Class of 1950 Fall 2017 Letter

Fall 2017

Dear ’50 Classmate,

I am writing 2+ weeks after the Homecoming ’17 weekend. It was a splendid three days, beginning with the homecoming chapel Friday morning and concluding with the Sunday afternoon concert, at which Andrew Last made his debut as conductor of Nordic Choir. The weather through Saturday was cool and wet but turned fall glorious on Sunday.

The alumni dinner Friday evening is always a warm and convivial time: seeing old friends, marveling at the accomplishments of the Distinguished Service Award honorees, hearing informative and inspiring words from the college’s president. This year was a bit different in one respect. During her speech, President Carlson started asking a few people from the longest-ago classes to stand and be recognized. Suddenly I heard my own name. That brought me up short, not used to being thought of as one of the oldest people in the room. But the shock subsided, and I was proud to represent the great, if now old, class of 1950.

The Saturday afternoon football game lent an air of excitement to the weekend. Played on the newly installed blue Astroturf field, the game had to be suspended for over an hour because of an electrical storm, then went through some wild swings of momentum before the Norse rallied from a 17-point deficit in the 4th quarter and won in overtime. As I write this, there are still three weeks to go in the football and other fall sports seasons - but basketball practices have already begun! No time left for getting bored. Speaking of which, the final days of October saw a major festival take over the campus. The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation was celebrated with a major lecture by a prominent Catholic(!) theologian, a full day of seminar sessions, a hymn-sing led by Luther alum Marty Haugen ’73, a mass worship service, and the performance of a new choral work produced by a team of Luther-connected composers. All in all, a big splash—as it should be.

There is a new development on the admissions front that I want to mention. We may be inclined to think of ourselves as too old and out to pasture to take account of this. But we have grandchildren, maybe great-grandchildren, and their friends and other young people we are aware of in our towns and churches who are about to be of college age. So consider. There is a startup initiative at the college this year called the Alumni Ambassador Program, an effort to involve alums in the recruiting of new students. A key element in the program is referrals of prospective students to the college. The payoff for any referred student who enrolls is sizeable: a special scholarship of $1,000 each year for four years. There is a referral form in the Alumni Magazine and also online at  Worth thinking about.

A few facts and figures to pass on as I wind up this edition of my semi-annual letter. Current enrollment is 2,050, down a bit again this fall. Giving to the college, after some decline the past two years, is reportedly off to a strong start for the current fiscal year. Statistically, 10 percent of all donors are first-time givers, while 50 percent are alums. Just under 26 percent of alums are givers at some level. That last figure for our class is over 45 percent, which puts us in the top 10 of all Luther classes (which achievement netted me, as your class agent, a bag of treats at the recent class agent luncheon—thank you!). Let’s keep it up.

As always, there is a lot of interesting stuff on the college’s website: the calendar of events, January Term international experience, opinion blogs, reports on research projects, sports results, e.g.  Go to and check out links to “Facebook,” “Headlines,” “Academics,” “Athletics,” and more.  A special hats off to all the joint student-faculty research activities that go on at Luther, something that has exploded in recent years.

Alas, you will note that the pace of losses from our class is picking up. A special tribute in that regard to James Anderson. Jim was a strong supporter of the college and one of my predecessors as class agent who helped keep the tradition of ‘50 alive and well.

The best to all of you.  And remember: our 70th is just three years away.

Richard Ylvisaker
1950 Class Agent
[email protected]


James A. Anderson of La Crosse, Wis., died Dec. 18, 2016, at the age of 92. Born in Poynette, he majored in history at Luther before earning master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology at the University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin. James married Ruth (Aas) Anderson Sept. 5, 1950. From 1954-60, he taught sociology at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kan., and from 1960-88, at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. During his last four years at UW-L, James served as associate dean of the College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences and he was a fellow of the American Sociological Association. James believed in institutions and worked on their behalf. He served on the boards of La Crosse Lutheran Hospital, the La Crosse Lutheran Hospital Foundation, Carthage College in Kenosha, Lutheran Campus Ministry of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, Norskedalen, and on the church council of English Lutheran Church, where he was a member for 55 years. James is remembered as a man of faith who did good work, was committed to education and his community, and who loved, and was loved by, his family. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Ruth (Aas) Anderson; four children: Judy Anderson (Kim Brown); David Anderson (Priscilla Paton), Paul (Kathy) Anderson ’76, and Mark Anderson ’85 [Beverly (Stark) Anderson ‘85]; five grandchildren and a step-grandchild, and her three children; two sisters, Shirley Benzine and Joyce (Merlyn) Lienke; a sister-in-law, Eunice Anderson; and many nieces and nephews. James was preceded in death by his brother, Marvin, and sister, Arlene.

