Alum’s Call to Teach Changed the Lives of Middle Schoolers

Many adults would likely freeze in place if asked to teach a middle school class, much less try to interest those students in theater. Then there are those special people for whom such work just comes naturally. Ertwin “Ert” Jones-Hermerding ’69 was such a person.

Ert’s Augsburg mentor, the late Ailene Cole (who taught theater at Augsburg for 29 years), saw it early on, insisting that his talent was definitely with the younger kids—the high-schoolers, sure; but more so, the younger ones. It was at Augsburg that Ert knew he wanted to be a teacher.

Football and Theater

When Ert found an opening for a speech teacher at Plymouth Junior High in the Robbinsdale, Minn., school district, he jumped at the chance because it gave him the opportunity to also coach football. As a speech/communication teacher and football coach in Robbinsdale for 34 years, Ert endeared himself

Photo of Ertwin Jones-Hermerdig
Ertwin “Ert” Jones-Hermerding, recipient of Augsburg’s 2003 Distinguished Alumni Award

to countless junior high (middle school) and high school students, and many of them went on to pursue interesting professional careers due to his strong influence. His students included Darcey Engen ’88 (Theatre Arts professor at Augsburg), Mad TV’s Mo Collins, and actor Steve Zahn, who once donned a curly wig in junior high and did a memorable, gut-splitting impersonation of TV exercise personality Richard Simmons.

“Herm,” as he was affectionately known by his students, found ways to interest athletes in the drama program, and speech students in the football program, increasing the pool from which to draw and surprising many students who may not have otherwise considered such involvement.

Herm was, most notably, the first to teach improvisational theatre at the junior high level, creating a new model that was replicated in many other schools. When he died suddenly in a one-vehicle motorcycle accident two years after retiring, the online posts from former students said it all—“Brought me out of my shell.” “Favorite teacher.” “Made learning fun.” “Creative and passionate.” “I was fat and unpopular…he cast me in the lead…he lit me up.” “Great mentor to so many kids.”

Herm’s students would often sit together at school lunch to write their own plays. With parental permission to miss some school, they would crowd into a conversion van to take their shows to local elementary schools. Using only milk crates as sets, and maybe a mic for the narrator, they often drew huge groups of youngsters.

When asked how her late husband came to have such a heart for young people, Pat Jones-Hermerding says she isn’t sure how you can understand what’s at someone’s core, but she knew Ert had found his calling. He opened up his ideas to his students, and he had the kind of personality to which they gravitated—a big personality that could take over a room. Everything became a story, says Pat, and it usually grew into an even bigger story. He was energetic and funny—and fit right in with the kids. She takes special pleasure in reminders of Ert’s legacy, particularly when encountering former students who have gone into theater, or played sports for a college, or become teachers.

The Apple Tree

A picture of the sign recognizing the dedication and apple tree
The apple tree was dedicated on campus in October, thanks to the efforts of Ert’s Auggie roommate and longtime friend, Glen J. Peterson.

In October, when more than 20 family members and friends of Ert gathered next to Foss Center to dedicate a young apple tree in his memory, those attending were unaware of the tree’s interesting history. They were just grateful for the tree’s healthy start, and for the opportunity to designate a different tree on campus since the tree they had originally dedicated to Ert’s memory in 2009 had become diseased and died.

The history of the replacement tree, they later learned, was tied to Augsburg student Emily Knudson ’15, who had planted three apple trees as part of her senior Keystone p

Ert and friends stood around the apple tree
To symbolize various aspects of the sacred nature of the dedication, Ert’s longtime friend, Karl Sneider (dressed in black at the right), used four colored flags as he offered a Lakota blessing. Those gathered enjoyed eating big, juicy apples to celebrate.

roject. With this project, and through the Minnesota Project’s Fruits of the City program, Knudson was able to enter the network of hundreds of other tree owners and volunteer gleaners statewide who donate tens of thousands of pounds of fresh fruit each year to local food shelf partners. The newly placed plaque by the tree honors both Knudson’s project and Jones-Hermerding’s memory.

