Class of 1964 Fall 2017 Letter

Fall 2017 

Greetings, 1964 Grad, 

If you haven’t yet seen the new blue turf gridiron at our alma mater, I can tell you firsthand that it is very impressive! Linda and I were fortunate enough to be there for the dedication ceremony September 9th. It was a special time of celebration and giving thank you’s to the generous alumni and friends who made it all possible. Two of those people are our classmates. Both Dave Carlson and his wife, Brenda, along with Denny Birkestrand and his wife, Suzanne, were major financial contributors for acquiring the new playing surface. Next time you see them be sure to let ’em know how much we appreciate their generosity. 

The other good news of that day was a big win over archrival St. Olaf! For the first time in a long time the Norse football program is on the rise. As I write this letter they have five wins against 3 losses. Last Saturday a new record was set as Luther played Coe in Cedar Rapids. It took three overtimes for LC to emerge victorious in a 36-28 win! Winning on the road is difficult enough but surviving three overtimes is a big step in the right direction. Congratulations, Coach Aaron Hafner! 

You may recall in our last class agent letter we mentioned that our classmate Bill Upton was riding a bicycle from San Diego, Calif., to Augustine, Fla., to raise money for his hometown Oregon City, Ore., Optimist Club…just to follow up and let you know, Bill successfully accomplished his mission without any major problems. You may recall that his wife, Ann, was his team’s support person providing all kinds of miracles along with driving the supply wagon. Happy to report that not only did their marriage survive, but Bill raised plenty of dough for the Optimists. Many thanks to all of you who contributed! 

Our generation is blessed to have been given generous hearts. My guess is that there are many of our classmates giving generously wherever they can. This includes most of you helping support Luther College through pledges and special events. Unfortunately in this day and age Christian liberal arts colleges are struggling to stay relevant in a society that undervalues the tenets and principles of the Church. Increasingly, schools like LC are becoming more dependent upon the generosity of their alumni and friends to maintain the high standards of quality educations. Those of you who may have missed the opportunity to pledge and give as part of our class gift need only contact Jim Jermier, LC’s VP for Development, at 563-387-1506, to change that. 

After our class agents letter last March, I received a compelling email from classmate Joan Niemiec telling of the Vanaheim Vamps. These are the ladies who lived in the Vanaheim House during their ‘63-64 senior year. You may already know the story, yet I’m sure many do not. These are 17 incredibly loyal friends who have been gathering annually for fifty years! They started in 1977 by camping with their families. In 1994 they returned to Decorah to spend a weekend in their former digs, then converted to Vanaheim Bed and Breakfast, actually staying in the very rooms they occupied their senior year… six in the basement, eight on the second floor, and three in the attic! 

To help them stay connected over the years they have circulated round-robin letters and photos among themselves. In addition, several members create annual calendars featuring a page on each woman and her family that is distributed to one of them. Although the package of letters and photos might arrive only once a year, it has kept them in touch and a source of being cared about, even nurtured through the ups and downs of life. Over the years, what was started at LC has grown into deep relationships.

The past several years they’ve been gathering at Always Saturday Farm in rural Kickapoo Valley, Wis. This farm is owned by Karen (Wardell) Austad and her husband, Mike. Nowadays these retreats consist of group hikes, reading and discussing books, making craft projects, and being served delicious meals prepared by husband-chefs, Mike Austad and Don Potter… Yum, way to go guys! No mention of needing a vintner, but I’m guessing there are a few connoisseurs in that group. 

In keeping with the theme of generosity, these Vanaheim Vamps established and funded the Vanaheim Scholarship a few years ago. This award is administered by LC and given annually to a well deserving female upperclasswoman… Way to go Ladies!!

The group consist of Karen (Wardell) Austad, Dorothy (Gentner) Becher, Marilyn (Utke) Dewitt, Jane (Pfister) Ellickson, Nordis Heyerdahl, Rosemary (Sande) Hilton, Marguerite (Agena) Horn, Jan (Folvag) Jordan, Merilee (Schultz) Leonard, Dianne (Lenth) Marston, Joan (Gunther) Niemiec, Sybil (Brown) Pavey, Judy (Stephenson) Probst, Mary (Dahlman) Rasmussen, Barb (Erickson) Weigand, Carol Swansen Potter (now deceased) and Marion (Molzahn) Hampel (now deceased).      

As I have stated in these letters before, contributing to the Class of 1964 Scholarship is a great way for us oldtimers to have direct impact on the life of a future LC grad. If you’re not already giving something to this scholarship fund, you may want to freshly contribute! Just contact the Development Office. 

If you have news to share with your classmates, or remembrances, or gratitudes, or comments you’d like included in future class letters, please email us at [email protected], or, better yet, call us at 608-393-2206.

Until next time… Soli Deo Gloria! 

Steve & Linda Messer
608-393-2206 (Steve); 608-393-9035 (Linda)
[email protected]; [email protected]
1964 Class Agents


Dick Edwards of Menomonie, Wis., joined the board of directors at Lutheran Social Services in Milwaukee.