Meet Distinguished Alumni Award Winner David J. Melby ‘68

David Melby '68David J. Melby ’68, Ph.D., is a psychologist, executive leader, professional volunteer, and advocate who embodies faithful service in true Augsburg University form.  Melby attended Augsburg, graduating in 1968 with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and philosophy. Following his graduation, Melby attended graduate school in counseling psychology at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, receiving both MA and Ph.D. degrees.

Melby’s career centered around providing and promoting the development of outpatient community mental health, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities services for people of all ages, as well as adult residential services. In 1974, he joined Mental Health Services of Franklin and Williamson Counties, Inc. (now known as Centerstone of Illinois) as a clinical psychologist. His role expanded the following year to include that of division director of mental health services; he served as CEO of that agency from 1996 until his retirement in 2006. Prior to his retirement, Melby served six years on the board and one year as president of the Illinois Association of Community Mental Health Agencies.

One of Melby’s nominators says, “His professional leadership in community mental health has made the lives of many who struggle with these issues brighter and more hopeful because of his nearly 50 years of service. David brings a selfless approach to volunteerism that inspires and supports those in our community’s efforts to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve.”

For almost two decades, David has served as a volunteer for the American Heart Association (AHA).  He twice served as chairperson of the Southern Illinois Heart Walk and once of a Southern Illinois Heart Gala, raising awareness regarding heart-healthy lifestyles and fundraising for heart research, education and life-saving equipment, such as Automated External Defibrillators in public places. He currently serves as a member of the Illinois Advocacy Committee of the AHA, advocating for a heart-healthy state and federal legislation.

Throughout his career, Melby has been influenced by his father’s ministry and involvement in clinical pastoral counseling and the death of his infant brother, who was born with a heart defect and Down Syndrome. He was also motivated by the growing needs of his parents in their last years. He has consistently demonstrated his concern for people marginalized in society, often the poorest, sickest, and most stigmatized among us.

In retirement, David has become more involved in the work of not-for-profit and governmental agencies whose missions he supports. They include multiple terms on the Williamson County Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, including as chairperson, and on the River to River Residential Communities Board, providing independent living, assisted living, supported living, and memory care services for seniors in multiple communities across southern Illinois. He has served since 2012 on the Board of Directors of Centerstone of Illinois, one of five Centerstone state service entities that, collectively, comprise one of the largest and most influential not-for-profit behavioral healthcare enterprises in the nation. Since 2014, David has also served as a board member and, now, current board chair of the Centerstone Research Institute (CRI), based in Nashville. CRI is currently developing evidence-based best practices for addressing the national opioid crisis, developing its first Center of Excellence for the treatment of depression, and reducing the “science-to-service cycle” in the treatment of behavioral health disorders.

Melby exemplifies servant leadership and the Augsburg value of being educated to serve.  For decades, he has served his church community in many capacities, including as president of the church council for over 10 years, co-chair of the building committee during construction of a new sanctuary, and delegate to the 2013 ELCA churchwide assembly. Whether through his contributions to the field of behavioral health care or his volunteerism, David has worked tirelessly to serve his community and embodies the values we work to instill in Auggies. In his life as a thoughtful steward and responsible leader, he has used his skills and gifts to impact communities and create healthier, more fulfilling lives for all.

Homecoming Auggie Talk: A Hagfors Center Pilgrimage – Hosted by AWE (Augsburg Women Engaged)

Auggie Talks, Hagfors BuildingSaturday, Oct. 13 from 3 – 3:45 p.m.

Join Auggie women on a special exploration of the new Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion. This tour, led by Religion professor Marty Stortz, will begin with reflection in the Gundale Chapel, highlighting the vocational journey of Augsburg students; then a visit to the Food Lab; and along the way, reflect on the inspirational art that captures the intersections between science, business, and religion.

About Auggie Talks:

They’re back by popular demand! Join us for 30-minute, insightful sessions presented by professors and fellow alumni on topics spearheaded by your class reunion groups. Talks will be published as they become available on social media and in upcoming communications.

Space is limited. Please register today for Auggie Talks.

Other Auggie Talks:

Meet Spirit of Augsburg Award Winner Grace Kemmer Sulerud ’58

Grace Kemmer Sulerud '58Grace Kemmer Sulerud ’58 has displayed faithful service to Augsburg University across her time as a graduate, librarian, faculty member, and alumna. She personifies Augsburg’s deep sense of calling to humbly serve others in a variety of ways, with joyful dedication.

As a dedicated volunteer, her nominators say, “You will find her wherever an extra hand is needed.”

Determined to gain a full education, Sulerud worked and saved money to go from her hometown, Williston, North Dakota, to Augsburg, as it was the college of the Lutheran Free Church. Sulerud’s Augsburg education and excellent professors prompted her to experience life in the Twin Cities, exploring the state capitol and fine arts like symphony concerts and plays. She made lifelong friends and enjoyed being on the staff of the student newspaper, The Echo.

