Class of '69

May 2012

Dear Classmates,

I’m going to digress a bit with a story about us at the beginning of this note, but I will eventually get to the point.  When David enlisted in the Air Force in 1970, he and others with college degrees who did not want to be pilots joined the enlisted ranks as teachers of English as a second language.  Upon returning to the U. S. a year or so later, the Air Force assigned most of these hardened chalkboard vets to posts unrelated to their experience or education.  A clerical error sent David to Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino, California, to help the Aerospace Audio Visual Service make films and television programs critical for our national defense; “Defend Your Teeth from a Cavity Assault!” and “Airbase Grassland Management” were two of his biggest hits.  I found an accounting job in an automotive emissions lab.  Together with new found friends and some old Viet Nam hands we took full advantage of being close to Los Angeles, the ocean, and smog-shrouded mountains at our back door.

Near the end of our tour David sought an “early out” to begin the spring 1974 semester at Indiana University.  Taking a break from the paperwork, he and friend ESL teacher Tom Adams were investing their surplus creative energy in producing the absolutely perfect Black Russian.  I returned one afternoon just as trial #12 was underway while David was on the phone to ask Dr. Robertz ʼ51 for a recommendation.  Tom, a UCLA grad, was incredulous that not only did David know the name of his advisor, but that he would call him to visit about his current projects, the debate team’s record, and the activities of the Robertz children!

Few of us would be surprised by such daring.  The Gustavus community covers a lot of territory.  Even now, if I’m at a campus event without David and happen to find Dr. Robertz, he quickly asks about what we are doing and how things are going at Saint Benedict’s.  And that, dear classmates, is my point.  Enduring friendships are the heart of the Gustavus community.  Those relationships become a part of our lives for decades to come.

Relationships also offer a lens through which we can view the evolution of our college across the past 150 years.  That was never more evident than during Chaplain Richard Elvee’s return to Gustavus for a week-long residence as part of the college’s sesquicentennial celebration, from 16 to 22 April.  His visit also celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Christ Chapel’s dedication.

Our class was well represented for Elvee’s Monday, 16 April evening reminiscence about some of the central players that guided Gustavus into the second half of the 20th century.  In anticipation of the exciting event ahead of us, I met with Barb Seeley-Devlin, Julie Johnson, Ruth Johnson, Eileen Holz ʼ71 for dinner in Saint Peter earlier in the evening.  Before Elvee’s presentation, Barb, Steve Eckman, and Paul Strandness asked that I take their picture with Dr. Robertz.  Standing together, they quickly recalled memories of debate tournaments, trips to D.C., and hauling fuel oil to Elvees’ farm on a snow-mobile during a blizzard.

Elvee’s poetic sense, evident in both his writing and in his speech, remain vibrant and as compelling as during our days on the hill.  His recollections of people important for the development of our college---Evelyn Anderson ʼ29, Esby ʼ41, Kyle Montague ʼ34, Cec ʼ56, Moose Malmquist ʼ53, and of course Dr. Carlson ʼ30---were as fresh and insightful as if he had never left the campus.  Elvee’s tributes to those we knew as our college teachers and staff were the highlight of that evening’s gathering.  The event is captured and preserved on the Gustavus website at  Look for “Chaplain Elvee:  A Portrait of the Times” among the many other treasures recorded and preserved on the College’s streaming video site.

For those who could attend, the following week offered a series of remarkable events shared with our chaplain.  One of daughter Karla’s friends noted that Elvee provided “the best theater” he’d ever seen in our chapel.  That same day Jan Ledin Michelatz ʼ74, sitting behind Karla, tapped her on the shoulder and whispered, “See why we always came here?”  The Association of Congregations gathering later that weekend afforded opportunities to listen to Elvee twice more, once on Saturday morning to recall the founding of the chapel and again on Sunday morning for the communion service that would mark the end of his stay at GAC.  While many stations were ready to accommodate the multitude, most of us found the cup held by Elvee.

