Class of 1981 Spring 2017 Letter

Spring 2017

Hello Classmate!

Did you get the postcard? Did you get the postcard?

What a great response from so many of you in our 35th reunion fundraising for Luther. The final numbers are in, and the total Class of 1981 giving from January 1-December 31, 2016, was $290,977—plus we met the $81,000 matching challenge. Great job! Thirty-two percent of our class made a gift, pledge, or planned gift. That’s a big number, folks—way bigger than the 25.36 percent, which is the average participation rate from our class over the previous 5 years (and—ahem—close to 5 percent higher than the class of 1980 had in their 35th reunion year. So there).

Whether you gave during 2016 or not—this is a class to be proud of!

There’s been plenty happening at Luther, of course. Two big items of news come from the music side of the campus. First, as you may know, Weston Noble ’43 died on December 21, 2016, at age 94. So many of us sang under Weston during his years of conducting Messiah annually, and I’m guessing everybody knew who he was, whether or not they were involved in music. A celebration of life for Weston will be held on the Luther campus at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, May 13, at the Center for Faith and Life.  

Second, Nordic Choir has had a series of interim conductors during this year since Alan Hightower left at the end of last school year. Luther has announced that Andrew Last ’97 will begin as Nordic Choir conductor and director of choral activities starting with the 2017 fall semester. Dr. Last is the first Luther grad to be appointed to this post since Weston Noble retired (not that there’s anything wrong with non-Luther grads…), and he has been conductor of Collegiate Chorale and Norsemen for the last several years, so he’s well known on campus. (And a bit of Class of ’81 trivia—he’s the cousin of our classmate Kathy Willi Gregersen’s husband, Kris Gregersen ’82.)

Check out for links to lots of news and information: alumni profiles, comparisons and rankings, life after Luther, etc. The “connect” webpage,, also provides links to social media; streaming; news, blogs, and publications; and more. Another way to get a good sense of what’s going on with [the amazing] Luther student body is to check out some of the blogs that are available. You can find J-Term course blogs at and regular Luther student blogs at student-blogs/. They’re fascinating, and kind of addicting.

We’re in the transition years now, aren’t we? “Not too old, no longer young,” as the song Borning Cry says. Our conversations are as often about grandchildren as about kids, some of us are retiring (and some doubt we ever will, but are thinking about it a lot more…), few (any?) of our old professors are still teaching regularly, and by now we all know plenty about loss, as well as about gain. It’s great fun to hear what you’re doing in your lives, and to see so clearly that who we were at Luther was only a beginning. An important beginning, but a beginning nonetheless. I wish there was a better way to capture those stories, which go way beyond the alumni notes about what job somebody has or what award they’ve won. Those are good to know—but each life includes so much more, doesn’t it?

Keep accumulating your stories, and remember to include a nod to Luther in them. That’s something that binds us together, whatever our differences in occupation, location, politics, family, motivation, economics, religion, or our favorite Starbucks grind. And keep on including Luther in your charitable giving, so that it can be the binding agent for generations to come.


Mary Sundet Jones         and         Pat (Graetz) Jensen
[email protected]                        [email protected]


Laird Edman is professor of psychology at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. He collaborated with Dr. Julie Yonker from Calvin College, Dr. James Creswell of Booth University College, and Dr. Justin Barret of Fuller Theological Seminary to conduct a study of over 2,500 participants. His article, “Primed Analytic Thought and Religiosity: The Importance of Individual Characteristics,” was published in Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, a top journal in the area of psychology and religion, produced by the American Psychological Association.

Robert Paul is a realtor at Re/Max Results in Eden Prairie, Minn.

Ellen Rockne was co-organizer of Flood-Kin, a fundraiser for Decorah flood victims.

Curt Tryggestad was named the 2017 Minnesota Superintendent of the Year by the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. He is superintendent at Eden Prairie (Minn.) Schools.


Susan (Austed) Gardner of Boise, Idaho, died July 17, 2016, at age 57. Born in Wayzata, Minn., she enjoyed a happy Midwestern upbringing and enrolled at Luther, where she majored in elementary education. After graduation, Susan adventurously struck out for Salmon, Idaho, to start her teaching career. She fell in love with Idaho's natural beauty and people, and spent several years teaching in Salmon and Leadore. In 1986 she moved to Boise and soon married Ben McConnell. In 1991 they became the parents of a daughter, Katie, and put their hearts and souls into raising her, even after divorcing in 1996. Ben remains an appreciated member of the blended family. Susan married Richard Gardner in 2000 and, along with Dick’s three sons—Charlie, Andrew, and Brett, they formed a close family, sharing camping trips, rafting, sporting events, and holiday traditions together. Susan and Dick enjoyed traveling together to Italy, Turkey, and China, and their annual anniversary trips to Stanley were favorite adventures. Susan's teaching career spanned roles in Salmon, Leadore, and Emmett, and at the Children's School and Village Charter schools in Boise, and there are hundreds of former first and second graders who will forever remember Mrs. Gardner and the way she taught them to be curious about the world. A major arc in Susan's life was her recovery from alcoholism; she was active in a twelve-step program for nearly 22 years. Susan is survived by her husband, Dick; daughter, Katie; stepsons, Charlie, Andrew, and Brett; brother, Brad; sister, Kathy; four nieces; three nephews; and many friends.

