Class of '69
February 2009

40-Year Reunion - October 9 & 10, 2009


From Greg “Benny” Benson and Dianne “DJ” Johnson

This will be our 40th year following graduation from Gustavus.  Can you believe it?!  It seems like just yesterday until you go on campus and see the physical changes.  Then, of course, the people around our age attending their reunions all look OLD?!  How can that be?  We still THINK YOUNG, even though we might not feel young.  We have collected some memories to share with you and hope to see you at our class reunion during Homecoming, October 2009!

Gusties still greet each other on Hello Walk and the rock is still getting painted.  The chapel still stands majestically on the hill.  Many of the dorms are still there.  Gone is Johnson and Wahlstrom.  And girls are now sleeping legally in Uhler! J  There is a football game during Homecoming but its in a beautiful new stadium. The Homecoming parade still continues, but now it goes around the Ring Road instead of Main Street, St. Peter.  Plus there wasn’t a ring road back then. DJ asked if the pledges were making the parade floats and the answer was…“no, that would be considered hazing and that’s not allowed.”  Hazing is requiring anything done by the pledges that the actives don’t do.  Wow, would we be in trouble now!?!

Which brings a memory to Greg “Benny” Benson….

“How could anyone forget Rush.  Of course, the OK’s had the famous dung pool.  It was on the farm built to exacting standards with cow, horse, chicken, and pig dung, filled with water and stirred to the perfect consistency, and the size of a standard pool.  Each pledge walked the plank with a feminine napkin taped around their eyes, dove in and scrambled to the other side.  Then it was a long run down and into a cold late April lake.  This was the final task to become a member of the frat.  Of course, the painful weeks before were more challenging, the “hits” with the paddle were the worst.  There was lots of fun stuff, too.  Singing in the cafeteria, getting all of the TM signatures with the pencil trick and one night I was blindfolded and taken out to Nicollet at 3:00 a.m. and had to dribble a basketball back to campus.  I still can’t dribble!  Hard to believe it was 40 years ago, I could go back in a heartbeat!”

Donna Sjoding Amidon remembers some wild and wonderful frat parties like the one our sophomore year around Christmas when we sang all those fractured Christmas carols, it was hilarious!  (DJ thinks it may have been a sorority banquet.  Notice some of our memories don’t match up with each other which makes these memories even more special!)  DJ remembers one Flea Banquet theme called Formosa Fun, TaiWan On!  And we surely can’t forget all the sorority songs we learned.  I bet we could still sing all the verses of some, perhaps with a little prompting.  Benny recalls a frat party in Mankato when Judy Matalamaki was his date.  “I’m sure Judy remembers me carrying the “bag” across main street…she was easy to carry.  The parties at Turner Hall in New Ulm were great, hard to believe we could even drive home (and then we told our kids not to drink and drive!)”

Judy Matalamaki Thiem still chuckles about a comment that Karen Alrick Jafvert made after the tornado changed Gustavus forever.  “Everyone remembers those beautiful trees that were lost.  Karen asked “Did we have trees at Gustavus?  All we were looking at were the boys walking down Hello walk!!”  (DJ remembers walking down Hello Walk proudly wearing her GAC beanie that said ’69!?!)  Judy continues..“Gustavus has changed in many significant and wonderful ways, but it brought a tear to my eye and a time I remember with such gratitude for the experience.  As my father put it so bluntly after seeing my grades, ‘Judy, the ONLY responsibility you have is to study, and you can’t even do that.’  What was he talking about?????”

This from Sue McNamara Showalter….“Gustavus was life-changing for me.  I was the first person in my family to go to college―and that was possible through scholarships and loans that I paid back after graduating―my parents didn’t even have a savings account!  I met the love my life there and I met some of the funniest, warm-hearted friends a person could have!  I had an absolute BLAST and would love to do it all over again.  Dave and I are having some of our ashes spread there, so that should change Gustavus in the future!