Earlier I emailed the Chaplain Emeritus in hopes of finding a time when we might meet with friends during the week, which was the genesis of a lively brunch at Whiskey River following Sunday Chapel.  What a much appreciated opportunity for those of us who gathered there!  I recalled a comment heard at the lunch following Esby’s funeral and realized it was pertinent here as well.  One of the doctors who’d grown close to Esby while treating him in his final days noted, “It touched me that Esby had the capacity to make every one of us in this room (and it was quite a sizable group) feel like we were his best friend.  He made me come closer to understanding how God could keep each of us in the palm of his hand.”

I was reminded how events work together to create significant impact.  Pastor Elvee’s first church was in Cross Lake, where Dr. Carlson owned a summer cabin.  Having heard Elvee’s sermons and after visiting with him, Christ Chapel had a chaplain in time for its consecration.  That connection forged by a chance event would influence so many of us in the years ahead!

I was saddened when Pastor and the college’s second chaplain, Brian Johnson ʼ80, left Gustavus for a position at Valparaiso, as I had hoped that Karla and her friends would be able to learn from his wisdom during their Gustavus years much as we had from Elvee.  With the old Chaplain’s visit, fortunately, she and her peers had a unique chance to better understand the significant roles that Dr. Carlson and many others we knew would play in his unfolding vision for the college.

It’s hard to believe that Karla is a junior, though it shouldn’t be since we all know how quickly time passes.  We’re planning to have a “warm-up” commencement this spring so I don’t miss something when the ceremony counts for real next year.  The parents of a good friend of Karla’s will be with his sister to celebrate her graduation in Iowa, offering us a chance for us to serve as “loaner parents” for a day.  I suspect this ceremonial occasion will be a time of bitter-sweet feelings, of excited anticipation balanced with the regret of parting from people and places we came to love.  How clearly I remember Jerry Prouty coming toward me on Hello Walk saying, “Jane, don’t you start to cry, or…” and of course in the next second we were both blubbering.  May all of this year’s new graduates who are prepared to head out into their new world be guided by Elvee’s final invitation, given at the close of our baccalaureate service in May of 1969.  “So, now, it’s time for you to go.  Remember; the doors will always be open and the lights will always be on when you come back.”  Do they still know of the song many of us sang that ended with, “For you belong to GA College and Gustavus belongs to you”?

May.  It’s rhubarb time and we have yet to set foot in our back yard.  I’ve decided that a good project might be taming the jungle by constructing a foot bridge out to our ancient plant; mowing seems so wasteful.  Our rhubarb plant has a long history of thriving despite neglect, having been clipped in the 1950’s from its mother plant at David’s grandparents’ house in North Minneapolis, clipped again to make its way 25 years ago to our then new home.  Whether due to genetics or luck, it’s our only consistently reliable crop.

David’s parents’ house on St. Alban’s Bay, near Excelsior, has attracted buyers who wish to execute their plans for remodeling on June 1.  We were living in Bloomington, Indiana when my parents sold their home and moved to Florida, so I didn’t directly experience that clean-out.  This parting from another old house, one that holds 60 years of memories, will be a challenge.  I feel like I should just sit quietly at the kitchen table for a long time, listening to the voices of family no longer with us whose memories are held in that space.

Unfortunately the buyers’ interpretation of “as is” doesn’t allow us to leave behind the accumulated miscellaneous memorabilia in the attic−accessible through a closet that’s also full of even more memorabilia.  The last time anyone went up there was 10 years ago when Karla, the last of the family to begin a sixth grade Minnesota History Ancestor Project, entered the darkness and pushed away the cobwebs to gather pictures and documents as had her cousins before her.  As I’m a bit of a “pack rat,” I hope to learn something about discarding memorabilia from this experience.

I’m looking forward to leaving for Washington, D. C. early on the morning of June 4 (well, maybe not the bus ride as much as our arrival) for the 100th anniversary celebration of Girl Scouting in America.  I’ll be joining 100,000 friends on the Washington Mall−girls from all over the country who will trade “swaps” with each other representing their states.  As I did the 90th and 95th, I’m wondering what stops will be pulled out for 100 years; one can only imagine!

Karla and I are talking about driving to Maine to visit her cousin who is beginning her work as a physician’s assistant.  David’s not confident of our map-reading skills, but I’ve assured him that the worst that could happen is that instead of Maine, we discover another place we’ve not visited.  He never answers, buried in another summer of NCATE accreditation, but we plan to make a pilgrimage to Holden Village in Washington State, and perhaps on to Seattle, in August.  This will be our first retreat at Holden and we’re looking forward to it.