The Auggie Friendships

Among those who gathered at the tree’s dedication were two of Ert’s long-time Auggie friends, Glen J. Peterson ’69 and Karl Sneider ’71. All three had been members of Gamma Phi Omega, a campus/community service fraternity active on campus in the late ‘60s and ‘70s. Though participation in athletics was not a requirement for membership, many Gammas were involved in sports, which served to deepen many of the friendships. Peterson says that he and Ert were dorm mates as freshmen, and decided to join a third friend to live in a house by Riverside Park for their remaining three years. Peterson chuckles as he recalls that, since there were only two beds in the house when they moved in, Ert was content to sleep temporarily on a mattress on top of the kitchen table.

As Peterson reflects on those college days, he is reminded of how diligent a student Ert was, studying long hours for his language course. He was introspective, hard-working, and intense—in the best sense of that word—and those qualities applied to all areas of his college life: academics, football, track, and theater. He also exerted outsized influence in the life of his young brother, Mike.

If Peterson were to summarize Ert’s legacy in a few words, “integrity” would quickly come to mind. Ert was honest and trustworthy, says Peterson, and dedicated as an educator and as a person. Then he adds, “People would strive to be like him because Ert was adamant about caring about people.”

—by Cheryl Crockett ‘89

A Friendship to Last a Lifetime

Auggie Friendships Forever

Mike Scott ’71 admits that talking about friendship isn’t his strongest point, but he’s more than happy to acknowledge that his Augsburg friendships were the best part of his Augsburg experience. Mike and four of those Auggie friends—Larry Stewart ’72 , Tim Casey ’71, Mike Good ’71, and Bruce Santerre ’71—have maintained communication since graduation, and their friendship has survived the test of time. As a group of five, the men have put a priority on keeping in touch; they have celebrated marriages together, consoled each other in difficult times, and gotten to know each other’s children. As far as friendships go, these men share a connection so strong they consider themselves ‘almost’ family.

When Four Became Five

The five men pulling their infamous pose.

In the fall semester of 1967, the academic year was pushed back for a short period of time to accommodate the completion of Urness Tower. All non-commuting football players were accommodated in Memorial Hall until the semester started and they could be placed in permanent residence halls. It was there that Mike Scott met his very first college roommate, Larry Stewart, as well as Tim Casey and Bruce Santerre, who roomed next door. Besides playing football, the men shared another common thread; they were all from rural out-state. The four men connected as teammates, as neighbors, and by their rural upbringings—and they became friends. When the fall semester eventually started, the four were moved to Mortensen Hall where they would be living on a full-time basis. As chance would have it, on moving day Mike Scott encountered a familiar face and an old acquaintance, Mike Good. The young men had met years earlier through coincidence, when Mike Good was visiting family in Mike Scott’s hometown of Renville.  If this was not surprising enough, the men discovered that Mike Good had been assigned to be Tim Casey’s roommate. This sealed the deal; the initial group of four quickly became five and a friendship blossomed that would span the course of the rest of their lives.

Say Cheese

As the delayed academic year trickled into summer, on one lazy afternoon when they were feeling bored and desperate for entertainment, the five men, along with some fellow Mortensen Hall buddies, decided to take a hilariously posed photograph where they flexed their arm muscles or “guns.” Little did they know at the time that this photograph would be the start of a picture-taking tradition that would mark the significant times of their lives, like weddings and reunions.

Throughout college, the five either lived together, or within one house of each other. As life took them on their individual journeys, they continued to support each other and strengthen their friendship.  From babysitting one another’s children, to taking on important duties for each other (Larry is the godfather of Mike Scott’s son, Kelley), to incorporating spouses and ‘special’ friends – their friendship has never wavered.

Today, although the friends are not physically together (due mainly to career paths that led each to his own location), the group continues to share an incredibly strong bond. At the 2017 Augsburg University Homecoming in October, the five men reunited for another photograph. Although time has changed the faces in the photographs, the deep friendship of these funny freshmen who were inspired by boredom to take a silly photograph in 1968, lives on.

The four friends posing with their arms in gun (L-R Tim Casey, Mike Scott, Bruce Santerre, Larry Stewart and Mike Good)
Reunited at Homecoming 2017 (L-R Tim Casey, Mike Scott, Bruce Santerre, Larry Stewart and Mike Good)

WILD about Augsburg!

