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.

Auggie Pride for Auggie Athletics

Athletics logoThis week is NCAA Division III Week, a celebration of all the wonderful things that Division III is all about. We have so much to celebrate. Congratulations to …

•  The men’s hockey team and Augsburg men’s hockey coach Chris Brown, who was named MIAC Coach of the Year for his leadership of the MIAC-champion Auggies. Eight Augsburg men’s hockey players earned postseason honors from the MIAC.

Hockey screenshot•  Enjoy a video of that magic moment when Mack Ohnsted scored in the third overtime to lift Augsburg over St. John’s to the MIAC men’s hockey championship, sending the Auggies to the NCAA Division III national playoffs.

•  Augsburg men’s hockey goalie Jordyn Kaufer, named to the CCM Hockey/AHCA Division II-III All-America Team. Kaufer is Augsburg’s 34th All-American in men’s hockey.

•  Augsburg women’s hockey qualified for the MIAC postseason playoffs for the fifth time in school history. The Auggies third-place conference finish was the team’s highest MIAC finished since 1999-00, when the team won the conference and regular season playoff titles. See the team video.

•  Augsburg’s wrestling team finished fifth at the NCAA Division III National Championships, and had four All-Americans this year.

longendyke_wrestling•  Augsburg wrestler Donny Longendyke qualified for a spot in this weekend’s U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials in Iowa City, Iowa.

•  Maria Loughlin (All-MIAC) and Jenna Orth (All-MIAC Sportsmanship Team), who earned MIAC women’s basketball postseason honors.

•  Stan Nelson ’43 will be honored with the Bud Grant Distinguished Minnesotan Award by the National Football Foundation on April 17.

•  Missy Strauch, head athletic trainer at Augsburg College, will receive the Fred Zamberletti Award from the National Football Foundation.

•  Augsburg wrestling alumni Scott Whirley ’82 and Henry Gerten ’98 who were inducted into the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III Hall of Fame.

Stay tuned to Auggie Athletics for the latest. Spring sports, we’re ready for you!

We ♥ All Auggies

We hear so many stories of lifelong partnerships found at Augsburg—couples who met in their first year, in class, at the Chin Wag, or working on campus—we’re tempted to call Augsburg cupid. Or just lucky to play host to a lifetime of heart-enriching connections of all kinds—lifelong friendships, mentorships, and partnerships. We put a call out on social media to share a photo with Augsburg Alumni if you met your mate at Augsburg College. Thank you to all who shared your photos and stories. This Valentine’s Day, the Alumni Association sends love to Auggies everywhere!

lovebird-collage2016Auggie lovebirds include: Kari Aanestad ’08 and Brian Krohn ’08, with Sean Stanhill ’08, Krista Costin ’08, and Ryan Lisson ’08; Alissa Blood-Knafla ’07 and Patrick Knafla ’04; Anjie (Tonolli) ’93 and Tac ’91 Coplin; Carol (Pederson) ’72 and Wayne ’71 Jorgenson; Caitlin Hozeny ’09 and Seth Lienard ’11; Abby (Johnson) ’05 and Zac ’03 Schnedler; Alisha Esselstein ’15 and Tyler Dorn ’15; Simoné (Johnson) ’91 and Alex Gonzalez ’90; Shannon Connaughton ’13 and Erik Grindal ’13; Cherie (Elliott) ’03 and Brad Christ; Ross Murray ’00, MBA ’09 and Richard Garnett ’07, MBA ’09; Joanne (Varner) ’52 and Harvey ’52 Peterson; Heather Johnston ’92 and Jason Koch ’93; Lisbeth (Jorgensen) ’70 and Earl ’68 Sethre; Joan (Moline) ’83 and John Evans ’82; Hayley Thomas ’12 and Emerson Ball ’14; Becky (Bjella) ’79 and Jeff ’77 Nodland; Barbara (Beglinger) ’63 and Dean ’62 Larson; Laura Schmidt ’11 and Patrick DuSchane ’13; Pam (Hanson) ’79 and Mark ’79 Moksnes; Christine ’09 and Cody ’09 Tresselt-Warren with Noah; Denielle Johnson ’11 and Tim Stepka; Jennifer (Feine) ’94 and Erik Hellie ’93; Molly (Fochtman) ’92 and Greg Schnagl ’91; Bev (Ranum) ’78 and Dennis ’78 Meyer; Nancy (Mackey) ’85 and Paul ’84 Mueller; Emily Crook ’07, MAE ’15 and DJ Hamm ’08, and many hundreds more!

6 Quick Questions with the New Director of Auggie Engagement

Katie-KochKatie Koch ’01 joined the Alumni Relations team as Director of Auggie Engagement in January. We’re so excited to welcome this wonderful Auggie on board. She’s here to listen to you, plan alumni events, and find more ways for alumni to stay involved in the life of the College. Why not hear it straight from Katie?

What does it mean to be the Director of Auggie Engagement?
In this position I have the opportunity to connect with alumni, parents and friends of Augsburg. It’s my hope that we can continue to connect Auggies to the college, to their classmates and to fellow Auggies. As an Auggie you are important to the College, and we want to find ways to engage you, help to continue your learning, grow your network and use your talents to the benefit of Auggies.

What’s your favorite memory from your time at Augsburg?
I was involved in The Augsburg Choir, Augsburg Band and Jazz Band. I have some strong memories of times that we spent together on various tours. One that stands out to me is our joint band and choir tour to Arizona where we were snowed in in Flagstaff.

I loved being a part of Advent Vespers, especially standing all around Central Lutheran holding our candles and singing Silent Night. It still stirs up quite a bit of emotion in me.
Continue reading “6 Quick Questions with the New Director of Auggie Engagement”

Call For Alumni Bands for Homecoming Block Party

5812179230_06e638294f_zHey Auggie bands! The Alumni Association is seeking submissions for a band to play at the Homecoming Block Party on Saturday, October 10 from 3:30-6 p.m. Bands in the past have been comprised of Augsburg alumni who play cover a variety of hits from popular eras.  If you are interested, please contact Katie Radford in Alumni Relations at radford@ausburg.edu or 612-330-1329.

Auggie Wants You … On the Alumni Board

auggie in suiteThe 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 of the College 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 Sara Schlipp-Riedel ’06 at schlipp@augsburg.edu.