Class of '81
October 2008

Dear Classmates,

Fall is in the air and it’s time to reconnect with old friends.  The class news has been very slow to trickle in so in order to make this letter worth the postage (or internet time); I’m forced to fill in with news about your devoted class agents.  Heimer and I are fully aware that our lives are not exactly those about which novels and screen plays are written – but what else can we do when our classmates get too busy to send in interesting news?

During one of our recent class agent phone sessions (Gustavus Phonorama is on hold and we start shaking with withdrawal symptoms from calling Gusties―remedy:  call my co-class agent to shoot the breeze and ask each other for donations), we were bored by all the requisite timely topics so we gingerly launched into a discussion on Election 2008.  Like most Americans at this point, Heimer and I are both quite engaged in this election process and have been reading, watching and listening to the candidates and the pundits.  I’m not sure which one of us was more surprised to learn that we are both supporting the same ticket this November.

We talked about the journey of growing up being very influenced by our parents’ views (we happened to both grow up in households where our parents cancelled out each others votes regularly), moving on to college in an era where Gusties were not terribly engaged in national politics, becoming more and more politically aware as we started our business careers and watching our families and friends be affected by state and national decisions.  While our paths were certainly not the same, we wound up in the same political frame of mind.  I look forward to chatting with Heimer again soon now that the debates are in full swing and candidates are zeroing in on their messages.  In these days leading up to an energized and historic election, I suspect that we are but two of many, many classmates who have found time to talk to one another to hear thoughts as we all make important decisions of how to cast our votes.  If you have a moment, drop us a line and share your thoughts about the upcoming election.  Please add some news about your lives while you’re at it so Heimer can write a fascinating letter when it’s his turn!

When I’m not listening to political speeches and reading the Opinion Pages (Neal Hagberg – I haven’t seen a letter from you to the Star Tribune for a long time – what’s up?), I still find myself showing up at Meloy Park Florist every day.  As anyone who has ever owned a small business knows, every day is full of surprises and every day is completely different than the one before.  My surprises at work have fortunately been mostly pleasant ones and life is still good in that department.  Of course, it is retail and retail is affected by the economy so I’m hoping the surprises continue to put smiles on my face.  Having entered this sitcom I call my flower shop life in 1981, in the midst of a big old recession and having weathered a few more downturns over the years, I plan to hang in through this one too.

The flower shop has actually become relevant in class news as it reconnected me with an old friend and classmate―Dave Shogren.  I know what you’re thinking…….the Dave Shogren I remember doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who is hanging out looking at all the beautiful flowers every chance he gets.  You’re right.  But he does have a wonderful 6th grade daughter named Maddie who is a Webkinz enthusiast.  She has her dad wrapped around her little finger and they visit me and my Webkinz display often.  The Shogrens live here in Hastings.  Maddie is a great student who gets herself involved in the most interesting school projects―and before you know it, Dave gets involved too.  Their last learning adventure involved raising ducks and chicks.  I threatened Dave with all the jokes which could be made in class letters about him and his chicks―but somehow it just seems too easy…and you can’t really give a guy a hard time when he’s being Father/Husband of the Year!  While Maddie scopes out each and every new Webkinz animal, Dave and I talk about the good old days.  Between the two of us, we can actually remember some of it!

Thanks to my niece and nephews, I can discuss Webkinz news with the best of ’em.  But one of these nephews and I are going to take a break from Webkinz World to visit our other favorite stomping grounds, Disney World.  If you make up your mind to take a kid to one of these two “Worlds,” it would be a lot cheaper to visit the virtual one but since I’ve never been an aunt who figures that sort of thing out before it’s too late, we’re going to see Mickey and Minnie.  “Tommy Tutu” and I will be off to Florida during his fall break from school and we are quite excited about prospects.  I have been making character dining reservations right and left, have bought Park Hopper passes and when it didn’t seem like I had donated quite enough to the Disney coffers, proceeded to reserve tickets to the Not So Scary Halloween Party―a second set of tickets to Magic Kingdom for the same day.  They actually have all guests leave the park, buy new tickets and reenter.  But what are aunts for?  By the time you read this, I will either be annoying my nephew by making him stand next to yet another character while I take his photo or I will be home, exhausted from chasing a child around what is clearly NOT “a small world afterall.”

