Because You Believed in Me

Anne Thompson Heller with her family at Augsburg College graduation

Anne Thompson Heller with her family at Augsburg College graduation

Before Anne Thompson Heller ’08 began her studies at Augsburg, she hadn’t even visited the College. But she knew Augsburg was where she needed to be, because of the StepUP® Program on campus. Honestly, she says, she’s not sure she would have been able to go to college when she did without the support of StepUP, Augsburg’s residential recovery program.

Now, while completing a doctoral program at the University of Connecticut, Thompson Heller helps other young people in recovery to achieve academically and thrive. With two master’s degrees (one in educational leadership, higher education, and student affairs; the other in marriage and family therapy), she works tirelessly to support youth recovery. Though she hadn’t intended to pursue multiple advanced degrees, she did so when she discovered an undeniable passion for helping others facing addiction issues, just as she had been helped in her StepUP experience.

When she moved back to Connecticut, she served CTYF (Connecticut Turning to Youth and Families) as a board member, and eventually as its vice president, advocating for youth services with several state and other influential agencies, and attempting to raise awareness of the problem. Her involvement with CTYF led to her current work on the board of directors for Connecticut Community of Addiction Recovery (CCAR).

In 2010, after speaking at the National Education Recovery Summit, Thompson Heller was invited to join the board of the Association of Recovery Schools (a “phenomenal” organization, she says), where she led the advocacy committee and worked to enhance youth leadership in recovery schools. In that role, she was able to support the development of YPR (Young People in Recovery), a national advocacy organization, as one of the organization’s founding members. YPR now has chapters across the country, which emanated from several national conferences that sought to address addiction recovery and related issues such as leadership training and organizational development. Continue reading

Planting Seeds for an Urban Arboretum • October 14

Campus quadAre you curious how the Hagfors Center for Science, Business and Religion will impact campus green space? Do you have questions or ideas for how Augsburg could maximize our green space in our urban neighborhood? Do you really love trees? Join us October 14th for a special chapel service featuring Professor Larry Crockett who will share insights and philosophies related to stewarding green space.

Following chapel, join us from 11am-12pm in Oren Gateway Center Room 100 for a panel with Q&A moderated by Regent Matt Entenza. The panel will feature partners helping in planning Augsburg’s campus transformation into an Urban Arboretum. Learn how we will maximize green space to improve experiences for students, faculty, staff, and our neighbors!

Panelists include:
Tom Oslund Principal, Oslund & Associates, Landscape Architect
Dale Pederson ’70, Associate Professor, Biology
Ralph Sievert, Director of Forestry & Certified Arborist, Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, Augsburg College.

Jill and Robert Thomas Make $1 Million Challenge Grant for StepUP

Thomas familyJill and Robert Thomas of Tulsa, Oklahoma, are on a mission to erase the stigma associated with addiction and recovery—and it starts at Augsburg. They’ve made a $1 million challenge grant for Augsburg’s nationally recognized StepUP® Program, which helps students champion lives of recovery, achieve academic success, and thrive in a community of accountability and support. “The StepUP program is the Gold Star standard for collegiate recovery,” says Jill.

The couple is leading the drive to raise $10 million in endowment for the program and challenging others to “step up” to the plate to meet the urgent need for effective collegiate recovery programs.

Philanthropy + Advocacy = Change

Jill and Robert (who is co-owner of Tulsa-based Senior Star) envision StepUP emerging as the program of choice for students in recovery and the employer of choice for top professionals in the field. They want to lift up StepUP as a model of excellence and see it replicated on campuses across the nation. They hope to see misperceptions about addiction and recovery shattered by the success of adults with addiction in their past. It all adds up to profound change. “First we have to start talking more openly about addiction and recovery, and then we have to start supporting it financially,” says Robert.

“We believe that our efforts can help organizations make a difference and move the needle in some very important things for people,” explains Robert, who served on the Alzheimer’s Association National Board and received the Maureen Reagan Award for outstanding Alzheimer’s Advocacy in 2010. Both he and Jill are leaders in Alzheimer’s advocacy and involved in several community organizations, including the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma and the Tulsa Area United Way.

They are parents of daughters Allie Thomas ’14 and Olivia Jordan, who currently serves as Miss USA.

Desperation, Love, and Hope

Jill and Robert learned about StepUP the hard way, through daughter Allie’s struggle with chemical dependency and her eventual recovery. “The despair and the fear of all it was all encompassing,” says Robert of that time in their lives.

Allie was living out of state when she hit the proverbial rock bottom.

“My dad swooped in and we came home to Tulsa,” says Allie. I had a series of stints in treatment centers, then stints of relapse. I was really unwell. It’s is so sad to think back on the person that I was.” Continue reading

Catch up with the Augsburg Centennial Singers

The Augsburg Centennial Singers have announced their fall appearance schedule, which includes the Homecoming Chapel service on Saturday, October 10. Be sure to catch them on the road at a church or service close to you!

