Augsburg Theater Alumni Featured in a Sod House Theater Production

Come and see some Augsburg University Theater alumni from several generations perform this incredibly fun and evocative production!

An Enemy of the People written by Henrik Ibsen adapted by Darcey Engen and Luverne Seifert with music by Brian Laidlaw and Ashley Hanson, will be presented by Sod House Theater and tour eleven rural cities in Minnesota from July 25 – August 26, with a run in Hastings early September (TBA), 2018. The Sod House is teaming with local talent that includes a number of Augsburg University alumni!

This classic play examines how a community responds when a local doctor threatens to expose that the water it relies upon for tourism is being poisoned. The play questions how far a community will go to protect their town’s secret in order to avoid financial ruin. It will be performed at site-specific locations that are important to the historical narrative of each community.  Performance locations include town halls and river parks. “We’ve chosen communities to perform with that have recently experienced water pollution issues and whose lakes and rivers are a major contributor to their tourism economy,” said Luverne Seifert, co-artistic director of Sod House Theater. After each performance, water experts from local organizations will facilitate conversations centered on local water issues in hopes that the play and community dialogue will inspire water conservation.

 

About Sod House Theater:

Sod House Theater is a Minneapolis based theater whose mission is to perform in venues that serve historical significance in small-town communities. The works they choose to perform are relevant to the small-town atmosphere. Their goal is to be interactive in the communities by performing with local actors and at historical sites. They have been touring greater Minnesota since 2011.

Tickets for “An Enemy of the People” are $15 for adults; $10 for Children, Students, and Seniors.

Tickets are available at www.sodhousetheater.org. For show information call 612-414-2032.

Alumni who are leading the project:

Co-Artistic Director, Luverne Seifert ‘83; Co-Artistic Director, Darcey Engen ‘88; Production and Tour Manager Del Logeais ‘18.

Alumni who are performing in the Taylors Falls Production:

Peter Skjervold ‘83, Jenny Nordstrom Kelly ‘84, Lisa Pestka Anderson ‘86, Ali Fitzpatrick ‘11

Current students performing in Taylors Falls:

Madeleine Rowe ‘19, Hannah Dyson ‘20

Brett Batterson ’80 Shines Bright on Tony Night

Augsburg alumnus Brett Batterson ’80 had big shoes to fill when he took the job as President and CEO of Orpheum Theatre Group in Memphis, Tennessee. Prior to his arrival,the theatre had been recognized at the Tony Awards on three different occasions. Under Batterson’s leadership, as part of the Independent Presenters Network, the Orpheum Theatre Group can now claim a share of the 2018 Tony Award for Best Musical! The Independent Presenters Network is an above-the-title producer of the 10-award winning show, The Band’s Visit.

In high school, Batterson was an actor in his school’s theatre productions. When he came to Augsburg, one of his theatre professors, Michael Beery, showed Batterson his potential to create the scenes on the stage itself as a set designer.

“I had wonderful professors at Augsburg including Julie Driver and Ailene Cole, but Michael Beery had the most profound effect on my career.” says Batterson.

Beery helped guide Batterson onto a path where he could find great success. He did perform in one show at Augsburg, but spent the rest of his time behind the scenes creating and designing sets.

While still a student at Augsburg, Batterson had the opportunity to work at The Guthrie Theater, Minnesota Jazz Dance Company and Minnesota Opera Company. Following Augsburg, he took the skills he learned and advice from Professor Beery and obtained his M.F.A. in set design from Tulane University. For 15 years he continued his stage design career until he discovered another passion – arts management. Batterson spent 10 years at Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit as the company’s Chief Operating Officer. Then another 11 years as the Executive Director of the national historic landmark Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. He has been in his current position as President and CEO of Orpheum Theatre Group in Memphis since 2016.

“Theatre education, like I had at Augsburg, builds better people,” said Batterson, “Whether they go into theatre or not, they will go into the world better prepared to succeed.”

Alumni in the Spotlight: Jazmine Darden

Jazmine Darden’13 graduated from Augsburg University with a double major in Mathematics and Physics. During her time at Augsburg, she was passionate about helping people and was heavily involved with the GISE and GEMS program (Girls in Engineering, Mathematics, and Science and Guys in Science and Engineering are after-school and summer programs designed specifically for K-8th-grade girls and boys in the Minneapolis Public School District). After graduating, Darden worked with Minneapolis Public Schools for 2 years.

“Augsburg drew me out of my shell,” said Darden, “I was incredibly shy before I started at Augsburg, but I gained confidence during my time there and the University made me feel like I could do whatever I wanted with my life.”

“Augsburg is such an open-minded place, and one of the key lessons I learned during my time studying was to follow my heart” Darden added.

Darden was unsure of what career path she wanted to pursue, and on a whim, she decided to have a look at Dunwoody College. After taking a campus tour and realizing she was interested in 3D printing technology, she enrolled in the Engineering, Drafting and Design program.

