Dear 1955 Classmates,
Homecoming 2010 was a successful and satisfying weekend. The football team won on a field goal in the last minute; the Sunday worship service was inspiring, especially the music; the Sunday afternoon concert by Nordic, Concert Band, and Orchestra was well done, as usual; and many class reunions were held. More than 1,600 persons had pre-registered, and many more just showed up. Marnie Torrison Blatchford stated it well in the form of a question at our 55th anniversary dinner. “Does anyone else feel like Luther is the place to be in October?” Quite a few heads nodded in response.
It is 150 years since the founding of Luther, and 2011 will mark this occasion with many events under the theme Transformed by the Journey. The Nobel Peace Prize Forum, sponsored annually by several ELCA schools, will be held on campus. It is hoped that the King and Queen of Norway will be able to accept an invitation to appear. Also planned are a “relay race” from Half-Way Creek in Wisconsin, where Luther was founded; the execution of a set of six paintings of campus scenes; the performance of a commissioned choral and orchestral composition; recognition of alumni who served in national and church-related volunteer organizations; and the telling of stories related to Luther, including audio recording those of alumni.
Part of the celebration includes completing a $50 million sesquicentennial funding effort, which began in January 2008. To date, $33 million has been committed, a very strong showing at this stage. Unlike past campaigns, very little, less that $10 million, is for capital projects, chiefly a new aquatic center and renewable energy (wind). The rest is for endowment to support student scholarships and internships, faculty and staff development, and a major program to promote sustaining of resources. All good and worthy issues.
Luther today is truly transformed in so many ways. This fall there were 614 new freshmen and 38 transfers, totaling 652 new students. Though slightly down from a year ago, this total is about the size of the total student body in our day. Among new students, 42 are non-white and 27 are international from 18 countries, groups scarcely represented in our day. Also, 64 percent of new students came from the top quarter of their high school classes, better than in our day, unless I miss my guess. One constant is that Luther continues to draw heavily from the Midwest with Minnesota (39%), Iowa (28%), and Wisconsin (14%) still the leaders.
During Homecoming a new plaza was dedicated—the Bentdahl Commons—on the central lawn, approximately on a line between the Union and library. If you stand in the middle of the two arbors, you can view the Luther statue to the south and the tall art piece on the face of the Center for Faith and Life to the north. Very symbolic. With pavers and benches it is a good place for receptions or quiet time. Closer to the library, the Farwell Clearing, named for former President and Mrs. Farwell, has been developed with plantings native to the area, and benches as well.
A hardy band from the Class of 1955 gathered for the 55th reunion—Marnie Torrison Blatchford (and Dean), Al Brudos (and Sally and their grandson), Elliot Christen, Jean Brown Eittreim, Norm Gunderson (and Gwen), Paul Hasvold, Sally Peterson Head, Darlene Peterson Jones (and Bob), Truman Jordahl, John and Mildred Lunde Meyer, Herb Payer (and Judy), Dave Rasmussen (and Esther), Frances Troisin Rehborg, Jean Tucker Rolle, (and Victor), Ted and Janet Tweed, Mary Jo Iverson Wilke (and Tom), and, of course, Mary and me.
Ilah Olson Breitbach and Larry Thompson had registered but could not attend as had Marv Mundt who was still restricted due to back surgery. Marv sent along some memories to share. Memorable faculty were Gerhard Frost, Gerhard Belgum, Barbara Bahe, Herbert Rebasso. Memorable events were the rope pull at the river, football games, the Messiah with Weston Noble, the freshman year in Larsen Hall, beanies, chapel in the gym, Chips.
Several others emailed to say that they could not attend. Dave Borreson was selling a Minnesota summer place that weekend; Clarie Renslo Streng Broste was attending a conference of Women of the ELCA at the Southwest Texas Synod; Gretta Bjerke Hahn expected to be in Decorah for Thanksgiving and for Christmas at Luther instead; Kathy Sanger Larson was attending to the death of a dear friend; Don Peterson was finishing up a residential move and attending to his Internet art sales with several hundred clients internationally; and Pat Olafson Savoie was also restricted due to back surgery. Pat took time to send along a synopsis of her trip to Tanzania in Africa last January and February to teach English as part of a group sponsored by Global Volunteers, a non-political and non-sectarian organization. Her work took her to the hinterlands where she taught at a school operated by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, teaching students ranging in age from 14 to 20. She spoke highly of the students –well mannered, eager to learn with limited resources, beautiful people.
Not to be unexpected after 55 years, the infirmities of aging kept some classmates from traveling. We heard from his daughter who was on campus for another reunion that Don Hovland had suffered some strokes and was in assisted living in California. There are probably others in the same situation. And, sadly, 45 persons who were part of the class have now passed away.
But for those present many memories were shared after the noon lunch and evening buffet. Many remembered Weston Noble since many present had sung or played for him. Frost, Belgum, Bahe were noted again as well as Warren Berg, Erling Naeseth, Chell Evenson, O. W. Qualley, Ruth Mostrom, Kenneth Berger, Kathryn Ulvilden Moen, N. L. Fadness, and Clair Kloster. There were also memories of the barracks behind the gym that served for music practice, classrooms, and recreation; the barrack that served for post office, bookstore, and snack bar; the barracks for married students and overflow freshmen men; the dedication of New Main; the infamous fire hose incident in Larsen Hall during the freshman year; Dave Borreson refusing to get his red hair cut for freshman initiation and thus being accosted by sophomore men after chapel; sock hops and especially the Bunny Hop; the physical education class where you could actually polka; Mrs. Harrisville’s watchful eye on the tender good nights on the steps of Brandt Hall; and Christmas and spring formals. More than one had married someone they met at, or prior to, Luther.
And, not least, the reception before the buffet at the new and beautiful home of Darlene and Bob Jones was well done and truly appreciated. It was almost like gathering in an art gallery; many pieces were executed by Darlene over the years.
The only piece of news from other classmates comes from Merv Ellwood who reports that he is retired and living in Willmar, Minn.
As the fall season advances and the shadows of the seasons of life lengthen, I close with these thoughts. Many who gather at Homecoming indicated that they not only hoped but expected to return for the 60th in 2015. Let us look toward that. Second, Dave Borreson said in his email that he would be making a gift to Luther this fall. This will serve as my indirect one and only post-Homecoming urging that you follow his example. Third, have a good fall season, a blessed Christmas, and a wonderful New Year.
1955 Class Agent
Don't forget your Annual Fund giving!
Each year nearly 10,000 alumni, parents, and friends support the Annual Fund with gifts from $3 to $25,000. Strong support from alumni helps Luther secure significant funds from foundations and corporations, and your gift each year helps us reach our goal of 30% alumni giving to the Annual Fund. Here’s how our class—and surrounding classes—did in 2009:
Class of 1954 Total giving in 2009: $68,889 from 47% of the class
CLASS OF 1955 TOTAL GIVING IN 2009: $19,138 FROM 47% OF THE CLASS
Class of 1956 Total giving in 2009: $90,384 from 40% of the class
Your gift can boost our class impact on current students! Visit givenow.luther.edu to show your support. Thank you!