Luther Alumni Magazine

Class Notes, 1948–1999

1948–1949 / 1950–1959 / 1960–1969 / 1970–1979 / 1980–1989 / 1990–1999


Don Bendickson has an art studio in his Cerenity Senior Care apartment in White Bear Lake, Minn. He previously painted with watercolors and acrylics and now makes marker art for other residents for birthdays and bingo prizes. Each piece takes him about three to four hours to complete, and he makes two to three each week.  


David Leirmo and his family from Ferryville, Wis., received the 2019 Farm Family of the Year Award at the Crawford County Conservation Awards. David’s father, Jens Leirmo, immigrated to the area from Norway in 1912 and bought the home farm in Freeman in 1920. David took over management of the farm in 1956. David’s brothers John and Olaf joined the operation in the late 1970s, and John’s two sons joined in the last decade. The Leirmo family was selected by the Crawford County Land Conservation Committee for the successful, conservation-minded operation they run within the county.


Elliott Christen retired after 50 years as the Decorah High School Viking Stadium public address announcer. On Oct. 18, 2019, he took his place in the press box for the last time to announce the final home football game for the Decorah Vikings.


John Eggers of Bemidji, Minn., retired after teaching for 55 years. He now serves as founder and director of Project Graduate, which has a goal of 100 percent graduation rate for all students in Beltrami County, the only county in the US with such a goal. John was a Peace Corps volunteer in Uruguay, taught in Iran, and served as a professor at the University of Northern Iowa. He is the author of 21 books and is a volunteer for the Red Lake Nation.


Dennis Melin is president of Public Partnership in Tucson, Ariz.

David Senjem of Rochester, Minn., was honored by the National Alliance of Mental Illness as their Legislator of the Year at a luncheon in St. Paul. The award recognized the Minnesota state senator’s legislation around the creation of statewide crisis centers, related supportive housing, the furtherance of mobile crisis teams, and the development of a program of competency restoration for institutionalized mentally ill individuals charged with a crime.


Harold Bendicsen of Addison, Ill., published a new book, Psychoanalysis, Neuroscience, and Adolescent Development: Non-Linear Perspectives on the Regulation of the Self.


Ken Belanger of Frederic, Wis., retired after 52 years as a head high school football coach. He served as the head football coach and math teacher at Zumbrota/Zumbrota-Mazeppa High Schools for 35 years. He was inducted into the Minnesota High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2001. Ken then moved to Frederic and served as the head football coach at Frederic High School for 17 years. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2019. He finished his career with 288 victories. Ken still serves as a track official in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Judith (Ransom) and Jules Nicolet are both retired and living in Madison, Wis. 


Howard Omdahl of Algona, Iowa, was inducted into the Iowa Insurance Hall of Fame.


Bob Sathe of Cincinnati was elected to serve on the Council of Trustees of the Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky. 


Lorraine (Carter) Borowski of Decorah was inducted into the Northeast Iowa Community College Hall of Fame in November.

Steven Grove is a counselor at Northstar Behavioral Health in St. Paul, Minn.


Tim Becker of Menifee, Calif., is a K–12 substitute teacher.

Holley Drakeford is president at Drakeford Realty Group in New York City.

Greg Munson is the “Nature Nut” columnist for the Rochester (Minn.) Post Bulletin newspaper.


Nancy Gates-Lee of Green Cove Springs, Fla., works for NORSTAR Networks.


Audrey (Happel) and Robert Hill of Independence, Iowa, are retired.


Nevin Linthacum of Paso Robles, Calif., retired after a 33-year career in pharmaceutical sales with Schering-Plough and the last nine years as an account executive in the home health and hospice industry.

Sue (Berger) Oltrogge is manager of administrative services for Deloitte in Minneapolis and also manages the Davenport, Des Moines, and Omaha offices. She is a national facilitator for the Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation program at Deloitte.

Rosie (Almo) Spangenberg of Council Bluffs, Iowa, retired as an instructional strategist at Lewis Central School District.


Jeff Gustafson is a software developer at Blue Cross Blue Shield in Eagan, Minn.


Beth (Erickson) Getman retired from teaching general music at the Milwaukee public schools. She is now a violin teacher at the Greendale Conservatory of Music and an active performer for the Whitewater String Quartet.


Ron Behrens is a quality engineer for Dee Zee in Des Moines, Iowa.

Jefferson Brown is operating manager at A&M Tours in Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas.

Nancy (Hawbaker) Harms is aquatics facility director and women’s swim and dive coach for the Sun Prairie (Wis.) Area School District.

Donna Novey of Shoreview, Minn., retired after 27 years as band director at Cretin Derham Hall in St. Paul, Minn. At the end of the school year, she received a 2019 Values Award.

Bob Paulson Jr. is president, chief executive officer, and a member of the board of directors at VentureMed Group in Toledo, Ohio.


Keith Ellingson of Indianola, Iowa, was inducted into the Simpson College Coaches Hall of Fame for his successes as the head coach of the Storm cross country and track and field programs from 1986 to 2001. He continues to serve as an assistant coach for both teams.