She started the program in August 2015 and was accepted into the Women in Technical Careers scholarship program in her second semester. During her time at Dunwoody, Darden had some internships in the technology sector but soon realized she didn’t envision herself working in the corporate world. She spoke to the dean of her program and told him she wanted to start her own business.

Darden then took a class at Hennepin Tech where they collectively built 3D printers. Recently, she purchased a second 3D printer and began working alongside her mother who runs an embroidery business. Darden now works on custom projects included 3D Printing, screen printing t-shirts, and sublimation printing.

To enhance her printing skill, she decided to undertake a certificate program at Dunwoody specifically for 3D printing. At that time, Dunwoody was looking for someone to teach the class, and Darden was instead offered the instructor position.

“I built this class from the ground up. I got to design the curriculum and make it so that this certification program was unique and cutting edge.”

In a full circle, Darden is currently partnering with the Minneapolis Public School system with the GISE and GEMS program (and eventually other schools) to host a new and exciting project this summer. This summer project will give middle school students a college experience and the opportunity to learn more about 3D printing technology. In this summer project, participants will design and 3D print a Bluetooth speaker, including the outer shell and setting up speaker wiring.

In her spare time, Darden also works as a lead tech hand, makes merchandise and is the website coordinator for Prince Tribute band, Chase and Ovation, and spends her weekend touring the United States (and soon internationally) with the group.

“Chase and Ovation are like family to me. I’m always busy, but I love everything I am currently doing” she added, “There’s no such thing as busy when you’re always having a good time.” said Darden.

As an alumna, Darden makes it very clear that she believes her confidence, ability to follow her heart and only do what she loves, stems from her time here at Augsburg.

“Augsburg creates honest and open-minded people, who are taught that anything is possible, and to always follow your dreams.”

Alumni in the Spotlight: Janeece Oatman

When Janeece (Adams) Oatman ’05 worked with a late-phase clinical research company, she shared some lab results with a potential study participant. Picking up on one indicator that could be a sign of high blood sugar, she urged the woman to undergo a diabetes test. A week later, Oatman found a voicemail from the woman, who had gone to the doctor to be tested and, indeed, received a diagnosis of type 2 Janeece Oatman Photodiabetes. She said the doctor had told her that she should be grateful to know she had the disease so that she didn’t end up having complications, like losing a limb. “You saved my life,” she said in the voicemail.

Oatman contemplated the situation and decided to call the ADA (American Diabetes Association) and ask for a job. As a pre-med graduate, she had both the passion and desire to better the lives of other people and knew that raising money to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes would be a fulfilling career. Although the ADA didn’t have a position immediately available for Oatman, eventually a spot within the Tour de Cure team opened up, and she got the job.

Oatman has now been employed with the ADA for approximately nine-and-a-half years and is currently the Development Director and the Director of the Tour de Cure. She still harbors the same passion for curing diabetes today, as she did the day she started.

“Thirty million Americans have diabetes,” she continued, “and an additional 84 million have pre-diabetes (meaning they are at a significant risk of developing type 2 diabetes within ten years.) Why wouldn’t we want to find a cure for an illness that affects so many people?

It’s a scary reality that every 21 seconds someone will hear the three words that will change life as they know it: You have diabetes.”

“Augsburg was instrumental in shaping my values, including a deep sense of community and stewardship. The fact that my career path brought me to a non-profit is a testament to Augsburg’s emphasis to serve others” said Oatman, regarding her time working with the ADA.

Oatman has remained active within the Augsburg University community and is a member of the Alumni Board. When asked what she loves the most about Augsburg, Oatman replied “Augsburg is a second home to me. It’s a place I love to go back to as in my mind it represents faith, family, and friends.”

On Saturday, June 2, 2018, the Tour de Cure will take place at Boom Island Park in Minneapolis. Tour de Cure is a fundraising event, where participants bike-ride, run or walk to raise money and show support for all people living with diabetes.

For more information on how to sign up for the Tour de Cure, click here, contact the Augsburg Alumni Office at alumni@augsburg.edu or Janeece Oatman directly at joatman@diabetes.org.

 

An Auggie Love Story

 

Beth Florence ’08 was an Augsburg golden girl, from a family filled with Auggies, with a glowing reputation as both a campus leader and a hard worker. Florence, a Spanish major, made such an impact in her time at Augsburg, she received the Marina Christensen Justice Award for her civic engagement when she graduated. Florence later attended the Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies.  She is currently employed at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland.

Aaron Wells ’08 was recognized around campus for being incredibly funny.  In addition to writing many hard-hitting stories for The Echo, he also penned the popular, joke, horoscopes which caught the eye of Florence (“I just thought they were hilarious”).  Wells balanced his love of fun, by working hard and completing his Political Science degree in 2008.

He later attended Washington and Lee School of Law and is a partner at STG, a policy and public affairs consulting firm.

Wells and Florence were introduced eventually through a mutual friend and developed their own friendship at Augsburg. This friendship eventually blossomed Beth and Aaron engagedinto a romantic relationship in 2013.

