Growing up in Chicago, Josh Harris ’08 hadn’t heard of Augsburg before, but when Auggie Coach Aaron Griess recruited him to play basketball, he discovered a smaller school in a big city, diverse, with a sense of community—and it all appealed to him. What he ended up taking with him upon graduation, however, was beyond his expectations.
Today, Harris is working with other community leaders in Baltimore on many initiatives, including one to build a network of individuals, businesses, and organizations who can provide internships, scholarships, and mentorship opportunities for high school students, many of whom may be less than hopeful about their future. He believes that young people who have already enjoyed some level of professional success are those who can best effect change in the likelihood of success for other young people, particularly African-Americans.
Working primarily through Alpha Phi Alpha, a community-service-oriented fraternity, Harris serves as managing editor of The Sphinx, the APA’s journal about what is happening in the African-American community, and how their members impact the world around them. APA has 703 chapters worldwide (both undergraduate and alumni). The fraternity is noted as historically the first inter-collegiate fraternity founded by African-American men. Harris joined while still a student at Augsburg. The fraternity claims alumni such as former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and currently has eight members in Congress. Continue reading
Velkommen Jul is Augsburg’s annual Christmas celebration for all. Attend Chapel featuring Scandinavian Christmas music at 10:40 a.m. At 11, head to the Christensen Center lobby to shop in the boutique for unique gifts and goodies. All proceeds benefit student scholarships. Join us for a festive celebration in the Commons with Scandinavian treats, holiday music, and traditional Norwegian costumes and sweaters. Gift baskets will welcome donations for Augsburg scholarships. Add to the celebration by wearing your Norwegian sweater!
On Saturday, November 7, the family and friends of Lois Swenson, a resident of north Minneapolis and well-known local peace and justice activist, will be gathering at Augsburg College to remember Lois and give a handcrafted, wooden bench to the college in her memory. Amy Gort, Dean of the College, will be accepting the gift on behalf of the college.
Lois left her estate to Augsburg so that seminary students will be financially supported in their study abroad through the Center for Global Education and Experience. “My experience living in Central America opened my eyes to the real world and changed my life. I would like to provide similar experiences to seminary students who will be in a position to further educate people.”
The entire Augsburg community is invited to attend this brief ceremony and reception. Read more about Lois Swenson here.
Saturday, November 7, 2015
Lindell Library, first floor
630 22nd Ave. S., Minneapolis
The handcrafted wooden bench, made by Wisconsin artist Edward Wohl will be placed on the first floor of Lindell Library so students will be inspired by and be reminded of Lois’ commitment and work for peace and justice. Inscribed on the bench is one of Lois favorite quotes, “Live simply so that others may simply live.” For more information, call Sherilyn Young, Donor Relations Coordinator at 612-330-1462.
In her 37 year career as a coach and teacher at Shawano High School in eastern Wisconsin, Janis “Matty” Mathison ’69 made physical education into all that it could be. Like her mentors at Augsburg, she took her role in her students’ lives to heart. She knew she could give something back, and make life easier for someone else. She’s promoted health with vigor, enthusiasm, and integration in daily life in the years since she has retired.
“You make your own bed,” Mathison says, “and I really like the bed that I made.”
She had always been active in community life, but retiring gave her the opportunity to become more involved. “I find when I do something it’s pretty all-encompassing,” she says, and her involvement has been widespread and made a difference not only on individuals, but also on her community in Shawano County, Wisconsin.
On Oct. 13, Mathison will be honored by the American Planning Association’s Wisconsin Chapter as its Citizen of the Year for the work she’s been doing in her whole life, particularly for her leadership since retiring. Her devotion to creating a healthy community comes organically, and her involvement has been widespread—from improving parks experiences, to promoting an anti-binge drinking campaign, planning safe routes to school, making school start times later, planning a regional bicycle ride, and helping to create a bicycle-and pedestrian-friendly master plan for the county. One of her nominators for the award, planner Ann Freiwald, calls Mathison a terrific instigator and motivator who leads local residents and works with planners to promote healthy living and active lifestyles in Shawano County.
Mathison serves as an Executive Board Member with Shawano Pathways, a community nonprofit tasked with planning for and facilitating the development, implementation and maintenance of a greenway and trails network within Shawano County. This year marks the third year of Bike the Barn Quilts, a supported bike tour of Shawano County that she led the effort to host. The ride attracts more than 200 participants.
Embracing All Abilities
When Mathison was growing up, she was not just a natural athlete, but a teacher as well. As the oldest of 9 children, Mathison remembers using a backyard playhouse as a play schoolhouse, and she was always the teacher. Her parents instilled in her an ethic that may have been the best advice she’d ever received: “share, care, and play fair.”
As a physical education teacher, gym with Mathison was as likely to involve spelunking, cross country skiing, rock climbing, and canoeing or kayaking. She designed curriculum in health and physical education to involve and challenge all students, regardless of ability or how much they liked competition or sports. Continue reading
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
Jill 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 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 misconceptions 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