Ann and I did not attend Luther Homecoming this year, hence no personal Homecoming observations.
Let me ramble a bit about life at Luther 1939-43. The football game I remember best was a Loras-Luther contest in Dubuque. It was for the conference title and the two teams pounded each other. Loras looked to be the winner when it scored first and led 7-0. They then marched down the field until Luther held at about the 10-yard line. Unable to mount an offense, Luther had to punt. Gabby Sebastian set some kind of record with a 73-yard punt that backed Loras up near their own goal line. The Luther defense again held, and Morrie Ness broke through and blocked the ensuing Loras kick for a safety. The 7-2 score in favor of Loras still looked formidable. One of those "momentum changes" that reporters talk about took place, however, and Luther drove for a score that made the final 9-7 for Luther. I still carry a vivid picture in my mind of the key plays in that game.
The same is true for the basketball game I have replayed in my mind again and again. It was against Pepperdine University, in the 1943 national small college tournament. We won our first game in order to play Pepperdine University, whose stellar record included a win over Southern California University, a perennial power. Luther played one of its best games and actually led by a point with a few seconds to go. Then came a Luther foul, an overtime, and a tough loss. Skip Herwig, Norm Everson, and Warren Selbo were sterling competitors all year long.
I know those games are of no consequence in the grand scheme of things. They were of huge consequence to me, however, during those college years. I have thought of them many times since.
More important than games, however, are the friends from Luther. I have been privileged to stay in touch with most of you and have been blessed by your friendship throughout my life. May God give you joy in your memories and excitement at the promised gathering of the Communion of Saints.
Now for some current Luther News:
Lots has happened on campus since you received your spring 2017 class agent letter, and I hope you’ve been able to experience some of these events in person. For starters, RAGBRAI—the (Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa--came through Decorah July 28, and the Luther community enthusiastically greeted the estimated 15,000 riders with a large welcome sign, free Gatorade, water, and Norse cookies!
A short five weeks later, and the fall semester began for the college’s 157th academic year, welcoming 542 new students to campus. Acknowledging that these are turbulent times for our nation, Luther President Paula Carlson, in her Fall 2017 State of the College speech, urged us to “rededicate ourselves and our community to our founders’ vision of a more just society and to our namesake Martin Luther’s commitment to be true to conscience, to live by our core values and beliefs.”
Two facility dedication events were held in September: Legacy Field, the new blue synthetic turf system by AstroTurf that was installed over the summer in Carlson Stadium, was blessed in a special ceremony Sept. 9, part of a full day of Luther athletic events, which included a football victory over St. Olaf. Thanks to much-appreciated donor support, including a lead gift by Dennis ’64 and Suzanne Birkestrand, Luther now has one of the safest and most distinctive fields in NCAA Division III football. A week later, on Sept. 16, the college’s newly renovated 12 outdoor tennis courts were dedicated. The $1 million project—generously funded by an alumni couple who wishes to remain anonymous—has resulted in a more durable, stable, and consistent playing surface, making Luther’s outdoor tennis venues one of the best in the region. Many thanks to all of the donors who contributed to these projects.
Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 6-8, brought more than 2,000 alumni and friends to campus for 65 various events, including the annual alumni dinner Friday night, where a Distinguished Service Award was given to 8 alumni. Play was suspended during the 2nd quarter of Saturday’s football game due to lightning; after the game resumed, Norse player Cory Wirth ’18 went on to make a 25-yard field goal in overtime, leading his team to a 41-38 victory over Nebraska Wesleyan University. Go Norse!
Another highlight of Homecoming Weekend was the very well-attended official viewing, at Noble Recital Hall, of To This Day: Remembering Nordic Choir’s First International Tour. Aiden Spencer ’18 and Jacqueline Wilke, Luther professor of history, created this documentary film of Nordic Choir’s first international tour in 1967 as part of a three-year student/faculty collaborative project.
Student/faculty collaborative projects are just one of the many ways learning happens beyond the classroom at Luther. Internships and externships are also vital components of a Luther education, as are study-away experiences, which are key to the global perspective Luther promotes. Do you know high school students who could benefit from the kind of education Luther provides? If so, please refer them through the Alumni Ambassador Program, which awards $4,000 in scholarships to students who enroll after your referral. There was a form just for this purpose tucked in the pages of the Fall 2017 Luther Alumni Magazine, or you can submit one online at luther.edu/ambassadors.
The college’s year-long exploration of the Reformation—and celebration of its 500th anniversary—culminated October 31, 2017, with a day-long symposium and evening concert. The symposium—The Reformation of Everything, 1517-2017, Examining the Reformation and its Continuing Impact—looked at the impact the Reformation has had on Christianity, the Church, education, broader society, and culture; how it has shaped Luther College; and what its influence might look like in the future. Among the many distinguished presenters was Marty Haugen ’73, renowned composer of liturgical music. Later, the Reformation Commemoration Concert, where The Reformation Cantata was premiered, raised up the work of alumni and students. The cantata was anchored by four choral movements, composed by Luther alumni Daniel Kallman ’78, Sky Macklay ’10, Mark Petering ’95, and Daniel Raney ’92, and four instrumental interludes—composed by Luther students Pablo Gomez-Estévez
‘18, John Kuntz ’19, Caleb Linville ’19, and Hunter Prueger ’18—were interspersed throughout the work.
As you can see, it’s been a busy fall semester on campus, and I’ve only included some of the many happenings. Please keep Luther informed of what’s happening in your life, and I will write again in the spring.
David W Preus
1943 Class Agent