Gary Johnson ’74 has good reason to be reflective.
The Tampa-based company he has worked for, developed, and now owns has become a global leader. His family is thriving. And he is happily surprised that one of his two sons now works side-by-side with him as he plans the next phase of the company’s leadership.
It’s a great time to remember where it all started—back in Minnesota on the campus of Augsburg College.
Growing up in New Brighton and attending Moundsview High School, he was always active in the Lutheran church. His parents wanted him to attend a Lutheran college. As his father said, “Go to a small school and you will make friends for life.”
He visited Gustavus and Augsburg, and quickly decided that Augsburg felt right to him because of its location in the city and the people he met on his visit.
Drawn in by mathematics, he took classes in accounting and business. Right away he found a group of friends and, by his sophomore year, he was living in one of the campus houses with 11 others.
“We were especially lucky when we drew cards and got into the Beta Kappa house. I made my lifetime friends there. We still get together to travel quite frequently.”
Having met his wife, Melody, in high school, they were married in the summer of his junior year and started making plans together. He found his first job with Advance Machine right after graduation, and four years later joined Unipress as its controller. An English group bought the manufacturer of laundry and dry cleaning presses in 1978, and Gary worked as their first American employee. In 1982, he helped close up the Minneapolis facility and sell off the property while moving the company to Tampa “to start the company over.”
“We created a new business model for the industry in 1982 and that proved to be solid and successful over time.”
During the next 10 years of hard work and transitions, he became a shareholder of Unipress and, “three leveraged buyouts later, became its owner.” Continue reading
Greetings fellow Auggies!
I am excited to speak with you all through the power of social media on behalf of the college we love.
Serving as a Regent for Augsburg and on the team leading the Class Challenge initiative has given me a chance to come full circle on my Augsburg experience. It gives me the opportunity to give back and invite others to join a great community of generosity that fuels our shared future. Our Class Challenge vision of engaging every alumni class to fund the new signature building, the Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR) will transform the college and I am thrilled to be a part of it.
Arrival and Discovery
Coming to Augsburg from the small town of Fairmont, MN, my dream was to attend a small Christian college in the city. The differentiator was my campus visit. I just knew that Augsburg was the right place for me to get involved and expand my learning. Although academics were my main focus, I became very involved in campus activities.
I ran cross country and joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes where I met my husband Mark ’79. Joining student government I eventually became president of my senior class. I worked all four years in the library and found joy staffing the game room on Sunday nights. All the fun boys were there, and it balanced my academic life and work beyond the library.
Listening for Augsburg
But when I think about an early Augsburg experience that has shaped my personal pathway, it was my service as an admissions tour guide. When you walk in the shoes of a person looking to come to college, it can give you greater empathy. I met so many interesting young people exploring their own futures. I learned active listening. Helping them find their way helped me and shaped my path combining my analytical skills with my interest in psychology and counseling.
Today my work is to listen with care and help people with their goals that include giving back through philanthropy. Because I so value my college experience, Mark and I have made our ongoing commitment to the Augsburg Fund and to the campaign for the Center for Science, Business, and Religion. Continue reading
Leadership Summit Hosted by Alumni Class Leaders
Alumni leadership will host a special CSBR campaign event on Thursday, January 29, 2015, which will include an opportunity to meet with current faculty, students, and College leadership, plus a tour of science labs and a Q & A session, followed by dinner and a video presentation on campus.
If you would like to attend, RSVP to Sonja Casperson at email@example.com or 612-330-1171.
Earlier this beautiful autumn, I was fortunate to gather on campus with many of my fellow Auggies and celebrate the spirit of Augsburg. Fellow distinguished alumni award recipients and I stood with several others to be recognized for leadership and alumni service at the 2014 Homecoming Convocation.
Listening to the eloquent citations offered, I heard a prevailing theme. Augsburg creates a community in which people are transformed through a call of faithfulness and relevance onward toward vocation and generosity.