Linda Jorn is associate vice provost for learning technologies and director of Division of Information Technology academic technology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She recently received the EDUCAUSE Leadership Award for her visionary contributions to academic technology, collaborative skills, scholarship, and commitment to mentoring.

Robyn Sand Anderson of Redwood Falls, Minn., received a 2018 Individual Artist Grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council and the McKnight Foundation to travel to Bergen, Norway, to immerse herself in the home, music, and environment of 19th-century composer Edvard Grieg. Using inspiration and photographs from her travels, and immersing herself in Grieg’s music, Sand Anderson created interpretations of color, texture, and movement that capture the incredible beauty of Norway. Her exhibit, “That’s Grieg,” was on display in the Center for Faith and Life at Luther in November.


Barb (Hodge) Miller is executive assistant to the executive vice president and provost at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Pamela Moe of Kerens, W.Va., retired from teaching.


Jim Whitesell was named head men’s basketball coach at State University of New York at Buffalo.


Cindy (Walker) Austin retired from elementary music education after 32 years. She is now a certified teacher ambassador for in Nashville, Tenn.

Lori Erickson of Iowa City, Iowa, is author of a new book, Near the Exit: Travels with the Not-So-Grim Reaper. She spoke about the book and signed copies at Dragonfly Books in Decorah last September. Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys.


Dave Aspenson of Colorado Springs, Colo., retired as partner at Kiesling Associates.

Karla (Leuder) Organist earned a master of science degree in community development from Iowa State University. She is program manager at the Institute for Decision Making at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

Kay (Rathjen) Tulppo is a reading specialist and literacy coach for the Sheboygan (Wis.) Area School District.


Mike Noll is head football coach for Richmond-Burton (Ill.) High School. His team won the 2019 Illinois Class 4A title in just his second year as head coach. Mike was also honored by the NFL’s Chicago Bears as their High School Coach of the Year. The Richmond-Burton Rockets will receive a $2,000 grant for their program, and Mike earned a trip to the Pro Bowl game in Orlando, Fla.

Lynne Rothrock of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, performed The Divine Ms. R—Lynne Rothrock—Sings the Music of Bette Midler on Aug. 2 at the Lingonberry in Decorah. She serves as an arts educator and clinician and has performed and directed at venues across the US. This spring she is teaching two classes for musical theatre minors at Luther.

David Shook is associate dean of academic affairs for Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.


Alicia (Cornelious) Dennis is implementation manager at CVS Health in Northbrook, Ill.

Mary Sparks Thompson is chief executive officer of the Clive Behavioral Health facility at MercyOne Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa.

Ragna Urberg is corporate counsel at Benchmark Human Services in Fort Wayne, Ind.


Sara Gillespie is pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Mayville, Wis.

Kristine (Deason) Stache is interim president at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa.


Brian DeVries is area director at Search Ministries in Minneapolis.

Barbara Guenther is pastoral associate for liturgy and music at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Albuquerque, N.M. She was declared the 2019 Archdiocese of Santa Fe Pastoral Musician of the Year. She also serves as chair of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission, presents liturgy and music workshops throughout the Archdiocese and the Southwest region of the United States, and serves on the board of directors of the Southwest Liturgical Conference.

Maria (Spieker) Mickelson teaches second grade at Neveln Elementary School in Austin, Minn. She was named 2020 Austin Teacher of the Year.

Paul Reimann of Mount Vernon, Iowa, is an instructor for Kirkwood Community College in the Education Department at the Anamosa State Penitentiary.

Hans Sieber is a mental health therapist at Arvada Therapy in Arvada, Colo.


Adele (Barlow) Buffington is director of creative arts at Peñasquitos Lutheran Church in San Diego.

Katie (Carr) Ditch is clinical director at Riverview Child and Family Therapy in St. Charles, Ill.


Lisa (Rosby) Aldrich teaches first grade for the Lakeville Area (Minn.) Public Schools.

Eric Bryhn is a logistics brand planner for the Meals Division of the Old El Paso brand of General Mills in Golden Valley, Minn.

Karin Bodensteiner is professor of biology and department chair at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point.

Kristin Gosselink is associate professor of physiology and pathology at Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine in Las Cruces, N.M.

Kristin (Boyce) Junkas is a veterinarian and chief of staff at the Wright Animal Hospital in Des Plaines, Ill.

Steven McArthur retired from the United States Secret Service after 24 years. His final assignment before retirement was to the Office of Training, James J. Rowley Training Center, as head of the Uniformed Division Training Branch. During his career, he also had assignments with the Presidential Protective Division, Vice Presidential Protective Division, Special Operations Division, and at the Secret Service headquarters building. As part of his retirement ceremony, he and his wife, Kristy, were invited to the Oval Office on July 3, 3019, for a departure photo with President Donald Trump.