After graduating from Augsburg in 1958, she was an elementary librarian and junior high English teacher in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. From 1961 to 1964, she was an elementary librarian in U.S. Air Force Department of Defense Schools in Tokyo, Japan; Tripoli, Libya; and Wiesbaden, Germany. This gave her an opportunity to travel around the world with a stop in India to visit a friend, Maxine Berntsen, another distinguished alumna of Augsburg. After returning to the United States, Sulerud studied for a master’s degree in Library Science (1968) and later received a master’s degree in English (1970), each from the University of Minnesota.

During her many years as Augsburg’s Collection Development Librarian and faculty member, she was committed to the learning of students. She served two terms as the treasurer of Augsburg Associates, from 2003 to 2007 and 2011 to 2017, ensuring they raised funds for Augsburg student scholarships. Her interests and energy lead her to participate in travels to Cuba with the Delegation For Friendship Among Women, and to Ethiopia supporting the efforts of REAL, Resources for the Enrichment of African Lives, an organization that helps girls stay in school.

In Minneapolis, Sulerud is a member of Trinity Lutheran Congregation located on Riverside Avenue, a congregation associated with the founding of Augsburg, where she sings in the choir, leads the monthly quilter’s work session and has participated in activities with Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing.

With her late husband Ralph, long-time Augsburg biology professor, Sulerud has remained a supporter and enthusiast for all things Augsburg. Though she retired from Augsburg in 2003, she continues to stay involved at important university events: the recent grand opening of the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion; Homecoming festivities; Velkommen Jul; and Advent Vespers.

Sulerud lives out the Spirit of Augsburg Award and exemplifies Augsburg’s historic mottos consistently: “Education for Service” and “The Truth Shall Make You Free.” Her loyalty, dependability, and generosity enable Augsburg to carry forward with hearty conviction, intellectual rigor, and relational connectedness.

Meet First Decade Award Winner Killa Marti, Esq. ‘08

Register now for Homecoming!


Killa Marti '08
Killa Marti ’08

Originally from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Killa Marti, Esq. ‘08 arrived in the United States in 2004 as a student. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Economics from Augsburg University in 2008. Shortly after, she left to fulfill an employment obligation in China. After concluding her employment contract with the Hua Qiao Language Institute in Chang Chun, China, Killa returned to the United States to obtain a Juris Doctor from Hamline University School of Law (now Mitchell Hamline School of Law).

One of her nominators, Zaira Solano, says this about Killa in her nomination letter, “Killa is a relentless advocate, woman of integrity, and leader in everything that she does.”

With the clear objective of working in the field of immigration, Killa took every opportunity to serve the immigrant population in the United States. She served in an internship at the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota and was a volunteer for Civil Society, a nonprofit that works to help victims of human trafficking. She also completed a practicum at the law firm of Contreras Edin & Associates. Killa represented Hamline in the Inter American Human Rights Competition in Washington, D.C., and worked for the state legislature in Minnesota through its Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs. During this time, Killa also worked in the legal publishing division of Thomson Reuters, a global news agency and publisher. Upon graduation, Killa worked for the firm of Cole & Vondra, PLLC in Iowa City, Iowa, where she had the opportunity to litigate in the immigration courts of Omaha and Chicago. She also defended immigrant clients in the state courts of Iowa.

For the last three years, Killa has worked in Georgia, assisting the launch of the Immigration Services program at the nonprofit Lutheran Services of Georgia. During her time there, she worked closely with refugees and sponsors of unaccompanied minor immigrant children. Killa accepted a position at Solano Law Firm, litigating cases before the Atlanta Immigration Court and the Board of Immigration Appeals. She also serves as the leader of a low-income, volunteer-run legal clinic called Gospel Justice Initiative in the city of Clarkston, Georgia. Killa is licensed to practice law in Iowa, Georgia, and immigration law all over the nation, and is now owner and managing attorney of her own firm, Marti Law Firm, LLC.

Killa is known as a fiercely motivated attorney who works tirelessly for her clients in districts and cases where the decks are stacked against them. In signature Auggie fashion, her career has developed as one which recognizes the needs in our diverse world and takes meaningful action to meet those needs. She served as chair of the Pro Bono Committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association chapter in Georgia and Alabama from 2016 to 2018, and she continues to pair clients in need of Pro Bono services with local attorneys and mentor lawyers early in their careers.

Killa has been called a person of faith, integrity, intelligence, commitment, and compassion. She embodies the values of Augsburg through thoughtful stewardship, critical thinking, and rigorous pursuit of justice and equity. She is dedicated to ensuring education and financial support are available to girls, and she is working to grow her acts of kindness into a nonprofit where she can empower more students so they can live to their fullest potential.

Jeff Swenson: To Excellence and Beyond, Episode 9 of The Augsburg Podcast

The Augsburg Podcast featuring voices of Augsburg University faculty and staff is one way you can get to know the people who educate our students to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders. Episodes of The Augsburg Podcast will be released periodically during the summer of 2018. Subscribe to the RSS feed or on iTunes.

Episode 9: Jeff Swenson: To Excellence and Beyond

For Athletic Director Jeff Swenson, every day is an opportunity to improve, move forward, and become better—a high standard that resonates throughout Augsburg’s 20-sport athletics program.

 

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.