Dear Class of 1972,
“All my reasons for not coming evaporated the minute I got back to Decorah…”
That’s how a classmate described her experience at Homecoming 2017. And I have to agree—it was meaningful indeed to reunite with old and new friends October 6-8, 2017. While our class had a relatively small number of people returning, those who came noticed that forty-five years gave all of us a wonderful perspective about what our Luther experience meant to us.
Friday night was notable for its torrential rain, but ten hardy souls met at Pulpit Rock Brewery. We might have had some trouble hearing one another in the din of an absolutely packed crowd of younger Luther alumni and lots of “townies,” but it did not deter us from being delighted to see each other. “We may be battered and bruised, but we’re still here and life’s not over!”
The downpour that continued into Saturday did not squelch our sense of goodwill. To my knowledge, no one turned up for the bike/hike event on Trout Run Trail, but the rain forced campus visitors to crowd into indoor spaces like the Union, the CFL, Preus Library, and the Recital Hall, increasing the chance of encountering classmates or old friends. The football game against now arch-rival Nebraska Wesleyan had to be interrupted and postponed due to lightning, but Luther pulled it off and won 41-38 in overtime. By all accounts, a memorable game!
This year was the 50th anniversary of the Class of 1967. They got a lot of attention! I attended the premiere of To This Day: Remembering Nordic Choir’s First International Tour, a documentary put together by a current Luther senior, Aiden Spencer ’18, and Professor of History, Jacqueline Wilke, about the choir tour of 1967. You can access this wonderful film at luther.edu/homecoming/NCInternational/. Whether you were involved at music at Luther or not, you will find that it is a powerful step back into the turbulent 1960s of our youth. Weston Noble ’43 took a group of Midwestern kids (some of whom had never been on an airplane) first to NYC, then to West and East Berlin, and then on to Norway. Well worth your time.
Many of us are currently contemplating — or helping to plan — 50th high school reunions for 2018. Surreal as that may seem, it is another reminder that 1968 was a cataclysmic year not only for the US but also for the globe. For most of us, our college memories are clouded by the social and political turmoil that enveloped us during that time. Bill Glass from Sandusky, Ohio, was one of our classmates who came back to campus this year for the first time since his departure. Here is what he recently wrote to me about the experience of coming back:
I withdrew from Luther during my junior year in a state of distress and bewilderment. I regarded it as a personal failure, and it engendered a deep sense of regret to be unable to graduate from Luther. I carried these feelings for a long time. I decided to attend the class of 1972 reunion in part to seek a sense of closure. To greet those classmates I remembered from 45 years ago, and to meet some classmates for the first time was an overwhelming experience. It helped to fill that hole, that sense of loss when I left Luther so many years ago.
Bill was just one of several folks I spoke to who decided that there was “no time like the present” to reconnect. And, yes, it was emotional! Some of us sat in the CFL after attending a fantastic Sunday morning service, and tried to process why that reconnection was so powerful. We thought it had something to do with the turbulence of the Sixties, but it also reminded us that much as we try to excise that part of our lives, it remains part of our identities. Taking that out into the light of day, for some unknown reason, ultimately felt more healing than hurtful.
Our banquet at South Winn Country Club on a still-rainy Saturday evening was a reminder that some of us don’t like to drive at night anymore, and that many of us can’t imbibe spirits much anymore! But looking around that sea of classmates, I noticed many smiles, hugs, and laughter as we all tried valiantly to recognize faces and remember names. In trying to describe the atmosphere of the evening, the word “acceptance” comes to mind. A kind of sincerity, authenticity. Some of us dressed up, some of us didn’t. Some of us had friends waiting at a table, and some of us didn’t. None of it seemed to matter much; it was just good to be together. Because the 60 spouses and classmates who attended were from so many various groups, we were all on our own to find people to chat with, and so we did.
April (Ulring) Larson got us singing a round for the table blessing, and Mike Hovland kept us laughing with a game of ’68-’72 trivia. Despite being warned that E.D. Farwell once said that 1968-1972 were his most difficult years as Luther’s president, President Paula Carlson and her husband, the Reverend Dr. Thomas Schattauer, paid a visit and brought warm greetings from the college. As the dinner hour wound down, people stood up to report from classmates unable to attend. Some spoke of deaths or tribulations experienced by those we might or might not have remembered, and we were reminded that every day is a gift.
Luther recently took an alumni survey to assess the value of class agent letters. They were pleased to learn that more than 60 percent of respondents replied that they DO read the class letters in their entirety! So, if you are one of those people still reading, I can say that there are now lots of ways to stay connected with your classmates. Check the Luther Class of ’72 Facebook page, and leave a post. Call or email the Luther Technology Help Desk to update your profile in the Alumni Directory. (I just did it and it didn't take long!) The more names we get in the directory, the easier it will be to find long- lost friends. And please update your current information for the Alumni Office, so we can put it in the spring letter.
The Internet is an easy tool with which to see both the Luther College of today and the Luther we knew 45 years ago. The Luther website () is now loaded with profiles of current students and faculty — a terrific way to experience the passion for learning which Luther students still bring to campus. You may also browse the College Archives to find all past Pioneer yearbooks and Chips newspapers in their entirety (luther.edu/archives/research/resources). I did that too and found it fascinating — talk about a walk back in time!
At this year’s Friday luncheon, Luther’s class agents received a thorough explanation of the ways in which Luther is committed to maintaining its reputation as a top-notch liberal arts institution. A vigorous strategic planning process has reached out to all demographics: current and past students, faculty and staff, Board of Regents, and parents. An ambitious venture to be sure, but one which deserves our enthusiastic support. Please consider participating in the Alumni Ambassador Program by recommending a deserving high school student to Luther College. If that young man or young woman applies, is accepted, and matriculates, he/she will receive a $1,000 annual scholarship in your name.
That student you recommend might just be one of the leaders of tomorrow, joining hundreds of grads who put their Luther education to work for good in the larger world. Just pass on the student’s name and contact info to the Admissions Office and mention the phrase Student Ambassador. (And don’t forget that Luther is now committed to creating a nurturing community for geographically, ethnically, and socio-economically diverse students, so reaching out to students who might not have Luther on their radar is particularly helpful.)
Sincere thanks to all who gave to Luther during 2016 and 2017; you put us in the top-ten honor roll list of total gifts to the newly-renamed Luther Fund! But also remember that increased alumni participation is critical to Luther’s future success. I hope that this is the year you decide to honor our 45th reunion with a monetary gift, no matter the size. It’s the finest way to honor the Class of 1972!
Marilyn (Fritz) Shardlow
1972 Class Agents:
Bev (Ulstad) Borgstrom
Marilyn (Fritz) Shardlow
Paul Grabow of Richardson, Texas, is retired.
Francine (Zitterich) Hedberg is an editor/proofreader at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Mark Hengesh of Weeki Wachee, Fla., retired as band director at Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn, Ill.
John Huey, Jr. is managing director at MidAmerican Aerospace in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Wendy (Obernolte) Schatz retired as principal of Notre Dame Catholic School in Cresco, Iowa. Her career has come full circle from the time that she attended St. Joseph’s Grade school in Cresco, to now retiring from the same institution after a 43-year career in elementary education.
Steven Sorenson is president of the Senior Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Wisconsin, and is celebrating 40 years of practice in Ripon, Wis., this spring. He continues to teach law and business at Ripon College and delivered his 100th seminar, “Legal Ethics,” this past year.
Patricia Holman and Phil Wangberg ’70 are retired in Albuquerque, N.M.