Augsburg receives $10 million gift to name the Center for Science, Business, and Religion

The message below was shared with Augsburg faculty and staff on Friday,  January 30, 2015. We know you will rejoice in this good news with us!

Dear colleagues,

This is the kind of news that college presidents love to share: Today, we are making a preliminary announcement of a $10 million naming-level gift to the Center for Science, Business, and Religion. We will not be announcing the name of the donor today because we are working on a formal announcement event that we hope will be meaningful and include the donor’s family. You will hear more about that celebration in the coming months as plans are confirmed.

The CSBR naming gift brings the total funds we have raised for the campaign to more than $40 million! And, in the interest of moving toward ground-breaking for the new building, the donor will make this gift in cash this year. I am truly humbled and inspired by the generosity and leadership of this donor, whose confidence in this project, I know, will inspire generosity in others throughout the final stretch of this campaign.

As I said this morning when we shared this news with the Board of Regents, the success of the campaign for the CSBR is the result of this entire community’s commitment. At the core, it is critical to have strong leadership from the Board of Regents – because our goals are so ambitious and because we not are not only seeking to raise the needed funds but also to create a culture of philanthropy. Our Board has embraced this challenge.

Leadership from within our campus community also has been central to this success. I was proud to name many faculty and staff members this morning when sharing with the Board the roster of those who have supported this effort, engaged in events, reached out to others, and inspired donors by providing outstanding educational experiences for our students. Each of you, truly, has made a difference in this campaign.

Finally, I acknowledge with a deep sense of gratitude the work of the team that has been on the ground (and in the air) keeping the momentum of this campaign going month after month. First is Mike Good ’71, who two and a half years ago moved back to Minnesota to take on the role of CSBR campaign chair. He has been on campus and visiting donors around the country every week since then. His commitment and drive have accomplished more than we could have imagined.

And then there is the Advancement staff, led by Heather Riddle, Vice President of Institutional Advancement. This team made significant shifts over the last couple of years to embrace a strategy of supporting a volunteer-led effort – one that is paying off not only for the CSBR campaign but also in Annual Fund growth, growth in funding for academic programs, and in a growing base for a future endowment campaign to support the academic success of our students. This team consistently gives the credit for their success to the donors they work with, but make no mistake about the effort and commitment they themselves bring to the table. It is extraordinary.

Together—and only together—we are going to build the Center for Science, Business, and Religion. And so, together, let’s celebrate this terrific news and the inspiring support of this leadership donor.

Yours faithfully,

Paul C. Pribbenow, Ph.D.

Augsburg College

Revealing my wishes for the future

Shelby AndressWith a new year come new intentions. Some of us use resolutions. Others look toward shifting habits and self-improvement. For me, this early January afforded me some special time with my children. It may surprise you that one thing we did together was to review my “Honoring Choices” advanced care directive statement with them.

Now that I am in my 80s, I realize time spent together is more precious than ever. I want my children to know my wishes for when something changes for me and my well-being.

Those of you who know me and my passion for Augsburg and its students won’t be surprised to hear one aspect of my directive to them. Even if my life gets smaller and smaller, I don’t want to give up relating to students at Augsburg. Somehow I need them in my life. I laughingly tell my family . . . “If the time comes that my world becomes smaller because of health issues, get me to Augsburg for my energy boost!” I always want to spend time there on campus, learning from its students, faculty, staff and alums. I NEED to be there!

My passion for this campus and its students grows each time I am there. I see the world in the faces who greet me. I also experience the same deeply held values that welcomed me and my classmates on our arrival as freshmen so many years ago.

Just the other day I spoke with a student as we walked out of the music building. I asked him about his experience: what does he find here?

He spoke of the dedication of faculty, and how stimulating the campus is to him. He finds his faculty seek to discover what is distinctive in each student and to draw more of that out in them. That the standards of excellence remain a baseline for all.

What I see at Augsburg today is that it is no stretch to believe we will exceed our ambitious goals for fundraising, especially the $50 million target to secure for the remarkable building of a new Center for Science, Business, and Religion. I am seeing already the interaction of students from multiple cultures moving out of the boundaries of disciplines to collaborate and find new paths forward. I see interrelationship and understanding between technical fields and the cultures of the world.

I see a building that was new 63 years ago when I arrived on campus ready for replacement. How can I not invest my financial and moral support for the promise of an even better Augsburg?

Please join me at the upcoming Summit where you can learn more about today’s Augsburg and the planned new building. See the full invitation here, and you may RSVP to Sonja Casperson at or 612-330-1171.

Join me as a believer of Augsburg’s brightest future. Join me in your support of our Class Challenge initiative. You’ll be glad you did.

Shelby Andress ’56

Welcoming all who seek and connect with the call

Mike Good '71

Mike Good ’71 Campaign Chair, Center for Science, Business, and Religion

“Augsburg is where I found my calling and where I decided I wanted to make the world a better place. I learned to apply the phrase ‘be true to thyself’ to me and I am grateful for it.”

So said Jacquie Berglund ’86 who received the Spirit of Augsburg Award during Augsburg’s 2014 Homecoming activities.

