Class of '77
October 1998

My First Letter In Some Time

Long time, no write! My life seems to be going faster and faster as I get older and older. The more technology I add to make it manageable (cell phone, beeper, schedule plus etc.) the more I tend to squeeze into it. The law of diminishing returns is definitely at play here. I'll be slowing down after I return from Denver Thursday. My daughter Gretchen (10) and I are heading north to the Sawbill Trail for some fall camping. MEA meetings will afford us some quality time together camping and canoeing in the land, rock, trees and sky.

You're probably interested in how we did last year. Here are the statistics: Total gifts of $26,356, Total Donors of 202 and a percentage of giving of 46%. That's a big drop from previous years. Our best year was 274 donors (63%) for total dollars of $36,069. What has happened? One would have thought that the tornado and the news would have kept GAC on the minds of its alumni. Not so. Perhaps my efforts were less than stellar, and stellar efforts are what it takes to put up the numbers. Unfortunately I can't take the time to make all the calls, and at least last year the letters just didn't get done. So where does that leave us? I set a goal of $30,000 for 1998/99 and 60% of our class as givers. To help us get to those lofty goals Al Behrends has volunteered to act as co-class agent with me. He will be a very welcome addition to the effort.

I was down on campus twice this past fall. Wow did it look great! I cannot believe the dramatic difference on campus from this past spring/early summer. The only machinery left on campus is the equipment being used to build the enormous addition to the student union. It will be quite a structure when completed, and it's something the school has badly needed in order to compete for top students. When I was down there the mall area was in full bloom and (at least standing at the head of the mall) the only thing missing was the spire on the chapel. The trees are shorter, that's true, but I took some time examining what was replanted and the variety is fantastic. Time will heal the lack of shade. You really must see the dramatic difference to believe it.

Phonorama as we know it is over. At least this fall I will be unable to make any calls to you. My schedule for October involves travel every week and thus it is impossible for me make those familiar calls. This year marks the first year that students will be making the calls to our alumni. They have been well trained. They will be well supervised and will be able to provide campus insight that I would never be able to give. I ask that you hear them out, ask them questions and open your wallet. They have the tough job of asking for money from people they don't even know. However, put another way, you could have had that work study job when you were a student at Gustavus.

Our kids are back into the swing of school. Si (13, 8th grade) is off to a much better start than last year. Could it be his home room and health teacher Steve O'Neil, Class of '77? Talk about full circle. Si's favorite class is lunch, his least favorite is math. His mother and I keep saying that Einstein didn't do well in math either. Gretchen is in her last year in elementary school and has started the clarinet. She was elected to the student council on a platform of bringing back potato chips to the lunch menu. Like many of our politicians-give the people what they want. Hunter (4) is in his last year of nursery school. He goes 3 days a week to school and has an added 2 days per week of speech therapy. He still talks all the time (that's great) and is getting quite understandable (even better). If you haven't done the math I would just like to point out that next year we will have a child in each of the school settings that Wayzata offers; one in elementary, one in middle school and one in high school. When Hunter gets done with elementary school we will have been at that school for 13 years -- longer than most teachers!

N.B. from Al: If I'm doing the math right here, this also means that Si will have a child at Gustavus for 13 years!

NEWS FROM HOME: October 22, 1998Today was a great day on campus as the cross was placed and secured to the top of the new steeple high above Christ Chapel. The steeple, assembled in four sections, was put in place on Tuesday with the biggest portable crane I've ever seen. As the last section was being prepared for placement, an eagle glided over the Chapel and hovered for about a minute, as if he were checking out this new perch. I think that's a good sign. Christ Chapel was filled this morning with students, faculty, alumni and friends for the service which ended outside with the blessing of the new steeple.

Today we officially leave re-building behind and are moving into the future of an even greater Gustavus. And this is where we need your help. Gustavus can't afford to simply keep up with the future. We need to be leaders in the field to continue to lead the field. Our class has always been out there leading the other classes. Now we need to be out there again. As Si said, now is the time to open the wallet. Gustavus needs us now more than ever. ~ Al

On to the news..

Beth Leland Jacobson is still teaching Spanish and ESL at United South Central schools near Bricelyn, MN. Jolene Nelson is a physician assistant at Iowa State University Health Center. She and Martha Rueter live in Madrid, IA. John Dinsmore teaches and is a mental health director at North Dakota State College of Science. Otis Zanders is the superintendent of the MN Correctional Facility in Red Wing. Mark Scharmer has been promoted to first vice president and director of Association Risk Management Services and Home Office Marketing for Federated Insurance. (Thanks Mark for Federated's continued support of broadcasting Gustie games over KRBI - Al) Steve Schelhammer started his own HMO in Greensboro NC. The company is called Accordant Health Services. Wife, Dori (Schmiesing '79), has her own company managing a hectic home front.

Bruce "Doc" Johnson as been promoted to sergeant in investigations for the Dakota County Sheriff's Office. Dave Brueshoff is enjoying his position as professor in the ed dept. at Crown College. Wife, Bonnie (Madsen '79), is Dakota County public health supervisor. Kathy Bush Larson is on the Lakeville School Board. Cynthia Riemann Lopez is the director of sales for Advanced Microbial Systems, a manufacturer of beneficial bacteria used to enhance ecosystems world-wide. Scott Christensen teaches biology and photography at Stillwater H.S. and coaches the boys track and cross country running teams. His teams have won 5 consecutive state championships and this year were named the National High School Champions by USA Today.

Sharon Wieman Buckley retired from the Air Force in June and is now a full-time at-home Mom. She and her family live in Omaha, NE. Elizabeth Brink-Lathrop has started a new job in Cody, WY as the business manager for an artists co-op called Wild Wyoming Artists. Debbie Johnson Driscoll is still teaching phy-ed and coaching gymnastics (10 state championships!!) in Mahtomedi, MN. Mary Pederson Behrends teaches French at St. Peter High School. She is also the school’s Gifted and Talented Program coordinator and coached the St. Peter Academic Decathalon Team to the 1998 State Championship.

I'd really like to get the class back on track so that in a few years we can crack the $40,000 mark. That means we need more donors giving more money. If there was ever a time to give your financial support for the superior institution that GAC is, it's now. I must tell you that when I visited the campus last spring after the storm I cried. How could GAC recover from such a natural disaster? The devastation was unbelievable, beyond comprehension. But when Axel told the story of a prospective student who hadn't even attended her first class at Gustavus, but had sent prayers and $25 for building a better Gustavus I knew things were going to be OK. That's the role model. A student who hadn't even attended their first class, had not yet stepped foot in Christ Chapel or walked through the arboretum, sent prayers and money. That's the difference between Gustavus and so many other schools. It's up to you do the same. The recovery from the storm is over, now your financial help will propel the college to delivering an excellent product. After all, you're one of them.

Send a big check now and avoid a phone call. The 1998/99 giving year ends May 31st. You know the address:

The Gustavus Fund
Gustavus Adolphus College
800 West College Avenue
St. Peter, MN 56082
Si's E-Mails:
Al's E-Mail: