When my husband Jim ’51 returned from World War II, he planned to continue his education in pre-med. However, when he “mustered out,” Veterans Affairs discovered he had come home with tuberculosis. After three years in a sanatorium, he was considered well. Still, he learned that medical school would not accept him. Fortunately, a VA counselor suggested he look into becoming a science teacher, and referred him to Augsburg. Here he found his passion and pathway to lifelong service—his own way for making a brighter future for others as a teacher and administrator.
When Jim died in 1996, we received many generous memorial gifts in his honor. I was pleased to receive guidance from our pastor to collect them all and create an endowed scholarship to honor Jim. It made perfect sense to me!
Today that endowed fund has grown more robust. Now I can provide a more generous scholarship to our deserving students. I so enjoy learning about the students who receive support for their Augsburg education.
Sometimes we need someone else to show us the pathway and help us know how to activate our generosity and engagement. That pastor helped expand one aspect of my commitment to this great College.
Another wonderful example is found in the spirit of Augsburg Women Engaged (AWE).
What I love about AWE is that we are women of all ages coming together to connect, learn from one another, and give generously. Cumulative gifts of AWE have exceed our initial fundraising goal of $100,000, and include naming a student study lounge in the future Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR).
I don’t have the means to do big gifts. But I also know that active engagement and giving go together. I found ways to increase the level of my giving by using estate planning tools. I could not have imagined just how large a gift I can make because of this planning, and I am so satisfied to share with my family this decision to make a stretch gift in this way.
My passion in life is to facilitate the work of leaders, and I especially like to do that by continuing to meet and learn from the amazing students I meet on campus. I know, too, how essential it is to their future and ours to put my money to work to invest in the Center for Science, Business, and Religion, where the faculty, passionately dedicated to the vision and mission of our college will foster great leaders for tomorrow.
Please join me and take a leap to engage with Augsburg. Come back to Homecoming—there are so many opportunities to connect—attend a reunion, and be sure to give. For I believe that it is in giving we expand the circle that is a great Augsburg tradition. Read on to learn more stories of generosity for the Class Challenge effort.
Shelby Andress ’56
Several days each season, Steve Nielsen ’64 (pictured with his wife, Becky Nielsen ’65) can be found working his 80 acres of soybeans and corn in southwest Minnesota. “I like the serenity that comes with being out in the field: the time alone, sitting in a tractor cab, and the satisfaction that comes with the harvest,” he explains. He’s returning to his roots, working some of the same land he helped farm as a teenager. His roots also extend to Augsburg, where he has made gifts and pledges totaling $200,000 in support of the Center for Science, Business, and Religion. “I felt grateful that Augsburg allowed me to have some success in life, and I thought I should share that,” Steve says.
These days farming is a hobby and a chance for some quiet time on the tractor, but back in the day it was a way of life for Steve’s family and community. In the 1950s, most rural Minnesota schools weren’t focused on preparing young people for college. “I knew other people from my high school who attended one or two semesters at the U of M and flunked out,” says Steve, whose teachers had never asked him to write a term paper or read an entire book until he started college.
He was nervous about being underprepared, but he wanted to go to college and become a high school teacher and football coach. “That was all I knew: farming or teaching,” he says. At Augsburg, he played football (even going up against future Vikings tackle Gary Larsen in a game against Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.), and worked hard to make ends meet. One year during the football off-season, Steve and his roommate worked at a dairy processor in St. Paul, lugging 100-pound bags for eight hours, and getting home at 2 a.m. “That hurt my grades badly,” remembers Steve. “But once you get started [with college], you don’t quit, because it’s an admission of failure.” Attending chapel provided him with a respite from the whirlwind of work, classes, and football.
Cultivating a Career
After graduation Steve obtained a commission in the U.S. Navy and served four years, which included service in Vietnam. “When I came back, I realized that teaching wasn’t for me,” Steve remembers. “I didn’t have the patience.” He went to work as a field representative for Del Monte Foods, eventually rising to become vice president of vegetable production. He finished his career as vice president of supply chain management at Chiquita, and retired in 2006.
He is the immediate past chair of the Carver County Republicans, in which he has been active for many years. Steve and his wife Becky met at Augsburg, and have three daughters. They have 11 grandchildren; his granddaughter Morgan is just beginning her second year at Augsburg.
Planting the Seed for Future Students
Fifty years after graduating from Augsburg, Steve credits the college with helping him develop good judgment and teaching him how to work with other people. Steve’s support of the Center for Science, Business, and Religion boosts the Class of 1964’s response to the Class Challenge, which seeks to raise an average of $1 million from each class for the CSBR. “The only way that an institution like Augsburg can survive and thrive is with the support of alumni and friends,” says Steve.
