Spring 2011 Letters for the 1932-1938 Classes

Spring 2011

Dear Friend,

Greetings from Luther, where we are celebrating our sesquicentennial—the 150th anniversary of the college’s founding.  Just as it was in 1861, Luther continues to be a community of faith and learning, with a steadfast appreciation for the land and community that help sustain us. 

We kicked off the Transformed by the Journey-themed sesquicentennial celebration Feb. 3 at opening convocation for spring semester with an address by Ole Petter Ottersen--president of the University of Oslo, where most of Luther’s founders and early faculty members were educated. Dr. Ottersen spoke highly of Luther College, noting the foresight and hardiness of its pioneers, and the prestige our beloved institution has garnered. A reception honoring the descendants of our founders followed convocation.

During the rest of the academic year and through the summer and fall, the celebration will comprise an impressive lineup of special events and projects that reflect the holistic nature of a Luther education, and celebrate its Norwegian heritage, curriculum, music and the arts, worship, athletics, location, environmental stewardship, and service ethic.  The goal for the sesquicentennial is to honor Luther’s past while also looking outward and forward, paying tribute to the ways Luther has and will continue to contribute to the broader world by preparing students to lead and serve on behalf of the common good. 

While we’re in a celebratory spirit, let’s acknowledge the Luther Norse men’s basketball team, who completed an impressive season this semester. Having made their first appearance in the national tournament in 27 years, the Norse wrapped up the season with a record of 19-9, the third best win total in school history. Along the way the Norse were crowned the Iowa Conference regular season and tournament champions. Luther's league title was its eighth in school history, while the tournament title was its first ever.

And be sure to mark your calendar for Luther’s Sesquicentennial Homecoming Celebration the weekend of October 14-16, 2011. Look for more details later this summer.

For additional information about the sesquicentennial celebration, including commissioned works, commemorative items, tours, and the mission and history of Luther College, visit the website.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Sue Drilling

Sue (Franzen) Drilling ’78
Director of Special Programs
[email protected]

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Your gift can boost our class impact on current students!  Visit givenow.luther.edu to show your support.  Thank you!


REUBEN ALLARD BERGAN of Decorah died Sept. 18, 2010, at age 98. While a student at Luther, he worked in radio technology at the L’Tatro factory in Decorah. Al taught for a few years in New Mexico before joining Douglas Aircraft in California as an electrical engineer in 1941. In 1944 he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was assigned to the amphibious forces in the Pacific Theater during World War II; he retired as a lieutenant in 1946. Al earned a degree in engineering at Texas Tech University in 1951 and spent the next 25 years working for Dresser Industries in research and engineering for the oil-logging industry. He retired in 1976. Al was awarded six U.S. patents for technical inventions while at Dresser, as well as one patent for an invention for the National Science Foundation relating to cores in Project Mohole. He and his wife, Ferne, enjoyed a long and interesting life in California, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. They were members of the Unitarian Church, the English Speaking Union, Planned Parenthood, and the League of Women Voters. In retirement in Tulsa, Okla., they enjoyed church activities, the opera, the symphony, and growing peach trees. Al was a member of the Luther President’s Council. Upon Ferne’s death in 1999, he returned to Decorah. Al was preceded in death by his brothers, HALDOR BERGAN ’30 and KENNETH BERGAN ’38.


IRENE (NATVIG) SEELE of Cresco, Iowa, died July 29, 2010, at age 92. She attended Decorah College for Women and Luther for two years, earning a certificate in education. Irene taught for a few years in Fairbank and, later, in Waterville, Iowa. Her husband, Les, was in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and the couple lived on the East Coast for the first two years of his enlistment while he attended electrical and radar schools. Following the war, they returned to Irene's home farm in Cresco, where they farmed until Les's death in 1999. Irene returned to the teaching profession in 1965 and earned a bachelor's degree from Luther in 1974. She retired in 1984. Irene enjoyed reading, participating in church activities, playing cards, hunting, fishing, feeding birds, and especially spending time with her friends and family. She is survived by two children, LYNN (SEELE) THOMPSON ’66 and WILLIAM SEELE ’69; two granddaughters; and two great-grandchildren.

SYLVIA (MYHRE) WARD of Colorado Springs, Colo., died Feb. 17, 2009, at age 90. She attended Decorah College for Women and Luther for two years, earning a certificate in education. Sylvia was a teacher for a short time before starting a career in civil service. She is survived by three children and seven grandchildren.  Sylvia was preceded in death by her husband, Robert.

MILDRED (HELGERSON) WEBB of Elgin, Ill., died March 16, 2010, at age 96. She attended Decorah College for Women and Luther. Mildred served on the liturgy commission at St. Joseph Catholic Church for more than 50 years as an employee and volunteer. She was also a member of the St. Ann Society and Altar and Rosary Society and served on the church restoration committee.  Mildred is survived by a son and two grandchildren.


