Class of 1971 Fall 2017 Letter

Fall 2017

Dear Friend from ‘71,

Deadlines define me! With all good intentions of submitting my class agent letter weeks ago, somehow it slipped by me, and this morning, by chance, I noticed a note on my cluttered desk that I had intended for a reminder. (Thank you Lord!) 

It’s a cold morning in St. Paul, and it appears that it will be April or May before we feel 60 degrees again. My golf club’s last day for play is tomorrow, and even though the high isn’t going to reach the 40s, I plan on playing along with fellow members (and Luther classmates) Craig Pearson and Steve Sorenson. So, it’s time to embrace “brisk” and prepare for all the things we do to make winter more of an adventure than something we endure. 

I was able to visit our alma mater on Friday of Homecoming Weekend for the class agents’ luncheon.  The blue view from the dining room is impressive. The newly resurfaced blue football field turf and the newly resurfaced blue tennis courts combine with the blue roof of the field house make a powerful visual impact. The refurbished baseball and softball fields with new bleachers complete the picture of an up-to-date aggressive athletic program. 

One thing we’ve learned about Luther over our tenure as students and alumni is that it doesn’t sit still!  As students we watched the library being built, and it seems that every five years when we returned for our reunions there was another building that had been built. 

Decorah keeps evolving as well. While driving into town, I took a side trip to see the rebuilt Twin Springs bridge - a beautiful stone mason’s masterpiece. The reincarnation of the Cliff House as a Marriott Fairfield Inn is a welcome visual relief, and Casey’s on College Drive has a new building. There’s even talk of a Menards just north of Walmart. 

The other changes I’ve appreciated are a result of many dedicated and creative faculty, administrators, and alumni who collaborate to keep Luther vital in the face of enrollment challenges, and changes in cultural awareness, work environment / expectations, and politics. Case in point: Lisa Scott is the new Interim Dean for Institutional Equity and Inclusion, a position unthinkable 50 years ago, but critically important today. I’ve written in the past about the programs available to students to help prepare them year-by-year for eventual job placements. We learned at the luncheon about the ongoing strategic planning process with input from alumni, faculty, staff, students, and administration.  I was also impressed with the Impact of Giving Annual Report. Here are my rough notes:

Our endowment is $161 million, 99 percent of the students receive financial aid, roughly half of all Luther graduates contribute to Luther. The 146 out of 435 from our class of ’71 contributed $141,637.54.  By the way our 435 surviving classmates is the largest number of any class (except for ’74 which has 445) up until 1983.

Speaking of contributions, start filling up your piggy banks, so we can make a good showing for our 50-year contribution in 2021.  My “handlers” in the Development Office must be getting impatient, so I’d better send this off. Keep warm, stay active (mentally and physically), “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”

Jim Hinrichs
1971 Class Agent
[email protected]



Chuck Findley is principal broker and owner of Chuck Findley Real Estate in Grants Pass, Ore.

Beverly Petersen of Rockford, Ill., retired after working 30 years for the Social Security Administration.

Duane Sauke of Rochester was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives for District 25B in Southeastern Minnesota.

David Schroeder is a tax professional for H&R Block in Oconto, Wis.


Donald Luettjohann of Hiawatha, Iowa, died Feb. 15, 2016, at age 66. Born in Cedar Rapids, he graduated from Washington High School, where he was a member of the diving team. Don majored in biology at Luther and went on to earn a D.O. degree in 1974 at the University of Osteopathic Medicine in Des Moines. After completing his orthopedic residency in Lansing, Mich., he practiced there for several years. Don married Linda K. Pins on August 27, 1976, in Dyersville. He and his family moved to Havre, Mont., where he practiced medicine until retiring in 1993. After retirement, Don attended the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and pursued a career in writing. Don enjoyed computers, photography, motorcycles, cooking, diving, travel, and—most of all—time spent with his family and friends. He is survived by his wife, Linda; daughter, Laura (Derek) Hurt; son, Robert Luettjohann ’04; two sisters, Mary (Bob) Wangsness and Sue (John) Seitz; two grandchildren; sister-in-law, Rosie (Bob) Platz; four brothers-in-law: Herbert Pins, Chuck (Andrea) Pins, Dave Pins, and Mike (Nancy) Pins; and mother-in-law. Don was preceded in death by his parents, nephew, and father-in-law.