Heimer and I both showed up at Gustavus a couple of weeks ago, bright and early on a beautiful Saturday morning for a class agents meeting, or Volunteer Leadership Day as it is known in proper Gustavus circles.  We had an opportunity to meet the new leader of Gustavus, President Jack Ohle.  He was most recently president of Wartburg College.  President Ohle arrived at Gustavus with a firm philosophy that building a strong institution starts with strong alumni connections.  I sensed a true commitment to engage all of us in very meaningful ways.  There is no doubt that one of Gustavus’ greatest assets is its legion of alums who are proud of their alma mater and want it to continue to be the wonderful place for students that we all remember.

Gusties love their traditions―but we also love to look forward with visions for even stronger tomorrows.  As we all get to know President Ohle better, I believe he will give us many opportunities to be part of an exciting future for Gustavus.  There are many ways to give back to the college that was so formative in our own lives―but President Ohle’s words made me realize again how important our annual financial gifts to the college are.  Specifically, he stated “in the very near future, I believe there will be two kinds of colleges and universities―those with healthy financial endowments and those which have closed their doors.”  Here’s to Gustavus staying in the former of those two categories!

President Ohle also explained his support of the Amethyst Agreement.  It is an agreement signed by many college and university presidents which is asking legislators to examine alcohol and chemical use by young people.  When the media reported the story, they focused on just one discussion point―that of potentially lowering the drinking age.  President Ohle assured us that is not a main goal of the group―rather, they are hoping to create meaningful conversations about educating young people on the effects of binge drinking etc. and engage their parents in the dialogue as well.  As far as I know, they are not discussing the reduction of consumption amongst alumni.

After hearing from President Ohle, Heimer and I shuffled off to an interesting session with Steve Kjellgren, ’86, the director of food service.  Everyone who has been on the campus since the new food service and dining rooms have been installed knows that things have changed dramatically since 1981.  Gone is the salad bar with iceberg lettuce, cottage cheese and croutons―plus a dressing or two.  Instead, they have a grand station with 30 or so fresh, appealing choices.  Made-to-order Belgian waffles are just waiting to be smothered in one of the tasty toppings.  Countless choices change daily for a wonderful variety―and for those students who don’t dare try something new, well, there’s pizza, burgers etc to fill their tummies.  There is no doubt Gustavus has a fine food service.  In fact, the Princeton Review has again named it in the top 10 college dining services in the country.

But there’s more to it than just the waffles.  As you know, the food service found itself in a brand new facility many years sooner than expected after the tornado demolished the “caf” we knew.  This gave Steve the opportunity to forge a new path in collegiate dining.  He became the George Jetson of Food Service.  He was so far ahead of his time, that colleges and universities across the country are just now starting to talk about how to make changes in their dining plans which will appeal to the students while reducing the significant amount of food waste nearly every campus sees―yet Steve has a working system in place which is not only doing that but has also formed relationships which have made local foodstuffs a major component of the service and found ways to significantly reduce food waste.  In fact, when he changed the system from the three all-you-care-to-put-on-your-tray meals a day to an ala carte approach, food waste and disposal dropped a shocking 80%.

It wasn’t only Steve who wanted to reduce this waste.  The Gustavus Greens have been great student partners.  They also initiated conversations to reduce packaging waste.  This year, with the help of the Gustavus Greens and other organizations on campus, Steve has started a program of reusing take-out containers.  So far, the system seems to be working well―students can either eat in the dining room with their friends or take their meal to go in a handy Nordic Ware container which can be heated in a microwave or regular oven (please recall, we were not even allowed to have a microwave oven in 1981―in fact, not all of our parents had them at home either!).

It’s my understanding they are still working out the kinks of this program but it is showing great promise to reduce much waste from the landfills.  One of the challenges to this take-out situation is that professors find it distracting to have students eating in class and are working to eliminate that trend.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t quite think I would have lived to tell about it if I took one of Mrs Young’s trays, filled with goodies, to Professor Larry Potts’ chemistry class and started chomping on pecan pie.  It’s a toss-up which one would have knocked some sense into me first.  Actually, now that I think about it, I wonder if our friend, Petey (Debbie Petersen Pasvogel) was way ahead of her time.  She and her nighttime escapades of kidnapping 10-gallon tubs of ice cream may have been the precursor to the whole take-out concept at Gustavus.

On that note, let’s get on with the class news: 

Paul “Bernie” Bernhardson has moved again!  He is practicing medicine at Complete Children’s Health in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Unfortunately, this piece of news has come to us via a simple business card so unless I start spitting out fax numbers to you, I can’t come up with any further tidbits about Bernie and family.  Hopefully, he’ll check in with us soon to share news for the next class letter.

