Class of 1979 Fall 2017 Letter

Fall 2017

Dear Member of the Class of 1979,

Lots has happened on campus since you received your spring 2017 class agent letter, and I hope you’ve been able to experience some of these events in person. For starters, RAGBRAI—the (Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa--came through Decorah July 28, and the Luther community enthusiastically greeted the estimated 15,000 riders with a large welcome sign, free Gatorade, water, and Norse cookies!

A short five weeks later, and the fall semester began for the college’s 157th academic year, welcoming 542 new students to campus. Acknowledging that these are turbulent times for our nation, Luther President Paula Carlson, in her Fall 2017 State of the College speech, urged us to “rededicate ourselves and our community to our founders’ vision of a more just society and to our namesake Martin Luther’s commitment to be true to conscience, to live by our core values and beliefs.”

Two facility dedication events were held in September: Legacy Field, the new blue synthetic turf system by AstroTurf that was installed over the summer in Carlson Stadium, was blessed in a special ceremony Sept. 9, part of a full day of Luther athletic events, which included a football victory over St. Olaf. Thanks to much-appreciated donor support, including a lead gift by Dennis ’64 and Suzanne Birkestrand, Luther now has one of the safest and most distinctive fields in NCAA Division III football. A week later, on Sept. 16, the college’s newly renovated 12 outdoor tennis courts were dedicated. The $1 million project—generously funded by an alumni couple who wishes to remain anonymous—has resulted in a more durable, stable, and consistent playing surface, making Luther’s outdoor tennis venues one of the best in the region. Many thanks to all of the donors who contributed to these projects.

Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 6-8, brought more than 2,000 alumni and friends to campus for 65 various events, including the annual alumni dinner Friday night, where a Distinguished Service Award was given to eight alumni. Play was suspended during the second quarter of Saturday’s football game due to lightning; after the game resumed, Norse player Cory Wirth ’18 went on to make a 25-yard field goal in overtime, leading his team to a 41-38 victory over Nebraska Wesleyan University. Go Norse!

Another highlight of Homecoming Weekend was the very well-attended official viewing, at Noble Recital Hall, of To This Day: Remembering Nordic Choir’s First International Tour. Aiden Spencer ’18 and Jacqueline Wilke, Luther professor of history, created this documentary film of Nordic Choir’s first international tour in 1967as part of a three-year student/faculty collaborative project.

Student/faculty collaborative projects are just one of the many ways learning happens beyond the classroom at Luther. Internships and externships are also vital components of a Luther education, as are study-away experiences, which are key to the global perspective Luther promotes. Do you know high school students who could benefit from the kind of education Luther provides? If so, please refer them through the Alumni Ambassador Program, which awards $4,000 ($1,000 per year) in scholarships to students who enroll after your referral. There was a form just for this purpose tucked in the pages of the Fall 2017 Luther Alumni Magazine, or you can submit one online at

The college’s year-long exploration of the Reformation—and celebration of its 500th anniversary—culminated October 31, 2017, with a day-long symposium and evening concert. The symposium—The Reformation of Everything, 1517-2017, Examining the Reformation and its Continuing Impact—looked at the impact the Reformation has had on Christianity, the Church, education, broader society, and

culture; how it has shaped Luther College; and what its influence might look like in the future. Among the many distinguished presenters was Marty Haugen ’73, renowned composer of liturgical music. Later, the Reformation Commemoration Concert, where The Reformation Cantata was premiered, raised up the work of alumni and students. The cantata was anchored by four choral movements, composed by Luther alumni Daniel Kallman ’78, Sky Macklay ’10, Mark Petering ’95, and Daniel Raney ’92, and four instrumental interludes—composed by Luther students Pablo Gomez-Estévez ‘18, John Kuntz ’19, Caleb Linville ’19 and Hunter Prueger ’18—were interspersed throughout the work.

As you can see, it’s been a busy fall semester on campus, and I’ve only included some of the many happenings. Please keep Luther informed of what’s happening in your life, and I will write again in the spring.

And finally, we bid a grateful farewell to Karen Bergan who volunteered her time these past two years as your class agent. We thank her heartily for her service to Luther College! If there is anyone among you interested in filling the position and would like to know more, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Mariah (Bringer) Smith ’95
Director of Development, Current Gifts
Luther College

[email protected]


Rebecca (Hanson) Berman is a researcher at CJE SeniorLife in Chicago.

Steve Buck of Ames, Iowa, is temporarily retired.

Christopher Cudworth is communications coordinator for the City of Batavia, Ill.

Mark Gould is the director of music at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Delafield, Wis.

Martha (Gesme) Nielsen of Palatine, Ill., is a key account manager for Scandinavian Airlines. She recently received SAS’s Global Sales Colleague of the Year Award at their Global Sales Days in Stockholm, Sweden.

Barbara (Vaske) Norland of Homestead, Fla., is director of development and communications at YWCA of Greater Miami-Dade, Inc.

Clark Wicks is superintendent of the Perry (Iowa) Community School District.


CHRIS CUDWORTH and Suzanne Astra, May 6, 2017


AROL BRANDT and Wes Shumar, October 13, 2013




Mark Heistad of Sioux City, Iowa, died April 17, 2017, at age 59 of esophageal cancer. Born in Minneapolis, he attended Washburn High School, and, as a young man, worked for Wilderness and Amnicon canoe bases, played on the church softball team, and sang in several choirs. Mark also loved to fish in Canada and cross-country ski on the Gunflint Trail. He majored in political science at Luther and managed the college radio station for several years. Mark hosted and produced for public radio stations in Marshall and St. Paul, Minn., and Cedar Falls, Iowa. From 1991-92, he hosted Morning Edition for MPR in St. Paul and produced 15 documentaries, including a story on Dorothy Molter, the “root beer lady” of the Boundary Waters; a piece on farmers still using plow horses; and a documentary on Hubert Humphrey. Mark was the recipient of 23 state, regional, and national journalism awards. He earned a Ph.D. in journalism from the University of Minnesota in 1997 and served as professor of journalism at Penn State from 1996 to 2000. Throughout his career, Mark mentored many students and interns. The last 15 years of his life were spent at Morningside College in Sioux City, where he was known as “Doc” and worked as professor of mass communications. Mark is survived by his brother, David (Kristi); sisters: Carolyn, Marie (Heistad) Vandenbark ’84, and Kathy Blessing (Dave); aunt; uncle; and cousins.

Mary Jane “MJ” McLendon of Lawrence, Kan., formerly of Waterloo, Iowa, died Aug. 12, 2016, at age 59. Born in Iowa City, Iowa, she was adopted by the McLendons of Waterloo, where she grew up. As a teenager, MJ was involved in Girl Scouts, and at Luther she majored in Latin and was also a member of the swim team. She continued her education at the University of Northern Iowa, receiving master’s degrees in English and counseling, and at the University of Kansas (KU), where she received a doctorate in English literature. MJ taught composition and American literature at KU and went on to develop in 1984 a course on the literature of the Holocaust, which she taught until her retirement due to illness in 2011. She published and presented papers on many authors, including Chaim Potok, Willa Cather, Joseph Conrad, and Elie Wiesel, and won many teaching awards from the KU English Department. MJ participated in community activities such as Take Back the Night and presentations on Holocaust literature in the Lawrence schools and community organizations. She is survived by her partner of 32 years, Betty Campbell, and two stepsons, Steven Campbell and Ben Campbell-Bradley.