Class of 1997 Fall 2019 Letter

Fall 2019

Greetings ’97 Alum!

It promises to be an exciting year for Luther. In November, the college inaugurated its eleventh president, Dr. Jenifer K. Ward. President Ward joins the Luther community with more than three decades of experience as an educator, scholar, and academic leader after serving, most recently, as provost and dean of the college at Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana. Prior to joining Centenary, President Ward served in several leadership roles at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington, including dean of the college, interim provost, and associate provost. She was also a faculty member at Gustavus Adolphus College, where she taught German. 

In a message to the Luther community, President Ward said, “Our work together must be strategic, collaborative, creative, and—most importantly—must articulate what it means to be both grounded in Decorah, Iowa with a face to the world, and set goals for how we can adapt Luther’s past and present for a sustainable future.” 

A self-described extrovert and lover of art, film, and literature, President Ward started her duties at Luther July 1, and her official inauguration took place November 1–3.

Learn more about President Ward—including her thoughts on food, art, Twitter, Decorah, and higher ed—on Luther’s YouTube channel (, then search “Luther College President Ward”) or in the fall issue of the Luther Magazine:

While you’re at it, use this checklist to up your Luther social media game:

❏    Follow Luther College on Twitter: @LutherCollege
    Follow Luther College on Instagram: @LutherCollege
    Follow the Luther College Alumni Facebook page:

Also, check out the alumni profiles and additional pages at and the alumni spotlights at; feel free to share these stories with your classmates. 

And finally, keep in mind that Christmas at Luther takes place December 5–8. This year’s theme is Whom Angels Greet with Anthems Sweet. Luther would be happy to see you there!

Best wishes,

Sara Isbell Cunningham

P.S. A heartfelt thanks to Annette (Younes) Baltes who wrapped up her involvement as a 1997 Class Agent last year. We would welcome someone else to join our team to take turns writing the class agent letter. If this sounds like something you may be interested in learning more about, please contact Mariah Smith at [email protected], or 563-387-1096.

1997 Class Agents:

Jodi (Nelsen) Dettman
2210 21st Avenue SE
Rochester MN 55904-5995
[email protected]

Sara Isbell Cunningham
7454 Bent Bow Trail.
Chanhassen MN 55317
[email protected]

Geoff Pesanka
411 E. Indian School Rd.
Apt. 1035
Phoenix AZ 85012
[email protected]


Valerie (Yelton) Baul is a driver’s license examiner for the Kansas Department of Revenue in Topeka, Kan.

Matthew Bersagel Braley is associate professor of philosophy and ethics, and director of the honors program at Viterbo University in LaCrosse, Wis.

Laurie (Arneson) Emery earned a master of education degree from St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minn. She is a high school mathematics teacher for the South Winneshiek (Iowa)Community School District.

Sara Gunderson is garden based nutrition educator at Denver Urban Gardens.

Brent Heibner is project coordinator at York Solutions, LLC in Minneapolis.

Lea (Donhowe) Lovelace is director of folk art education at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah.

Ross Lund is CEO at ProEx Food: Processing and Packaging Solutions in Chicago.

Josh Manchester is licensed sales producer with Allstate-Manchester Insurance Agency in Lemont, Ill.

Jennifer (Nelson) Manternach is audit principal at Crosslin in Nashville, Tenn.

Chad Meacham is talent acquisition operations program manager at Teradata in Dayton, Ohio.

Steve Runde and wife, Alice, were recognized by the Decorah Historic Preservation Commission for their restoration of the Poultry House and Carriage House on the Weiser Mansion property at 608 W. Broadway. The building is a contributing property on the National Register Broadway-Phelps Park Historic District.

Sarah (Larsen) Ryner is an occupational therapist at Central Rivers-Area Education Agency 267 in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Eric Strelow of Tulsa, Okla., earned a Bible school diploma in divinity/ministry from Rhema Bible Training College and a master’s degree in theology/theological studies from Southwestern Christian University. He is an adjunct instructor at Rhema Bible Training College and bid administrator at Ford Audio-Video.

Amy (Shuck) Thompson is director of adult and family services at Olmsted County Social Services in Rochester, Minn.

Josh White is chief medical officer at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, Vt.