Class of 1961 Spring 2019 Letter

Spring 2019

Dear Classmates,

I have been thinking about what to write in this letter since I heard the deadline is February 8th.  As usual, I've not been inspired until a few days ago when I remembered a quotation from a book I read in the '60s:  THE ORDEAL OF CHANGE by Eric Hoffer, who also wrote THE TRUE BELIEVER. The quotation is:  "Change is always a crisis in self esteem.” Hmmm!  Pretty dramatic. . Always?  Not true?. . .Goofy '60s talk?  Hoffer goes on to describe his experience as a field worker, picking peas north up the coast of California.  He said that the day they were done with pea picking and were to start picking beans, he wondered to himself:  "Can I do this?"  A very homely example, but it got my attention then and has stayed with me over these many years. Can I do it?

Is it only bad or negative changes that bring on a crisis of self esteem or is it true that any change brings on that question, CAN I DO IT? Can I take a trip to an unfamiliar but wonderful place?  Can I deliver a good enough or great talk? Can I try to write an article or a book? Can I accept compliments without needing to demure? Can I enjoy small and big events without needing to point out the flaws? Can I endure the rehab for my broken limb? Can I live alone after years of being with my loved one?  Can I risk making new friends and/or family of choice? Can I accept new members of my family, my community who don't look and seem like me? Can I live with giving up belongings in order to do the necessary and could be great downsizing? Can I learn something new? Can I learn to do email? Take public transportation? Speak up against injustice to those closest to me? Allow someone else to drive for me? Tolerate or even enjoy  success? You have your own lists and experiences.

So what helps us through these crises of self-esteem?  It helps to read books and articles by folks who share their experiences. It is important to talk with others in our families and communities about these moments of challenges in the good and the difficult times. The risk in reaching out is that someone will say something hurtful instead of helpful. The risk is that folks won't know what to say or will tell us that what concerns us is not important or valid. The risk is that others will judge us and perhaps tell others about our odd or bad ideas. Someone may say you should be glad for what you have or "it could be worse". The risk is we won't share with others and living in our silence will diminish the wonderful times and increase the difficult times as we keep to ourselves.

What again does this have to do with Luther College and this letter I write twice a year that you read or don't read when it arrives? I'm thinking about the students who arrive at Luther each fall with great hopes and some, or a lot, of fears about the changes they are making. Do you remember wondering if you could "do it" when you started as a new student at Luther?  Do you remember the thrill of meeting and making new friends and the relief when you could see you were capable of living with others and being away from home? Of getting a compliment from a professor about your writing or speaking up in class? Of being humbled by what you discovered you didn't know? Do you remember worrying about having enough money for tuition and everyday expenses? Those concerns don't disappear with a new generation of youth.

I believe that we can encourage this new generation of students that arrives each year by giving to the Luther Fund.  We can write compliments and encouraging words when we read about programs and students who are taking risks to further their progress and learning. Going to a very different country over J-Term is so exciting but challenging. We can notice the students from our communities who are thinking about college and may need our listening and encouragement.  We can house students when the musical groups come to our communities to give concerts.  What keeps us from taking these actions? Why would a student care to hear from someone this old or long gone from Luther? We are busy keeping up with the day's demands. It's difficult to understand today's culture and youth. The risk is worth it, I believe.  What we can learn from them may indeed be very helpful to us in our lives.  Exchange with others is always an important learning experience even though we may not think so at the time. 

So. . .another letter written. . .risk taken. . .I hope our love and passion for Luther College can overcome our reticence to be more involved with those who teach and learn each year at Luther.

Peace and Joy to you all,

Karen (Gulsvig) Johnson
1961 Class Agent
28311 County 93; PO Box 145
Laporte, MN 56461
[email protected]


Douglas A. Reasa of Hartland, Wis., died July 20, 2018, age 80.

Owen Dean Thorson of Maquoketa, Iowa, died Sept. 18, 2018, age 78.

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.

We are pleased to announce Dr. Jenifer K. Ward as the 11th president of Luther College! For more information about President-elect Ward, visit

As you may remember from your Fall 2018 Class Agent letter, Luther has recently completed an extensive brand strategy research process.


As a result of our research and in collaboration with members of the Luther community, we have developed several statements that will guide future communications.

We know that you, our alumni, are often asked about your alma mater. What you say to prospective students and their families about Luther College can have a huge impact on their decisions to visit campus, apply and, hopefully, enroll.

You know Luther well. You matter to us and we’re interested in hearing from you.

We invite you to take a few minutes to preview some of our new statements and share your thoughts. The example statements, as well as a response survey, are available online:

Many thanks!

If you have any questions please email Catherine Dyer, Brand and Marketing Director at [email protected]