Class of '84
As I sit here and write this letter to you, I find myself reflecting on the many riches we all share as citizens of this country. These reflections emanate from recent world events and a personal journey to a developing nation that was at the epicenter of Mother Nature’s wrath.
It has been several weeks since we all heard the incomprehensible and devastating news coming out of South Asia. As the numbers of dead and missing continued to escalate beyond the mind’s ability to grasp the reality of it all, I felt an acute sadness come over me. For me, the news was particularly unsettling and personal because I had spent two weeks in Indonesia last October. I traveled with my younger sister to Indonesia to visit friends who have been missionaries for 14 years on the island of Papua (the island farthest from Banda Aceh in the archipelago). During my time there I saw firsthand the stark contrasts of life in this developing nation. On the one hand, there are postcard-perfect vistas that stretch out far beyond the horizon—vast expanses of ocean, dense tropical jungles, and mountains rising toward the sun. On the other hand, in every direction are the constant reminders of the challenges people must tackle daily in this impoverished country. Oppressive heat and humidity, unreliable electricity, undrinkable water, the constant threat of malaria, open sewers, garbage-strewn dirt roads, and buckling sidewalks. In other parts of the island, we met village people who live a primitive life, one that would still be recognizable to their Stone Age ancestors. Like the people living in Aceh, many Papuans live right on the water in rickety wooden structures on stilts with corrugated tin roofs. Despite the fact that no one but our friends spoke English, we found the Indonesians to be warm, kind, and always ready with a smile. I was so impressed with their entrepreneurial spirit and their resiliency. It was quite a journey and one I’ll never forget. It breaks my heart to know how the survivors are suffering and how long it will take them to rebuild their already fragile lives.
My friends who live in Indonesia recently sent out an e-mail and I thought that you might like to hear from someone who is in the country and participating in the relief effort. The missionary organization they serve with is Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) out of Redlands, California. This e-mail message was sent to their supporters.
“More than a week has gone by since our last communication with you. In that time, much has happened to help the people of Aceh province in their great need following the earthquake and tsunami.
As we mentioned in our previous email, MAF’s response to the need has included sending two aircraft and four pilots to help transport food, water and medical supplies to areas around the town of Meulaboh. A great deal of relief goods have made it from Banda Aceh to Medan and we then move those goods to more remote areas, using smaller airstrips and, sometimes, sections of undamaged roadway. Our Kalimantan program has moved a smaller Cessna 206 to Meulaboh and is keeping it flying with their pilots as well.
At the end of last week, the pilot from our Papua program (Harry) was relieved with two new pilots to crew the Cessna Caravan. After a day of overlap with this new crew, the first pilot was free to return home to his family in Papua. This however was not to be the end of his involvement. I was really touched to hear this week that this pilot, who was now free to return home, instead asked permission to stay a week longer. He wanted to use his own vacation time to stay and help pump seawater from contaminated wells in Muelaboh. During his time in Meulaboh he had heard of many survivors struggling to get water from their contaminated wells. Another MAF staff pilot had found a discarded pump in the rubble near the Meulaboh airport and got it working so that the relief team could help people evacuate the sea water from their wells.
Aside from aviation support, MAF is working to install a VSAT communication system. VSAT is an acronym for Very Small Aperture Satellite. The disk can be as small as 1.2 meters across (4 feet) and is used for sending and receiving digital data as well as voice transmissions. The satellite is in a stationary orbit at approximately 22,000 miles above the equator of the earth. Each satellite is about the size of a passenger car but only weighs 83kg (182 lbs). This marvelous technology allows relief workers in the very remote areas to maintain contact with the home office as well as the supply line that is vital to keep the relief work going. MAF is sending a team of computer specialists to help out with the communication needs of the tremendous relief work going on as a result of the tsunami.
So, in total there are 3 staff from our Papua program, 2 staff from our Kalimantan program and 2 managers from the Asia region. All seven of these MAF folks are fluent in the Indonesian language and have found that to be a huge blessing as they arrive with help and communicate with people in need. Further, we have technicians from the U.S. and Europe working on the VSAT system and staff to help with logistics and support for the planes. A total of 16 MAF staff and alumni have come from around the world to help in this effort.