Curtis “Curt” Anderson of Alpharetta, Ga., died May 16, 2015, at age 86. He grew up in Cannon Falls, Minn., on the family farm near White Rock, and attended his first eight years of school in a one-room schoolhouse. In high school Curt loved sports, especially football and basketball, captaining the team. Following his graduation from Cannon Falls High School in 1946, Curt joined the U.S. Navy and served as a radioman on the USS Graffias AF29, a refrigerator ship carrying supplies to naval bases throughout the South Pacific and Far East during WWII. After his military service, he attended Luther and met his future wife, Leona Christ, in Decorah. Curt enjoyed a 41-year career with Sunkist Growers in Sherman Oaks, Calif., working in public affairs, grower relations, and crop forecasting. He became vice president of member and public relations in 1984, a position he held until his retirement in 1993. Highly respected by his peers, Curt was frequently called—locally and abroad—for his expertise in the citrus industry. After retiring from Sunkist, he joined others in organizing an electric-power buying cooperative and was in charge of membership. The first year of operation the co-op realized $24 million in business with 18 members. Curt and Lee were long-time residents of Westlake Village, Calif., where they raised their two daughters, but a desire to be closer to grandchildren motivated the move to Georgia in 2005. He is survived by his wife, Leona Christ Anderson; daughters, Cynthia Chaney (Larry) and Mary Reany (Jonathon); four grandchildren; and sister, Leora Carpenter. He was preceded in death by a sister, Carol Peterson.

Vernon “Bud” Bahr of Decorah died Feb. 13, 2017, at age 92. Born in Appleton, Wis., he graduated from Iola High School in 1942 and enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, only to be called home to work in the family’s cheese factory business when his father became ill. Bud was drafted into the Army at the end of World War II and served in the military police department offices. After his discharge in 1946 he enrolled at Luther, where he majored in science and played baseball. Bud was awarded the Junior Bickle Scholarship and was named in Who’s Who in American Colleges. After graduation, he enrolled at the University of Michigan and received a master’s degree in zoology in 1951. Later that year, Bud began teaching in the biology department at Luther, where he met his future wife, Donna Haugen ’53. The two were married August 15, 1953, and Bud began teaching—and coaching baseball and basketball—at the high school in Lansing. Later, he worked for Oscar Mayer in Davenport before returning to Decorah to teach. Bud enjoyed a second career in sales at Larson-Juhl, doing custom picture framing, before retiring in 1985. In retirement he enjoyed genealogy research, Audubon annual bird counts, and following sports, especially the Iowa Hawkeyes, Green Bay Packers, and Chicago Cubs. A modest, quiet, and kind man, Bud loved his wife and family above all else and was happiest when they all gathered for birthdays, Christmas, and other special occasions. He is survived by his wife, Donna (Haugen) Bahr ’53; four children: Stephen (Le) Bahr, Jan (Erling) Larson, Michelle Ruen, and Jackie (Loren) Carlson; seven grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; a brother, Rod (Grace) Bahr; two sisters, Nadine (David) Ross and Maureen Foster; a sister-in-law, Judy (Grant) Nelson; four brothers-in-law: Bob Koehler, Tom Haugen ’61 [Lola (Pederson) Haugen ‘62], Jerry Haugen ‘62 (Sally), and David Haugen ‘64 (Joan); and many nieces and nephews. Bud was preceded in death by his parents; a sister, Ruth Koehler; and his father- and mother-in-law, Thomas and Evelyn Haugen. Memorials may be given to the Luther College Biology Department, Development Office, 700 College Drive, Decorah, IA 52101.

Vernell (Stephens) Haugen of Eugene, Ore., formerly of Decorah and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, died Jan. 15, 2017, at age 88. Born in Decorah, she graduated from Decorah High School in 1946, before enrolling at Luther, where she majored in English and minored in religion and sociology. Vernell was employed as a social worker for six years before receiving a master's degree in social work from the University of Minnesota, in 1958, and continued to work in the field four more years. On August 26, 1962, she married Merlin Haugen, and they made their home in Cedar Rapids from 1962-94. While their two children were growing up, Vernell stayed busy as a housewife, scout leader, and active church member at First Lutheran, returning to the work force when the children became teenagers. She worked in the cafeteria at Kennedy High School; participated in the 1980 U.S. Census as a census taker; joined Frank Magid Associates and worked as a telephone surveyor, supervisor, and editor; and was later employed with a local publishing company as a proofreader, before retiring in 1993. In 1994 Merlin and Vernell relocated to Decorah, where she reunited with old friends and was active in Decorah Lutheran Church. Vernell volunteered at Winneshiek County Hospital and Vesterheim Norwegian Museum and was presented with a State of Iowa Volunteer of the Year Award for her work with Iowa Work Force. After Merlin’s death in 2004, Vernell moved to Eugene, Ore., to be closer to her daughter’s family, making her home at Cascade Manor Retirement Community, where she found a wonderful group of friends and became involved with committees and activities. Vernell is survived by a son, Eric Haugen (Susan) and daughter, Julie Haugen (Tom Brase); five grandchildren; and a sister, Marcella Norgard. She was preceded in death by her husband, Merlin, and sisters, Esther (Stephens) Miller ’37 and Evelyn Stephens.

