Class of '81
October 2006

Hello Classmates!

You may be a little sick and tired of hearing from us, your trusty little class agents, but please hang in there for yet another reunion communication blast―the post-event exposé!  Some of you are nervous already, aren’t you?  Those of you who were not able to join us may think that we were so busy we did not miss you.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Everywhere I turned, people were asking me if their old friends were on the reservation list.  We understand that there will never be a weekend when absolutely everyone can make it.  But please know that you truly were missed.  I cannot tell you how many times I heard attendees announce they will be back in five years and hope those they missed will join us next time.

The weekend started off for me with a rush of memories flooding in.  I had no more than parked my car outside the Best Western in Mankato when I saw Bruce Rehwaldt and Kevin Anderson, eager to help me move my pre-party fixins into the hotel suite.  It was just like moving into our dorm rooms.  Our male friends were always happy to grab some cargo and truck it wherever it needed to go.  Once into the hallways of the Best Western, it again felt much like moving into Valley 4.  Classmates were quick to find out which rooms others were in and promptly visited.  You’ll be happy to know that none of us brought hammers and nails to bunk or loft the beds and wound up leaving the hotel pretty much the way we found it.  The pre-parties started quickly after arrival.   Beer, wine and assorted libations were flowing in the Rehwaldt, Breckner-Pederson, Heimer, Connly-Fleming, Opsahl, Nielsen, Scharmer pre-parties but we managed to herd the crowd into the banquet rooms where we settled in for the next several hours to re-connect with old friends.  Heimer took a few minutes out of the evening to remind us how much things have changed in 25 years.   As I may have been the only female in the room who had not been on a mystery date with him in the late 70’s, he got more than a few chuckles when pointing out that “safe sex” used to mean asking him out as either a mystery or banquet date.  We were then visited by Dean Wahlund ’72, Director of College Relations, who did hilarious impersonations of Chaplain Elvee, “Boomer” Montague ’34 and Evelyn Young ’33.  After watching Dean reenact “Boomer’s” snorting, crotch-grabbing lectures, I have realized that the quirkiness of the profs I knew in Nobel Hall of Science was nothing compared to what you Econ and Business majors were subjected to! 

The real business of the evening was the mingling of old friends catching up with each other’s lives.  I wish I could fill you in better on what was shared but thanks to a few daiquiris and glasses of wine, I do not trust my memory and do not want to confuse any of the facts!  I will tell you that should Sara Sandvig Ljungman ever consider leaving the medical profession, she could easily become a television reporter.  She flitted throughout the room, connecting with nearly everyone.  It was clear that Sara had made her journey from Michigan very excited to catch up on the lives of those who had shared her Gustavus years.   She was genuinely interested in hearing about each of us although at least in my case, her life is much more fascinating than what she was hearing from me!  I know that I am anxious to see her again in five years and see new photos of her simply beautiful children and get an update on their lives.  Perhaps we’ll have Sara reporting live from the next reunion.  She is at least as perky as Katie Couric and will do the job well.  For the moment, you’ll have to count on Heimer’s and my memories to fill you in if you were not able to join us.  In the category of “some things never change” we can report that Dave Jaeger and Jon Rudberg were as charming as ever and still managed to dress alike.  They swear they do not call each other to compare wardrobes in advance so we have to assume they are still quite in sync with one another despite the hundreds of miles which separate their daily lives.  Tom Opsahl is still the sweetest guy in the room―but he’s reminding us all how the years have ticked by with his announcement that he and Sharon (Borg ’83) are grandparents!  Harlan Andersen can talk football with the best of them, Dan Akins is still cool, Rick Saruna knows how to liven up a party, Laf and Loosch (Mike LaFountaine and Mark Allen) still swagger around spreading humor and Curt Shellum still has the most winning smile in the room.  On the other hand, a few things have changed.  So many of you have become parents and now bond with classmates on a whole different level.  Regardless of how much or little you had in common 25 years ago, the moment another parent mentions they have a 13-year-old girl, you are instantly bonded and can share stories of the adolescents in your homes.  Marsha Maly Brito is looking much more Dallas than Lincoln nowadays and Debra Baker is certainly sporting a more “LA” than Blue Earth look―but deep down, they’re still the girls I used to know and love.  Denise Connly Fleming has been a successful hospital administrator, professor and parent―but along the way never forgot how to be a wonderful friend or how to throw a fun pre-party.  Laurie Larson Hansen is still stunningly beautiful, but now we all see even more quickly how her greatest beauty is in her true kindness and caring.  The list goes on.  While the last 25 years have held so many changes, joys and challenges for each of us, the part of our hearts, which will always belong to Gustavus and our classmates, has not diminished one bit.