We will continue to operate planes and hopefully improve communication for the overall relief effort. Our involvement is not seen as a short-term effort.
…The people in Aceh and other parts of South Asia are truly suffering—the losses are unimaginable and they need our prayer support most of all.”
Having seen the unrelenting tsunami coverage coming out of Indonesia, I fear for the survivors. They have paid a dear price, and the recovery ahead of them will be long and difficult. Disasters and tragedies like this always inspire me to take stock of my own life. Perhaps you too have found yourself pausing to reflect on the fragility of life and to count the many blessings we have personally and as a nation. We have much to be grateful for—including our Gustavus education and the lives those degrees have afforded us—and we are rich in many, many ways.
Several classmates have passed along news of their lives, and here’s the latest:
- Steve Copeland (Suwanee, GA) is employed by Sunshine Mortgage Corp. His wife, Lisa, is employed by Vulcan Binder & Cover.
- Gigi Rudquist Ehrlich has been a special education counselor for three years in the Columbus, Texas, school district. She and her husband, Michael, make their home in Schulenburg.
- Kelly Rome Johnson (Midlothian, TX) and her husband own a Kwik Kopy Printing. The Johnsons’ oldest daughter, Katelyn, is head drum major for the band and at the head of her junior class in high school. Daughter, Lauren, is in 9th grade and on the drill team. And the two smallest are also doing great.
- Jim Kapoun (Forest City, IA) and his family have moved from Mankato to Forest City where he is now the library director at Waldorf College.
- Tamera Koeder Macias (Dallas, TX) practices law and heads her own firm. On September 3, 2004, a new man entered her life: son, Jeffrey John. Congrats!
- Gordon Mansergh (Atlanta, GA) is senior behavioral scientist, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
- Kris Ulven McKeithen (Dunwoody, GA) and her husband, Daniel, welcomed Erik and Christian on April 20, 2004. Congratulations on the big news!
- Shari McKenzie Black (Wadsworth, OH) is a certified nurse practitioner with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
- Paul Modean and his wife, Laurie, reside in Altadena, CA. Paul is one of those people “who knows how to fly”—he’s a flight attendant/instructor with Northwest Airline. The airline awarded Paul recently with the President’s Award. Congratulations on the honor and recognition from your employer!
- Kathy (Moll) Nelson (White Bear Lake, MN) works in crisis counseling for Crisis Connection. Her husband, Brian, is a design engineer with Eastman Kodak. The Nelsons have two sons: Jonathan and Andrew.
- Susan Onstad-Samuelson (Norwood-Young America, MN) is senior designer at The Flower Mill Designs & Gifts LLC.
- Steven Parry (Stillwater, MN) is the Midwest district manager for Applied Medical Resources.
- Charles Schultz (Minneapolis, MN) became president of Blackhawk Security Consultants last October.
- Dave Torgerson is a sales consultant based out of Denver with Novartis Pharmaceutical.
- Pavel Pojdl wrote to me and Ken to wish us a happy new year (the same to you Pavel!) and to share with us the sad news that a few of his acquaintances perished in the tsunami disaster in Thailand and Sri Lanka. We’re sorry for your personal loss in this unprecedented tragedy. Pavel and his wife, Fran, continue to make their home in London (where they have actually been now for 14 years). They have three children who, says Pavel, “speak with a posh English accent I used to find annoying.” In 2004, Pavel became a partner at his employer, a Cypress-based, international trading company. The firm’s future plans include supplying liquefied natural gas to the United States, which may bring him “across the pond” now and then. A couple of years ago Pavel fulfilled a dream to become a sports franchise owner. Since 2003 he has been co-owner of the London Racers Pro Hockey team franchise (check them out online at www.londonracers.com). In 2006, he is planning to cycle across North America for charity. Be sure to keep our class posted on that tremendous effort.
- James Presnail (Avondale, PA) has finished post-doctorate work at the University of Florida and is now working at Dupont as a research scientist in crop genetics.
- Joel Webster (Henderson, MN) is sales manager at American Color Printing. Joel and his wife have two boys and a girl.