Edgar Nordgaard of Wilton, Conn., formerly of New Canaan, died Aug. 11, 2016, at age 85. Born in Glenwood, Minn., to Edgar ’23 and Esther Nordgaard, he attended Luther for a year and earned a business administration degree from the University of Minnesota. Ed’s working life spanned 80 years, beginning at age five, when he regularly cleaned out the popcorn machine at the town bandstand for a dime, and ending on June 30, 2016, when he retired from consulting for the Town of Wilton and Wilton Board of Education regarding employee health benefits. For the 37 years in between, Ed held a number of management and executive positions for Equitable Life, Equicor, and Cigna, before launching a consulting business for clients that included 3M, Unocal, and U.S. Steel. He was a member of the Financial Executives Institute and the Council on Employee Benefits. An active member of the Congregational Church of New Canaan, Rotary of New Canaan, where he was a Paul Harris Fellow, Kiwanis Club of Wilton, and Silvermine Golf Club, Ed also held board positions on the Silvermine Woods Homeowners Association and Pelican Lakes Association. He cherished growing up in a small Minnesota town that fostered his curiosity, kindness, and generosity as well as his love of fishing, golf, and cars. Later, Ed enjoyed windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, and downhill and cross-country skiing. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Nita Nordgaard; two daughters, Kristi Nordgaard (Tim Nelson) and Tracie Jaser (Kevin); and grandson. Ed was preceded in death by his sister, Katherine (Nordgaard) Malmer ’49.

Charlotte (Christian) Wolfe of Rochester, Minn., died March 15, 2017, at age 90. After graduating from Thompson (Iowa) High School in 1944, she worked at Naeve Hospital before enrolling in 1946 at Luther, where she majored in business and sociology. After her Luther graduation, Charlotte taught business education at Kiester (Minn.) High School and was known as a kind and patient teacher, a favorite of many. She married Dale E. Wolfe of Kiester at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Kiester on June 20, 1954, and retired from teaching in January 1959, to devote herself full time to being homemaker and mother to her family.  In later years, Charlotte took evening classes at Mankato State University, taught adult education classes, served as substitute teacher at area schools, and worked at the Kiester Library. Her hobbies included reading, feeding birds, painting, playing cards, camping, entertaining, racing snowmobiles, and turkey hunting.  An active member of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Charlotte served on Church Council, ALCW, quilting group, and youth groups in her early years. She also worked with 4-H, scouts, and Kiester’s Saddle Club, Legion Auxiliary, and Fire Fighters Auxiliary. She is survived by her children, Kyle (Becky) Wolfe and Nona (Tom) Nesseth, and two granddaughters. Charlotte was preceded in death by her parents, Albert and Clara Christian; husband, Dale Wolfe; sister, Alice Peterson; and brother, Irving Christian. 

Carmen (Havnen) Sunde of Decorah died Jan. 10, 2017, at age 87. After graduating from Rake High School in 1948, she attended Waldorf College in Forest City for a year before transferring to Luther. Carmen received a certificate in education from Luther in 1950. She married her childhood friend, Carroll Sunde ’53, Aug. 5, 1950, at Liberty Lutheran Church in Rake. The couple moved to Story City, and Carmen taught school there and in Zering, and Carroll attended Iowa State College in Ames. The Sundes farmed the Havnen home place in rural Rake for the next eight years, before moving to Decorah. Carmen was an active member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and she volunteered at Aase Haugen Home and its auxiliary. An advocate for people with disabilities and special needs, she and Carroll helped with Opportunity Homes and Carmen became very involved in the lives of her nieces and nephew after her sister died. She enjoyed reading, quilting, needlework, flowers, gardening, and cooking, and her family especially looked forward to her Norwegian pastry, kringla, during the holidays. After her sons graduated from high school, Carmen resumed her studies at Luther, majoring in elementary education and receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1987. In May 2016 she became a resident of the Memory Care Unit at Traditions of West Union. Carmen is survived by her three sons: Donavon Sunde ’77, Paul (Cindy) Sunde, and Craig Sunde; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Carroll Sunde ’53 on Nov. 11, 2007; son, David, on May 27, 1997; and sister, Betty (Havnen) Osnes ’50.