KERMIT HANSON of Shoreline, Wash., died Oct.7, 2010, at age 94. After graduation from high school, Kermit stayed on the family farm for a year until a small scholarship from Luther and a job in the campus library enabled him to go to college. Following graduation from Luther, he received a full scholarship to Iowa State University, where he earned a master’s degree in economics.  His first jobs were with the Works Progress Administration in Des Moines, Iowa, and the Federal Land Bank in Omaha, Neb. Kermit volunteered for the U.S. Navy in 1943 but failed the eye test. He volunteered again but was rejected for being too thin. Finally, a doctor's letter got him admitted, and he served in the supply corps on the escort carrier Anzio in the Pacific Theatre from 1943-45.  Following the war, Kermit joined the Reconstruction Finance Corp., and shortly thereafter, the Veterans Administration as a statistician in Seattle. After persistent pursuit by Howard Preston, business and economics dean at the University of Washington, he joined the faculty there in 1948. Kermit earned a doctorate from Iowa State University in 1952 and became chair of the UW Department of Accounting, Finance, and Statistics in 1955. He was named associate dean of the university's School of Business Administration in 1959 and its dean in 1964 and worked hard to raise the quality of both the undergraduate and graduate programs.  Outside the university, his expertise was tapped by the boards of the Leckenby Co., Safeco Corp., Washington Federal, Rimroc Corp., and Pacific Horizon Funds. Kermit retired in 1981.  In addition to professional responsibilities, he took on positions of leadership in his community, serving as president of the Chief Seattle Council for the Boy Scouts of America, president of the First Lutheran Church of Richmond Beach, president of the Horizon House board, a member of the Pacific Coast Banking School board, and an active member of the Rotary Club of Seattle.  Kermit will be remembered as a loving and caring mentor, an admired dean, and an important shaper of the Puget Sound economy. He received an honorary degree from Luther in 1981. Kermit and his wife, JANE (HAUGEN) HANSON ’39, were members of Luther's Heritage Club, life members of President’s Council, and recipients of the 1997 Pioneer Memorial Award. He is survived by four children. Kermit was preceded in death by his wife, Jane, in 2010. The Kermit O. and Jane E. Hanson Endowed Professorship in History was established at Luther in 2010. 

OBERT RUST of Albert Lea, Minn., died Aug. 3, 2010, at age 94. He attended Gale College for a year before transferring to Luther. After graduation from Luther, Obert attended Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., and was ordained in 1942. He served parishes in St. Maries and Potlatch, Idaho, then entered the U.S. Army chaplaincy in 1944. Obert attended chaplain school at Harvard University and served in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II. Following the war, he served congregations in Gays Mills, Wis., and Spring Grove, Minn., for a few years, then served for 20 years in the Oakland and Moscow (Minn.) Lutheran churches. Obert served five years as associate pastor at Estherville, Iowa., before retiring in 1980. In retirement in Albert Lea, he served as interim pastor and supply pastor in parishes in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota, preaching in 59 churches in nine years. Obert and his wife, FLORENCE (CHURNESS) RUST ’40, made 17 trips to Mesa, Ariz., where they were active in St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.  When he entered St. John’s Lutheran home of Albert Lea in 2001, he continued in ministry by leading residents in devotions and prayer, reading scripture, and singing in Sunday worship. Obert was a member of the Minnesota State China-Burma-India Veterans Association, serving as chaplain and vice-commander. He was a long-standing member of the Kiwanis Golden K-1 of Albert Lea and the Freeborn County Historical Society. Obert is survived by five children, including RACHEL (RUST) CARL ’73 and JOHN RUST ’75, and 13 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including KATIE RUST ‘12. He was preceded in death by his wife, Florence.

TED SOLIE of La Crosse, Wis., died June 29, 2010, at age 94. He attended Luther, playing football and tennis, before graduating from the University of Wisconsin School of Business Administration in 1939. Ted served with U.S. Navy Fleet Air Wing II in Hawaii during World War II as an operations and communications officer. After the war, he returned to La Crosse, where he worked with Gateway Glass Co. and La Crosse Cooler Co. Ted then purchased La Crosse Breweries, Inc., brewers of Peerless Beer. The brewery discontinued operations in 1955. Ted remodeled the brewery buildings for tenants, including Crane Ordway Co., Kraft Foods, Swift and Co., Wisconsin Dairies, and La Crosse Cheese Co. He then started and developed the Swiss Chateau Cheese and Wine Shop, a retailer of dairy products, wines, liquors, and gifts sold nationwide via catalog.  Ted served as board president of the Wisconsin Gift Cheese Association and the YMCA. In 1949, he was asked to chair a committee to develop the first Community Chest, now known as the United Way. In 1950 Governor Walter Kohler invited Ted to serve on the State of Wisconsin Small Business Committee for three years. A member and president of the La Crosse Rotary Club, he was named a Paul Harris fellow, recipient of the Rotary Four Way Test, and a Rotary Century Club member. Ted received the Rotary President’s Award in 1990 and was made an honorary member of the Prairie du Chien Rotary Club for helping charter the group.  A member of Christ Episcopal Church, he served on the vestry and as a warden. Ted was a member of the La Crosse Chamber of Commerce, which he served as treasurer and vice president. He is survived by his wife, Catherine; three children; four grandchildren; two step-grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and two step-great-grandchildren.