Class of '81
January 2001

Dear Class of ’81,

Twenty years ago the date of this letter was literally almost a lifetime away. Looking back it is only a half a lifetime ago. Some of the experiences seem like they happened just yesterday.

January-term l981 found our class in many diverse locations. Since it was our senior year, a majority of us were not even on campus. Some of us were in Europe studying. Some were in much warmer climates pursuing individual goals (i.e. snorkeling in the Virgin Islands studying the habits of the various tropical marine life, or getting in condition for the upcoming tennis season, just to name a few.) There were some of us, like me, who were still on campus.

Being in choir all four years, J-term meant getting ready for tour. It also meant being back on campus early from Christmas vacation for the choir version of preseason training. Since we had a new director that year, (Karle Erickson), the Tour would be closer to home consisting of a short trip east to Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and back. (Not like the previous two year's tours; when we drove to Texas in’79 and flew to California in ’80.) Brian Fragodt was the choir president in addition to his other duties as tenor soloist, barbershop quartet member and section leader. I was fulfilling my role that I was given by Phil Knautz ’48 when I got into the choir as a freshman, that of being the choir's character. Being one of the few premed/biology majors in the choir I always was in awe of the talented people that I sang with.

Since J-Term meant focusing in on one class for the month, it also gave some time for reflection on what was going to happen after graduation and beyond. Some of us had a definite idea of what they were going to do, where they were going to do it and in which time frame. Some of us had a general idea of what we wanted to do, but the sticking point was in the details. I am sure there were even some that still did not even have that general idea. This required some soul searching and dreaming.

For me, I had applied to medical school and thought that I might go into pediatrics, but I was not sure that I would get accepted. (Apparently I was not alone in that uncertainty. As I found out later, when I was accepted, Chaplin Elvee, who wrote one of my letters of recommendation, announced in Chapel that my getting into medical school was an example that miracles still happened.) What was I going to do if I didn't get into medical school? What did I want to do with my life? What was really important? These were just some of the questions that I dealt with that J-Term.

Looking back at some of the dreams and answers that I had to those questions and comparing them to actualities of my life has been an interesting exercise. Had you told me twenty years ago that I would be married for almost 16 years, a father of five kids, have lived in four different states before ending up back in Minnesota, I would have said you were crazy. However the many similarities that they have are uncanny.

Now some news:

Lisa Knutson Backer's daughter, Megan, is not only the reigning Miss Cambridge, but a member of Gustavus class of 2003. It is hard to believe that our class is now helping to fill the ranks of another generation of Gusties. Jon and Kris (Belin) Cooper write that after an extremely chaotic two years, they are happy to be living in the same state. Jon had moved 13 months before Kris and the kids did. (Having had a similar, but shorter, experience in one of our moves, I can agree whole-heartedly.) Karl Self was in the news having been named director of the University of Minnesota Community-University Health Care Center and Variety Children's Clinic as of June 12, 2000. CUHCC provides medical, dental and mental health services to children and adults in the Phillips neighborhood, one of Minneapolis’ poorest and most ethnically diverse communities.

In following Heimers’ lead I have not put in the information that is in the Quarterly. Hopefully with our 20th Reunion coming up this fall (September 21 & 22), more of you will return the survey sent out last fall so that we can have more information to pass along. I admit that I had filled out most of the survey myself, but had not finished it and mailed it back until now.

Here is some news from the campus:

Campus News

The Gustavus campus is enjoying another busy and exciting January Term with 2300-plus students enrolled for credit! We are offering over 100 January Term courses, including 16 travel courses (plus 36 international courses through our UMAIE consortium). There are also 15 courses on the special Environmental Studies theme for J-Term 2001. Some of these courses include, Chemistry in the Environment, The Literature of Winter, Geographical Issues in the Third World, Global Environmental Change, Amazonia: An Eco-Historical Perspective, GIS in Environmental Analysis, The Changing Face of Agriculture, and Environmental Journalism. Next year (2002) the January Term theme will be "Global Village" and will feature both international and domestic diversity focused courses. After that J-Term themes are planned for "Service-Learning" (2003) and "Undergraduate Research" (2004).

You are invited and encouraged to attend these upcoming national chapter alumni events. Invitations are sent to alumni in chapters. For more information, please call the Alumni Office at 800-487-8437 or look on the web at

  • Seattle Chapter, Gustavus Choir Concert, January 13
  • Portland Chapter, Gustavus Choir Concert, January 15
  • Bay Area Chapter, Gustavus Choir Concerts, January 17-19
  • San Diego Chapter, pre-concert dinner and Gustavus Choir Concert, January 21
  • Los Angeles Chapter, Gustavus Choir Concerts, January 22 & 24
  • Sun City Chapter, pre-concert dinner and Gustavus Choir Concert, January 25
  • Phoenix Chapter, pre-concert dinner and Gustavus Choir Concert, January 26
  • Tucson Chapter gathering on January 27
  • Albuquerque Chapter, Gustavus Choir Concert, January 28
  • Santa Fe Chapter, Gustavus Choir Concert, January 29
  • Denver Chapter, Gustavus Choir Concerts, January 30 & 31
  • Rapid City Chapter, Gustavus Choir Concert, February 1
  • Sioux Falls Chapter, Gustavus Choir Concert, February 2
  • Twin Cities Chapter, Gustavus Choir Concert, February 4, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, 12650 Johnny Cake Road, Apple Valley, 3:30 p.m.
  • Gustavus Band Home Concert, February 4, Christ Chapel, 7:30 p.m.
  • Gustavus Choir Home Concert, February 10, Christ Chapel, 7:30 p.m.
  • Marco Island gathering February 24
  • Vero Beach gathering February 25

Reunions 2001

50th Anniversary Class and 50-Year Club reunions will take place on campus, May 25-26 for the Class of 1951 and the 50-Year Club. Registration material will be mailed in April.

A reminder that all other reunion classes (1956, 1961, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991 and 1996) will have their reunions at Homecoming onSeptember 21-22. Class gatherings will take place in the Twin Cities at the DoubleTree Hotel, Minneapolis Airport at the Mall, on Friday, September 21. Homecoming activities will take place on campus on Saturday, September 22.

Will you help Gustavus remain strongly church related? Encourage your ELCA congregation to join the Gustavus Adolphus College Association of Congregations. There is no cost. For more information, call the Office of Church Relations at 800-726-6194 or e-mail Craig Johnson at

Hope that a majority will be able to make it back to campus this fall and get a chance to reconnect with each other.

Paul "Bernie" Bernhardson

1981 Guest Letter Writer