Class of 1959 Fall Letter

Fall 2012

Dear Classmates,

Homecoming 2012 is already a distant memory and the Christmas season is fast approaching.  Two homecoming items need to be mentioned:

Our classmate, Fran Odden, and spouse Miriam Strum Odden ’62 received Distinguished Service Awards for their service to Luther, the ELCA, home community, higher education, and human service organizations.  A beautiful couple modeling a life of service to others.  It was a privilege for classmate Dave to present their citation at the Friday evening homecoming program.

On Friday afternoon the class agents received a detailed update from President Torgerson and Vice President Christensen on what is happening at Luther. Walt prepared a detailed summary of what we learned for your perusal. By all measures Luther is doing very well—thanks for all you do to make the college an ever better place. We are happy to receive any comments you have on Walt’s summary and information.

  • Welcomed 25 new faculty to campus.  The majority of those are leave replacements; two are on tenure track.  Only three tenure-track faculty who retired last spring.
  • Installed Greg Jesson as the director of the Center for Ethics and Public Life and Angela Kueny as the Nena Amundson Distinguished Professor.
  • New 681 students exceed goal; 605 new first-year domestic, 40 international and 35 transfer students
  • 3 Fulbrights, 1 McElroy, 3 NCAA postgrads; Kelsey Kittleson, 1 of 9 finalists for NCAA Woman of the Year; 96 percent after graduation were working, grad school, interns/volunteering;  586 May 2012 grads received $32 million, collectively, in financial assistance, $2 million in endowed scholarships.
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant awarded, $1.5 million, very prestigious, 1st time for Luther, Luther 1 of only 47 institutions to receive this.
  • Received the 2012 Climate Leadership Award.
  • Turnover is in the future; to date 10 searches have been approved for tenure-line faculty.
  • Corey Landstrom, new VP and Dean for Student Life, sees no real surprises at LC, it is exactly what he thought it would be.
  • 25 students studying overseas this fall.
  • Residence halls: 98.23 percent occupancy rate and 2,107 students in residence as of mid-September.  All halls are recently renovated and compliant.
  • Counseling Center is ahead of the prior year in terms of student appointments; last year they had 1,477 individual counseling sessions.
  • For Fall Term 2012, the Book Shop had a 46 percent increase in the number of textbooks available for rent.  Of all the textbook titles for purchase, 63 percent are available for rent.
  • From June 1 to September 30, 49 percent of food purchases came from local producers; will drop when local produce is out of season, but several local organizations will supply Luther year-round, including 100 percent of yogurt, ice cream and skim milk, 100 percent of  ground beef and bacon, and 100 percent of turkey. 
  • Dieseth Hall was the first of the two “Towers” to be constructed in 1966 at a cost of $1,482,001.  The Regents Towers were named after three Regents—Frank Miller, John Dieseth, and Norman Brunsdale.  Renovation costs for Dieseth Hall and Brunsdale lounge: $5.36 million. 
  • New solar energy field went online on August 24, the largest single solar energy production facility in Iowa;  280-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system consists of 1,250 separate solar panels owned by Decorah Solar Field; the college is leasing the solar panel array and plans to purchase it after seven years.  The solar facility powers Baker Village, an all-electric facility that uses geothermal energy for heating and cooling.  This is Luther's latest major project in sustainable methods of operation and energy conservation initiatives that will move the college toward its zero carbon footprint goal. 
  • $32 million financial aid distributed—collectively―to class of 2012; $2 million comes from the endowment, a portion of the rest due to fundraising.
  • As of August 31, Luther’s endowment portfolio had a 12-month return of 7.4 percent; total value of the endowment as of August 31is $121,085,798.
  • In August surpassed the $50 million goal for the Sesquicentennial Fund.  Still have work to do, and between now and December 31 focused on “closing the gap” on some of the components in order to finalize the campaign.
  • Retirement ahead for three long-term advancement staff at the end of December.  Together, Tom Murray, Jim Anderson, and Dean Nelson have served Luther for over 58 years. 
  • Annual Fund results as of September 28 are $239,120.  This compares to last year’s $240,413, with 164 more donors to the Annual Fund over the previous year.
  • Once again this year Christmas at Luther will be recorded and broadcast around the country on PBS.  This is a great marketing opportunity for Luther.
  • Higher education is seen more and more as a commodity, not something to be earned, but rather something to be purchased, which leads to the financial aid arms race.
  • More enrollment data: Revenue equivalent students are up 28 students from the May Regent-approved budget, based on fall enrollment figures. There are 39 valedictorians, 57 new U.S. students of color, 40 new international students from 25 countries, and 51 total countries represented on campus, Minnesota yielded the highest number of first-year students; 2 percent increase from Wisconsin and Illinois.
Year of Admission Total No. Enrolled 1st Year Female/Male Ratio ACT Comp. SAT Comp. % Lutheran (Total Student Body)
2012 681 56.4/43.6 25.9 1156 41.8%
2011 671 57.6/42.4 26.2 1175 42.4%
2010 651 56.2/43.8 26.2 1188 42.7%
2009 702 57.3/42.7 26.3 1195 45.4%
2008 666 56.8/42.2 26.0 1151 47.3%
  • Aquatic Center cost is $6.5 million, about $700,000 short in funding, looking for any donations. LC pool is also home of the Decorah High School swim team, safety instruction, rehabilitation, swim lessons for community.
  • The Aquatic Center pool will have 8 lanes with 8’ depth.  Will be a Myrtha pool, which is made of stainless steel and comes in pieces, then assembled; Myrtha pools are used by the Olympics in competition. Luther will be the first college in the Midwest to have this kind of pool.   Pool will be 25 yards wide and 30 meters long, have good seating, and will be handicapped accessible.
  • Luther Fall 2012 magazine incorporates a number of positive changes in format and content.  Take a good look.
  • The new admissions website, with improved navigation, launched at the end of August.  You can view it at

