Class of 1954 Fall 2017 Letter

Fall 2017

Dear Classmate,

Can you believe that it is 67 years ago that we set foot on the Luther College campus as eager freshman, ready to “take on the world?” We were 17 and 18 years old, and really did not know very much. However, those four years at Luther College remain important to each of us. In many ways, it gave us the foundation to “step out” into the world with enthusiasm, eagerness, and /or a self-confidence to go on to graduate school, into a work-place, or back home to farm with mom and dad.

As always, this fall class agent letter comes just after the Homecoming weekend at Luther. And, as always, Homecoming was highly successful, except for the lightning storm that forced officials to delay the football game (Nebraska Wesleyan vs. Luther) with two minutes, 26 seconds in the first half. The players and coaches were sent to their locker rooms, and the spectators had to clear the stadium and move to the Dahl Centennial Union. The storm lasted an hour and a half. When the football game resumed, the last two and a half minutes of the first half were played, and the officials set a three- minute rest period. (There was no half-time.) After the three minute period, the second half started. The game ended in a tie, 31-31, so the game went into overtime!!! Luther made their field-goal in overtime, and Nebraska Wesleyan MISSED their field-goal, so Luther WON their Homecoming football game with a very exciting overtime THREE POINT VICTORY = 34-31!

I’d like to continue to summarize the Homecoming weekend by saying the Friday afternoon luncheons and class agent meetings went well, and Sunday’s church service was well attended. The Sunday afternoon music concert was spectacular with the Symphony Orchestra, the Concert Band, and Nordic Choir all performing at their very best. I’d like to add that Saturday night’s “class reunion get-togethers” (every 5-10-20-25-30-40 and 50 years) were scheduled all over the Luther campus and throughout the Decorah area. Some of those reunions start Thursday and end on Sunday. “Luther alumni like to get together!” The Luther College Homecoming Weekend is, in so many ways, an exciting weekend to return to Decorah and the Luther campus. I feel there is something for each of us throughout the weekend.

With regard to keeping up with the goings on at Luther, I have some exciting news to share; here is an excerpt from a recent press release: 

A Luther College alumna who was a member of the first women's cross country team and her husband have provided a gift of $1 million to establish the Kent Finanger Endowed Chair for Women's Cross Country and Track and Field. The alumna shared the reason surrounding the couple's decision to create the Finanger Chair, "As a student and runner, I thrived under Coach Kent's leadership. The immense respect I have for him and his nurturing abilities have unequivocally impacted my life." 

This is the first endowed coaching position in the history of the college. It was the donor's wish to make this announcement on Coach Kent's 85th birthday, Oct. 25.

Finanger had the following remarks about the alumna donor, "What she and her husband have chosen to do humbles me. I am awed that the way you go about coaching, inspiring and motivating an individual would one day lead to an honor such as this. I'm so thankful for their generous gift and what it will do for Luther College and the growth and development of our women's cross country and track and field programs." 

Other Luther updates include: 

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.

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.

Wow! We have lived 85 or 86 years; let’s make it for a reunion at Luther College when we are 90 and 91 years of age. Won’t that be special!!! Just think, in two years, we’ll celebrate 65 years since graduating from Luther. (Homecoming 2019!)

 One or Two Thoughts for the Day:

·         Be kinder than necessary.

·         Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures.

·         Never deprive someone of hope; it might be all they have.

·         Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.

·         Commit yourself to constant self-improvement.

·         Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you love them.

·         Take charge of your attitude. Don’t let someone else choose it for you.

·         Never cut what can be untied.

·         Judge your success by the degree that you’re enjoying peace, health, and love.

Be thoughtful! Be kind! Be enthusiastic! Be considerate! Be appreciative! Be honest! Be a good neighbor! Be family oriented! Be thankful!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Kent Finanger
1954 Class Agent
[email protected]


Helen (Mart) Martinko of Sharon, Pa., formerly of Sharpsville, died May 5, 2017, at age 83. Born in Knoxville, Iowa, she graduated from Des Moines Technical High School in 1951 and attended Luther, receiving a certificate in education in 1954. Helen taught in Minnesota and Montana before moving to the Shenango Valley area of Pennsylvania; she graduated from Youngstown State University in 1959. In 1960 Helen married James Martinko. She taught elementary school in Brookfield for more than 35 years, retiring in 1995, but continued to teach preschool and tutor students in her retirement. An active volunteer, Helen was a member of Sharon Regional Health System Auxiliary, Friends of the Library, and Christ Lutheran Church, and she belonged to College Club of Sharon and Thursday Nite Mixed Bowling League at Thornton Hall. She is survived by two sons; Kevin Martinko (Moe) and Gary Martinko (Beverly); seven half-siblings; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Helen was preceded in death by her husband, James; a brother, Larry Mart; and five half-siblings.