Celebrate and respect our veterans and our men and women in service by joining the Augsburg University Alumni Association for the 6th Annual Minnesota Wild Beyond The Yellow Ribbon Awareness Night at the Xcel Energy Center on Thu, Nov 2 at 7:00 p.m.!

The Wild take on the Montreal Canadiens in a game that shouldn’t be missed… tickets include a new custom designed Grunt Style T-Shirt and entry into a raffle for autographed items.

Ticket collection will take place in the lobby of the Xcel Energy Center at 6:00 p.m on Thursday, November 2. Tickets cost $40 and can be purchased at: http://www.augsburg.edu/alumni/events/

 

Join the Augsburg Alumni Board

19 members of the Augsburg Alumni BoardThe Augsburg Alumni Association is looking for volunteers to serve on the board of directors. All alumni are welcomed and encouraged to apply. The Alumni Board guides the alumni office in serving the valued alumni, families, and friends of Augsburg by providing resources and opportunities to engage alumni with the college and each other through consistent communication, inclusive programming, and intentional relationship building. All alumni are welcomed and encouraged to apply. To apply or find out more, contact Alumni Director Katie Koch ’01 at kochk@augsburg.edu.

Read more about current members of the alumni board.

16 Ways Your Give to the Max Day Gifts make Augsburg (and the World) a Better Place

With so many amazing things are happening at Augsburg, it may be helpful to have a little guidance about just how much is happening this year for the 35 Augsburg groups raising funds this year.

How can you support these initiatives? Read on! We’ve collected some examples of how your gifts this Thursday can make a huge impact in the lives of Augsburg students, faculty, and community members. Thanks for your support!

You can see all of Augsburg’s Give to the Max Day projects, and make your gifts now.

  1. Your gift to the Augsburg Fund helps ensure that Augsburg continues to provide financial aid and scholarships for more than 95% of our student body, keeping access to education for all a priority on campus. 

2. Your gift to the Augsburg Health Commons means members of our Cedar-Riverside community who are struggling to provide for their families don’t have to worry about the cold winter ahead.

3. Your gift to Augsburg Campus Kitchens helps expand and improve our campus gardens, where students and community members work together to grow healthy food and integrate green practices into our cities. Watch the video here.

4. Your gift to Augsburg’s Biology Department supports cutting-edge research on issues affecting Minnesota’s agricultural sector, including the health of soybeans. Watch the video here.

5. Your gift to Augsburg’s Chemistry Department gives students like Zach Swingen ‘16 the chance to work closely with Minnesota schools to build new curriculum that gets kids excited about science. Watch the video here.

6. Your gift to Augsburg’s Baseball and Softball teams gives our student-athletes a chance to train in Tucson, Arizona. It also gives Auggie Eagle a little break from the cold weather… watch the video here!

7. Your gift to Augsburg’s SMART group will help raise awareness and advocate for issues related to sexual violence and recovery in the Augsburg community.

8. Your gift to the Augsburg Theater Department’s Production Fellowship helps fund students of color who are exploring a career in artistic production, making the industry more representative and giving future generations of creative people new role models.

9. Your gift to Augsburg’s Peace Scholars Fund helps support the motivated, global-minded group of students who are Augsburg Peace Scholars. Watch the video here.

10. Your gift to Augsburg’s StepUP® Program creates opportunities for students in recovery to spread their message of hope and acceptance throughout the Twin Cities in speaking engagements, activities, and community events. 

11. Your gift to the Sabo Center’s Sabo Scholars continues that work that Augsburg alumnus Martin Olav Sabo ‘59 believed in and spent his life achieving—equipping young leaders to move beyond the classroom to listen, value, and support democracy in every facet of community life. 

12. Your gift to Augsburg’s Women’s Volleyball program provides our 2016 MIAC Champions with the chance to take their game abroad, as they challenge themselves against tougher opposition and experience new cultures, all while proudly representing Augsburg..

