Class of 1969 Fall 2018 Letter

Fall 2018

Dear 1969 Classmates,

I love these August days in western Wisconsin! It is definitely still summer with heat and humidity, but there is a hint of the approach of a season change. Early morning brings heavy fog and cool air, a pleasant time for sitting outdoors in my Adirondack chair [built by my nephew Eric Ringlien - Class of ’85, and painted blue and white to honor Luther] reading and being distracted by the bird chorus and by a good-sized buck who likes to eat in the cornfield next to my house. Autumn, though, will arrive soon, ushering in the darker side of nature’s cycle, reminding us that we are mortal beings. 

August also brings students back to school! It is an exciting time of new beginnings whether the student is a four year old entering pre-school or an eighteen year old entering college. Even at the ripe old age of 72, I get excited about the first day of school. All of us, professional and support staff alike, go out in teams to visit each  student’s home with a t-shirt and a personal welcome back to school. It is heart-warming to see the joy in the eyes of students – even big muscular football players- when we arrive. I believe this annual event reminds us that a personal, caring relationship with students and parents is the most important part of any educational plan. I know that my life is enriched by these relationships.

When I ask myself, “Why do you support Luther as enthusiastically as you do?” I always conclude, “Because there I learned to wrestle with ideas within a variety of academic disciplines and within a community of fellow students and teachers that embraced me in its care.” Luther cared about my life! I loved the exposure to the Greek language from my four semesters of study. I have forgotten it all – use it or lose it! But I remember with fondness and respect my teacher. Dr. O.W.Qualley – a tough but caring taskmaster.  Several years after graduation, I ran into Dr. Qualley in La Crosse. He called me by name and asked me specifics about my seminary internship. I was one of thousands of Luther students he had taught, yet he cared enough to know me!  Relationship – people knowing and caring about people! 

I recently received a letter from President Paula Carlson, providing an update of happenings at Luther. At the outset, she formally announced her plan to retire from the presidency at the end of the 2018-19 academic year. Dr. Carlson went on to discuss two developments that will affect students positively. First she described the expansion of Next Step for Sophomores, an initiative designed to offer more opportunities for reflection and mentoring for all students in their sophomore year. Sophomore year has been found to be particularly challenging for students. When they return to Luther this year, they will be greeted by a special dinner on the library lawn, joined by faculty and staff to remind them that they are not alone in their college journey. In addition, the sophomore initiative will include a pilot program of peer mentors and alumni mentors to offer ongoing support academic and vocational support.

Luther will also be in partnership with College Possible, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping low-income students to succeed in college through an intensive curriculum of coaching and support.  Luther will be one of six colleges invited to participate in the pilot of their new Catalyze program, which will allow Luther to address the unique needs of students.

People caring about people – that is the core idea generating both of these programs.  In my mind, that is what Luther has always been about and now there are new approaches to making this care real.  Having been nurtured in this way, Luther graduates go into a world that cries out in so many ways for citizens that look beyond personal gain to a life of service – of caring for the community. 

I am thankful that I was able to live in the community for three years and that I will always be a part of the Luther family. Our class will celebrate its 50th anniversary in October 2019. We will send more information about the reunion as time goes on. I hope you will all plan to attend. I encourage you to recruit that bright young high school student in your family or community to apply to Luther. And I ask you to be generous in your monetary gifts to that “community of faith and learning” that did so much to shape your life – Luther College!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Richard Staff

1969 Class Agents:

Richard Staff
N39101 Tuff Coulee Road
Blair, WI 54616-8011
[email protected]

Judy (Miller) Nelson
1315 Pinnacle Pines Court
Bettendorf, IA 52722
[email protected]



David Ellingson published Say What? A Fresh Look at Old Sayings, available on Amazon. He led a kayak expedition through the Hardanger and Sogne Fjords in Norway last summer and is releasing a Paddle Pilgrim book and documentary video later this year.

David Franks of Marblehead, Mass., retired as pastor at Clifton Lutheran Church.

Fred Harms is pastor emeritus with St. Paul Lutheran Church in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich. He participated in an International Habitat Build in Amman, Jordan, with his wife, Margaret.

Jeff Hoover of Colorado Springs, Colo., is professor emeritus of history at the Universite de Lubumbashi.

Meredith Kvalness of Saint Louis Park, Minn., is retired.

Daniel Melamedorf of McKinney, Tex., is retired.

Dennis Olson retired from full time ministry and now serves as half time interim pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.

Mark Tempte of Fort Wayne, Ind., is retired.


Thomas Ray Christensen of Mineral Point, Wis., died April 23, 2018, age 70.

Mary Jo McKenzie of Rockford, Ill., died May 22, 2017, age 70.

Jaerdis E. (Osmundson) Olson Nesheim of Decorah died July 9, 2018, age 92.

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.