Class of 1981 Fall Letter

Fall 2012

Hello, Classmates!

By the time this reaches you, Election Day will be over and we (at least those of us in Iowa, Ohio, Florida, and other swing states) will once again be seeing ads for laundry detergent, cell-phone services, and new-model autos, instead of the 24-hour political ads to which we’ve become accustomed over lo, these many months.

And 600+ Luther students will be polishing their musical selections for Christmas at Luther (Taped for TV this year!  Watch it December 23 on PBS – nationwide – 7 p.m. Central time/8 p.m. Eastern & Pacific on most stations), President Richard Torgerson’s final Luther year will be nearly half over, the Norse football season will be ending, and wrestling, basketball, and swimming & diving will be in full swing.  

There’s more to be proud of at Luther than ever.  I was just re-reading the notes from the last meeting for class agents, and have to share this (slightly edited) list from President Torgerson.  Wow.

Recent Highlights

  • 681 new students this year – exceeded the goal!
  • 3 Fulbright Scholarships, 1 McElroy Scholarship, 3 NCAA post-grads
  • Kelsey Kittleson is 1 of 9 finalists for NCAA Woman of the Year
  • 96% after graduation were working, grad school, interns/volunteering 
  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant awarded:  $1.5 million, very prestigious, 1st time for Luther, one of only 47 institutions to receive this
  • Sustainability:
    • Luther received the 2012 Climate Leadership Award.  Award winners were selected by the Second Nature Board of Directors.
    • Luther’s new solar energy field one of the largest in Iowa. With solar panels, Baker Village will be a net-zero emissions facility, the largest in Iowa.
    • SODEXO, 49% of food served on campus was grown local
    • Center for Sustainable Communities will be introduced later this year.
  • Walking around campus, many upgrades:  Dieseth Hall was renovated this summer; now all residence halls have been remodeled in the last decade.
  • Construction has started on the aquatic center (which will be amazing, and a huge resource both for students and for the Decorah area), to be finished in the summer.


  • Cost of education is the biggest challenge
  • Higher education is seen more and more as a commodity, not something to be earned, but rather something to be purchased, which leads to a financial aid arms race.  The 586 May 2012 grads rec’d $32 million, collectively, in financial assistance, of which $2 million was from endowed scholarships.
  • How to best use media in this TGIF world (Twitter, Google, iPhone, Facebook)

This is the Final Season at Luther for President Torgerson and Judy. The Presidential Search Committee has been hard at work, with a plan to conduct interviews in January and present recommendations to the Board of Regents in February. It’s odd to have been away from Luther for so long that several presidents have come and gone since E.D. Farwell.  It’s not a small thing, selecting the right president for Luther’s next phase – give the Search Committee your encouragement, your good ideas, and a supportive prayer or two when you can.  And consider sending a note of thanks to President Torgerson, for his 14 years of service to Luther.

Huge congratulations to our classmate Jim Ripley, who was named the 2012 recipient of the Carlo A. Sperati Award at the Luther Homecoming Concert in October. Jim directs instrumental music activities at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis. Read about Jim and the Sperati Award at It’s a mark of pride for our whole class to have Jim receive this honor.

Finally, as year-end closes in, please consider making a gift (or another gift) to Luther. This college is still, 31 years after we graduated, a place that is sending passionate, smart, motivated young people out on paths that will change the world in big and small ways. You can feel that vibrancy when you visit campus. Two big opportunities for your giving:

  • The Annual Fund, which is all about scholarships, teaching & learning, and living at Luther – and your participation each year keeps those fundamentals going.
  • Other projects within the Sesquicentennial Fund―even though its overall goal has been met, there  still are some under-funded projects, including sewing up the finances for the new aquatic center.   

Soli Deo Gloria!

Mary Sundet Jones
1981 Class Agent
[email protected]

Pat (Graetz) Jensen
1981 Class Agent
[email protected]

P.S. Stay in touch with Luther! If your name hasn’t been on the classmate update list in awhile, let the Alumni Office or one of us know where you are and what you’re doing these days. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t moved or changed jobs or gotten married lately – don’t you always read through these to see what everybody else is up to? Your classmates want to know about you, too!

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 goal of 27% 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?  Only 60 more gifts are needed to reach 27% for your class.  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
Kelsey Bruso, Rodolfo Nieto ‘04, and Brian Jorgensen ’80 sang in the Minnesota Opera’s world premiere of Silent Night, which tells the story of the Christmas Eve 1914 truce among French, German, and Scottish troops in World War I.

PAUL DYBDAHL and his wife, Jill, are owners of Dybdahl Design Group in Middleton, Wis.

MARK EVANS is rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in Lincoln, Ill.

MARTY HERTEL is a mental health technician at Spring Mountain Treatment Center in Las Vegas, Nev.

DONITA (HOOK) JOENS is the superintendent at River-Valley Community Schools in Correctionville, Iowa.

SARAH (BAGAASON) KISE is a CPA at Lottsa Tax and Accounting Services in Minneapolis.

PAUL MATTSON is executive director of library and information systems at Luther.

JOAN (ROHLF) PETERSON is director of human resources at Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago.

LAURA (NELSON) SCHROEDER serves as supervisor of physical medicine and rehabilitation therapy services for Methodist Hospital and Charter House in Rochester, Minn. 

DAVID SWENSON was inducted into Austin High School Music Hall of Fame for his outstanding teaching and conducting efforts in Boone, Iowa.

BRAD THOMPSON was inducted as a fellow in the American College of Radiology. He is associate professor and chief of cardiovascular and pulmonary radiology at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

LISA (NEWCOMER) VAIL earned a doctorate in nursing practice (DNP) from the University of Kansas. She is vice-president/chief nursing officer at Liberty (Mo.) Hospital.

THOMAS WHITESELL is senior vice president at Lowe Enterprises Investors in Los Angeles.

DONITA HOOK and Jeff Joens, Oct. 29, 2011.

JOAN ROHLF and Kurt Peterson, April 30, 2011

Martin Luther