Five hours simply flew by before we knew it.  We ate, drank, mingled, laughed at the DVD of photo memories which Kathy Hoff Rehwaldt expertly assembled―but mostly we hugged and reconnected with old friends.  Many classmates did not seem to feel they had been able to connect with nearly enough people yet, so when midnight approached and we needed to clear out of the banquet rooms, the post-parties started.  I really have no idea what was happening elsewhere in the hotel, but I do know that things were hopping in Scharmsie’s and my room til nearly 5 a.m.  Harlan Andersen, Jean Andreasen and I were celebrating our Danish heritage with a bottle of Aakavit.  To our surprise, we have now learned that one does not have to be Danish to enjoy a shot or four of the “water of life.”  If you have any questions on the topic, Karl Self, Boak Wiesner, Dawn Ebling and Scharmsie will be fielding them.  They will also be giving lessons at the next reunion and the Danes in the group will make sure to bring more than one bottle!  Darcy Winter encountered some delays in getting to Mankato Friday night but more than made up for it throughout the wee hours of the morning with her entertaining observations and stories of past and present.  Between Bruce Rehwaldt and Karl Self’s inquiring minds, very few of us from that post-party have any secrets left untold.  I remind both of you of the old saying: “what happens in Mankato, stays in Mankato.”

Bright and early Saturday morning, Rich Aune was on hand to lead the best tour of Gustavus ever given.  He conducted a “nostalgia tour” where we saw the old stomping grounds but also viewed all the changes and heard stories from our own inside source.  I think all 40 of us on the tour would agree that Gustavus has become a world-class environment of learning and student life.  We owe Rich a huge thank you for taking the time to bring us up to date on our college.  Rich is in the Office of Admission and is thrilled to see many classmates’ children start their own Gustavus careers.  At one point on the tour, Karl and Sue Ruchotzke Self showed up with their children, 13-year-old, Jessica and 9-year-old, Tommy.  I had previously only known them through their parents Christmas letters and photos.  They are much more delightful, charming and obviously intelligent than their parents are willing to brag about in the letters.  Knowing Karl and Sue, we would certainly have expected great things of their children―but I think these two may have surpassed even those expectations.  Jane Breckner Pederson and Miriam Anderson brought daughters along for a campus tour with the hopes they may soon be sending tuition payments to Gustavus.  With any luck, we will meet the girls at our next reunion!  Jane also had her 10-year-old triplets in tow so she may be sending multiple tuition payments for many years….  The triplets were delightful kids, remarkably polite and well-mannered but yet with little sparks in their eyes which also told me they are lots of fun.

Once we got to the football game, we quickly realized that it was much more fun to reconnect with old friends than watch the game, so there was a whole lot of socializing going on.  The Gustavus boys in black and gold on the field could have used some help from Greg Langmo, Jay Cope, Bob Schnell and Harlan Andersen, but they were too busy chattering to pop in for a pass or touch down or huddle.  I thought they could at least offer some advice on a play or two but the four of them were intent on their conversations and the Golden Gusties were left to their own devices on the field.  You don’t even want to know what the final score was.  It became apparent while on campus that several members of our class have now become parents of Gusties.  How delightful it must be to be able to share Homecoming moments with Gustie children.  The Schnells, Westlunds, Lees and Heims were all mingling with their kids―at least for as long as their kids had time to fit them in!  Other classmates were heard stating they were going home to try to convince their own kids to apply to Gustavus.  I think Rich will soon be seeing a lot of familiar names on his Admissions tours!

