Class of 1961 Spring 2018 Letter

Spring 2018

Dear Class of 1961,

Someone sent me this quotation and I share it with you as it is meaningful to me.

In spite of illness, in spite even of the arch-enemy sorrow, one can remain
alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change,
insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in
small ways.
                                                                       - Edith Wharton, American Author

I use it for this letter in spite of arguments one can make against it. That could be for another time. We know we can't control life by our efforts. For now, we are all circling 80 birthdays…soon to be there or have already passed it by. I know you recognize Wharton's words in your life. I hope my letter is an encouragement to you.

I hear from many of you who write or I see at events in Minnesota and Iowa. You are volunteering, caring for loved ones, providing child care for grandchildren, tutoring at schools, supporting leaders in church, government, business, and education by sharing your wisdom. Some of you haven't yet retired!! In big and small ways you participate in your life and model for those around you what a good life can be at any age. With all of the cynicism in our world we can model an optimism by how we live and what we do, read, think about and share with others. Large actions or small. There is much discouragement and we can address it by sharing our years of wisdom and practical abilities. And, I think more importantly, thanking others for their contributions. Folks are hungry for recognition of who they are and what they contribute.  

When I thank or compliment someone, I'm struck by how surprised and appreciative folks are. Sometimes that clerk or worker in a building gets tears in their eyes, and I think:  "Wow, this person must get very little recognition for their efforts." Sometimes it is a very important person, who one would think could manage without much recognition from us, who writes or calls back because of a kind word sent their way. It's a small thing as Wharton would say but giving someone recognition for their contribution can be surprisingly helpful to them.

I'm now starting to doubt this letter I'm writing to you. My Norwegian Lutheran family and community taught me: YOU SHOULD DO VERY WELL AND NO ONE SHOULD NOTICE. I struggle with that double bind and think I shouldn’t BRAG as they say. But I’m trying in this writing to encourage you and ask that you share with our class and others what you are doing and thinking…it would be SHARING NOT BRAGGING.  I'd love to hear what you are doing and thinking. Who are you encouraging?  My email address is:  [email protected]. I'll write back and perhaps we can discover a way for these emails to reach our class. I'm open to suggestions.

So, here I go with a couple of examples from my life: I almost never approach a person I think is far more important than I, but one day at a conference center I saw a well-known lawyer who I had admired for his work with a Native tribe during an extraordinarily difficult time for the tribe. My appreciation for him overcame my reticence and I introduced myself to him, shook his hand and thanked him for his courage and justice work. He responded with an enthusiastic, "You've made my day!” High praise for such a little action…but taught me to have more courage to speak up.

A second example: I take my trash and recycling to the county landfill. Because they don't want the mess of me falling with my two canes they have insisted on unloading my car. A rare service! One day I brought thank you cookies. To my dismay, the worker whom I feared as he looked scary and grumpy, was the one who came to my car. When I offered him the cookies for the crew, he said in a very soft voice, "You didn't need to do that."  Needless to say, I got over my wariness of him and he greets me by name every time I see him at the landfill.

Small potatoes as some folks say. But much of our lives are filled with these small moments.  And our world badly needs them.

Now, what does all this have to do with Luther College? When we are on campus we can introduce ourselves to students, staff, and faculty and thank them for their work. We can write encouraging letters to those who are accomplishing tenure, taking students abroad to learn, to students who are achieving amazing success (see the LUTHER magazine and the emails from the President of the College). to those improving the recycling on campus, inviting new and challenging speakers and entertainers, and taking the courage to introduce change for the College. I know many of you already do this, but I'm writing to encourage us all to do more. Donations and encouraging words are both needed.  At the risk of repeating my fall letter, no donation to the College is too small and I encourage you to consider supporting current students with a donation to the Luther Fund. You can make a gift today by using the attached form and the reusable envelope or by visiting You are of value to Luther and to us in our class.


Karen (Gulsvig) Johnson
1961 Class Agent
[email protected]


Tom Haugen of Decorah was awarded the Karl L. King Distinguished Award by the Iowa Bandmasters Association. He was recognized for his 38 years as a band director in Minnesota and Iowa, 19 years supervising music education student teachers for Luther, and 45 years of judging concert bands, jazz bands, marching bands, choirs, and orchestras.

Glen Huebner of Alexandria, Minn., was recognized for distinguished service and inducted into the Class of 2017 Centennial School District (Minn.) Hall of Fame.

Dick Larson of Castle Rock, Colo., was inducted into the Colorado Music Educators Association Hall of Fame in Jan. 2018.


Roger Allan Enge of Vista, Calif., died July 26, 2017, age 78.

Full obituaries can be found on the Luther College website at:

If you would like a printout of the full obituaries from your class mailed to you, please contact us at: [email protected], or 563-387-1509.