Class of 1973 Spring 2018 Letter

Spring 2018

Dear Classmate,

You never know when you will cross paths with someone with a Luther connection! Last summer I ran into classmates Audrey and Bob Hill at the Minneapolis /St. Paul International Airport, and through our conversation, we realized we were on the same flight to Germany! And, this past January, I ran into Maren Johnson, Assistant Professor of Nordic Studies, and a group of Luther students, as we were waiting to depart for Europe for our respective J-Term study abroad courses. We played the “do you know so-and so” game, and shared stories about J-Term experiences. The immediate connection with former classmates, as well as with current Luther faculty and students, was amazing – and an example of what makes Luther so unique.

Those recent connections, and looking ahead to our 45-year reunion this fall, have caused me to pause and reflect on the time we spent at Luther and what makes it so special. Memories fill my head as I think about those days as a student in the Class of ‘73, and gratitude fills my heart as I realize the magnitude of the impact my Luther experience has had on my life. It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly what that is, and I have to admit I didn’t realize it back then, but the knowledge gained, the experiences shared, and the relationships developed, were instrumental in shaping me into the person I am today. Thank you for being an integral part of that experience!

Homecoming 2018 is October 26 – 28 and I hope you are planning to attend our reunion that weekend! This summer, you will receive more details about the Class of 1973 reception and dinner on Saturday, October 27, but you should make lodging arrangements ASAP. The most recently opened hotel in Decorah is Fairfield Inn, located where the Cliff House and Bluffs Inn used to be. Besides the hotels, there are many options in and around Decorah listed on and The college also has a listing of local residents who are willing to offer beds to alumni. Contact Judy Riha in the Alumni Office at 563-387-1524 or [email protected]

If you haven’t looked at Luther’s website recently (, you might enjoy browsing through the many links. The “connect” page,, provides links to social media, streaming, news, blogs, and publications, and more; in case you misplaced your copy of the Alumni magazine (or it was recycled before you read through it), you can link to it directly at You may also be interested in checking out for links to college news and information such as alumni profiles, comparisons and rankings, life after Luther, etc. Another way to stay connected to Luther is through the college’s Facebook page or the Luther 1973 Facebook Page. Thanks to Ranae (Keoppel) Gipp for keeping us updated with posts to our class Facebook page.

Some recent Luther news:

·  Luther College was awarded a $200,000 grant from the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust to enhance curriculum and provide educational laboratory experiences for students in the new neuroscience major.

· In a celebration of the diverse cultures that come together to make up the Luther College population, the Luther Diversity Center's annual Ethnic Arts Festival was held Saturday, March 3. Coinciding with the International Culture and Cuisine event, the Ethnic Arts festival concluded with dance and song performances in the evening.

· During J-Term 2018, 286 students and 29 program leaders participated in Luther's 17 courses around the globe. The J-Term course blogs provide you a glimpse into Luther students’ adventures around the world.

· Luther’s third annual Giving Day shared Luther love all over social media, raising money for the Luther Fund. If you have missed out on this awesome event these past few years, I hope you will be able to participate in March 2019. Overall, a whopping $474,718 was raised for the Luther Fund - WOW! If you'd like to relive the fun (and see the 12-hour livestream), visit THANK YOU to all who donated and made this day such a success!

Giving back to Luther is a wonderful way to honor those who shaped our Luther experience and who form the bond of our Luther connection. Establishing a habit of regular giving plays a big role in sustaining this unique experience for current students, and ensuring it for others in the future. Regular giving to Luther is a great habit to cultivate – and it truly makes a difference! One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is through monthly giving, thereby joining Luther’s Loyalty Society, which recognizes donors who make gifts at any level for three or more consecutive years. For more details, visit

We recently received heart-warming notes of thanks from two recipients of the Class of ’73 scholarship, Kayla Thelemann, a junior nursing student, who is studying at the Mayo Clinic this year, and Brandon Trueblood, a classics major, with a museum studies minor, who plans to intern at a Washington D. C. museum next semester. Both students expressed their gratitude for our financial contributions to Luther in general, as well as to their personal education. It feels good to know how the dollars we give are impacting students’ lives!