Welcoming all who connect with the call

You may know that each month I share the Good News with all who want to know the story of today’s Augsburg. It’s a growing number of alumni and friends of Augsburg who are actively increasing their connection and commitment to the very core of what it means to be an Auggie. That very meaning Jacquie discovered, too.

Jacquie’s story serves as a great example.

Augsburg is where Jacquie found her calling—to turn her entrepreneurial hunger into beer making and a successful social enterprise business that also produces food for the hungry.

How, you may ask, does that work? Continue reading

Generosity and Determination Endure: Seeing the World at ‘My Augsburg’

It was a coffee shop connection that led Shelby Andress ’56 to meet Alaa Baqer ’13, but the impact of that initial meeting goes far beyond Einstein’s. That first hello led to a friendship that continues today. Although these two amazing women met by chance, their connection is much stronger than mere happenstance. When the story of their meeting was first shared at the faculty-hosted CSBR Summit on September 11, 2014, the emotion generated by this story was palpable. It is thanks to Augsburg College that we can connect across cultures, generations, and disciplines around a common goal: small for our students and big for the world. Watch the video.

September 2014 CSBR Summit

Christian Values Lead Mert Johnson ’59 to Support New Campus Building

Mert and JoAn JohnsonYou might say that Mert Johnson ’59 was born to attend Augsburg. He was named after Mert Strommen ’42, who later served as national youth director of the Lutheran Free Church, founded the Youth and Family Institute at Augsburg, and served as campus pastor. Our Savior’s Lutheran Church located in Milroy, Minn., very near the Johnson Family farm, was where Mert Strommen’s father served as pastor.

Today, Mert Johnson is a generous benefactor of Augsburg College and the Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR). “I think the plan for the CSBR is very well conceived,” says Mert. “I’m very pleased that they are merging religion with business and science.”

Church First

Mert remembers how his father, a staunch Christian, used to harvest his first acre for God and give the proceeds to church every year. Church, school, band, choir, farming, and sports were all part of Mert’s early years. Basketball was his game, and Mankato State University offered him a full-ride scholarship. Instead, he decided to become an Auggie because the College shared his own values. He went on to earn four letters in basketball, playing with Team Captain Lute Olson ’56, who became a college basketball coaching legend.

Long Days and Short Nights at Augsburg

Without the benefit of scholarships, Mert worked his way through college. During the school year he worked up to 60 hours a week at Smiley’s Point, the soda fountain down the street from campus. “Back in those days, I made a $1 or $1.10 an hour,” says Mert. He remembers talking with some of the many GIs who were in school at the time and with the campus pastor, who would walk down to Smiley’s for a cup of coffee. “I did most of my studying between 4 and 8 a.m.,” says Mert. He made sure to schedule classes for first-thing in the morning so he could get to basketball practice on time and get the most out of every day. “I just didn’t require a lot of sleep,” says Mert of the secret to his success. Augsburg football coach Edor Nelson ’38 was Mert’s advisor and helped him get a summer job at Land O’Lakes doing deliveries and special projects. Continue reading

Seeing the Need Sparks Generosity for New Building

Karolynn Lestrud '68

If Karolynn Lestrud ’68 ever had any doubt that her $100,000 pledge for the Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR) would benefit a worthy and necessary cause, it was erased when she toured the Augsburg campus last spring.

“The science professors took us to the labs, and there is no question that the physical plant is woefully inadequate. People are stacked in there, almost on top of each other, to do their work,” she recalled. One of the professors showed her a piece of scientific equipment that the school had been thrilled to obtain.

“’But we have nowhere to put it,’ the faculty member told me. She was going on sabbatical and suspected that her office would be used to house the machine while she was gone. When she returns, then what? You reach a point—and we’ve all been there—when your first apartment is just too small, so you buy a house. Then your house becomes too small and you need a bigger one. At Augsburg, it’s way past time for a bigger house.”

Freshman rituals lead to friendship

Much has changed since Lestrud, who was recruited by a passionate advocate visiting her home town of Menomonie, Wisconsin, first arrived on campus. Enduring the freshman rituals of those days, wearing beanies and cleaning funky old apartments for upper classmen, helped her bond with fellow students who became lifelong friends. An English, French, and secondary education major, she lived in dorms and the French house, Chez Nous, and has fond memories of her experience.

“I got assigned to work for Norma Noonan, a political science teacher who was incredibly bright and tough as nails. What a role model. She was amazing,” Lestrud said. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but Augsburg was a very safe place to become really independent. A lot of people were looking out for you, but not in the way that your parents or people in your hometown did. It was such a nurturing environment, and faculty members were so supportive and encouraging.”

A culture of support

She sees the same culture in today’s science department, where the touring professors showed her the substantive projects students are now taking on. “I was astonished at the level of work those kids were doing, working with scientists in the field as well as professors at the school. They have their names on articles in major scientific journals. For those pursuing science careers, that kind of real world experience is an enormous leg up.” Continue reading

Your Place At the Table

Chris Ascher '81Even now, living more than 1,000 miles from Augsburg, I get to share in the experience of all that it truly means to be an Auggie.