Losing the football game did not seem to devastate the Class of ’81 as we headed to the Arboretum for an afternoon picnic and libation session.  Many classmates who had not been able to get down for the Friday night festivities showed up and joined the party.  Tom Opsahl had planned a fabulous menu―everyone is asking for the party potatoes recipe.   It was at this event that I finally realized just how serious about the entire reunion Rick Saruna (or as his name tag proclaimed “Token Canadian, eh”) was.  He drove all the way from Windsor, Ontario in a motor home just to be certain that we would have a roving party room at our disposal at all times.  He, Dan Akins and Dean Pospesel gave all of us a good glimpse of what we might have missed if we did not get to Gustie hockey games back in the day.  I hardly knew any of the three of them while in college, but I have to tell you, I can’t wait to see them again in five years to continue the party.  I wish that Rick lived a bit closer as I have now learned he is a stress therapist and helps people conquer their fears of public speaking (and a long list of other fears).  While I do not agree that if I spent just five minutes with him, I would be able to wow a crowd from a podium, I do think he might just be able to help me.  Nonetheless, a bit later in the evening, I refused his offer to be trained right then and there to deliver a speech to the crowd at The Flame Bar.  Maybe in 2011. 

Then it was on to the Neal (Hagberg) and Leandra (Peak ’83) concert.  I have heard them perform but never live.  Oh, my goodness.  They are fabulous!  Leandra, your voice is so beautiful and pure―I could listen to you for hours on end.  Neal, I enjoyed the songs you wrote immensely―especially the humor and humanity you adeptly throw in.  I was surprised, however, for you to announce to the audience that you are always nervous when you attend class reunions.  You can get yourself up on a stage and perform in front of large crowds and you’re worried about a few old classmates with beer in their hands?  If you’re ever nervous again, I suggest you just burst out into song―everyone will think you’re cool.  I think it’s also safe to say that we have hit the age where one no longer has to be nervous to attend a class reunion, even if we don’t have world-class voices like Neal and Leandra were blessed with.  I have never witnessed such a sense of true camaraderie as existed throughout our reunion events.  While each of us was excited to see our old friends there and catch up with them, I think we also each got much better acquainted with classmates we did not know well 25 years ago and have learned that we have a whole lot in common with now.  As I watched you all leave for your respective homes, families and lives, I thought to myself over and over how anxious I am to see you again―hopefully sooner, but for sure at the next reunion.  I’m also anxious to see Neal and Leandra perform again.  But in the meantime, I have my new CDs to remind me of their amazing concert.  I am thankful that Neal has already written a song about his high school class reunion so it is unlikely he will write about us.  But Neal, if you found yourself overwhelmed by the reunion energy as I was and feel the need to start putting your thoughts into song, please change our names so as to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent among us.

Later in the evening, I learned that we are never too old to knock on girlfriends’ doors to rehash a fun party or talk some good girl-talk.  Scharmsie and I had late night visits from Gail Brunsberg Nelson, Jacque Schwartz Brunsberg and Sharon Bartelt Bridges.  I could not possibly tell you the things we laughed about but suffice it to say that it’s always nice to have friends of the same age with whom to compare bodily functions!  Jacque may find herself recruited for the next reunion to do a monologue about her Link dorm shower bucket experiences!  Karl and Bruce, don’t even bother to call us…..we are not telling you any more secrets!

A few things struck me this weekend.  One could not possibly have attended this gathering and not felt the overwhelming sense of friendship and community which exists in our class.  I am thankful you will all be part of my life always through our Gustavus connection.  I am also thankful for Gustavus.  For years I have known that the college needs my financial help to continue on.  What I did not fully realize til this weekend is that the commitment is mutual.  When we signed those registration papers in 1977 and they admitted us to the Class of ’81, Gustavus Adolphus College accepted us for much more than a four year program.  There is clearly a life-long commitment to each of us.  I cannot tell you how much effort was expended on our behalf by the Alumni Office to make this event happen.  I think every single attendee thanked committee members, Heimer and me at least three times over the course of the days for our efforts to pull this off.  But the true thanks go to Gustavus.  The College dedicated huge numbers of hours of staff time to coordinate the event that our committee decided was best for our class―while doing the same for all other reunion classes who sponsored completely different gatherings.  We are lucky to be Gusties!