John Hogenson is the new lead pastor at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi.  His appointment was made following an 18-month search by a call committee from the church.  John has stated his goals involve finding new ways to “make a difference in our area and around the world.”  He also serves on the boards of Minnesota non-profits Inter-Faith Outreach Community Partners, Putting Family First and Wayzata Teen Clinic.  He is married to Ruth Hogenson-Rutford ’82 and they have three daughters ranging in ages from 16-22.  Again, my flower shop experiences are providing insight for the class letter.  I have set up wedding flowers a number of times at St. Andrew’s Lutheran.  It is simply a stunning church.  It’s the kind of place where one walks in and instantly feels there is a lot of activity and camaraderie happening seven days a week.  In addition to a sanctuary which both strikes the visitor with its extraordinary design style and somehow encourages us to reflect on our faith at the same time, there is an obvious commitment to extraordinary music in this church.  It’s a very special place and I encourage classmates to find a reason to visit.  If nothing else, walk in with a few carnations and act like you are delivering wedding flowers.  It works for me every time.

Kari Forsberg Sumpmann, Maple Grove, MN, is a self-employed piano teacher.  I’m in the piano recital phase with four nephews and one niece so I get to see a lot of piano teachers―they are a special lot.  What patience!  What kindness!  What talent!  Piano teachers today are a whole new breed from what we experienced back in the day.  Large scale frequent recitals, preparing students for grueling contests, music theory now taught at young ages etc, etc.  Good for you, Kari―your commitment is opening doors for students and giving them skills and an appreciation for music to last their lifetimes.

Jon Cooper, Saint Charles, IL, has taken a new job with Rosetta Stone as an outside sales representative.  I think Jon was trying to trip up his class agents by not giving us more information about who or what Rosetta Stone is…but he didn’t realize my sister-in-law (Rochelle Rohowetz Nielsen ’89) loves her job as a Spanish teacher so much that she talks about stuff like this at family dinners.  So, while I’m no expert, I can tell you that Rosetta Stone is a premier language learning software company.  Felicitaciones en tu nuevo trabajo, Jon!  Kris Belin Cooper is an elementary music teacher at Genoa Community Schools.

Bob Schnell assures me that he reads class letters―heck, I think he downright looks forward to receiving them and has kept a library of back issues to tide him over during the dry spells.  But he never sends us any interesting tidbits to include in these letters!  Taking matters into my own hands, I joined his lovely wife, Beth Sparboe Schnell ’82 at a Gustavus Women’s gathering.  It was so interesting hearing about her life that I must admit, I still have nothing to share about Bob ―but at least we know the Schnells are alive, well and active with their kids (who are not actually “kids” anymore!).  Beth is CEO of Sparboe Companies, which according to a very interesting article this year in the Star Tribune is one of the top egg producers in the world.  She was characteristically humble about her work with the company, but it was easy to sense how capable and knowledgeable she is, traits which are serving the family business well.  It was fascinating to hear her speak of the fluctuation of egg prices and how long it takes the retail market to respond to changes at the wholesale level.  I was dying to ask her how the chickens feel when the products they work so hard to produce and deliver drop in value, but I wasn’t quite sure the Gustavus Women’s luncheon was the right place to delve into the psychology of chickens as it pertains to supply and demand.  Perhaps we can send Heimer and Bob to a Gustavus Men’s lunch so they can get us all caught up on the other half of the Schnell enterprises.

Also at our table at this little gathering was Tanya Bransford ’80.  She has been a Hennepin County Juvenile Court judge for the last several years and seems to truly enjoy her profession.  She works with kids who have made bad decisions―but now have a chance to turn their lives around…what fulfilling work!  Rounding out our era of Gusties at the table was Marcia Page, ’82.  She is a partner at Varde Partners Inc.  In this capacity, she and her family moved to England for more than a year―she reports it was a fabulous experience!  Her husband, John Huepenbecker ’80 is, according to Marcia, an incredible “househusband”―no one can run a more efficient household than our old friend “Huep.”  The kids get to all their practices, games, appointments etc. right on time and their house runs smoothly.  I have to admit, I did not see those skills in Huep while we were in college, but it sounds like he is extraordinary at what he does.

Neal Hagberg and Leandra Peak, ’83 are back in the news.  They will perform a holiday concert November 1, in Marshall, MN at the Schwan Community Center for the Performing Arts.  The stop in Marshall is one of 14 venues in 17 days.  This holiday tour is the first in many years for the husband and wife duo.  In their earlier years, they were, as Neal calls them, “Road Warriors,” gone for several weeks at a time on tour.  After the birth of their now eight-year-old daughter, Madeline, they put the tour business on hold.  But now they are back on the road with Madeline along for the ride.  The duo’s latest CD, “Dance with a Ghost” was released in April.  The release party took place at the new Guthrie, a fitting venue given how many times the pair had played their music at the old Guthrie Theater.  Finally, I have my answer why Neal has not been writing letters to the editor of the Star Tribune…he’s on the road making beautiful music and keeping an eight-year-old current on the school work she is missing during their tour.