Soli Deo Gloria ~ Walt

The fall semester at Luther is off to a good start, full residence halls, a strong 2011-12 year-end surplus, a good audit report, the completion of the Dieseth Tower renovation, and the start of the aquatic center construction are all reasons to celebrate! 

Class Giving—our giving is now reported on a calendar year basis so the 2012 giving deadline is December 31, 2012.  It would be record-setting to have 50 percent class participation if you are inclined to share a gift of any amount this year.

Memory Brain Teasers-Answers to spring 2012 Teasers

1.      Who denied Ron Calgaard's pleas to let us out of finals our senior year?
         Dr. Chellis Evanson, History Department

2.      Who managed the Book Store in our Luther years?
         Joe Magelssen

3.       Who directed Luther’s admissions program?
          Karl Nordgaard

New Memory Teasers

1.      At Luther Fran Odden was a dp.  What did dp stand for?

2.      Who was campus pastor our senior year?

3.      Name the “Greek” organization that sponsored
         a.      showing of motion pictures in our student days.
         b.      the Big Top campus carnival.

Please keep us informed about interesting events happening in your life.  If you have ideas for celebrating our 55th reunion in October 2014, let us know.  Wishing you a happy holiday season and a good new year.

Dave Roslien
1959 Class Agent
[email protected]

Walter Rugland
1959 Class Agent
[email protected]

Don’t forget your Annual Fund giving!

Each year nearly 9,500 alumni, parents, and friends support the Annual Fund with gifts from $5 to $50,000.  Strong support from alumni helps Luther secure additional funds from foundations and corporations, and your gift each year helps us to reach our participation goal of alumni giving to the Annual Fund.  Here’s how your class is doing so far this year:


Have you made your 2012 gift to Luther?  Please visit to make a difference for Luther students.  Thank you!

