Class of 1982 Fall Letter

Fall 2012

Hello and Happy Fall to You!

Because we had our 30th reunion dinner on October 6th, I talked to many of you face-to-face recently; but since not everyone was able to make it back to Decorah, here I am writing my usual fall note.  Check out the photos here.

I hope all of you who were at the reunion get-together had a good time. I certainly had a fun evening catching up with as many people as possible. The evening proved to be too short to speak to everyone though, so I do hope you will consider sending in a note with an update so I can write about you in the next letter.

People in the Alumni Office tell me that we had a higher than average attendance at our 30th reunion (125 or so), and they were pleased that so many of us took the time to come “home” to Luther, even if for only a few days. We had a nice meal together at the Oaks Steakhouse and many hours of relaxation and conversation. Thanks so much to Tim Larson for delivering the prayer before dinner. Tim is the pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Southfield, Mich.

Thanks also to Charlie Busch for coming up with the fun prize categories for our bag of Luther door prizes. We had fun learning that Deb Rusch has four post-BA degrees, and that Barbara Tostenrud Garrett is the first of us to have already retired (from teaching elementary music for 30 years).

Two of our classmates were awarded Distinguished Service Awards this year as well:  David “Chip” Norris and Harlan Satrom. Chip is president of the Twin Cities Region, Alerus Financial, and has served on numerous boards and sponsored and volunteered for many important causes like MS, Special Olympics and Habitat for Humanity. He and his wife, Jari, established the Chip and Jari Norris Endowed Leadership Scholarship in 2006. Harlan is a financial advisor for Northwestern Mutual Financial Network. He has been very active in numerous organizations in Decorah and Winneshiek County—from Decorah Human Powered Trails to the Winneshiek Wellness Coalition.  Congratulations to them both, and to our six other classmates who received Distinguished Service Awards in prior years:  Louis Dovre Bjorkman, Doug Kintzinger, Lee Tlou, Kim Nicholson MacInnes-Green, Usko Shivute, and Lindy Weilgart.

I also had the honor of presenting a check to President Torgerson that represented the total giving of our class since we graduated. The check was an impressive $2,381,203.76!

Here are some fun facts about the class of 1982—we have 594 living alumni in our class. We have two alumni council members—Denise Davismckennie and Kris Gregersen.  We have a current board of regents member—Marsha (Weckworth) Olch and a regent emeritus, Doug Kintzinger. We have six classmates currently working at Luther:  Sherry Braun Alcock, executive director of alumni relations and development services; Mark Faldet, assistant director of admissions; Bill Fordice, instructor in the education department; Deb Rusch Fordice, visiting assistant professor of education; Kirk Johnson, associate director of alumni relations; and Doug Nelson, development officer.  Four of our classmates used to work at Luther:  Dawn Deines-Christiansen, former education instructor; Becky Prestemon Gesing, former nursing professor; Konrad Gunderson, former assistant professor of accounting and management, and David Crowe, former English faculty. 

Our Parents Council member right now is Carrie Phipps Harney, and our Presidentsrad members are Louis Dovre Bjorkman and Dianne Tenney Schori.  We also have three previous Carlo Sperati Award recipients from our class:  Karen DeBauche, Jeff Doebler, and Erik Engebretson, and five Hall of Fame inductees:  Kathy Haugland Brandt, CJ Jerves, Doug Kintzinger, Rob Serres, and Mike Woodhouse.

Three people who could not attend homecoming sent their greetings:  Karen and Jeff Doebler who were visiting their son at Gustavus that same weekend; Heidi Erdmann who said she lives too far away in Washington state to get to homecoming; and Carla Nelson, who wrote that she now lives about 10 miles from where Rolvaag wrote Giants in the Earth, which we read in Paideia!

Other classmates wrote with news as well:

Cheryl “Charlie” Busch is project manager at CIGNA Healthcare and an affiliate faculty member at Regis University in Denver.

Jay Ganske is senior vice president at Mutual of Omaha Bank in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Elizabeth (Wiener) Grubisich is an alternative high school science teacher in the Valley View School District in Bolingbrook, Ill.

Luther alumni Kirk Johnson (Luther associate director of alumni relations), Josh Hildebrand '02, Jesse Reyerson '03, Peter Ylvisaker '84, and Jerry Wright '78 were among the competitors in the Almanzo 100, a 100-mile bike race on gravel roads between Spring Valley and Preston, Minn., last May. Temperatures were in the upper 80s, with wind gusts of up to 40 miles per hour.

Paul McCarthy is franchise development manager for Interstate Batteries in Dallas.

Mark Penning is founder of Root River Brewers, in Northfield, Minn.; co-founder of Cannon Valley Brewers, LLC. He is also CFO for Stebgo Metals, Inc.

Charles Preis, along with his Northeast Middle School Concert Band from Minneapolis, presented a clinic for the 2012 Minnesota Music Educators Association Convention. . He also directs the band at Century College and the adult handbell choir at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church.

Kristi (Sorteberg) Reierson is vice president of human resources at the Orthopedic Institute in Sioux Falls, S.D., was married to Mark Reierson on December 30, 2011.

That’s all the news I have. If there is someone you would like to know about and have lost touch with, you can contact them using the Luther Online Alumni Directory at If you do not have a username and password, an account can be created quickly and easily by contacting the Luther Technology Help Desk at 563-387-1000.

I have been asked to continue as your class agent for another five years. I am happy to do so and look forward to hearing from you so that I might pass along more updates in the spring letter.  Happy holidays and take care.


Katie Hanson
1982 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 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 47 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

Barbara Melaas-Swanson
of Port Byron, Ill., died Feb. 29, 2012, at age 51, after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.  Born in Decorah, Barbara graduated from Rock Island (Ill.) High School in 1978. After graduation from Luther in 1982 and Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pa., in 1986, where she met her future husband, Barbara attended Durham University in England and received a doctorate in church history in 1993. She married Wayne Swanson in 1990 and they spent the first three years of their married life in England. While in England, she served as an assistant pastor at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church and chaplain at the University of Durham, and she also worked at the Lutheran Student Chaplaincy Center administering scholarships for overseas students, on behalf of the Lutheran World Federation. Upon returning to the U.S., Barbara served at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Romeoville, Ill., and began her part-time teaching career in religious studies at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Ill. Her next call was to First Lutheran Church in Geneseo, Ill., where she served as associate pastor, with her husband, from 1997-2000. During that time, she began teaching for Western Illinois University. Barbara and Wayne moved to Port Byron in November 2000, where she served as co-pastor with her husband at Messiah Lutheran Church. She also taught as a part-time assistant professor in the Department of Religion at Augustana College in Rock Island. Barbara loved spending time with her family and especially enjoyed attending her children’s activities. She had a passion for travel and had a special place in her heart for England and her friends there. She also enjoyed music and gardening, and loved to go on long walks. Barbara touched the lives of the many people she encountered along her life’s journey and was blessed with many special friends. Survivors include her husband, Reverend Wayne Melaas-Swanson; children, Daniel and Kirsten Melaas-Swanson; mother, Alice (Logemann) Melaas ’54; sisters, Kristine Melaas Merkel ’83 and Kari Melaas ’88; her mother-in-law; two brothers-in-law; and three nieces. She was preceded in death by her father, Ira Joseph Melaas, Jr. ’54, a brother, father-in-law, and grandfather, IRA MELAAS ’19. 


Katie Hanson