Greg Dietel of Jordan, Minn., was awarded the MRC 2018–19 Coach of the Year Award by the Minnesota River Conference coaches.

Rick Geier is the Warren and Lillian Anderson Chair in Chemistry, the Department of Chemistry chair, and a professor of chemistry at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y.

Ronnie Hildahl is spiritual care coordinator at the Anne Carlsen Center in Jamestown, N.D.

Joelle Pretty is assistant provost for student academic engagement at Seattle University.


Jay Wilson is principal at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Indianapolis.


Kari Antin is senior finance manager at Target in Minneapolis.

Laura (Schut) Betts is a teaching associate at Nisse Preschool in Decorah.

Amy (MacLaughlin) Blackstone is the author of Childfree by Choice: The Movement Redefining Family and Creating a New Age of Independence. She is also a sociology professor at the University of Maine and has created a blog with her husband, Lance, called we’re {not} having a baby. She has conducted research on the subject of childfree choice since 2008.

Kim Erickson is a scrum master for the Hennepin County Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in Minneapolis.

Ceallaigh (Melville) Estepp is director of human resources at the Phoenix Residence in West St. Paul, Minn.

Carrie (Hamby) Faust is sales director at Zeta Global in St. Paul.

Angie Grecian-Bransky is realtor associate at American Realty and Management in Mason City, Iowa.

Nicole Holt is CEO at Texans for Safe and Drug-Free Youth in Austin.

Cynthia (Mitchell) Lace is middle school and high school principal for the Southwestern Wisconsin Community School District in Hazel Green, Wis.


Jennifer (Wendt) Bjorklund is equity information and reporting specialist at Organic Valley in La Farge, Wis.

Kristen (Schoeb) Cheney teaches pre-K for the Nampa (Idaho) Christian Schools.

Sarah (Wilt) Cichon is a licensed social worker and assistant manager for preadmission screening at the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging in North St. Paul, Minn.

Reed Fisher is project manager at Hills (Iowa) Bank and Trust Company in Hills, Iowa.

Steven Gauerke is product owner at ITA Group in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Rachael Peterson is owner and therapist at Peterson Counseling and Consulting in Victoria, Minn. She is a dual-licensed therapist specializing in the prevention, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health disorders.

Christine (Haas) Ruth is a pastor and marriage and family therapist at Niwot Family Counseling in Niwot, Colo.


Meredith (Sherman) Borchardt is a librarian at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.

Josh Byrnes of Osage, Iowa, is the general manager of Osage Municipal Utilities and is region 3 DEED director for the American Public Power Association. He was also appointed by Iowa governor Kim Reynolds to serve on the board of the Iowa State Department of Education.

Julie (Torkelson) Chamberlain is pastor of worship and connections at Decorah Covenant Church.

Heather (Bassett) Dahl is a policy analyst for the Albuquerque (N.M.) Public Schools.

Matt Davis is EVP of MLA programs and special projects for Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis in Dallas.

Sarah (Romine) Ernst is senior manager, process development, at Hibu in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Erin (Etscheidt) Humpal is senior manager of business systems analysis at Transamerica in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Jaymi Wilson is a project manager for the city of Rochester, Minn.


Becky (Bixby) Anderson is chief clinical officer at Focused Post Acute Care Partners in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Kara (Brandau) Califf is North America biotech compliance lead at Corteva in Johnston, Iowa.

Clint Christopher is superintendent of the Eastern Carver County School District in Chaska, Minn.


Himena (Viner) Harris is a nurse practitioner in otolaryngology for University of Iowa Health Care in Iowa City.

Sarah (Kipling) Lightner is assistant principal for the St. Paul (Minn.) Public Schools.

Brandon Sampson is founder of Limb Lab in Rochester, Minn. In October, he spoke about “Radical Attentiveness as a Path to Innovation in Orthotic and Prosthetic Clinical Care” at the Manova Global Summit on the Future of Health in Minneapolis. Brandon’s business just opened a Minneapolis location, which fills a 5,500-square-foot space, almost double the size of the original Rochester office, where the company is still headquartered. Limb Lab also has locations in Mankato, Minn., and La Crosse, Wis., and plans to open a fifth location in Lincoln, Neb., this year.

Jen (Roling) Stanley is data lead and volunteer for Moms Demand Action at Trinity Lutheran Church in Boulder, Colo.

Stephanie (Bey) Steines was one of four Iowa educators named a state finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. She teaches math at Decorah High School.


Emily (Petig) Bartels earned a master’s degree in communications sciences and disorders from the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire and completed the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence. She is a speech language pathologist for the St. Michael–Albertville (Minn.) Schools.

Sara (Boehmke) Brunk is a piano teacher and accompanist in Stillwater, Minn. 

Jeremy Owen is paramedic at Fitch-Rona EMS in Verona, Wis. His prehospital care team received the 2019 Pediatric Champion Award from UW Hospital for their care of a patient with a severe traumatic facial injury. He is also a Wisconsin certified firefighter II, fire inspector, and wildland firefighter.