  • Friday, September 25. First Lutheran Church, 505 Holdt St. W., Battle Lake, MN, 7:00 p.m.*
  • Saturday, September 26, Calvary Lutheran Church, 605 Douglas St., Alexandria, MN, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, September 27, Cambridge Lutheran Church, 621 Old North Main St. Cambridge, MN, 4:00 p.m.*
  • Sunday, October 4, King of Kings Lutheran Church, 1583 Radio Drive, Woodbury, MN, 4:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 10, Augsburg College, Homecoming Chapel Service, 10:00 a.m.
  • Sunday, October 11, House of Prayer Lutheran Church, 7625 Chicago Ave. So., Richfield, MN, 3:00 p.m.*
  • Sunday, Oct 25, St. Philips Lutheran Church, 1401 15th Street W., Hastings, MN, 3:00 p.m
  • Sunday, November 1, St. Phillip the Deacon Lutheran Church, 17205 County Road 6, Plymouth, MN, 3:00 p.m.*
  • Saturday, November 7, Christ the King Lutheran Church, 8600 Fremont Ave. So., Bloomington, MN, 7:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, November 8, Fort Snelling Chapel Veterans Day Service, 11:00 a.m.
  • Sunday, November 8, Lutheran Church of the Master, 1200 69th Ave. No. Brooklyn Center, MN, 3:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, November 15, First Lutheran Church of Columbia Heights, 1555 40th Ave. NE, Columbia Heights, MN, 4:00 p.m.*

* Designates ticket sale concert

Augsburg Women Engage Philanthropy

AWE logoAugsburg Women in Philanthropy (AWE) is excited to formally create the AWE-Inspired Philanthropy Council. The Council functions in an advisory and support capacity to the Office of Advancement. Our goal is to strengthen the culture of philanthropy among Augsburg women of all ages. We will focus on ways to educate, engage and celebrate Augsburg’s alumnae donors.

Just two years ago, a small group of AWEsome women put up a bold goal—to raise $100,000 and sponsor a student study lounge in the Center for Science, Business, and Religion. We went on to surpass our goal and to date have raised $126,000. There is still time to be a part of this landmark campaign that will close on December 31, 2015.

This shows what a committed group of women can do. It is no surprise that the secret to making positive and lasting change in the world is hidden in plain sight. In fact, it is more than half of the population. Women vote more, volunteer more, and give more to charities than men. They control more than half of the total wealth in America!

Brick5Buy a Brick, Build a Legacy
This campaign has generated so much enthusiasm and renewed so many wonderful memories and stories of Augsburg legacy. Before the campaign closes on December 31, there is still time to honor a special person, a faculty member, Auggie family members, and classmates. The personalized brick wall will have a prominent space in the new building.

Some inspiring examples include:

Brick4“Thank You, Dr. Norma Noonan” • “Our friendship is a Phoenix: Britt, Wendy, Jen, Tash, Steph, Jodi” • Delta House ’72-’74: Lien, Lus, Tesmer, Turrittin • Mrs. Pete, Teacher, Mentor, Friend” • “Psalm 25:  O Lord … teach me your paths” • “Thank You Augsburg College!”; AWE-Inspired!

There is still time to participate! Visit or contact Donna McLean at to plan your tribute.

We are women.  We are Auggies.  Leading the way – creating confident, joyful donors!

The AWE-Inspired Philanthropy Council: Lisa Zeller ’82, ’89 MAL • Shelby Gimse Andress ’56 • Kris Pearson ’78 • Elizabeth Tweeton Odegaard ’04 • Rachel Olson Engebretson ’98

Coaching with Conviction: From Auggie Pride Comes a Passion for Teaching

Bottom (L-R): Andy Johnson, Mark Joesph; Top (L-R): Royce Winford, Jordan Berg, Derrin Lamker, David Tilton, Jack Osberg

Bottom (L-R): Andy Johnson, Mark Joesph; Top (L-R): Royce Winford, Jordan Berg, Derrin Lamker, David Tilton, Jack Osberg

Derrin Lamker ’97 remembers that he wanted to be a coach from his first year in college. As head coach at Osseo High School for the last 10 years, he says he had good training coming from a great team like Augsburg.

At Augsburg, he played football, basketball, and baseball. During his football career, he was the MIAC Most Valuable Player and led the Auggies to an MIAC title in 1997, the same year he received Kodak All-American Honors.

At Osseo, Lamker has surrounded himself with a coaching staff that includes several stellar Auggies and teachers. They mesh well and show up every day for the same reason—to develop contributing members of society. Their hope is that no matter where the players go, or where football takes them after high school, they will be successful. The Orioles are now ranked second in the metro area, and have started the season with a 2-0 record. Lamker says what is remarkable about the team is the people.

Six Auggies join Lamker in coaching the teams. They include his former college football coach and mentor, Jack Osberg ’62. Osberg says it is a great joy to coach with Lamker. “I’m doing what I love to do,” says Osberg, who was head football coach at Augsburg from 1991-2004, and then stayed on to work with head coach Frank Haege. He didn’t stay away from football very long before he continued to get his “fall fix” in coaching once again at Osseo High School.

“It’s real people at Augsburg. That’s what you get,” says Lamker. The Auggies joining him on the coaching staff include Andy Johnson ’04, Royce Winford ’09, Mark Joseph ’01, David Tilton ’12, and Jordan Berg ’09. For the past five seasons, they were joined by Tony Nelson ’84 and Doug Bailey ’90, who stepped down from coaching this year. Together, they have built a program that puts its priorities in order, much like they saw at Augsburg, both on and off the field. Continue reading

Honoring Elms, Embracing Green Horizons

Campus quadIn early August, two of the three remaining elm trees in Augsburg’s quad—an alumni gift from more than 50 years ago—were removed because of Dutch Elm disease. While it was a sad day on campus when the trees were felled, we reserved some of the wood to be transformed into pieces of art, partnering with Tom Peter, a local certified arborist and wood-turning artist.

photo 1The elms created wonderful character of space in the quad for decades, and have helped inspire our longer-term visioning of the central campus as a larger green space that, over time, becomes an even more significant component of campus life.

The design for an expanded quad is one of the central ideas resulting from work done in 2011 to develop a campus master plan, and has recently inspired new thinking around a special campaign effort to support the creation of an “urban arboretum”—a multi-functional green space that deepens the student, faculty, staff, and community experience through hands-on education, research, and recreation.

To learn more about Augsburg’s urban arboretum and how you may own a wood-turned creation from the elm trees, please contact Amanda Storm Schuster, Director of Leadership Gifts at 612-330-1098 or