“The Center for Science, Business, and Religion really encapsulates a substantial part of what Augsburg is about: an environment that celebrates both the mind and the spirit, and also celebrates the reality of Christian vocation,” says popular physics professor Mark Engebretson, who retired—sort of—in May. He and his wife tithe regularly, but have also pledged a substantial CSBR donation and urge other faculty to follow suit.
Today, academic and worldly endeavors cannot be separated. “As Christians, we’re here to make the world a better place or at least support it so it doesn’t fall apart, and that means the world of work. At the same time, we’re thinking beings and we’re curious,” he explains. “That’s a basic contrast to the way the world was 2,000 years ago. Education then was for elite thinkers and had no practical consequences; work was done by slaves.”
Deep thought about how disciplines intersect is nothing new for Engebretson, who joined the Augsburg faculty in 1976 after earning a Master’s in divinity at Luther Theological Seminary and a physics Ph.D., at the University of Minnesota. He declined to choose between science and religion.
“I was interested in too many things, and certainly both science and Christianity,” he says. “I applied to every ELCA college in the country and also inquired about posts at two international Christian colleges, in Tokyo and Beirut.” He chose Augsburg for its tenure track and the opportunity to teach courses such as Science and Ethics; Physics, Computers, and Society; and Issues in Science and Religion.
Subversives in Action
Science and religion have been connected for a long time, he says, citing initial Catholic church suspicions that Copernicus and Galileo were closet Lutherans whose theology was subversive. “Some people have trouble making those connections, and once in a while, there’s friction between the two,” he says. The ongoing brouhaha over the evolution theories of Darwin and others is another example. “The idea that life developed from simple forms bothered a lot of people and still does. The hope that I could shed light rather than heat on those topics is why I wanted to teach at an ELCA college.”
Engebretson studies the earth’s space environment and radiation belts, and was one of eight U.S., Canadian, and Japanese scientists chosen to consult with NASA on a recent satellite mission. Augsburg, one of the very first small colleges to give physics undergraduates the opportunity to do cutting-edge research, owns and manages experimental instruments that measure magnetic fields at remote sites in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Engebretson is delighted that outside sources have funded almost all of his research work, making scarce resources available to others. Since 2008, he has brought in more than $2.2 million in National Science Foundation grants.
Needs for Space Shifting
Building facility requirements used to be minimal. “Our space physics projects didn’t need a lot of specialized equipment in labs because it was all in space, all over the world. Research could take place in a college stretched for dollars,” he says. “But now that we’re doing more research in chemistry, biology and computer science as well as physics, we’re running out of room and confronting limitations in a pretty old building.”
He recalls the 1990s, when the Physics Department won National Science Foundation funding to renovate and expand its lab facilities. “Once that was done, enrollment increased almost immediately and has remained higher ever since, so we have a data point. Having attractive facilities and enough space means we can have a better program.”
Although he has officially given up teaching, Engebretson will still conduct research (two multi-year proposals were recently funded) at Augsburg, as well as in Maryland, where he will be a frequent visitor at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He will also continue to mentor students, a role he relishes.
“Having one-on-one relationships with students is a wonderful way of learning and growing as a professional. And to use that professional creativity in all those various ways, we need buildings,” he says. “The CSBR is a wonderful idea that exemplifies a lot of what I love about Lutheran Christianity, the theology that undergirds this place.”
Someone asked me recently: “What have you learned from your many visits with alumni and friends who are considering making their gift to Augsburg for this transformative campaign to build the Center for Science, Business, and Religion?”
One thing that stands out is that Auggies truly believe in the mission of this College. Many alums reflect on the impact that their experience at Augsburg has had on their lives. Some speak to what it meant to be engaged in learning in our urban environment. Many reflect on our deep roots in the Lutheran tradition and on our ongoing commitment to be a beacon of light reflecting our faith, values and commitment to serve our neighbor. All realize the importance of Augsburg’s passionate focus on the vital role of preparing tomorrow’s leaders for our communities, country, and world.
All About Relationships
Another thing that I have learned is that Auggies are forever! Relationships that people developed during their years on campus have turned into lifelong, deep friendships. Augsburg is a place that brings people together and forms relationships that grow richer over the years. That is certainly my personal experience. My closest and deepest friendships are with my Auggie friends.
Thirdly, almost everyone talks about at least one major relationship with a teacher, athletic coach, music or drama director, or other Augsburg mentor who impacted their lives forever! Those mentors instilled in them the confidence that they had what it takes to succeed. They gave them the confidence to believe in themselves, which became transformative … even if they may not have fully understood the transformation until later in their lives.
Ultimately, each person I meet with speaks with a voice of gratitude and thankfulness for what they experienced and what they grew into … whether it was professional success, financial success, or personal development and fulfillment. This gratitude leads them to say, “I want to give back because I have received so much and have been blessed.”
