Class of 1950 Fall 2018 Letter

Fall 2018

Dear 1950 classmate,

What would normally be a mid-fall, post-homecoming letter I am writing when the academic year has just begun. An adjustment for you and for me! The reason has something to do with the end-of-October timing of Homecoming this fall, later than ever before in my memory.

The usual rush of fall events at the college will soon be upon us. Sports seasons - football and cross country among them, recitals and concerts, along with preparations for Christmas at Luther, lectures - including a Farwell Distinguished Lecture by prominent psychologist Jonathan Haight, who has been raising questions about the wisdom of so-called "safe spaces" on college campuses. In a different vein, both the Black Student Union and the Nursing Department will be celebrating major anniversaries of their foundings this fall, the 50th and 40th respectively.

I mentioned football. This season a new head coach will be at the helm: Caleb Padilla, previously the teams's defensive coordinator. He faces the challenge of meeting expectations generated by the surprising success of last year's team, finishing third in the Iowa Conference and within an inch of second. Another standard for all of the college's teams this year is the exciting finish produced last spring by the women's softball team. After fading during the final weeks of the regular conference season, the team turned things around in a big way, dominating both the conference tournament and the NCAA Division III regionals before defeating St. Thomas in the super regional to earn a place in the national championship finals, where they finished third among the eight teams involved. Third nationally!  It was exciting to watch it happen.

On the music front, Nordic Choir left campus immediately after commencement in May for a European tour focused in Germany and the Czechia. By all reports, the tour was a resounding success, another triumph for Luther's rich choral tradition. An interesting development in that tradition occurred over one weekend at the end of June, when the initial Dorian Choral Retreat took place on campus. Aimed at adults who simply love to sing, it attracted over 200 people. The second annual retreat is already scheduled for 2019.

After leading the companion tour accompanying Nordic Choir to Europe, Luther's president Paula Carlson returned to Decorah with the announcement that she plans to retire at the end of the 2018-19 academic year. You have heard that news by now. Though it came as a surprise to everyone I know, it already seems like old news. The search for the next Luther president is well under way, with the selection of a national search firm and the forming of a broadly representative search committee under the leadership of the Board of Regents. With preparations for Luther's ten-year reaccreditation review also taking place, it is going to be a busy year! President Carlson has made it clear that she will continue to be an active leader during the coming months, working to prepare the way for her successor.

During President Carlson's tenure positive steps in Luther's growth have been happening. Refurbishing  facilities, adding new academic programs, developing a new strategic plan and beginning to implement it, and over the recent summer months taking the first steps toward rethinking the way the college presents itself to prospective students and their families. Plus, the past year has been one of Luther's best ever when it comes to fundraising

We live in an increasingly challenging environment for private higher education. There are challenges ahead: budget pressures, enrollment, institutional identity among them.  Luther is in good shape to confront them - and to attract a strong new president to lead the way. We loyal alums have a key role to play in meeting the challenges and maintaining Luther's vitality.  Even at our advanced ages (!), let's keep up our good support.

Heartiest good wishes for the coming months (and years).

Richard Ylvisaker
1950 Class Agent
702 Meadow Court
Decorah, IA 52101
[email protected]
(563) 382-3191

P.S.  As the accompanying obituary items sadly remind us, our numbers continue to decline. I want to take special note of one loss in recent months, that of Don Ellickson. One of Don's daughters called me earlier in the summer to report his death on June 20th. We had a lovely conversation, and she later sent me a note along with copies of his obituary and memorial service, making a point of emphasizing how much Luther and our class had meant to Don. Don had a long and distinguished career as a professor of economics at UW-Eau Claire and significant contributor to the larger good of the city. It was fun to learn, too, that as an adult he became an avid runner and racquetball player. Blessed be his memory and that of our other departed classmates.


Dwight Baumgardner of Minnetonka, Minn., died Nov. 10, 2016, age 93.

Ward Conley Bergene of Adams, Minn., died March 13, 2018, age 89.

Glenn Upham Boggs of Midland, Mich., died May 15, 2017, age 89.

Don Ellickson of Eau Claire, Wis., died June 20, 2018, age 89.

Daniel Johann Jordahl of Sun City, Ariz., died Dec. 17, 2017, age 90.

Vernon Kalvestrand of Redding, Calif., died May 13, 2016, age 89.

David Langager of Mesa, Ariz., died Jan. 7, 2018, age 94.

Justine (Holum) Lionberger of Decorah, died March 16, 2018, age 89.

Florence L. Moe-Olson of La Crosse, Wis., died Nov. 9, 2017, age 95.

Kenneth W. Peters of Onion Creek, Texas, died Dec.19, 2017, age 89.

Monte C. Smalley of Bellevue, Wash., died May 16, 2016, age 88.

Donald V. Wahlgren of Gowrie, Iowa, died Sept. 10, 2016, age 92.

The full obituaries of classmates listed in this letter can be found on the Luther College website at:
If you would like a printout of the obituaries listed above in their entirety mailed to you, please contact us at:
[email protected], or 563-387-1509.