Class of '86
December 2001

Merry Christmas Class of ’86ers,

I hope this letter finds you all in good spirits.  I feel like I am writing one of those dreaded form letters for Christmas.  It is a letter we all complain about receiving, but we must admit it is fun to read about our friends’ adventures over the past year.  It is even more fun when you have not taken the opportunity to stay in touch and you learn all kinds of new things that have happened in their lives.  Well, here is my version of the Class of 1986 Christmas letter.

Many gathered in September for our 15th Class Reunion.  Unfortunately, I was not able to attend Friday evening’s festivities, but heard all about it the next day on campus.  We had about 100 for the reception, which seems to be a good turnout considering the close proximity to September 11th and the worry over travel plans, safety, etc.  I guess the highlight was Todd Hysjulien breaking out in song at the end of the evening.  “King of the Road” and “My Way” were just a few of the selections from Todd’s song list.  Todd can be found at the local hot spot in Eden Prairie most Friday nights performing karaoke.   We suggest Todd keep his day job, which, by the way, he and Bill Belvedere have partnered in forming the public accounting firm of Belvedere and Hysjulien, P.A. 

Everyone must have had way too much fun on Friday night because many did not make it down to St. Peter for the tailgate party and football game versus Bethel.  I ran into Michelle Gustafson Paule, Kelly Lorentzen Alexander, Cathy Service Davis, Stephanie Spitzack Hennings, Sue Brown Thayer, Melinda Moen Batz, Laura Peterson Olson, Leslie Nelson Johnson, Shelly Eklund, Ann Wilsey Gesme, Karn Johnson Winders and Kris Johns Young.  Kris and her family were there to dedicate the Johns Family Courtyard, which is a great space just outside the Campus Center with outdoor seating and a beautiful fountain for students to enjoy.  Their generous gifts in support of Gustavus made this possible.  Rumor has it Scott Franzen and Tom Bjork were in attendance at the football game as well.     

I spent the Saturday of Homecoming explaining to people why I would want to actually work for Gustavus and why I would want to be a Head Resident in one of the dorms (which are actually apartments, nothing like the cramped quarters we lived in as students).  When I told Michelle and Stephanie that I met my wife on campus, they were expecting an 18-year-old coed, not a woman that works in office the of admission and is the associate head track and field coach.  After they interrogated me for what seemed like hours we took a tour of the new Campus Center.  I invite anyone that plans a trip to Gustavus, or just drops in, to please look me up so we can grab a cup of coffee or lunch in the Marketplace (or a beer at the Flame).

I guess the social event of this summer was a party hosted by Kristi Youngdahl.  I missed that event as well (I need to change my priorities).  No reports of anyone breaking out in song or dance, but there was a huge crowd of Gusties (about 150) enjoying the summer evening and enjoying lots of great conversation.  Bob Carruth flew in from Jackson Hole, Wyoming just to party with his classmates.  I hope this becomes a regular event so I can make it next time, if I am still invited.

The social event of the winter was The Royal Affair.  A spectacular event that helped raise over $200,000 for the Gustavus library.  I bumped into several classmates as I was searching for the best bargain during the silent auction.  My wife and I really wanted a pew from Christ Chapel, but not nearly as much as someone that was willing to pay over $700 dollars for it.  Class of ’86 sightings included, Stephanie Spitzack Hennings, Keith Nelson, Sue Brown Thayer, Karen Lindau Piekert, Ann Wilsey Gesme, Gen Watters Barron, Melinda Moen Batz, Andrea Shogren and Mark Allen.  Mark your calendars for November of 2003 and I hope to see more of you there.  Become a Gustavus Library Associates (GLA) member for only $35 and you can become involved in helping support the Gustavus library.

