Class of '71
September 2001

To Susan Alexis in New Mexico, to Mike Lewis in Montana, to Judy Wood Chammas in Virginia, to Jana Soeldner Danger in Florida, to Marty Vandree in Kansas ‑ to all Gusties from the Class of ’71 , wherever you are―Greetings!

A quick class letter before Gustavus Homecoming and our 30th reunion!  I hope that you've had a great summer, that you're looking forward to fall, that you're coming to the class of 1971 reception at the Doubletree Hotel in Bloomington on September 21 and that you're going to take part in the Homecoming events on the Gustavus campus the next day!

You've no doubt received information from Gustavus about all Saturday's activities, but in case you've misplaced the mailing, Homecoming will begin with a morning praise and memorial service in Christ Chapel at 10:00 followed by the parade, an Eckman Mall celebration, the dedication of the Johns Family Courtyard and tailgate party before Gustavus takes on Bethel at 1:00!

At 3:00 the Gustie women's volleyball team plays Hamline and the men's soccer team plays Concordia.  The dedication of the Brown Outdoor Tennis Complex is at 4:30 followed by the Tennis Gallery of Champions banquet at 5:30.  The fun concludes in Bjorling Recital Hall with a concert by the North American Welsh Choir.

To make our reunion and Homecoming even more of an exciting time we need YOU to be there!  Call the alumni office at 1-800-GUSTIES and let them know you'll be coming to the Doubletree Hotel―and then send them your $20 check!  One more thing―have you ever checked out the Gustavus website (  You can also register there!

Like any small liberal arts college, Gustavus has three main sources of annual income:  tuition and fees, endowment income, and gifts.  Because the gifts contributed to the Alumni Fund are able to be spent immediately on meeting the college's priorities, the impact of these gifts is significant, enabling Gustavus to meet its increasing operational expenses and providing necessary resources that enable Gustauvs to continue to attract the best and brightest students and faculty.

A classmate of ours made this suggestion and I'm passing it along to you: in this special year how about a reunion gift to Gustavus of $300--$10 in celebration of each of the thirty years that have passed since our time on the hill?

When we were Gustie students, the alumni of our day helped provide the resources to assure that we could attend, graduate and go on to lives of worth and service.  These resources helped strengthen Gustavus and provided extra funds beyond tuition to make our education the best experience possible!

As I've said before, as wonderful a college as Gustavus is with its beautiful campus and outstanding facilities, it's the people who make Gustavus so distinctive, so unique, so much the treasure that it is.  Think of the people who had an impact on your life, the relationships developed, the friendships maintained, the memories of Gusties we will always cherish even if time and distance have separated us.

After their years of service in Liberia, Mark and Grace Philpot Monson made their home in Duluth.  At the Gustavus choir's home concert in February of 2000 I saw Mark and Grace who were there to hear their son John sing with the choir.  It was at this time Mark and Grace told me about John's brain tumor and his prognosis which was not good.  Grace also said their younger son, Luther, was considering skipping his senior year of high school just to go to Gustavus to be with his big brother.  (I had tears on hearing that‑as I do right now as I type this!  What a brother!)  John died the next October and Gustavus choir director Greg Aune gave the following reflections at his memorial service.

Late August, 1999. 1 am checking my phone messages.  Click:  "Dr. Aune, this is John Monson calling. I was unable to audition for the Gustavus choir this past spring and want to audition for you when I get back on campus in September.  Please let me know when I can do this."  Click.  Well, I thought to myself I guess this audition will take place whether or not I say so.

I get the "Gribly" and look up this person.  Oh yes, the young man I noticed from the balcony during Christmas in Christ Chapel rehearsals last winter with that shock of blond hair.  Another light goes on:  this is the young man who became ill about this same time-which is why he missed the spring auditions.  I call back:  "Yes, John, you will get that audition.  Call me when you arrive on campus and I'll set it up."

So goes my first contact with John, and I think it typical.  As I got to know John better during the year, I always was struck by his approach to living-"Let's get on with it."

Sometime early in that semester I happened to be walking home after rehearsal and he was just ahead of me.  I caught up to him and asked him about his illness and what had happened.  He quickly and calmly explained the disease and the treatment he had received.  He said, with a shrug of his shoulders, "and that is the end of that."  Message:  thanks for asking, but I am not thinking about it, so why should you?

Fast forward.  Family Weekend.  I have my first contact with John's family, Mark, John's father, had previously e-mailed me a couple of times with more detailed information about John and told me that he would have a scan the Friday before Family Weekend.  It will be definitive.

The Sunday of Family Weekend, as we are setting up for the concert, I see John and his family walk into the chapel.  It is obvious that the news is not good.  Nonetheless, come concert time John stands with the choir, his first time in the maroon robe, singing with gusto!

How can he keep from singing?

As the year progresses I find myself becoming more and more involved and attached to this young man and his wonderful family.  Initially I am afraid, but I realize John is not afraid.

How can I keep from loving?

January Term-a safe, happy time for the choir and myself.  We meet for rehearsals several hours in the afternoon.  The choir comes over to our house a couple times to practice the card game 500, to eat, relax, and enjoy the company.  During one rehearsal John is sitting out with a sore throat, listening.  I am conducting the choir, and as I often do, walk out into the hall to listen.  I sit down next to John.  The choir is singing-it sounds marvelous.  I glance at John-he is smiling.  I put my arm around him and he lays his head on my shoulder.  The choir continues singing.  There is peace and love in the room.

John's life goes on in endless song.  How can we keep from singing?

Grace and Mark, know that you are in the thoughts and prayers of your Gustavus friends.

I'm looking forward to seeing you all on September 21 in Bloomington and at Gustavus the next day for an enjoyable, memorable time!

Bruce Johnson

1971 Class Agent