Class of 1984 Fall Letter

Fall 2012

Dear 1984 Classmate,                                                                 

Ah, back at Luther for homecoming on Friday, Oct. 5.  Home.  Yes, I’m originally from Minnesota and I now live in Des Moines, but Decorah is home too.  Once again, Decorah is just beautiful in the fall and the changes on the Luther campus are just wonderful.   I just love visiting the campus and seeing how things have changed and how they have stayed the same.  The class agent luncheon is a lot of fun.  I love reconnecting with friends, classmates, staff, and hearing what is new at Luther. 

One thing mentioned at the class agent luncheon by President Dr. Torgerson was that Luther is “a model, not a mirror.”  From being awarded a 2012 Climate Leadership Award to a solar array that is the largest in Iowa, Luther continues to find ways to be a community energy leader and a responsible land steward. 

And Luther continues to grow and grow.  One exciting development is that the ground has been broken on the new Aquatic Center.  The pool will be incredible with 8 lanes, 8 feet deep, and it’ll be regulation and competition width.   There will be a 1- and 3-meter board and a 14-foot diving area.  It’ll also be a MYRTHA pool made of steel pieces and assembled with a liner.  Luther will be the first college in the Midwest to get such a pool.  There will also be 250 spectator seats and it will be handicap accessible.  The Aquatic Center will also be home for the Decorah boys and girls swim teams, swim classes, rehabilitation, and adaptive PE classes. 

With growth there is also time for reflection and memories.  Class Agents Paul and Sonja (Shatzer) Gibbs’ daughter Danielle is a 2012 Luther graduate and class agent.  Danielle made a beautiful quilt out of her Luther t-shirts.  Paul, Sonja, and I got to pose with Danielle’s quilt in front of Preus Library and on the Farwell Clearing.  Check out the photo at the top of the page!

With a growing and vibrant campus, I am so proud to be a Luther grad!  Many times when someone sees my Luther ring they’ll tell me, “Luther, that’s a good school.”   And we have wonderful alumni!  The class of 1984 consistently makes the Class Agent Honor Roll.  The most current results for Calendar Year 2011:

Total Gifts Annual Fund--Class Rank - 7--$30,847.84

Number of Donors – Annual Fund--Class Rank – 7--120 donors

Number of Donors – All Funds--Class Rank – 7--130 donors

Please help Luther continue to be a model not a mirror--Annual giving and increased alumni participation are critical if we are to remain the best teaching and learning environment in the Midwest. All gifts, large or small, make a difference and have an important impact on Luther. Charitable foundations and corporations that support Luther consider your annual gift a vote of confidence in your college. Your gift encourages their gifts.

Soli Deo Gloria!  Luther! Luther! Luther! 

Michele Minske
1984 Class Agent

Paul & Sonja (Shatzer) Gibbs
1984 Class Agent

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 50 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
JOEL FELDKAMP is an independent financial advisor for K-F Financial in Woodbury, Minn.

ERIC FRYDENLUND is a site inspector and field researcher at Minnesota Abstract and Title in Albert Lea, Minn.

KURT GOMER is food and beverage area manager for the daily operations of 14 restaurants and lounges at the Northern Quest Resort and Casino in Airway Heights, Wash. He has two very athletic children that keep him and his wife, Mary, very busy.

DOUG KNUTSON--a professional photographer in Minneapolis--was featured in the January 8,  2012, issue of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune for his work photographing Nobel Peace Prize winners. He has photographed 21 laureates, including Ellie Wiesel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the Dalai Lama. In March, Doug made Frederik Willem de Klerk--the 75-year-old former South African president who oversaw the dismantling of apartheid with Nelson Mandela--his 21st Nobel laureate portrait at the Annual 2012 Peace Prize Forum held at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. He also documented the journey of Melissa Gonzales, a thirty-nine-year-old Minneapolis mother of two, and her attempts to outwit the disease her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother each battled. Though Gonzales had not yet been diagnosed, her plan to avoid breast cancer was drastic and included prophylactic mastectomy. Knutson’s images show a vulnerable side to Gonzales’s story and were used in the blog she created to help other women like her.

DAN KUESTER is a marketing communications specialist for Becker Underwood in Ames, Iowa.

BRET LEWISON is associate general counsel at HNI Corporation/Hearth & Home Technologies in Lakeville, Minn.

MARY (SNOW) PILLE is an executive advisor for Principal Financial Group in Des Moines.

MARTI (TOMSON) RODAMAKER was named a member of the Iowa Innovation Corporation by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. She is bank president and CEO of First Citizens National Bank in Mason City, Iowa, and serves on Luther’s Board of Regents.

JEFFREY SWIGGUM is a narrator on the shortwave and internet radio program Let’s Read the Nikkei Weekly, as well as a writer for NHK TV English educational programs in Tokyo, Japan.

FRED VENABLE is senior financial analyst at Genesis Health System in Davenport, Iowa, and was elected to serve on the ASK Resource Center Board of Directors.

Luther alumni Peter Ylvisaker, Kirk Johnson '82 (Luther associate director of alumni relations), Josh Hildebrand '02, Jesse Reyerson '03, 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.

GREGORY ERNEST RUTHERFORD of Winton Heights, Nassau, Bahamas, died Nov. 13, 2011, at age 51. He had been the general manager of the Häagen-Dazs and Lickety Split, Ltd., chains. Memories of his life will forever be cherished by his parents, Ernest and Katrina Rutherford; his former wife, Natalie Rutherford Pache; daughters: Rayne, Deja, and Yale Rutherford, Kirsten Lyles-Shaver, Summer Pennerman, and Syvonia Pennerman; grandson, Joshua Lyles; brothers, Derek, Ian, Willard, and Bradley Rutherford; sisters: Deidre Clarke, Ernestine Kelly, and Garnell Cooper; and adopted mother, Casscine Grant-Kinnear.

DEBORAH WITTENBERG, 50, of St. Hilaire, Minn., passed away at her home on Tuesday, August 7, 2012, surrounded by her loving family, after a long courageous battle with cancer.  Deb majored in business management at Luther and was a member of Luther’s Symphony Orchestra and Concert Band; she also worked in the music department office.  Deb met her future husband, Dick Wittenberg, at a welding shop in Springfield, Minn., and they married in 1986.  They made their home in St. Louis Park, Minn. Deb worked in fundraising for the Minnesota Orchestra, Gillette Children’s Hospital, and Variety Club Heart Hospital.  In 1994 they moved to Thief River Falls, where Deb first worked for the Red Lake County Auditor’s Office and later for Digi-Key, as manager in human resources of learning and development.  Deb was an active member of Zion Lutheran Church in Thief River Falls, where she played as an organist on Sunday and accompanied the senior choir.  She was also involved in other musical activities in the church and nurtured her daughter Leah’s musical talent.  Survivors include her husband of 26 years, Dick; daughter, Leah; mother, Loretta Tostenrud; mother-in-law, Maxine Wittenberg; brothers, Steven and David; sister, Barbara Garrett; brothers-in-law, Dan Wittenberg and Vern Wittenberg; nieces and nephews, and many relatives and friends.  She is preceded in death by her father, Donald Tostenrud in 1997; sister Linda Tostenrud in 1958; and father-in-law, Vern Wittenberg Sr. in 2012.                                                  

Dani Gibbs '12 t-shirt quilt.