Class of 1956 Fall 2017 Letter

Fall 2017

Dear 1956 Classmates:

Homecoming 2017 is now history.  In spite of some cold and wet weather, more than 2,500 attended and renewed friendships once again. There were the usual activities, of course: a football game (Luther defeated Nebraska Wesleyan, 42-38), reunions, receptions, alumni recognitions, chapel and church services, band, orchestra, and choir concerts. There were a lot of good feelings.

Carlyle and I did get down on Friday for a meeting of class agents. New cabinet members were introduced and we received information on fundraising and development for the past year, the strategic planning process, and admissions.  President Paula Carlson brought greetings from the college.

Admission of new students is once again down moderately, something many small private colleges are experiencing nationwide. The Admissions Office is putting more emphasis on its Alumni Ambassador Program, encouraging alumni to be alert to high school students who would fit well at Luther, sending their names to the office.

Class agents also received data on the results of a survey dealing with class letters. Of those responding, 61 percent indicated they read the letters in detail; another 25 percent indicated that they skimmed campus information but read class notes in detail. To continue the letters while reducing processing time and costs, the college will be utilizing a mail service to send them out. Thus, class letters will be limited to two pages and a firm deadline imposed for submitting the drafts to the campus. Hence, if or when you send a note for inclusion in the future, please meet the deadline I indicate.

Another announcement was that the Annual Fund has now been renamed the Luther Fund to reflect a more diverse and ongoing solicitation to emphasize investing in students. Please take note when information requesting a gift is received from Luther. During the past calendar year, 26 percent of alumni contributed to this fund and/or some other fund. Our class was well above this participation rate with 39.7 percent making a gift. Once again our class has shown itself to be among the more generous. I thank you and invite you to continue your support which is greatly needed.

You may recall that as part of our 50-year anniversary, one gift option was the Golden Anniversary Endowed Scholarship Fund which the Class of 1955 inaugurated and members of later classes also supported. The purpose was to make a place for pooling small gifts for a larger impact. As of the end of the last fiscal year, May 31, 2017, the total of the fund was $101,550, resulting in scholarship support of $4,300 this academic year. From time to time Carlyle and I have made a gift to this fund in memory of classmates who have passed away.  You might wish to consider this as well.

A few classmates have sent notes. Marian (Carlson) Balch says that she is fully settled in Arizona though she misses her friends in Wisconsin. She invites people to visit or call – 66752 E. Nightingale Star Dr., Scottsdale, AZ 85266; 608-576-6166. John Barstad still lives in Alaska, the Last Frontier, and says that they expect winter to arrive shortly Bev(Scheffert) Haas and husband, Earl, celebrated their 60th anniversary December 26, 2016. Harold Kurth lives in Benita, Texas, being well-retired for several years after a career in education including as principal at Milaca Elementary School in Minnesota. Six months of the year are devoted to traveling by RV around the country. June (Tesch) Torrison says life is good and she is "thankful to be up and about."  A good attitude we can all adopt.

As for Carlyle and me, life is busy. The most unusual event was having to take down four 80-foot Norway pines at our home in northern Minnesota. They were too close to the buildings. We left one stump about 8' tall. A friend whose hobby is Nordic motif carving is looking at it to carve a Nordic figure. It will be unique as property goes, and maybe even charming.

On a sadder note, information from the college indicate that three classmates passed away. Donna Olson died January 10, 2017, in Lake Geneva, Wis.  She had a long career in both public and parish education.

Thomas Robinson died May 23, 2017, in Grand Forks, N.D. He had a long tenure as mathematics professor at the University of North Dakota.

The daughters of Sue (LaCore) Myrdal wrote to say that their mother passed away peacefully this summer in Belmont, Calif.

If you use the Internet but do not receive any email from me, it is because I don’t have your email address. Please send it so that I can email you about future class notes and deadlines for the class letter. Otherwise, use snail mail or call. At this time, the deadline for the spring letter will be February 14. Personal notes are important. They help us stay connected, which is important at this stage in our lives.

I’m not sure how many of you use the Internet for gathering information, but if you do you may want to access the college site, It is newly redesigned and offers a nice look into campus happenings.

Finally, wherever you spend the fall, the holidays, and the winter season, I wish you good health and a very peaceful time even with all the conflict and chaos in the world and our country.

Best Wishes,

Mary Haaland
1956 Class Agent
[email protected]


Bev (Scheffert) Haas of Waukon, Iowa, celebrated her 60th wedding anniversary with husband, Earl Haas. The couple was married December 26, 1956, at the Little Brown Church in Nashua, Iowa


Donna Olson of Lake Geneva, Wis., died Jan. 10, 2017, at age 82. Born in Calamus, Iowa, she attended St. Olaf College for two years before transferring to Luther, where she majored in elementary education. Donna went on to earn master’s degrees from New York Theological Seminary (in religious education) and Cardinal Stritch University (in education). She served as director of Christian education for four years at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Commack, Long Island, N.Y., and five years at First Lutheran Church in Beaver Dam, Wis.  Donna worked as a reading specialist in the Lake Geneva Elementary Schools for more than 24 years. She was active in the National Education Association, Wisconsin State Reading Association, and Wisconsin Education Association Council, and she served as former president of the Lake Geneva Teacher’s Association- Grievance Committee Chair and Southern Lakes Reading Council. A longtime member of the negotiating team of the Lake Geneva School District, Donna also served as secretary of the Geneva Lake Museum Board of Directors, was a volunteer tutor of Hispanic adults, and received the 1986 Lake Geneva Teacher of the Year Award for Special Services. She taught Sunday school and adult Bible study at Williams Bay Lutheran Church and served on their church council. An avid traveler who made a number of trips to Norway to visit relatives and study genealogy, Donna also did post-graduate study in England and Ireland and made visits to Scotland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Israel, and Australia. Her favorite trip was with Global Volunteers to help build a school in Pommern, Tanzania. Donna happily attended the special events of her nieces and nephews and loved attending the Lyric Opera, Milwaukee Symphony, and her dinner club. She is survived by two sisters, Elaine (Olson) Oehler ’59 [Paul] and Esther (Dean) Nelson; a sister-in-law, Lenora Olson; and many nieces and nephews as well as grandnieces, grandnephews, and cousins. Donna was preceded in death by her parents; sister, Frances; brother, Robert; and a nephew.

Thomas Robinson of Grand Forks, N.D., died May 23, 2017, at age 82. Born in Volga, Iowa, he graduated from high school as valedictorian in 1952 before enrolling at Luther, where he majored in mathematics and chemistry and was a four-year starter on the baseball team. Tom completed a master's degree in 1958 from Iowa State University (ISU) before moving to Grand Forks to teach mathematics at the University of North Dakota (UND). He married Sandra Erickson on Aug. 28, 1959, in Fertile, Minn. From 1960-63, Tom taught math at ISU, while earning his Ph.D., and he served as a math professor at UND from 1963 until his retirement in 1997. Tom authored Analytical Trigonometry in 1967, Algebra and Trigonometry in 1970, and a second edition of Analytical Trigonometry in 1972. He played baseball for most of his life, was a volunteer baseball coach at UND for approximately 20 years, and closely followed UND sports. Over the years, Tom enjoyed fishing, running, and golfing. He sang with a barbershop chorus in Grand Forks for 27 years and was actively involved at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, where he served on the church council, sang in choir, led the JOY group, and served as president of the congregation. Tom is survived by his wife, Sandra; two sons, Timothy (Pamela) Robinson and Paul (Jeffrey Longenecker) Robinson; two grandchildren; two sisters, Mary Cox and Peggy Koeneke; cousins, nieces and nephews; and extended family members.