I met First Decade award recipient Victor Acosta ’04 whose achievements in physics and his career working for Google would impress even the most prolific among us. He quipped to us, “How is it that a Puerto Rican Jew from New York found acceptance and purpose at a Lutheran college like Augsburg?” Victor shared that his time at Augsburg included finding a safe haven in the StepUP® program. It helped him find lasting sobriety and substantive encouragement to be himself. It also led him to move from a major in religion toward the study of physics. Scientific learning opened the door to explore the very meaning of the universe and more ways to be in service to others. He described his time at Augsburg as some of “the most vulnerable and challenging of my life” and they catapulted him toward his remarkable achievements including six patents and a host of published writings. His humble acknowledgement of his classmates with substantive achievements speaks to another Auggie value: we are all in this great work together! Continue reading
It’s no surprise that Mary Quanbeck Barber ’77 is committed to the Center for Science, Business, and Religion capital campaign. She is one of about 80 Quanbecks with strong Auggie ties, including her father, Rev. Dr. Philip Quanbeck, Sr. ’50, a much-decorated faculty member who retired in 1993. Her brother, Philip Quanbeck II, has served on the religion faculty since 1987. What’s perhaps more surprising is that someone with no previous Augsburg ties at all matches her CSBR passion: her husband, Loren Barber.
“I believe very strongly in scientific literacy in the public domain,” says Barber, a retired 3M chemist and researcher. “We have literacy in many areas of education—obviously we all think about being able to write and communicate effectively—but scientific literacy should be an equally high priority. Every student leaving Augsburg should be able to understand the science-related issues that affect everyday life, be they health care, the environment, or other similar subjects.” Continue reading
“When I think about what Augsburg has done for me, I know I can afford to make a gift,” says Larry Turner ’69, who made a gift of appreciated stock for the Center for Science, Business, and Religion. “I see a real need and it’s extremely important to support that,” explains Larry. He says it pains him to see how hard Augsburg has to work to raise money for such an important project. “I strongly encourage all alumni to make a gift to the CSBR,” says Larry.
Lessons Learned at Augsburg
Larry is quick to say that Augsburg changed his life. Growing up on a farm near West Concord, Minn., he was unsure what he could accomplish in life. “No one expected me to go to college,” he remembers. But Larry had become familiar with Augsburg through family and friends, and decided to give it a shot. He planned to major in math and physics, but eventually turned to accounting and economics.
Larry had to learn some hard lessons at Augsburg before he found success. Unprepared for college-level academic rigor, he nearly failed out. But instead of showing him the door, Augsburg put him on probation and gave him one more semester to pull it all together, because the faculty believed he could do it. “In order to achieve, you have to believe you can achieve, and then work like heck,” explains Larry.
Hard Work Pays Off
And work he did. He mastered new study skills and concentrated on academics. Most importantly, he buckled down. He gave up wrestling to focus on his studies, but was able to return to it in his final year. He remembers well the feeling of accomplishment. “I had a final coming up and I studied all weekend,” he remembers. “I got an ‘A.’ I didn’t even know I could get an ‘A’ … it blew me away.” Continue reading
Augsburg Regent Pam (Hanson) Moksnes ’79 remembers planting seedlings in Murphy Square with her six Auggie housemates more than 35 years ago. Today the trees’ roots run deep into the earth and their branches reach for the sky—not unlike Pam and her husband Mark ’79, who say their time at Augsburg empowered them to reach for their goals. “Augsburg prepared us to be courageous and do whatever’s next,” explains Pam. She and Mark are among Augsburg’s most loyal alumni leaders, as well as generous benefactors to initiatives such as the Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR). The Chanhassen couple counts 34 years of marriage, three children (including Auggie, Laura ’06), and three grandchildren. “God has blessed our lives together, our family, and our careers,” says Pam. “We have more than enough to care for our family and give back.” Continue reading
I decided for this month’s message to share some insights from key faculty members who have been working side-by-side with the campaign action team to secure our ambitious goal of $50 million for a new Center for Science, Business, and Religion. Their perspective gives us a window into the depth of teaching and research that is characteristic of an Augsburg education.
As biology professor Dale Pederson ’70 once shared at a gathering of faculty and alumni—the College has recognized it could not wait for the new Center to act on strengthening the three programs that will live in the new building.
All about connecting
As physics faculty member Mark Engebretson is quick to tell us, connecting science, business, and religion at Augsburg is an ongoing enterprise, and it is a very Lutheran thing to do.
“The earliest Lutheran leaders had no intellectual boundaries—science and theology were complementary areas of study, not competing ones. Today, our departments incorporate the three themes developed by the World Council of Churches in the 1980s to guide Christians worldwide in their actions in the world. Students are asked to create a society that is sustainable, just, and participatory. Science and technology, economic, social, and political organization, and religious faith are all important components of such a society; all these components must fit together well in order to enhance or even sustain the quality of human life.”