James O’Brien of West Union, Iowa, died Dec. 26, 2016, at age 67. Born in Waterloo, he grew up in Sumner and graduated from Sumner High School. A business administration major at Luther, Jim continued his education at the Graduate School of Banking and College for Financial Planning, earning the Certified Financial Planner designation and becoming a mutual fund counselor. He served his country in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and was honorably discharged with the rank of captain. Jim was the co-owner of O’Brien Brothers Drug and served as executive vice president and director of Farmers Savings Bank, and president of O’Brien and Associates. He married Valerie Peterson on Jan. 18, 1986, in Elgin. An active community member, Jim served as past president of Rotary International, West Union Industrial Development, West Union Country Club, West Union Ambassadors, West Union Betterment Foundation, Zion Endowment Trust, Jaycees, Northeast Iowa Shriners, and the Bank Administration Institute. He was also a member and past master of Masonic Lodge #69 in West Union, Lookout Lodge #395 in Sumner, and Cedar Rapids Consistory; and a member of the Troop 54 Committee, American Legion Post 15, various committees at Zion Lutheran Church, Ducks Unlimited, the library board, West Union Sesquicentennial Steering Committee, Fayette County Economic Development, West Union Chamber, and the committee to build the PAC at North Fayette Valley High School. Jim volunteered for many hours at North Fayette elementary, middle, and high schools and was also named West Union Citizen of the Year in 1988, 1989, and 1999. His hobbies included camping, fishing, hunting, backpacking, coin collecting, reading, traveling, archaeology, and genealogy. Jim volunteered his time recording cemeteries for Fayette County and has compiled a database of more than 30,000 individuals. He enjoyed history and facts and was known for his stories and jokes. Spending time with friends and family was what he loved most, and he was always ready to play games. Jim is survived by his wife, Valerie; son, Michael O’Brien; brother, Thomas (Darlene) O’Brien; mother-in-law, Janice Peterson; sisters-in-law, Joni (Steve) Gisleson and Renee (Rodney) Ray; and several nieces, nephews, grandnephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents, grandparents, and father-in-law.

Darrell Seeley of Delafield, Wis., and Sedona, Ariz., died Aug. 12, 2016, at age 66. After graduating from Anamosa (Iowa) High School, he enrolled at Luther, where he majored in mathematics and physics. Darrell continued his education at the University of Iowa, where he received a master’s degree in physics in 1975. He was employed as a professor of physics at Parkland College in Champaign, Ill., and later, for 22 years, at  Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), where he was elected faculty senate chairman by his teaching colleagues and honored as Teacher of the Year by the student body. In 2002 Darrell left MSOE to start his own laser safety consulting company. In 2011 he joined Rockwell Laser Industries as vice president. Darrell was well known in the laser safety community, was a member of many laser-safety boards and committees, and received the Laser Institute of America’s Distinguished Educator Award. He also served as a visiting laser scientist for the U.S. Army in Maryland, Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Laser Institute of America in Florida, and Austrian Research Centers in Seibersdorf, where he was the first recipient of the Herta Firnberg Fellowship. Darrell enjoyed woodworking, dancing, singing, and music ministry at Christ Lutheran Church in Sedona; he also helped with the rebuilding of the church organ at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Delafield. Darrell is survived by his wife, Patricia “Trisha”; children: Katy (Penny) Seeley and Dan Seeley ’02 (Jessica [Welling] Seeley ’04); two grandchildren; stepdaughter, Joanne Odden (Adam Schwindt); stepson, Erik (Jenny); two stepgrandchildren; five siblings: Dave Seeley, DonnaLou (Pete) Clagett, Clarke Seeley (Donna), Rose Anne (Dave) Steninger, and Gail (Bernie de Leseleuc) Seeley; and many Christian brothers and sisters.