Last month I enjoyed visiting with a number of alumni here in Ohio to discuss their involvement with the capital campaign and build the new Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR). Each person with whom I met agreed, Augsburg must keep moving forward; this new building will serve as the heart and soul for the campus.

Several themes emerged during our conversations.

  • Generosity: each person spoke of the generosity of the people they knew during their time at Augsburg—their fellow students, the faculty, and those whose financial gifts made it possible for them to attend Augsburg. The generosity of others created a space for them to receive a marvelous education. They reflected on their opportunity to return this generosity today—in the form of their financial support for the college and for the CSBR campaign Class Challenge.
  • Enthusiasm: in spite of time and distance, people shared their enthusiasm for the lifetime relationships formed at Augsburg, friendships that provide a foundation for a satisfying life and for continued engagement with Auggies everywhere. Their enthusiasm continues to grow as they hear stories of today’s students and their accomplishments.
  • Commitment: When I played soccer for Augsburg, our commitment was to excellence and teamwork, and it proved a winning combination. I’m excited to report that nearly 60 Auggies have committed to serving as table hosts for the next Campaign Summit coming up in January. My former soccer teammate Rob LaFleur ’80 will co-host a table with me. We’ll bring together guests who will hear the story behind this magnificent building and the marvelous work that will take place inside it. There is a true team effort to bring this campaign to a successful completion and assure we will break ground soon.

As we celebrate this season of hope and joy, I invite you to read the stories of generosity and commitment shared here. Then I invite you to consider your place at the table.

What do each of these themes mean to you? In what ways do you want to share your generosity, enthusiasm, and commitment with Augsburg?

I continue to treasure my time at Augsburg, and carry it each day into my work and life. Please join me by making your commitment to the Class Challenge and to the future of Augsburg. I look forward to hearing from you.


Chris Ascher ’81

Mark Gjerde ’65 Honors Father with Gift to Build New Campus Building

jan and mark gjerdeIn 2012, Mark Gjerde ’65, attended a presentation about the Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR) hosted by Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow. That evening, Mark, a third-generation Auggie, went home and told his wife Jan (Lunas) ’68, “Something special is happening at Augsburg!” Now Mark and Jan are part of that something special with the CSBR.

Remembering a Servant Leader

Their gift to the building honors Mark’s father, the late Dr. Luthard O. Gjerde ’33, ’36. “Dad brought a strong faith to Augsburg, which was molded into servant leadership in the Lutheran Church,” explains Mark. His father served as pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church in Rugby, ND, for 10 years. His compassion for helping hurting people led him to a career in social services for the next 30 years. He retired as executive director of Lutheran Social Services Minnesota in 1976. Luthard served on the Augsburg Board of Regents from 1963 to 1968 and received the Augsburg Distinguished Alumni Award in 1968. He also received a Honorary Doctor of Divinity from Gustavus Adolphus College. “Dad’s accomplishments were impressive,” says Mark, “but the character of my father who believed and committed his life to serving and loving all people as Christ loved us is an inspiration to all who knew him.” At the time of his death, the family established The Luthard O. Gjerde Scholarship for Augsburg students in pre-med, pre-seminary or other careers in social work.

Interdisciplinary Study Makes Good Business Sense

Mark, who worked for 3M for 38 years, has long understood the benefits of tying science and business together—those connections are the lifeblood of 3M, which has combined scientific innovation with global business acumen to become a multinational conglomerate. “It became an imperative at many levels of the 3M organization to understand business as well as technical disciplines.”

Augsburg has a unique opportunity to tie religion to science and business. Augsburg was founded on Christian beliefs and remains a Christian college, which welcomes all students regardless of their faith. The diversity in the student body provides an environment for students to understand and respect other cultures and religions, which is essential in today’s changing world. “Jan and I feel blessed to honor my father with a gift to the CSBR,” says Mark. Continue reading

Earl ’68 and Lis (Jorgensen) ’70 Sethre Find Rewards in Giving to Augsburg and Their Community

Earl and Lis Sethre If you were on campus in the mid-1960s and wanted to know where the good parties were, you could always ask Earl Sethre ’68. Earl worked his way through college at Larson’s Finer Foods, the grocery store at the corner of Riverside and 22nd that was frequented by Auggies. “They would cash their checks from their parents to buy groceries,” he remembers. “One of the benefits of the job was that I got to know everyone on campus.”

Campus has changed a lot since then: Oren Gateway Center is now located on the site of Larson’s, and the Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR) represents Augsburg’s commitment to the future of experiential education and academic excellence. Now an Augsburg Regent, Earl and his wife Lis (Jorgensen) ’70 recognize the need for Augsburg to stay competitive and offer exceptional educational facilities and opportunities for its students. “Since we both graduated from Augsburg, it’s been an easy decision to support the CSBR,” says Earl. He and Lis also generously support scholarships and have named Augsburg as the beneficiary of their life insurance annuity. “We feel in some ways an obligation, but also a strong desire to give back to a place that was so meaningful in our young lives.” Continue reading