as I walked by the discard pile one last time I pulled out the stairway posts and spindles—of course with no idea what I’d do with them. I had to find a way to hide them in my classroom to discourage my hard-earned reputation as a manic pack rat.
As the year drew to a close I presented each senior with a railing post. I asked a friend to letter the name of the play, performance dates, character and actor’s name on each of the ornate spindles that formed the railing as a memento for each cast member. I know that at least a few of the posts are going to find their way to college dorm rooms next week. Have I inadvertently instilled a taste for the collection of memorabilia (junk)?
This year four members of our high school speech team made the journey to Saint Paul to participate in the state’s speech contest. As the middle school coach and the high school assistant, I planned to use a personal leave day to attend the contest with them. Since both of our school’s vans were in use for other events, and the head coach’s car is too small to transport all who would attend, I agreed to drive and could thus observe this great event. Small “Class A” schools like ours competed on Friday, but we left early so we could experience the Mall of America. In town where even the Ben Franklin store pulled up stakes, “The Mall” is a major attraction. We were not alone; many of the speech kids from other small schools were there to greet us from the Mall’s balconies as if they were in a school cafeteria. We stayed through to the end of the contest to watch students from the larger urban and suburban schools compete, balancing shopping with a little learning.
This summer students from Paynesville again joined others from around Minnesota at the Guthrie’s theater workshop. During one session I found myself at the same table as a Gustie from South Saint Paul. While she could have been my granddaughter, we were quickly able to find some common connections and have a fun conversation. During our session one of the kids at our table asked if a private school offered any advantages over larger schools for work in theater. She noted that they’d just had a lesson in networking, pointing out that being able to sit down and “play this game” with someone from common roots could lead to other connections. Observing that all such schools offered such networking, she recalled that Gustavus was known for its alumni connections and support. In my imagination I could hear Cec Eckhoff’s laugh from the next table.
I attended the Gustavus theater reunion this past May with Jeannie Rebischke Wolff ’72. Even though my only connection to the Gustavus theater program was taking one course in oral interpretation from Mrs. Anderson and attending plays, I had a fabulous time. It was delightful to listen to the reminiscing of the people who worked with Evelyn—I specially enjoyed her niece and Bill Holm ’65. The occasion also marked the retirement of Professor Rob Gardner, whose tribute included incredible performances by some of his students. The evening culminated in a performance of The Tempest in which Dr. Gardner took the lead. He will no doubt be missed at Gustavus, but the transition will provide more opportunities for him to share his art through performances on other stages.
We were fortunate on that same visit to view the “corpse flower” in full bloom. Thanks to media coverage in the cities, we joined others in a long line snaking through the science building to view this plant, said to bloom once every 17 years with a fragrance likened to rotting flesh. I thought odor was closer to boiled Brussels sprouts left in a pot overnight. It was, at the least, unique.
Our daughter, Karlie, was in this summer’s Paynesville community theater production of Fiddler on the Roof. Paynesville is blessed to have a very gifted individual who can encourage amateurs to create unexpectedly sophisticated productions. He’s also the person I work with for middle school and high school plays. One evening, while in the process of getting the production organized, he asked if I would be willing to help out while bringing Karlie to rehearsals until she might qualify for her driver’s license in mid-August. I agreed, assuming he needed someone to shag props and paint scenery. He said he really needed “depth in the village” (that is, old people in the chorus). I reminded him that my vocal range was half-way up the bass clef to half-way up the treble clef and that I couldn’t read music or find notes, but could hum a melody if I heard it.
No problem said he—there’s not much harmony anyway (this man’s a born recruiter). When we got to the first rehearsal the music director said I was to sing second alto and showed me where she wanted me to sit. I laughed―and told her she might as well tell me to sing K Sharp as anything that was legitimately printed in the score. Fortunately, I have a friend who’s a really good singer and performs in two groups in town. Sitting next to her, I could follow the group’s cues without disrupting those whose voices were made for singing.
As Shandel, the mother of the tailor, I got to speak a few lines. During the wedding scene I had to walk on stage with “my son” and then cross to stand with the other old women of the village. There was no way I’d dare sing with them, of course, but my lip-syncing was, I must say, quite impressive.
Rehearsals occupied nearly every week night from late June to almost the middle of August, but most of it was much fun. I met lots of folks from the area, including the piano tuner who played the part of the village butcher, Lazer Wolff. I just happen to have a piano in need of tuning.
After the play’s conclusion we managed to fit in an Amtrak trip to Glacier Park. Riding the train was a great part of the adventure. I always marvel at the way two facing seats can be cleverly turned into cramped but serviceable bunk beds. We’ve been back several days and I’ve almost lost the sensation of motion when I sit still.
Karla expressed trepidation at the thought of living for “days” in the wilderness with old people, stripped of the necessities of air conditioning, radio, television, the internet or cell phone service. She packed several books to fill her hours and discovered, unlike our previous hotel stays, that many of the people staying in the park lodge were also reading books. I think she began to appreciate a departure from the “theme park” and its “attractions.” On a couple of occasions other guests started conversations with her about the book she was reading or its author.
We took the “Red Bus” on the famed “highway to the sun” as well as to visit the Prince of Wales hotel in adjacent Alberta for high tea. The second night we were there it rained, clearing out the smoke in the air from forest fires in Idaho and Montana. Not only was it a welcome help to fire fighters, it made the views even more spectacular. Residents are anxiously awaiting the season’s first snow to help end those fires and preserve the forest within the park. Air conditioning wasn’t needed. We bought extra sweatshirts in the gift shop, used the lap blankets on the topless bus, and enjoyed the hotel’s lobby fireplace—a nice change from a very hot summer.