Our Gustavus wedding is a fond memory.  We (Dave Showalter and Sue) were married December 20, 1968 in Christ Chapel by Rev. Elvee.  The Chapel was so beautiful, with many poinsettia plants cascading up to the altar.  Ma Young ’33 catered the reception.  My bridal shower was held in Elvee’s barn, with much laughter and singing along to Diana Ross and the Supremes and other great music of the day.  We were (and still are) so much in love with each other and with the college that brought us together.  After the wedding, we drove to Florida for our honeymoon.  We then settled in Dinkytown near the University of Minnesota, where Dave was attending architecture school and I began teaching mathematics at the old Mechanic Arts High School in St. Paul.  I had finished my coursework at Gustavus in 3.5 years, so I returned to graduate with my class in the spring.  Of course, we were also on campus many weekends to have fun with our friends!”

Following that marriage theme, Jim Kuitu says….“I was lucky to meet my wife, Linda (Martinson ’70) at Gustavus and we are still together!!”  Then he goes on, “maybe the hockey fan bus (well oiled) arriving at Braemar arena would bring some smiles.  Jerry Krieger ’70, Pat McCuskey and me taping Coach Don Roberts ’56 blades before practice―he skated around and said his blades felt dull!!!”  Benny says he has fond memories of intramural sports…“the frats were so competitive and we had great athletes, too bad some of them didn’t play for Gustavus teams!”

Mary Sue Hanson Taylor recalls emceeing the synchronized swim team’s Follies at the pool, (now a social meeting spot called The Dive.)  “I announced the finale, where the entire synchronized swim team slides into the pool in the pitch darkness, and then turns on the ‘body lights’ they have attached to their bodies, as they glide silently into their formations.  Elegant and dramatic.  Only after the auditorium went dark for their entrance, I walked off the edge of the pool, fell in, and was silently struggling to get out.  I was sinking fast, dressed in my wool skirt and loafers, and seeing my predicament, the audio crew flipped on the house lights.  There I was, oops, sorry….me at one end flailing and the elegant swim team at the other….traumatized at seeing me in the pool.  We had to start over.  And we did, but the audience was laughing so hard it ruined the finale.  I forever apologize to the Synchronized Swim Team.”

DJ remembers being a charter member of the Gustavus bowling team.  “All physical education majors had to compete on some team, so this was mine.  We never had competitive teams for girls in high school, so I thought I’d try bowling.  (Remember the new lanes on the lower level of the Union?  (Gone now.)  On my 21st birthday we had a bowling tournament in Ames, Iowa, so I was away for that weekend.  Darn!  No misbehaving on my part!  My aunt had taken cake decorating classes and sent a beautiful cake (so I heard) to the dorm.  But my dorm mates decided that it would go to waste because I was gone, so they ate the whole thing, never even taking a picture of it.  When I got back, my aunt asked how I liked the cake!?!  Otherwise I’d have never known.

How many remember the different trips we took during winter break or with the college?  For most of us it was our first travel experience.  I will never forget my skiing experience in Aspen, Colorado, when John Denver joined us at Snowmass.  He sang in our hotel and then later in one of the Gustie’s rooms at night.  Then he hitched a ride back to Gustavus with us on the bus.  Either Ann Martell ’68 was with us or he wanted to get back to her in Minnesota.  He sang and played his tapes all the way home from Colorado.  It was glorious!  I still play his records, then tapes, now CDs.  Haven’t made it to an iPod yet!

Donna Sjoding Amidon continues...“I remember being in the Gustavus concert choir and traveling to Scandinavia after my sophomore year.  It was such a fantastic experience for a small town girl.  I have many memories of our conductor, Phil Knautz ’48, who demanded perfect continuous eye contact with him during a song when on stage.  Whenever my eyes started to drift I would feel this uncomfortable sensation and look at him staring at me with such intesity that I wanted to hide.  He demanded discipline and got it….I respected him for that.  After graduating from Gustavus it seems that all our closest friends for life are Gusties and their families.  The friends we have kept the closest and longest all went to school with us or are best friends of our Gustie friends and therefore were brought into the circle.  That is not to say we never made other friends over the years but just that we have shared the most signigicant parts of our lives with Gusties.  In fact, we just came back from celebrating Christmas Eve with Maury Miller ’67, Betsy Neprude Miller, and their daughter, Kristin ’99 and her family.”