Please note: Your Spring 2013 class agent letter will include a listing of your classmates who gave to Luther during 2012.  Be sure to make your gift before December 31 to be included.

*as of October 18, 2012

Class Notes
JOHN BRUGGE is a visiting professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

LINDA (SWITZER) LASOTA of Athens, Ala., donates her time at the senior center playing games, singing music, and teaching a calligraphy class.

Former chair of Luther’s Board of Regents, RAY BENTDAHL, of Scottsdale, Ariz., died from respiratory failure caused by pulmonary fibrosis on April 2, 2012, at age 74. A resident of Scottsdale, Ray also maintained a home in Edina, Minn., with his wife of 53 years, SHIRLEY (KLINGSHEIM) BENTDAHL ‘59. He was raised on the family farm near Hanska, Minn., attended a one-room country schoolhouse, and graduated from New Ulm (Minn.) High School. Ray began a 44-year career in commercial banking in 1963 at the Rushford State Bank in southern Minnesota. At the age of 29, he acquired the Commercial State Bank of Hokah, Minn. Through the 1970s and 1980s he acquired 12 bank locations in various southern Minnesota communities. The Bentdahl family moved to Edina, and in 1978, he acquired the Americana State Bank of Edina. In the 1980s and early 1990s, he sold the southern Minnesota banks to focus on growing Americana Bank in the Twin Cities. In 2002 the bank name was changed to Excel Bank, and in 2007 Excel merged with Milwaukee-based M & I Bank.  Bentdahl served on Luther’s board from 1978-90 and was chair from 1984-86. He also served as chair of several other boards, including the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation and Excel Bank Corporation. Ray was a member of the Minnesota Bankers Association, Rotary Club, and the Minneapolis Club. Ray was a generous philanthropist and active fundraiser for many charitable causes.  Ray and Shirley are life members of Luther’s President’s Council and received the Distinguished Service Award from Luther in 2009. Bentdahl Commons was designed to serve as the centerpiece of Luther’s campus.  It was inspired by the work of renowned Prairie School landscape architect Jens Jensen, whose 1911 plan for Luther College laid the foundation for the look and feel of Luther’s campus. In celebration of the college’s upcoming sesquicentennial, Bentdahl Commons was dedicated in Ray and Shirley’s honor on October 10, 2010. Ray was also an avid motorcycling and sports car enthusiast, and he spent many joyous hours behind the wheel at various racetracks driving a Porsche or Ferrari, or driving his Harley Davidson to the four corners of the U.S.A. (11,000 miles in 18 days). His greatest joy was spending time with his family and many, many friends.  He is survived by his wife, Shirley; daughter, ANN BENTDAHL ‘85; son, Craig; four grandchildren; two nieces; and three grandnieces.

C. DAVID JACOBSON of Dodgeville, Wis., died Aug. 21, 2011, at age 83. He served in the U.S. Army from 1952-54, before graduating from Luther. David earned a bachelor of divinity degree from Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., in 1963. He served God and others in the ministry at congregations in Viroqua, Rome, Mineral Point, and Dodgeville, Wis. David enjoyed reading, writing, music, watching the Milwaukee Brewers, and purchasing lemonade from every children’s stand he ever encountered. He is survived by his wife, Jacqualine; four children: Laurie Deerfield, Brian Jacobson, Gwen (Jacobson) Finley ‘86, and Heidi Sojkowski; three grandchildren; and siblings, Arla Bakken, Howard Jacobson and Donald Jacobson. He was predeceased by his siblings, Paul and Ruth.

RICHARD THOMSEN of Windsor Heights, Iowa, died April 7, 2012, at age 75. He worked as a leasing supervisor for General Motors Acceptance Corp. in Des Moines, Iowa, retiring in 1989 after 30 years of service. Richard enjoyed travel and had been to much of western Europe and to his mother’s birthplace in Randers, Denmark. He was preceded in death by his wife, Nancy. Richard was a member of Heritage Club at Luther College.

Luther College Bell