Other things I knowTom Illies has moved to Edina and his wife, Tracey (Bowers ’89) just gave birth to twin boys, Alexander and Aaron on November 27th, 2001.  Minnesota Law & Politics and Twin Cities Business Monthly recently named Mike Bryant a Super Lawyer for a demonstrated excellence in his practice of the law.  Fewer than six percent of the Minnesota legal community are chosen as Super Lawyers.  Greg J. Nelson is living in Plano, Texas and is an instructor at Richland College.  John McCally was recently promoted to vice president of community commitment for Galyan’s.  Stephanie Liska Maki is director, partnership marketing & national promotions for The Musicland Group, which is a Best Buy Company.  Allison Moen Johnson has moved to the Dallas area.  Kurt Bartell is living in Duluth and working for ReMax Realty.  Daniel Jansen, is in San Francisco managing a group of UNIX engineers that supports Wells Fargo internet banking systems.  Beth Grossman Oestreich lives in Burnsville, works for Archivers as part of their new store set-up team.  Linda Rundman Holcombe is director of the Highlands Ranch Community Chorus in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.  Jackie Hunt Christensen received a Minnesota GREAT award for her Health Care Without Harm project she coordinated with the University of Minnesota.  Chris Carlson is working for Concorde General Agency as a professional lines underwriter in Fargo, North Dakota.  Pat Mickow was inducted into the Gustavus Athletic Hall of Fame for her all-around outstanding athletic accomplishments in volleyball, basketball, and softball.  Mary Turnbull Lager is in her 9th season as head swim coach at St. Peter High School and teaches physical education at John Ireland School in St. Peter.  Diane Matthews is productions manager at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis and she is living in Burnsville.

Please e-mail with updates you would like to share with your classmates.  I will make sure it is included in the next class letter.  It would be great to hear from you.

Ok, if I still have your attention I would like to put a plug in for The Gustavus Alumni Fund.  I need you to make your gift to the Alumni Fund this year.  Overall, our class participation has declined.  You may remember the days when Gustavus was able to claim over 50% participation and rank as one of the top institutions in U.S. News and World Report.  Today, we are at 35% participation, which places us within the average range of most colleges, like St. Olaf, Concordia, St. John’s, and Luther.  Please make Gustavus a priority among the places you will be contributing to this year. The Class of ’86 has been as high as 53.7% participation in 1992 and last year we closed out the year at 35.4% participation.  There are great things going on at Gustavus and our College cannot continue to maintain its quality programs for students without our alumni support.

Just return the enclosed envelope prior to December 31st and with your $125 gift you will receive an Old Main Keepsake for free.  Thanks everyone!

Other Campus News:

The Alumni Office is sending this class letter via U.S. Postal Service Mail and also e-mail to those alumni for whom we have an e-mail address.  Eventually class letters will be sent via e-mail only, when an address is available, unless you notify the Alumni Office that you prefer to continue to receive your letters via U.S. Postal Service.  Contact the Alumni Office at

Gustavus ranked among top colleges – Gustavus is ranked in the second tier and one of the top 114 best national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report magazine.  Gustavus ranked in the first tier in two categories, retention and graduation rates.  Gustavus’ first-year to sophomore retention rate of 92 percent ranks in the top 15 percent of all national liberal arts colleges and graduation rate of 76 percent ranks in the top 20 percent of all national liberal arts colleges.  Alumni giving ranks in the top 25 percent, down from the top five percent and a tier one ranking five years ago.  Raising the percentage of participation of alumni giving is of highest priority for the college and the offices of Alumni Relations and Gustavus Alumni Fund.

Gustavus named Best Buy... Gustavus has been named one of the best colleges in America and a Best Buy by The Fiske Guide to Colleges.  In the 2002 guidebook, the College is one of 300 best American colleges and one of 43 Best Buys nationwide.  Within Minnesota, Gustavus is among seven best colleges and is one of two private college Best Buys.  To determine which colleges make the annual Best Buy list, Fiske researchers combine cost data with academic and lifestyle information about each college and university.  Those institutions named to the Best Buy colleges list are said to offer “remarkable educational opportunities at a relatively modest cost.”  Gustavus is also included in The Princeton Review’s 2001 edition of The Best 331 Colleges.

Comprehensive alumni directory – In partnership with Publishing Concepts, the Gustavus Alumni Association is publishing its fourth comprehensive alumni directory.  Surveys were sent to all alumni in August and information will be used only for publication of the directory and updating database information in the Alumni Office.  The book is available for purchase only by former students of Gustavus.  Please correct or update any information and return to Publishing Concepts in the enclosed envelope provided with the survey.

New chaplain announced - The Rev. Rachel Larson has joined Rev. Brian Johnson ’80 in the Office of the Chaplain.  Larson will work in partnership with Chaplain Johnson and the other members of the Office of the Chaplain to provide spiritual guidance, worship, leadership, counseling, teaching, and other pastoral services to Gustavus students, staff, and their families.  Larson is a graduate of Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD, and of what is now Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

I wish all of you a blessed Christmas season.  The events of September 11th have given us all an opportunity to reflect on our lives and the lives of others.  May peace and joy fill your lives this coming year.

Go Gusties!

Jim Isaak

1986 Guest Letter Writer