Class of 1975 Fall 2017 Letter

Fall 2017

Dear Classmates,

At the class agent luncheon this year, I sat next to Dick Ylvisaker.  In addition to being professor emeritus, Dick is also a 1950 graduate of Luther and, for the last five years, has served as his class’s agent. In our Luther years (and many others), Dick was head of the philosophy department. So, I spent more time in class and one-on-one with him than with any other professor.

Dick is now pushing 90.  (I didn’t ask his exact age – he is still my professor, after all!) While he no longer plays tennis or drives at night, he still goes regularly to the library where he has a carrel so that he can read.  Curious, I asked him what philosophic issues or writers he was interested in.

Dick began to tell me about a phenomenologist – a French Jew – who wrote on themes made popular by theologian Martin Buber.  I’m sorry to say I can’t remember his name. What was clear to me though was that, as Dick spoke, he had the same energy and eloquence he had when I was a student. And it quickly took me back more than 40 years.

I’m not as eloquent as Dr. Ylvisaker in talking philosophy. But studying the subject trained me to think clearly, so that I could write clearly and speak clearly. Writing and speaking clearly are not only important for philosophy majors turned preachers, though. They are good skills in many endeavors.

If you go to Luther’s home page and click on “Outcomes,” you will hear many such testimonies.

Luther provided me with a great level of knowledge in biology. I also learned how to think and work through complex problems, which is an invaluable skill in medicine. 

The analytical approaches that I apply to my work assignments at NASA are the same as those I originally honed in the Physics Department at Luther. Luther also made me a much better communicator. I frequently give technical presentations at work and find that I’m very comfortable presenting to large groups… 

Luther provided the breadth, depth and interdisciplinary connections to critically engage with the world.  I didn’t want to go to school to get a job. I wanted to go to school for an education.

Other recent grads talk about the chances to explore wide interests, the cooperative community, and the receiving and giving of inspiration as aspects of their Luther experience that they especially appreciate.

You can help make this happen for a young person in your life. Yes, you can do this through gifts to the Luther Fund, as well as to our Class of 1975 Scholarship Fund. But there’s another way…

By referring a potential student to Luther!  Through the Alumni Ambassador Program you can refer any high school students. They will automatically qualify for a scholarship of $1,000 for four years.  That’s all it takes! You can go to to submit their names. If you’ve missed the date for seniors (December 1), you can still submit names of juniors, sophomores, and freshmen.

College recruitment has gotten increasingly more competitive in recent years.  Referring students is a great way to support Luther.  Even more, it’s a chance to offer a great educational opportunity to a young person you know.  It’s an experience that can change lives, and through them, change the world.

Whether through referring a student, contributing financially, or simply the way you live in the world, thanks for all the ways you make a difference!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Chris Lee-Thompson
1975 Class Agent
[email protected]


Steve Connell retired as director of the Pride of the Dutchmen Marching Band at MOC-Floyd Valley High School in Orange City, Iowa. The band earned a national reputation as one of the finest marching bands in the country, with performances in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade, the Orange Bowl Parade, Fiesta Bowl Parade, Hollywood Christmas Parade, Waikiki New Year’s Eve Parade, and NFL Monday Night Football. Steve began a new career as director of athletic bands at Northwestern College.

Laurel Hoff of Shoreview, Minn., retired after a 38-year career in nursing and public health. She received the Jim Parker Leadership Award from the Minnesota Department of Health and State Human Health Services Committee.

Aaron Schmidt of Chandler, Ariz., is a retired teacher.


Libby and MIKE OSTERHOLM, Sept. 28, 2016


Rachel Elson-Canfield of Hot Springs, Ark., died May 15, 2017, at age 63. Born in Leon, Iowa, she graduated from Central Decatur High School, where she participated in basketball, vocal music, instrumental music, art, and drama. Rachel also spent time in church activities and riding her horse.

She graduated magna cum laude from Luther with a major in biology before receiving a master’s degree in speech therapy from Oklahoma State University. After living briefly in Albuquerque, N.M., Rachel started working for Grant Wood AEA as a speech and language therapist, working in elementary schools in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, area. She married Ted Canfield on Feb. 20, 1987, and they taught Sunday school, played hand bells, and were actively involved in Saturday celebration services at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, with Rachel providing music for 22 years. She also served as president of the United Methodist Women organization. In 2011 Rachel retired to pursue a career in art, and in 2015 she and Ted moved to Hot Springs, where she had an art studio in her back yard and her art was also featured in the Artist Workshop Gallery in downtown Hot Springs. Rachel participated in her local Diamondhead community activities, Lion’s club, and First United Methodist Church, where she again played hand bells. She is survived by her mother, Nancy Elson; husband, Ted Elson-Canfield; two sons, Nathaniel Iverson (Julie Barst) and Benjamin (Frances) Iverson; five stepchildren: Chris, Cheri, TJ, Chad (Kristina), and Todd (Shelly) Canfield; 12 step-grandchildren; brother, David Elson (Julie); and sister, Sylvia Anspach (Larry) and their children.

Ronald Olson of Viroqua, Wis., died Jan. 31, 2017, at age 63. After graduating from Viroqua High School, he enrolled at Luther, where he majored in music and played violin and tuba. From 1975-82, Ron directed the string orchestras at New Richmond Schools. He studied computer science at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls, and worked for AG-RE-CO and taught at WWTC in Viroqua. Ron was a founding member of the Viroqua Rotary Club, and he started Viroqua Business Systems, which he owned and operated. After receiving a master's degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, he moved with his family to the United Arab Emirates, where he and his wife, Margaret, taught from 1993-96. Ron later worked as a computer network engineer in Wausau and Stevens Point before moving back to Viroqua in 2008 to retire. For the past six months, he served as president of the Eagles Club. An accomplished musician, Ron enjoyed playing in the Wausau Symphony and Band, and in many local community theater pit orchestras. He was a founding member of the OPUS String Quartet in Wausau, and he continued to play music throughout the Driftless Region in his retirement. Ron is survived by his father, Ramon Olson; sister, Renee; brother, Randall (Deborah); ex-wife, Margaret (Jensen) Milkovich ’75; children: Brian Olson ’96 (Rykna), Brent Olson ’00 (Caitlin), Carl Olson (Julie), and Brinne Olson; and six grandchildren.