We alumni play an integral role in recruiting new students to the college. If you know students you would like to see at Luther, consider becoming part of the Alumni Ambassador Program. As an Alumni Ambassador, you will play a direct role with the Admissions Office in recruiting the next generation of Luther students. Every student you refer will receive a $1,000 scholarship (in your name!) each year, for four years, should they decide to enroll at Luther; your participation has a direct financial impact on a student’s experience at Luther! Other ways you can help recruit students can be found at For more information, contact Alyssa Ritter, asst. director of admissions at 563-387-1438.

Do you have plans to travel in the coming year? You may want to check out some of the travel tours coordinated and/or promoted by Luther’s Alumni Office. Upcoming tours in 2018 include the Nordic Choir Companion Tour to German and Czechia (May-June) and Sicily and Malta (October). Information can be found on the webpage

There are also many regional events held throughout the year for alumni, parents and friends of Luther College. Information can be found at Contact the Alumni Office at 563-387-1861 with questions about alumni events or tours.

Decorah is a busy place! Check your 2018 calendars and consider making plans to attend these upcoming events:

·         Oneota Film Festival, April 19-22,

·         Nordic Fest, July 26-28,

·         Northeast Iowa Artists’ Studio Tour, October 12-14,

Returning to Decorah always brings memories of those “back in the day” favorite locales, but it is also fun to explore the relatively new places the town has to offer.  Besides its three coffee shops – JavaJohn’s, Magpie Coffeehouse, and Impact Coffee – Decorah has a number of eating establishments. And, did you know there are two breweries in Decorah? Toppling Goliath ( and Pulpit Rock ( have each helped to make Decorah a beer tourism destination.

Following are notes recently received about classmates:

· Ranae (Keoppel) Gipp of Decorah is retired.

· Jerry Roppe is principal biologist for Permitting and Environmental Group at Avangrid Renewables in Portland, Ore. He was named International Ambassador to the International Organizing Committee for the 4thConference on Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts held in Estoril, Portugal in September 2017. He co-authored several presentations and posters at the meeting, attended by 300-400 participants from around the world.

· Phyllis Gray of Decorah, died Nov. 2, 2017. Phyllis worked with the Upward Bound Program at Luther College for 40 years and served as the director for 35 years (1977-2012) inspiring and impacting thousands of people for multiple generations.

As your class agents, Ranae (Keoppel) Gipp and I both look forward to sharing more of your news with our classmates – and seeing you at the Class of 1973 reunion next October. Feel free to write either of us at the email addresses below, or contact the Luther Alumni office directly.

Thank you for your role in our collective Luther experience, as well as in my personal connection to Luther. You helped me figure out who I was, what was important to me, and what I was called to be. Thank you for being who you are, and the positive impact you are making in our world. And, thank you, for supporting Luther’s mission, as well as its current and future students with your financial support! You can make a gift today by using the attached form and the reusable envelope or by visiting

Hope to see you in October, at the (gasp!) 45th reunion of the Class of 1973! Let’s have a great turnout!

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pat (Holtorf) Branstad

1973 Class Agents:

Pat (Holtorf) Branstad
[email protected]

Ranae (Keoppel) Gipp
[email protected]


Ranae (Keoppel) Gipp of Decorah is retired.

Jerry Roppe is principal biologist for Permitting and Environmental Group at Avangrid Renewables in Portland, Ore. He has been named International Ambassador to the International Organizing Committee for the 4th Conference on Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts to be held in Estoril, Portugal. He will also be co-authoring several presentations and posters at the meeting, which expects 300-400 attendees from around the world.


Phyllis Gray of Decorah, died Nov. 2, 2017, age 66.

Full obituaries can be found on the Luther College website at:
If you would like a printout of the full obituaries from your class mailed to you, please contact us at:
[email protected], or 563-387-1509.