The Annual Fund – make your gift today:
Your gift. Put to work, right away, where it is needed most.

Last year more than 10,000 alumni, family, and friends supported Luther’s Annual Fund with gifts from $5 to $100,000. Your gift makes a difference for each and every student at Luther, and we are grateful for your support.


This list includes all gifts received January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2016. Making a gift each and every year is an investment in the lives of Luther students and a show of support for the Luther College community. Thank you for your support of Luther College through your giving.

Cynthia (Hodges) Aasen
Mitchell Abraham
Randy Adams
Richard Allen
Ann (Zenisek) Anderson
Ross Anderson
Elizabeth Andress
Ingrid Bey
Rhonda (Smith) Bleadorn
Jane Blockhus
Kristin (Aleckson) Bodholdt
Jeffrey Bouslog
Arndt Braaten
Sheri Brenden
Kelly Brenno-Carpenter
Kelsey Bruso
Ruth Burstrom
Margaret Busse
Janelle Bussert
Teresa (Lindquist) Caspar
Carole (Meyer) Cochrane
Stephanie (Beem) Courts
Mark Davidson
Steven Demorest
Amy (Nordin) Duma
Paul Dybdahl
Henry Emmons
Peter Espinosa
Kimberly (Aigner) Fifer
Wendy (Erickson) Gay
Mark Glessner
Kristin Grangaard
Kathryn (Willi) Gregersen
Stephen Grinna
Martha (Petersen) Hageness
Kent Hall
Larry Halverson
Rebecca Halvorson
Scott Hanson
Jenny (Antony) Haun
Michael Haun
Sara Hawbaker Wiemerslage
Roxanne (Gunderson) Heinrichs
Karen Helmeke
Beth Heming
Carol (Gustafson) Hetrick
Laurie-Ann Heyer
Michael Hicks
Rebecca (Leschensky) Hoffman
Mary (Van Gerpen) Horner
Sue Hulsether
Jay Ironside
Patricia (Graetz) Jensen
Elaine (Olsen) Johnson
Terry Johnson
Hugh Jones
Haldis (Solem) Kaasa
Tonda (Christen) Kirton
Sarah (Bagaason) Kise
James Knutson
Joanna (Vasek) Koenig
Jody (Johnson) Kolstad
Kevin Kolstad
Scott Kramer
Elizabeth Larson
Scott Layman
Linda Lehman
David Libra
William Lichtner
Kathryn (Jordan) Litow
James Luloff
Lynn (Kneubuhler) Luloff
Pamela Magnussen Ironside
Michael Martin
Miri (Peterson) Mattson
Paul Mattson
Mary (Huinker) McEnaney
Brian Miller
David Moe
Charles Mueller
Julie (Conlin) Mueller
Lisa Narveson-Henderson
Caren (Tesdahl) Nemec
Jeffrey Nesta
Stephen Noltner
Carl Nordstrom
Deborah Olson
Robert Paul
Jeffrey Paulson
Julie (Betcher) Petersen
Joan (Rohlf) Peterson
Julie (Fuglestad) Peterson
Paul Peterson
Pamela (Norris) Phillips
Mark Pribbenow
Laura Probst
Rudolph Raftshol
David Rathe
Brett Reese
Michele (Wylder) Reese
Debra (Dahl) Rilley
David Ringdahl
James Ripley
Sue Rothmeyer
Diane (Olson) Rugland
Raymond Rusek
Mitchell Scherf
Laura (Nelson) Schroeder
Steven Schroeder
Becky (Folz) Schutte
Kari Sena Gordon
Gwen (Hamilton) Starr
Teresa (Kastad) Steege
Steven Stenhaug
Kari (Morken) Strandell
Andrea (Nelson) Streufert
Mary Sundet Jones
David Swenson
Ruth (Hanson) Thom
Jon Thompson
Curt Tryggestad
Karen (Hanson) Tysdal
Lisa (Newcomer) Vail
Marilee (Kelly) Vogel
David Vohsman
Jeanine Vorland
Kristin Weeks Duncanson
Julie (Franzen) Wilson
Erik Wilson-Weiberg
Kristi Wold
Byron Wood
James Wright
James Young
Jodi (Palma) Young

Every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy of this list. If an error has been made, please accept our apology and contact the Luther Development Office at 800-225-8664, or email [email protected].