Class of 1962 Fall 2018 Letter

Fall 2018

Greetings Class of ’62,

It is always sad to learn of the passing of a classmate. Some, of course, were closer friends than others. Many of us have kept close to roommates; this forms a special life-long bond.

There were four of us our senior year – Gary Kessler, Donald Mills and Bill (now Will) Schmid and me. We lost Will on July 1, 2018.  Both Will and his lovely wife, Ann, battled cancer. Ann lost her life 44 days before Will. I have wondered: Was it the loss of Ann who was so full of life and loveliness that moved Will closer to the edge?

Both Ann and Will contributed a great deal to music education. He wrote many books for Hal Leonard Publications while Ann managed the business aspect of their team.  In addition, Will toured with presentations helping music educators work more effectively with their music students. And then Ann – what can one say? To know her was to love her and – her style, humor and personality. She joined the Luther family a few years after our graduation by being Will’s bride. Together they raised a family of three boys.

How I hate cancer! I have lost a number of good friends and some others are now involved with a struggle for their lives. And several are not winning. 

Some years ago, one of my great teachers at the University of Chicago and I joined each other walking home after classes. This was Joseph Sittler, now known for his theology of “Care of the Earth,” and his love of music and language. Earlier that day one of his colleagues and a teacher of mine – Joseph Haroutounian died quite unexpectedly – had a heart attack while on the Outer Drive and crashed into a barrier. At his age Sittler had lost many more friends than I. His comment: “After a while one perceives the world as dying around us. We miss people who had been significant in our lives and after a while it becomes difficult to go on.” I think this thought as one or another of my beloved teachers passes on.  I had wanted to return to them with expressions of gratitude for what they had given me. Perhaps the only response is to go on and imitate their gifts in teaching and in writing. That relates to our teachers but what about our friends who die? 

To give thought to the loss of Will, it is valuable to recall his personal style and apply it to our teaching. Some wonderful things come to mind. First, Will had an individual style that invited others to join him in life’s adventures. One had the feeling that Will was always aiming at something new and creative. In that pursuit he had an orientation to the future characterized by openness and fearlessness.  As Will would say, “We will just try to do it at our best and see where it will come out.”

In pursuit of creation, it has long been known that the creative act requires courage.  This is because going beyond what has been done before means to say that the work of those who went before is for some reason insufficient. Creating means to affirm to one, that my contribution stands alongside those who have gone before. So it was with Will.  In so many ways he led the way, never concerned by what others might say, he went ahead always taking delight in doing something really new. 

It is that orientation that we have all experienced. And it is that orientation that we are now privileged to support and to hand on to the many students that are to come.  When I recommend Luther to a prospective student, I do so with a mixture of pride and daring.  Those who enroll are given an opportunity to join the many that came before and displayed their creative energy to the world in so many endeavors. I will not start to name those of my knowledge who are exemplars of the creative Luther spirit – this letter is long enough as it is. That means many of you who know something new and creative.  In that pursuit he had an orientation to the future of openness and fearlessness. “We will just try it and to our best and see where it will come out.” Your good work over the years began, like Will’s at Luther, you will be forever grateful for the start that came to you in your Luther years”. 

You know also how important it is that the world has in it people like you. And you know, moreover, that what Luther does is not supported by the state, or by some multimillionaire. It is our calling that we help our alma mater to maintain its calling, that people like us are shaped by our religion’s values and sent forward to do the work of making this world safe for humanity. 

Sic semper,

John Helgeland
1962 Class Agent
105 3rd Street N, Apt. 302
Moorhead, MN 56560-1940
[email protected]


Mary (Frost) Steen of Northfield, Minn., was recognized as a leader in the field of humanities with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Awards by Marquis Who’s Who.


David Louis Brislance of Lutsen, Minn., previously of Isle, Minn., died Jan. 31, 2018, age 77.

Anna Elsa Jass of Marshalltown, Iowa, formerly of Alden, Iowa, died March 15, 2018, age 80.

Will Schmid of Milwaukee died July 1, 2018. (No birthdate, no age at death)

David Sime of Diamondhead, Miss., died April 27, 2016, age 75.

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.