And here’s “a stream of consciousness list of events that jump into my mind”…by Mike Nielsen.  “Some things mentioned will only be familiar to a handful of people, but still are my best memories of Gustavus.  Here goes…my tough job of “watching the Student Union” in the evenings, the unauthorized “phone call scandal” on my night shift, Powder puff football and the “fear” of Dar Gustavson (still his wife!), riding to Concordia for basketball in below zero weather, with no heat in the Gustie “checker limo,” watching “Willie” trying to keep every athlete from stealing socks and tee shirts, getting my basketball trunks pulled down by the “Rat Pack” under the basket at St. Johns, boxing in the Uhler basement instead of studying, intramural rivalries, judo class, molding a life-sized clay head of Greg Benson in sculpture class, watching water balloons slingshot out of top floor windows of Uhler Hall, the pigeons released in the library, hiding under the bed to escape the “swat squad” during Hell week.  The “OK” Hell Day and infamous swim, garlic toast at the Holiday House, the guys going to the Pizza Villa after the women’s “justified curfew(!),” the rumors of “contamination” in pizzas made for rival frat members, finding recycled desserts in the cafeteria, Ma Young’s eggs (and watching Benny methodically mince them up in ¼ inch pieces every morning), the “farmhouse,” townies, and frat parties, snow “whiteouts” across the parking lot, and above all else―the beauty of Christ Chapel!”

And from his wife, Darlene Gustavson Nielsen….

“My first memory is my freshman year during parent's weekend―Marilyn Anderson and I decided to hitchhike to Mankato.  Guess who picked us up―my Mom and Dad and my brother.  They happily took us to Mankato, but I was mortified!  (OK, DJ hitchhiked from Mankato, too, but got picked up by a guy who gave her a lecture about hitchhiking, and she never did it again.  Did Dar?)

Dances in the Union.  Early morning swimming―I was not happy that I had to take swimming since I already had my WSI and Toni D’Angelo did not have to take it because she had her WSI.  Sorry Toni!  Mrs. Baker’s decision!  (Comment from DJ…Mrs. Baker did have her favorites and they did not include Dar or DJ!)

Karen Alrick and I got to fly to Youngstown Ohio with the football team.  Coach Jocko Nelson ’50 loved us!  Karen and I were assigned to the “Co-ed” dorm as juniors―we didn’t unpack until we were changed to Valley View with all our friends.  And…don’t you love “Co-ed”―girls on one side―boys on the other with a gate in-between!  (Thanks, Dar!  I was one of your friends that stayed in Coed!  J DJ)

Loved the ski trip to Aspen―a small cowboy town with no paved streets!  Hard to believe!  We had hours!  The daughter of a friend of mine could not believe that the girls had hours but the boys didn’t.  We loved it and made great friends.  I learned to play bridge!  I spent many hours playing bridge when I should have been studying.

Mike Nielsen and I got engaged on October 19, 1968.  He asked me to marry him in the cemetery in St. Peter and a “cop” found us and asked us to leave.  Great story!  (See above…Mike never mentioned he met his wife at GAC??!!)

All the sorority and fraternity banquets―driving back from New Ulm before people were actually picked up for DUI.  I guess we should mention some academia―my favorite class was comparative religion taught by Dr. Schneider.  (I agree, that was my favorite, too, and he was the best!  DJ)  There are so many more memories―it was a fabulous four years!”

Once you start reading these memories, others will likely start flooding into your brain, too!  Did we ever go to classes?  Or attend chapel?

