Dear Luther College Class of 1953,
It is February 10, 2017, and I am writing this from an off-campus perspective in Oro Valley, Arizona. Yes, we are “wintering” here. Tried this two years ago, “minded” the winter a year ago when we remained in Decorah, and decided that we were not too far along in years to give it another try. The drive to reach here is taxing, but the amenities, once here, put that unpleasantness in shadow. It seems as though every second person we meet has migrated here for the season from the Midwest. Would our immigrant ancestors have scorned us for our pursuit of pleasure, or admired us for keeping their thirst for adventure alive, albeit with comforts beyond their dreams?
Life in the Southwest, where the sun owns the sky, offers more than climate comfort. Among other things, it enlarges one's perspective on American history. The American story in my experience has moved from New England to the Scandinavian and German immigration in the Midwest. I overlooked the interplay between Native Americans and Spanish explorers/missionaries that created the Hispanic culture of this area. Can't do that anymore, primarily because it is a truncated view of history. Further, the evidence compels our attention, with Spanish as a virtual second language in our country. Even at Luther College, the Spanish language faculty has grown to be the largest of the modern language faculties.
The death of Weston Noble ’43 in December marked the end of an era in the history of Luther College. We entered Luther College in Weston's second year. He was 26 years old that fall, after three-plus years of service in the army during World War II and two years of high school teaching. I don't recall that I found his youth unusual back then, since I had attended a small high school where we were pretty much in the business of breaking in young teachers until they moved on after a couple of years to a more desirable location.
The Nordic Choir was my primary extracurricular activity in college, so I saw a lot of Weston. I even recall his yelling at me once, because my attention had drifted and my gaze wandered from his directing arms. He had a really big voice for such a small person; when I interviewed him for the biography published in 1998, he recounted with some pride that his voice had moved from a high pitch in high school to a deep bass by the time he entered college.
Weston retired from the Luther faculty in 2005, after 57 years, the longest period of service of any faculty member in the history of the college. When I interviewed him in 1996, his goal was to surpass the record of Pip Qualley, class of 1918. He did that and then some. In my opinion he deserves primary credit for building the music program of the college to its present remarkable status. The irony in this is that, today, he would not be considered for a faculty position in the Luther College Department of Music. He didn't have the credentials, a terminal degree in his field. That does give one pause, institutional pause in fact.
There were still World War II veterans in the Nordic Choir during our freshman year. The male sections of the choir were mature indeed, surely as much as a ten-year age span. Weston denied that the following happened, but I recalled it during an interview. I think it was during our sophomore year that, one day in rehearsal, he expressed a sense of relief that all members of the choir were now younger than he, so that he had no one advising him as self-styled equals. We were young then, and knew our place.
I hope that some of you can return to campus for the memorial event for Weston on Saturday, May 13. It will be a day of singing, and probably playing (Concert Band) as well—a day to celebrate a life that mattered to countless people scattered across the globe.
Back on campus the focus is on strategic planning for the future. My perception is that the quality of the faculty is, on the whole, better than it has ever been before. They and the staff and regents will define a vision for the future of the college that you will support with enthusiasm. I used to say, when still teaching, that none of us could use superlatives, because Weston had used them all up. He had a tendency, when describing his music groups, to speak in the superlative degree of comparison only. But now let’s feel free to borrow from Weston and grant ourselves the freedom to give our mostest to the bestest college, our Luther.
Helen (Rod) Heusinkveld of Kalona, Iowa, died Oct. 6, 2016, at age 86. A native of Story City, she majored in biology at Luther and worked as a nurse for a brief time at Luther. Helen married Edwin Heusinkveld, and they became the parents of three sons. She is survived by her sons: David (Gail) Heusinkveld, John Heusinkveld, and Mark Heusinkveld; four grandchildren; two great-granddaughters; and a sister, Myrle Shaw. Helen was preceded in death by her husband, Edwin, on April 21, 2016; sister, Glendora Proctor; and brother, Myron Rod.
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