- Annika Bengtsson Ramsköld continues to make her home in Sweden where she is still working for Vattenfall (Scandinavia’s largest and the fifth largest power company in Europe, now with 35,000 employees). She spends her days in the public affairs, working closely to the CEO, writing speeches and presentations for him. She is also responsible for Vattenfall’s contact with the Swedish government and parliament as well as other major stakeholder groups. Annika and her husband have two children: Sofia and Magnus. Annika mentioned in her e-mail to us that now and then she meets up with Gusties, Eva Gustafsson Lindh and Lena Spjut Hovland for lunch and they reminisce about “fun times at Gustavus.” Eva is working with IBM and Lena is also at Vattenfall. Lena moved to the firm’s Hamburg, Germany, office last September to be head of the back office within Vattenfall Trading Services. Last summer Annika and her family welcomed a Gustie visitor—Ben Brueshoff, the son of David ’77 and Bonnie (Madsen ’79) Brueshoff and the nephew of Sonja Madsen McGill, who was studying in France at the time. Annika said it was strange to think that she had first met Ben at Gustavus in 1984 when he was a newborn and now, all too suddenly, he’s all grown up and about to graduate from Gustavus. Indeed, time just flies! :-)
If you have news to share, please pass it along to us. You can e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
News From the Hill
Old Main has served the Gustavus campus since 1876 when it housed the entire campus. To keep Old Main a functional part of campus, a complete renovation of the building will begin in February. Classrooms and offices will be reconfigured and updated to accommodate current teaching technology. Central climate control and an elevator will also be added. Mattson Hall has been built west of Schaefer Fine Arts to house faculty and staff during the renovation. The new residence hall being built southwest of the football field is progressing and will be ready for fall semester
Did you know that the college has gone wireless? Wireless computing, that is? Many buildings support wireless connectivity and outdoor connectivity is being broadcast from several roofs. Gustavus continues to increase the number of wireless locations on campus every month.
Gustavus music ensembles will tour soon. The Gustavus Choir is on a 17-day East Coast tour (January 20-February 5), the Wind Orchestra (formerly the Gustavus Band) is touring for nine days (January 28-February 5) in Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana, and the String Orchestra is touring for nine days (January 29-February 6) in Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado. The Gustavus Choir, Wind Orchestra, and Symphony Orchestra will perform at the Gustavus Music Showcase, St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Eden Prairie, on March 20.
The Gustavus athletics website received the Pride of CASE V Gold Award at the District V Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Annual Conference in December. The district includes educational institutions from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Announcing a new tool for all Alumni: The Gustavus Gift Planning website is a resource for alums of all ages to learn more about planning for their financial future. The site explores some basics like the need for a will and health care proxy. It also provides information about planning for the transfer of assets to benefit you and your family, a gift calculator to see how to make a gift that pays you and also provides tax benefits, e-brochures for more information, and how to have a meaningful impact on a non-profit organization important to you. Check it out today at gustavus.edu/giving.
The 2003-2004 Honor Roll of Donors is now available under the Gustavus Fund at gustavus.edu/giving. The Honor Roll of Donors recognizes those who made gifts to Gustavus between June 1, 2003 and May 31, 2004. To find your name or check out 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).
Upcoming Alumni Events
- Diversity Center Reunion/Building Bridges Conference – March 12
- Tucson Chapter with Professor Dick Martin – March 18
- Phoenix Chapter with Professor Dick Martin – March 19
- Sun City Chapter with Professor Dick Martin – March 20
- Twin Cities Gustavus Music Showcase – March 20
- Seattle Chapter with President Jim Peterson ’64 – April 1
- Bay Area Chapter with President Jim Peterson ’64 – April 2
- Gusties In Volunteer Endeavors (G.I.V.E.) day of community service – April 30
I leave you now with a wish that your travels will be inspiring and memorable, perhaps even life changing in some way. As we all know, through travel, many discoveries are made. As the writer Eudora Welty once noted: “Through travel I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel that I found my own introspective way into becoming a part of it.” For many of us, that realization began to take shape during our time on the hill. No matter where your travels take you, seize the day and embrace the journey that awaits you.
1984 Co-class Agent