Class of 1969 Fall 2017 Letter

Fall 2017

Dear Classmate,

Here in rural Wisconsin, it is one of those rare days of autumn that was so aptly described by the poet as “October’s bright blue weather.”  I remember days like this at Luther when I had resolved to skip the football game to do some serious studying.  But the sounds of battle from Carlson Stadium and the glorious color show in the Oneota Valley ultimately drew me to put aside the books. Good memories!

The current issue of Luther Alumni Magazine is dedicated to the legacy of our president, the late Dr. Elwin Farwell.  As I read Dr. Bunge’s article about the Farwell years, I was amazed at the realization that our time at Luther was such a time of change and growth. The list of building projects itself is remarkable. But Dr. Farwell’s leadership also promoted great changes in the life of the community.  That time was the beginning of a deliberate effort to make the student body more diverse in terms of race and religion, and to revise the curriculum and calendar to satisfy the needs and aspirations of modern students. All of this change was accomplished not without contention, but with respect for the ideas of Luther people and for cherished Luther traditions. 

Elsewhere in the magazine is the story of the 1967 Nordic Choir trip to Europe, the first such venture for the choir. Having many Nordic friends, I remember them getting ready for the trip and telling some good stories when they returned. But this article fascinated me as I realized the importance of the tour as a gesture of international good will. Reading about the concert in East Germany that was advertised only by word of mouth lest the Communist government would retaliate against those who attended made me proud of Luther College in a new way! 

The Nordic tour is memorialized in a documentary film entitled To This Day,  I watched it on YouTube and I believe it will be available for purchase. Several of our classmates were interviewed and were most entertaining in their storytelling! I did not know that my Chi Phi, brother Loren “Buzz” Rognlien ’69, nearly became an ex-patriot when he became separated from the group! I recommend seeing the documentary. You will be proud!

Did you know that Luther’s football field is now called Legacy Field and has the only blue turf among NCAA Division III colleges and universities? Funded through gifts from alumni and friends of Luther, including the lead gift from Suzanne and Dennis Birkestrand ’64, the renovation was a $1.7 million project. I attended the dedication ceremony after which Luther handily beat St. Olaf!  It was a very good day!

You have received a mailing describing the Luther Alumni Ambassador Program.  When you as an alumnus recommend a student, that student will receive $1,000 for each of four years when they enroll at Luther. It’s as simple as that!  And I know it works. I have a student who is a high school junior and is firmly settled on Luther as his first college choice. I sent in the simple form and a few weeks later, the student excitedly told me that he had received notice that the money would be there for him when he enrolls. I encourage you to refer a student, a grandchild, any young person you know. Bringing students to Luther is the best way I know to support our Alma Mater! 

Our 50-year anniversary is less than two years away. I hope we will have record attendance. Start making plans to be in Decorah for Homecoming 2019!

May the peace of Christmas surround you and stay with you in the new year!


Richard Staff

1969 Class Agents:

Judy (Miller) Nelson
[email protected]

Richard Staff
[email protected]


Nel Becker of Plymouth, Minn., is retired. 

Catherine (Turner) Boulanger of Highland, Ill., retired, volunteers through Woman’s Club as the local president and serves on the General Federation of Women’s Clubs district board. She also volunteers once a week at Fairmont City Library as a bilingual aid.

Michael Fossum of St. Cloud, Minn., retired after 34 years as a financial associate with Thrivent Financial.

Keith Johnson of Pine Hill, N.J., retired from a lifetime of working under the (virtual) sky, having served in five planetariums across the nation (including Luther’s). Most recently he was the initial director of the Edelman Planetarium at Rowan University, working there for 12 years.

Nancy Jones has received the Hancher-Finkbine Medallion from the University of Iowa, one of the highest awards the university bestows on faculty and professional staff. The honor recognizes learning, leadership, and loyalty over the span of a professional career. Nancy has directed the Writing Resource Center at the College of Law since its founding in 1990, the first law school-based writing center in the country and a model subsequently adopted by numerous law schools throughout the United States.

Karen (Schiesser) Montgomery of Northfield, Minn., is retired.

Meg (Funfar) Nielsen is outreach development director at Triangle Community Ministry in Madison, Wis.