The Class of ’81 has had three class agents serving us over the last 25 years.  Mike Potter deserves a big hand for keeping us all connected for our first 10 years out of college and for being only a phone call away when needed.  Steve Heim joined Potts 22 years ago and has done the job alone for most of those years.  I know you all agree with me that we have been lucky to have Heimer’s dedication and Gustie spirit to keep our class family cohesive.  He has been an outstanding class agent.  And then there’s me.  I’ve been at this for a mere four years, but absolutely love being part of the team responsible to keep us together.  Heimer and Potts were kind enough to let me write this letter to all of you―but the message is from all of us.  Thanks to everyone who attended the reunion―you were the reason it was so much fun for everyone.  And thanks to the rest of our classmates who were there in spirit.  You were missed and we truly hope to see you at the next bash in 2011.  We guarantee you will feel the same way we all did as we drove away from St Peter this weekend―exhausted from laughing but filled with a sense of belonging that only coming home can provide.

Leslie Nielsen

1981 Co-class Agent

Campus News

Honor Roll of Donors

If you haven’t had a chance to find yourself online, please go to: to check out the 2005-2006 Honor Roll of Donors.  The Honor Roll of Donors recognizes those who made gifts to Gustavus between June 1, 2005, and May 31, 2006.  To find your name or check your class results, just point and click from your home or office computer.  For those who do not have access to a computer, you may call toll-free 866/487-3863 to receive a copy in the mail (supplies are limited).

Obtain Life Insurance at Group Rates

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month.  According to a recent national survey, 68 million Americans have no life insurance.  Fortunately, the Alumni Association sponsors a life insurance plan, Life for Life, with exceptional features and low initial rates.  Maximum coverage is $2 million and insurance can increase repeatedly even if your health fails and you become uninsurable.  Obtain information online with the Alumni Association partner, or call 800-635-7801 for more information about this and other sponsored insurance.

Omega Kappa Fraternity Celebrates 100 Years

The OKs will celebrate 100 years of Modesty, Diversity, and Brotherhood on Saturday, October 21, at the Science Museum on Minnesota in St. Paul.  The evening will be filled with stories, photos, shared memories, artifacts, histories, and singing.  For more information, go to

Gustavus Alumni Professional Apparel

Check out the two new oxfords on sale online through the Gustavus Book Mark.  The Book Mark is offering a women’s and men’s long sleeve shirt in a variety of colors and sizes.  The shirt features an embroidered three crowns and Gustavus.  A great idea for holiday shopping for your favorite Gustie.  Check them out online only at

Athletic Hall of Fame Induction

On Saturday, September 30, Gustavus inducted the following people into the Athletic Hall of Fame:  Deborah Jungwirth Borman ’87 - Volleyball, Tina Pulido Draper ’87 - Gymnastics, John Huepenbecker ’80 - Football, John Jambeck ’62 - Swimming, Deanne Sand Johnson ’89 - Tennis, Dick Kumlin ’55 (posthumously) – Basketball, Dan Prochnow ’78 - Golf, Jerilyn Ree ’88 - Basketball, and Stacey Rodman ’89 - Swimming. 

Gustavus Legacy Award for Gustavus Admission

Mark Anderson, Vice President of Admission and Student Financial Assistance, is pleased to announce the Gustavus Legacy Award for new students beginning with the incoming class of 2007.  Renewable awards of $2,500 per year are given to new students whose siblings are current Gustavus students or graduates or whose parents or grandparents are Gustavus alumni.  Scholarship recipients must have a high school grade point average of at least 3.5 or an ACT of 26 or an 1170 (Critical Reading + Math) on the SAT.  For more information contact the Admission Office at 800/GUSTAVU(S) or email <>.