13. Your gift to Augsburg’s Minnesota Urban Debate League program gives young people across the metro area the chance to build their communication skills and confidence, giving them the tools to be successful leaders in their community.

14. Your gift to Lindell Library support an expanded collection of local, Minnesota authors and a speaker series that honors the many contributions our residents have made to the stories of art, architecture, history, literature, politics, and native and immigrant groups.

15. Your gift to any of four Augsburg projects count double. Donations to AWE for Emergence, the Peace Scholars Program, STEM, Biology, and Chemistry will be matched for every dollar, thanks to generous donors willing to help us all do more, together,

16. Your gifts help Augsburg win the Colleges and Universities category that earns the College a $10,000 prize—and each hour on Give to the Max Day, one Golden Ticket of $1,000 will be awarded through a random drawing of all donations transacted during the previous hour. Additionally, two Super-Sized Golden Tickets of $10,000 each will be awarded randomly.

With 36 Augsburg programs participating in Give to the Max, it’s easy to choose the Auggie causes that speak to your heart. Just don’t expect to be satisfied with just one!

Auggie Alumni in the Classroom: Bill Koschak ’91

Bill Koschak Auggies are everywhere, including back in the classroom!  Last week, Bill Koschak ’91 came back to speak to the seniors in the Business and Religion Keystone class led by Lori Lohman & Josh Miller. His topic? To speak about his vocational journey, his career path, and advice he would give students today.

Koschak had much to share about his journey from entry level job to partner at KPMG, to vice president of finance at General Mills, and now chief financial officer at YA Engage (formerly known as Young America). He noted he was especially thankful for his adviser, business professor Stu Stoller who first encouraged him to look into public accounting. Koschak made sure Stoller would be in attendance so that he could personally thank him.

Additionally, Koschak shared that he has had three strong mentors in his career who were instrumental to his career growth. These mentors were workplace leaders he admired for their management style, ethical behavior, and focus on work-life balance. He made a point to engage with these leaders and check in with them regularly. What started as occasional meetings turned into mentoring relationships that opened up many doors. He challenged the students to seek similar relationships as they start their careers.

Koschak is one of many alumni who have been invited to share their experiences with current students. If you are interested in speaking in classrooms or sharing your stories, contact Volunteer & Alumni Engagement Manager Katie Radford ’12 at radford@augsburg.edu.

The Auggie Alumni Board Wants You

alumni-board
Back Row [L to R]: Adrienne (Kuchler) Eldridge ’02, Sarah Grans ’01, Howie Smith ’80, Jay Howard ’03, Rick Bonlender ’78, Greg Schnagl ’91, Nick Swanson ’09, Patricia Jesperson ’95 Front Row [L to R]: Marie (Eddy) Odenbrett ’01, Hannah Dietrich ’05, Jill Watson ’10 MBA, Meg (Schmidt) Sawyer ’00, Melissa (Daudt) Hoepner ’92, Chris Hallin ’88, Adriana Matzke ’13, Rachel (Olson) Engebretson ’98, Chau “Tina” Nguyen ’08, Mary Prevost ’12 MBA Not Pictured: Cyrus Batheja ’08, ’10 MBA; Sharon Mercill ’09; Jordan Moore ’12 MBA; Brent Peroutka ’02; Nick Rathmann ’03; Tracy (Anderson) Severson ’95.
The Augsburg Alumni Association is looking for volunteers to serve on the board of directors. All alumni are welcomed and encouraged to apply. The Alumni Board is a governing body of the Alumni Association. The board exists to guide the Office of Alumni and Constituent Relations of Augsburg College in serving the valued alumni, parents and friends by providing resources and opportunities to engage alumni with the College and each other through consistent communication, inclusive programming, and intentional relationship building. To apply or find out more, contact Katie Koch ’01, Director of Auggie Engagement, at kochk@augsburg.edu.

Helping the Young to Do Better and Be Better

Joshua HarrisGrowing 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 “Helping the Young to Do Better and Be Better”

Velkommen Jul is December 4

Velkommen Jul scholarshipVelkommen 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! 

Nov. 7 Memorial Bench Dedication Honoring Lois Swenson

Lois-and-kids-photoOn 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
2 pm
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.