When the time was right, Wells knew the perfect location for the proposal to Florence was the Christensen Center on August 12, 2017.  She said yes! The couple now live together in Washington D.C. and they embody the true spirit of Augsburg both individually and as a couple.

“All we do, we credit to Augsburg,” they agree. “We credit our strong moral and personal compasses to the time we spent at Augsburg. Nothing else measures up to it.” Both Wells and Florence acknowledge that the time and effort they spent searching for perfect jobs stemmed from the emphasis on vocation at Augsburg. They are both in careers that are service focused and continue to serve the community around them.

Augsburg University wishes Wells and Florence all the best for the future, and we are touched that Augsburg University has played such an integral part in their story.

Both Wells and Florence will be attending our exclusive regional alumni event at the National Museum of African American History and Culture on Sunday, May 20, 2018, in Washington D.C. We invite you to join Augsburg, President Paul C. Pribbenow, members of Augsburg staff and Wells and Florence for this evening of exciting conversation and connections. For more information on this event click here.

 

Auggie Alumnus Named to Florida High Tech Corridor’s 2018 “Faces of Technology”

Amanda Stramer ’12

Amanda Stramer ‘12 was named recently to the Florida High Tech Corridor’s 2018 “Faces of Technology,” which represents more than 252,000 scientists and technologists. Stramer earned this distinction through her innovative work in the development and commercialization of cancer immunotherapies.

For three years, Stramer has worked at Iovance Biotherapeutics in Tampa, FL. Currently a process development associate scientist, she works to develop immuno-oncology therapies, called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), to fight aggressive cancers.

Stramer says she chose to study at Augsburg because it was the most diverse private school in Minnesota*, and was small enough to provide for enhanced learning that can result from significant relationships with professors and classmates alike. Stramer graduated with a BS in Biology and Philosophy and was a lead volunteer at the Campus Kitchen. She has found that she can thrive in a small and intimate work environment, such as the one at Iovance Biotherapeutics, thanks to the study habits she developed at Augsburg.

Within a week of graduating from Augsburg, Stramer was offered a job. She immediately moved to Florida, where she started her career as a microbiologist at a small biotech company in Sarasota.

When asked if she could offer any advice to current Auggies, Stramer said, “Although there is always talk about academic careers following STEM programs, the science industry is so huge and versatile; Auggies should never fear to branch out.”

Stramer is a fantastic example of an Auggie making a difference, and Augsburg can take pride in its diverse alumni base, which includes a wide range of professions and accolades.

Do you know a great Auggie who should be in the spotlight? Let us know by emailing alumni@augsburg.edu.

 

*Augsburg University was the most diverse private school in Minnesota at the time of Stramer’s application.

THANK YOU AUGSBURG DONORS AND ALUMNI

Hagfors Center Grand OpeningMany special moments took place at the Grand Opening of the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion. Thanks to more than 1,200 donors and alumni, Augsburg is providing today’s students with new laboratories, study rooms, flexible classrooms for hands-on learning, and open places for dialogue and debate.

Please enjoy these photos of the new spaces in the Hagfors Center where Auggies will develop into scientists, business people, and believers who make a positive impact on our community and in our world. You will sense a deep connection to Augsburg’s foundation and core identity of deep traditions: durable faith, inclusion, and experiential learning.

Augsburg has always been a college sustained by people like you, who care deeply about this place, and who generously ensure it can embody its mission.  Please consider continuing that tradition and getting involved in Augsburg’s next campaign.  To find out how to be a campaign insider, please contact Heather Riddle, Vice President for Advancement, riddle@augsburg.edu.

Join us for the St. Paul Saints vs Sioux Falls Canaries game!

 

Photograph of a St Paul Saints playerJoin Auggie friends on Saturday, June 9 and watch the St. Paul Saints take on the Sioux Falls Canaries at CHS Field.

Included in your $10 ticket is a seat in section 112 (Infield Reserved Seating) and a pre-game picnic and ticket pick up starting at 5:30 p.m. on the Minnesoyta Lawn. The game begins at 7:05 p.m.

Tickets will be distributed at the pre-game reception, and please alert the Alumni office if you wish to be seated with a group outside of those in your ticket order.

For further information and to purchase tickets please click here.

Questions? Email Becky Waggoner, Alumni Program Assistant at waggoner@augsburg.edu.

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

Lefse, Waffles and Friendship: Velkommen Jul 2017

Augsburg celebratedPicture of Lefse the holiday period in true Norweigian style, and nearly fifty Augsburg Associates volunteered at the 2017 Velkommen Jul festivities on December 1. Many volunteers were busy putting in extra days to make special Norwegian treats, and arrived early to help butter bread and lefse, and ensure that the event was a huge success.

There was exceptional student participation, including the Associates scholarship students who served waffles to hungry patrons. The event celebrated long-standing Augsburg Three ladies browsing the items for sale.friendships, and encouraged guests to create new friendships from our diverse community. Guests expressed their appreciation with kind words and contributions, and the scholarship baskets gathered a superb $1190.