We left central Minnesota for Montana in the midst of a summer-long draught that turned grass into a crunchy brown. We returned a week later to long green grass and recovering gardens. Unfortunately, our respite turned to excess for Southern Minnesota. Many rivers were over their banks, towns flooded, and homes destroyed. What an unfortunate end to a summer of drought! Many people will have an incredibly long and difficult road to follow as they recover from this latest twist of nature.
Upon arriving home we learned that Jim Peterson ’64 had resigned from his role as president of Gustavus. As we combed through our accumulated mail we found a copy of a letter that I will share in the event that you missed it.
The often quoted Bible verse from Ecclesiastes says, “For every thing there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” And for me and this college, it is time to consider the matter of transition to a new season, a new future and new presidential leadership to take it there. After considerable thought and the discussions with family and college trustee leadership, I have decided that this is the year to initiate a smooth and positive transition to new leadership for Gustavus. The transition begins with the start of a search process this fall and should conclude by next summer with the arrival of a new president.
Why do this now? First, together we have set some important new directions for the college. New goals can now be further refined, more detailed plans developed and new money raised to support them. Gustavus is on a solid path with what I believe is an incredibly bright future. And I’m looking forward to being a part of this work for one more year.
Second, the administrative leadership team now in place is very, very strong. It has both a valuable history of experience and the freshness of new perspectives. It is highly capable of the long term view and short term action. These good people will play a key role in the future of a thriving Gustavus.
Third, typically it’s not wise for presidential transitions to take place in the midst of a period of aggressive institutional development and associated serious fundraising work. Both will be taking place here over the next few years and a longer term commitment of time, energy and passion of a new president will be necessary to be successful.
Finally, on a personal level, life is short (and presumably getting shorter all the time). Time moves fast (and faster all the time). There is so much I wish yet to do with my own life and my life with Susan, family, and friends.
Much has been accomplished over the last few years, but there is still much for us to do. During the coming year, we together will stay focused and stay committed to maintaining our current momentum and to creating a new future for our college. I pledge to do that – with you – all year.
The Board of Trustees will begin a vigorous national search process immediately. (That’s another reason for needing to announce this play so early.) I have no doubt that great new leadership will be found and I have assured the Board that I will do all that I can to help ensure a smooth and effective transition.
For everything there is a season. Seasons bring change. Change brings new life. And new life is good – all around.
James L. Peterson, President
Let us join in wishing him Godspeed as we celebrate his contribution to Gustavus.
This is a milestone year of sorts. Most of us by now have put “60” behind us (how could that be possible?). We’re due for another reunion in two years, but for now we can recall that 39 years ago we were headed back to Gustavus to be juniors. Vietnam was a growing cloud on the horizon. Many of us would make our first legal visit to the Flame. We knew more about ourselves and what we thought might be in our future, at least the little of it that we could then see. It was a year to get serious about majors and relationships. With two classes “below” us, the campus was ours.
I hope each of you will have a chance to enjoy the last bit of summer as we move toward the next act in our theater of seasons. If you’re heading to the state fair you might plan to sample the fried fruit on a stick, stenciled pies, and lingonberry ice cream. The Renaissance Festival is just around the corner. If you’re at the Mall and have a chance to get on the light rail streetcar, stop off at Minnehaha Park to watch the falls and take lunch at “Ce Salt” in the nearby pavilion. If you’re traveling in central Minnesota, the fabulous Mill Restaurant in Terrace will be open for few more weeks.
Again, many thanks to all for your continuing support of Gustavus. Each contribution helps another student become a part of what this unique college has to offer. Take care and have a good September. Send the Alumni Office news about yourselves so that I can share it when next I write in the fall.
Jane Norman Leitzman
1969 Co-class Agent
Gustavus has traditionally been ranked by U.S. News and World Report in their feature called “America’s Best Colleges.” If any of you see this annual ranking, for the year 2008 Gustavus was listed as “Unranked.” This is because of confusion over how Gustavus uses test scores as part of its admission process. No need to worry, Gustavus is doing well and more than 3,000 students applied for admission, admitting that they are more interested in the school’s academic excellence and reputation rather than these rankings.
Work on the new football stadium progressed at a quick pace and most major elements are now in place. The stadium will be ready for the opening game on Saturday, September 8 when the Gusties host Willamette, OR. It’s really awesome and will be a great place for Gusties to gather! Take a daily peak at http://gustavus.edu/campusprogress/footballstadium/webcam/. Physical Plant crews were also busy constructing additional intramural and club sport fields west of the Swanson Tennis Center. These fields will replace the fields that were previously on the stadium construction site.
Athletics Hall of Fame ― Gustavus will induct new members into its Athletics Hall of Fame at a banquet on November 3. They are: 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.
Dr. Mary Morton, Gustavus’ new provost and vice president for academic affairs, assumed her position on Monday, July 2. In this role as chief academic officer, she oversees academic programs and strategic planning at Gustavus.
Gusties Gather! – September 30
Gusties around the world are called to gather on Sunday, September 30. The Alumni Board is designating this day as a way for Gusties to stay connected with each other. In research among alumni, we know that Gusties already stay in contact with many alumni, and we know that Gusties have a strong interest in staying connected with other Gusties and with the College. If there is a gathering in your area, we hope you will consider attending.
Upcoming Alumni Events
- Gustavus Booth at Minnesota State Fair, Education Building, August 23-September 3
- Twin Cities Breakfasts, September 19
- Gusties Gather! – September 30
- Nobel Conference – Heating Up: The Energy Debate - October 2 & 3
- Homecoming/Family Weekend – October 12-14
- A Royal Affair – Razzle Dazzle, October 27
- Athletics Hall of Fame Banquet – November 3
- Christmas in Christ Chapel – November 30-December 2