That’s it for class news.  As you can see, Heimer and I are desperate to hear from more of you!  Please, please e-mail us news at:                                                   

As we quickly approach the oh-so-daunting age of 50-years-old, we realize that sometimes big news is as mundane as a classmate remembering what she went to the basement to get in the first place…and sometimes it’s sharing good news that doesn’t change the world but old friends would be interested all the same.  Even if all the news you have to share is that you and your family are well and happily wearing yourselves out by going from dance lessons to hockey practice to play rehearsal to church council meetings and back to work the next day―we all love to hear from classmates and your stories of life in the fast lane―or slow lane, as the case may be.

Okay, you’ve heard enough from me.  I’m going to call Heimer to discuss Change, Mavericks, Joe Sixpacks, Hockey Moms, Bailouts, Subprime lending and how Minnesota and national politics both somehow became Saturday Night Live skits.  While we’re solving the problems of the world, you can finish reading this letter with news from Gustavus:

Leslie Nielsen

1981 Co-class Agent

Campus News

Presidential Inauguration

Gustavus Adolphus College inaugurated Jack R. Ohle as its 16th president on Friday, Oct. 3 in Christ Chapel.  Various inaugural events were held over a four-day period.  On Homecoming Saturday, Oct. 4 the celebration was capped-off with an Oktoberfest; a buffet-style dinner immediately following the Homecoming football game with about a thousand Gusties in attendance.

Twin Cities Gustie Breakfasts

Join other Minneapolis/St. Paul area Gusties for a morning cup of coffee and breakfast while getting an update on Gustavus.  The group meets the third Wednesday of each month.  Future presenters include Tim Robinson ’65, director of Nobel Conference 2008, in October and in November Tom Young ’88, vice president for institutional advancement.

Doubletree Hotel, Minneapolis-Park Place, 1500 Park Place Boulevard (Hwy. 394 & Hwy. 100)

Third Wednesday of the month - 8-9:30 a.m.

Cost is $10 per person.  Reserve a spot by calling Don Swanson ’55 at:  763-533-9083.

Nobel Conference ― Who Were the First Humans?

Nobel Conference XLIV held Oct. 7 and 8, 2008 focused on the first humans.  Presenters considered the full range of recent evidence about the first modern humans going beyond archaeologists and paleoanthropologists to the work of biologists, climatologists, geneticists, mathematicians, and psychologists who have been adding to the scientific database.

Twin Cities lecture on international terrorism

Dr. Magnus Ranstorp '85, research director for the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm, Sweden, will present a public lecture titled, “The Threat of Global Terrorism,” on Thursday, Nov. 6, 7:30 p.m., at Interlachen Country Club, 6200 Interlachen Blvd., Edina, MN.  Ranstorp, who will be in the United States to cover the presidential election for Swedish television, will address some of the key terrorism trends and challenges for the next U.S. presidency.  He will also be presented a Gustavus Distinguished Alumni Citation in international relations.  RSVP to the Office of Alumni Relations at 800-487-8437.

Need medical insurance?

Are you between jobs?  Self-employed?  Not covered by an employer health plan?  If you need health insurance you can find the right coverage for yourself and your family through the alumni association.  Whether you need temporary or permanent coverage, please visit to learn more about the range of coverage options available.

Legacy Award for Gustavus admission

The Gustavus Legacy Award was created for new students whose siblings are current Gustavus students or graduates or whose parents or grandparents are Gustavus alumni.  Renewable awards of $2,500 per year are given to scholarship recipients who have a high school grade point average of at least 3.5 or an ACT of 26 or 1170 (Critical Reading + Math) on the SAT.  For more information, contact the Admission Office at 800/GUSTAVU(S).

Upcoming Alumni Events

  • Gustie Breakfast with Tim Robinson ’65, Director of Nobel Conference – Oct. 15
  • Gustavus Library Associates Fall Author Day — Nov. 5
  • Twin Cities Lecture, “The Threat of Global Terrorism,” Dr. Magnus Ranstorp '85 — Nov. 6
  • Twin Cities Gustie Breakfast, Thomas Young ’88 — Nov. 19
  • Christmas in Christ Chapel – Joyeux Noel – December 5-7
  • Twin Cities Gustie Breakfast, Steve Kjellgren ’86 — Dec. 17