Do you remember what was happening beyond the hills of Gustavus in 1969?  (Other than the Viet Nam War which touched all of us at some point.)  Woodstock, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, Paul McCartney denied rumors that he was dead, bell-bottom blue jeans, Sesame Street debut, the Mets won the World Series after being the worst team in baseball, and the following people were BORN:  Jennifer Aniston, Brett Favre, Steffi Graff, Renee Zellweger. L

Here’s who was born with us in 1947! J  Arnold Schwarznegger, David Letterman, Farrah Fawcett, Danielle Steele, Tom Clancy, Elton John, Carlos Santana, Polaroid Land cameras, Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody, Spruce Goose, Minute Maid frozen juice.  “In the first televised White House address, President Truman asked Americans to refrain from eating meat on Tuesdays and poultry on Thursdays to help stockpile grain for starving people in Europe.”  (Could happen again soon!)

We are looking forward to reminiscing with more of you at our reunion next October.  Please put it on your calendar for Friday, the 9th, with your classmates, and Saturday, the 10th at Gustavus for the Homecoming festivities and more classmates.

Written amidst chuckles and tears, and sent to you with fond memories by your classmates,

Cousins, Benny and DJ

1969 Guest Letter Writers

Campus News

Haugen Named Head Football Coach

Peter Haugen was named the new head football coach in mid-December.  Haugen posted an 111-44 record in 15 years at Washburn High School.  He is the 17th head coach in the 93-year history of Gustavus football.  Haugen started the second week of January.

President Ohle is on the Road!

Please join President Ohle, his wife Kris, and other Gustavus staff at a chapter dessert reception near you.  President Ohle will be visiting 11 cities around the country in the coming months and all alumni, parents, and friends of the College are invited to attend a reception.  Dates are listed below or check out the Alumni website to find out more details.

Mustaphi Named Michelle Obama’s Deputy Press Secretary

Semonti Mustaphi ’03 was recently named Deputy Press Secretary for First Lady Michelle Obama.  Mustaphi worked on the Obama campaign, and has also held communications positions for three senators.  Mustaphi graduated with a political science and communication studies double major, danced in the Gustavus Dance Company, and was an Anderson Scholar.

Gustie Breakfasts

Join us for the “Come on You Gustie” Breakfasts.  The breakfasts are held the third Wednesday of each month at the Doubletree Hotel, Minneapolis-Park Place, 1500 Park Place Boulevard (Hwy 394 and Hwy 100).  The breakfast runs from 8-9:30 and is $10 per person.  Reserve a spot by calling Don Swanson ’55 at (763) 533-9083.  February’s speaker will be Kris Kracht, communications; forensics head coach.

Gustie Pages

Want to support Gustie professionals?  In need of a doctor, pastor, or financial adviser?  Look in the Gustie Pages, an online database of Gusties who have submitted information about their profession.  Use the Gustavus network to meet your needs, or submit your professional information if you would like other Gusties to become your customers.  Go to the Gustie Pages at the alumni website,

Upcoming Alumni Events

  • 100th Anniversary of Gustavus Men's Basketball - Feb. 7
  • Twin Cities Gustie Breakfast, Kris Kracht, communications; forensics head coach - Feb. 18
  • Tucson Chapter Gathering - Feb. 19, Westward Look Resort
  • Phoenix Chapter Gathering - Feb. 20, Millennium Resort, Scottsdale
  • Los Angeles Chapter Gathering - Feb. 28, Art Director's Guild, Studio City
  • Boston Chapter Gathering - March 14, Hyatt Regency Cambridge
  • New York Chapter Gathering - March 16, New York Marriott East Side
  • Twin Cities Gustie Breakfast, Ken Westphal, vice president for finance - March 18
  • Seattle Chapter Gathering - March 21, Trinity Lutheran Church, Freeland, WA
  • San Francisco Chapter Gathering - March 23, Hotel Vitale
  • Twin Cities Gustie Breakfast, Steve Wilkinson, men's tennis coach - April 15