Class of 1997 Fall 2017 Letter

Fall 2017

Dear Classmate,

Lots has happened on campus since you received your spring 2017 class agent letter, and we 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 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 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 we’ve only included some of the many happenings. Please keep Luther informed of what’s happening in your life, and we will write again in the spring.


Annette (Younes) Baltes
[email protected]

Sara Isbell Cunningham
[email protected]

Jodi (Nelsen) Dettman
[email protected]

Geoff Pesanka
[email protected]



Matthew Bersagel Braley earned a Ph.D. in religion (Ethics and Society Program) and a graduate certificate in human rights from Emory University. He is associate professor for the College of Business and Leadership and Title III academic integration coordinator for high impact practices at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis.

Rachelle Evenson is quality control supervisor at Be The Match National Marrow Donor Program in Minneapolis.

Nori (Greenlee) Hadley is activity director at Arlin Falck Assisted Living in Decorah.

Heather (Crowell) Langan is youth and family director at Mount Olive Church in Hickory, N.C.

Luke Olson is professor of computer science, Willet Faculty Scholar, director of Computational Science and Engineering Program and head of the Parallel Computing Institute at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. He was selected as the co-chair of the 2019 Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Conference on Computational Science and Engineering and is associate editor of the SIAM Journal on Scientific Computing.

Becky (Goggins) Sam is a science faculty member at Culver (Ind.) Academies in as well as an independent business owner and team builder.

Kimberly Sweet is a teacher and multi-classroom leader for the Indianapolis Public Schools.

Todd Velnosky is COO, PACE funding, for Rockwood Management and founder of Big Sky Renewables in St. Louis.

Bobbie (Torgerson) Vickerman of Mabel, Minn., is the county coordinator for Fillmore County.

Laura (Wangsness) Willemsen of St. Paul Minn., is lecturer in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development at the University of Minnesota. She received the 2016-17 Gail P. Kelly Award from the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) for her dissertation, Embodying Empowerment: Gender, Schooling, Relationships and Life History in Tanzania. The award is conferred on an outstanding Ph.D. or Ed.D. dissertation that manifests academic excellence; originality; methodological, theoretical, and empirical rigor; and deals with issues of social justice and equity in international settings.


KIMBERLY SWEET and Meghan Sievers, July 14, 2016


MATTHEW BERSAGEL BRALEY and KARI BERSAGEL BRALEY ’98 welcomed a daughter, Matea, in December 2010.

LORI (STASTNY) and Chris Hagstrom welcomed a son, Beau David, in March 2017.