It’s time to thank you for your contributions to Gustavus and urge you, if you haven’t already done so, to include the College among your donations this spring.  This month, the end of the college’s fiscal year, brings with it an opportunity to double your contribution through the generosity of other donors who have pledged to match our gifts to Gustavus.  Those donations help renew the gift of education, of life in the Gustie community, for those who come after us.

By the time you read this, Minnesota’s fishing season will be underway.  If you found your walleye on opening day, or even if you did not, I hope you had a good time soaking up the joy of a new season.  Savor the rest of spring and the summer to follow−they pass all too quickly.


Jane Norman Leitzman

1969 Communications Chair

Campus News

2012 Alumni Association Awards Announced

The Gustavus Alumni Board of Directors has announced its 2012 award recipients:

Greater Gustavus Award – awarded to those “who by deed, have notably advanced and aided Gustavus Adolphus College”:

Jon and Anita Thomsen Young ’77 ’77, Eden Prairie, MN, for their volunteer leadership, service and philanthropy to the College.

Distinguished Alumni Citations – recognizing outstanding and exceptional professional achievement that brings unusual honor to the individual in his or her field of endeavor:

Scott Dee ’81, Farwell, MN, professor of veterinary population medicine, University of Minnesota, swine consultant, and international research veterinarian and director at Pipestone Veterinary Clinic;

Mark Elfstrom ’01, Anchorage, AK, middle school math and science teacher, recipient of a 2011 Milken Educator Award and finalist for the 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching;

Kurt Elling ’89, New York, NY, Grammy Award-winning vocal jazz artist.

First Decade Awards – recognizing early professional achievement in the 10th anniversary class:

Amy Brown ’02, Pittsburgh, PA, neonatology fellow at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center;

Michael Bland ’02, St. Louis, MO, postdoctoral associate, earth and planetary sciences, Washington University.

National Sesquicentennial Celebrations

Throughout the coming year, Gusties are gathering across the country to reflect on Gustavus’s past, celebrate 150 academic years, and engage for the future.  In conjunction with the celebrations on campus, the College invites all alumni, parents, and friends for a celebration in an area near them.  The president has gone to 14 different locations from New York to LA.  You can view them all and register for an event at

Upcoming Chapter Events

June 5, 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Sesquicentennial Celebration - Rochester (Somerby Golf Club, Byron MN)

June 18, 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Sesquicentennial Celebration - St. Cloud (St. Cloud Civic Center, St. Cloud MN)

June 19, 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Sesquicentennial Celebration - Willmar (The Oaks at Eagle Creek, Willmar MN)

June 20, 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Sesquicentennial Celebration - Fargo/Moorhead (Stokers at Hotel Donaldson)

June 25, 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Sesquicentennial Celebration - Sioux Falls (Minerva’s Restaurant and Bar, Sioux Falls, SD)

June 26, 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Sesquicentennial Celebration - Omaha (Spezia Restaurant, Omaha NE)

June 27, 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Sesquicentennial Celebration - Des Moines (The Wakonda Club, Des Moines IA)

July 16, 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Sesquicentennial Celebration - Grand Rapids (Timberlake Lodge Hotel, Grand Rapids MN)

July 17, 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Sesquicentennial Celebration - Duluth (Clyde Park Restaurant, Duluth MN)

Nobel Conference 48 – October 2 & 3, 2012

The oceans have long been a source of fascination, from the tales of Sinbad to the popular Blue Planet documentary.  The marine world provides us with necessities like seafood and medicines, fertilizers and petroleum.  But the oceans are also associated with danger, from the devastating hurricanes we face each year to the under-reported facts of the oceans’ roles in climate change.  Nobel Conference 48 examines “Our Global Ocean” as a source of inspiration, danger, and knowledge.  To order tickets online go to: or call the Office of Marketing/Communications at 507/933-7520.

Sweden’s King and Queen to visit Gustavus – October 5

Their majesties King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia will visit Gustavus on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 and ASI on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012.  The visit will commemorate the sesquicentennial at Gustavus and the opening of the new Nelson Cultural Center at ASI.  It comes after a long period of planning by both parties.