Lastly, I am witnessing a growing tidal wave of pride and excitement in our Alumni and friends of Augsburg! (I am hoping for a tsunami.) People are believing that this is Augsburg’s time to boldly elevate the visibility of our mission and the powerful impact of an Augsburg educational experience. They believe that the College is well-positioned for greatness. They are proud of the extraordinary work being done by our students as guided by passionate, gifted and committed faculty and staff.
Positioned for Greatness
These generous donors feel called to become a partner in the exciting journey of Augsburg College. They also sense that it will take a strong and deep commitment on the part of many Auggies to make the CSBR a reality. They believe it is our time! And they believe their contribution will make a difference.
Thanks to all of the hundreds of individuals and families who have already joined us in this campaign! Your support continues to energize me!
We have momentum and the wave of support continues to build. Let’s create our own transformational tsunami that will help Augsburg develop the next generation of enlightened leaders for our churches, communities, country, and the world!
Will you join us in this movement? I am eager to hear from you.
Mike Good ’71
“Our living conditions were fairly primitive or perhaps rustic,” she says, fondly recalling her first home, which had a thatched roof and woven bamboo floors. “I think our parents did all they could to make us feel as though we weren’t missing anything by growing up in a developing country.”
Memories of Mary’s early living conditions flooded her mind when she toured Augsburg’s 60-year-old science building just a few months ago.
“The fact Augsburg can earn these amazing grants and work in this building is pretty mind boggling,” she says when thinking about the building that looks nearly identical to what it did in the ’60s when she first studied at Augsburg.
Now, Mary and her husband, David, want to ensure that Augsburg students don’t feel they’re missing anything either.
The Crofts have pledged a $25,000 gift for the AWE-inspired (Augsburg Women Engaged) student study lounge in the future Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR).
Because of this generous commitment, the AWE CSBR fundraising initiative has surpassed its initial $100,000 goal. In the meantime, the initiative continues to gain momentum as more alumnae and friends learn about the AWE fundraising initiative and want to join the effort.
Mentored to give more
The desire for the Crofts to give to this project is multifaceted.
David, a retired Andersen Windows manager who humbly says he “worked in marketing and finance,” looks forward to seeing the cross-disciplinary building help grow the business industry. In fact, it was in business that David was inspired to be philanthropic.
David says former Andersen Windows founder and president, the late Fred Andersen, was a very philanthropic person who always gave from the heart. David is now engaged in the philanthropic community, giving to causes like Augsburg’s CSBR and, separately, serving on the board of the Fred C. and Katherine B. Andersen Foundation.
Mary’s inspiration to give stems from her 95-year-old father who, with his meager means, gave generously to causes close to his heart.
Since health sciences and women’s issues are causes close to Mary’s heart, giving to the AWE-inspired space in the CSBR seemed like a natural fit.
The 68-year-old said she got “caught up in the women’s movement.”
“I’ve always been an independent person,” says Mary. “I was one of the few Andersen management’s wives who worked in their chosen field. While I enjoyed attending Andersen functions, I also wanted to have a career independent of my husband’s.”
Wellness as a pathway
Mary’s passion for public health led her to a career in healthcare. She primarily worked as a nurse at the prison in Stillwater, Minn., encouraging prisoners to remain healthy, as opposed to treating them once they got sick.
Mary’s interest in health and wellness attracted her back to Augsburg in the late ’70s, where she had initially studied education for two years before the College began offering health science degrees.
Mary enrolled as a nontraditional student in the bachelor of science in nursing program while also working full time and raising her and David’s young son, Matthew. Mary proudly became an Augsburg alumna in 1979 and thrived in her nursing career.
She describes both of her stints at Augsburg as defining. As an 18-year-old, Mary excitedly but nervously ventured to the United States, without any family, to study at Augsburg.
“Being at Augsburg helped me integrate into the American culture,” Mary says, adding that Augsburg was, and still is, like a home to her. “College is a defining period in life when students are finding their home and a niche.”
Encouraging others to join
Through their gift, the Crofts are pleased to be playing an important part in making the Augsburg experience even more defining for students who will study in the future cross-disciplinary building.
“Having been a missionary, you make do with whatever is given to you,” Mary says.
And the new AWE-inspired study lounge in the CSBR is what Mary would like to give to current and future Augsburg students.
“There was some kind of serendipity involved,” says Beth Franklin ’09 of the events that led her to Augsburg College. As a high school senior she had her sights set on attending a large research university, but when that institution put her on a wait list, both her father and a mentor suggested she consider Augsburg. She visited campus, felt completely at home, and applied for admission immediately. “I’ve never doubted that choosing Augsburg was the right decision,” says Beth, who majored in accounting and music business. “You really get an incomparable experience at a small, mission-driven college.” Now an alumna, she stays involved with Augsburg by attending alumni events, keeping up connections with faculty, and supporting The Augsburg Fund and CSBR Campaign.
The Auggie experience
“I may have been over-involved,” says Beth of her student days. She served on the Student Council; co-chaired the Accounting and Finance Club; and served as an orientation leader, an accounting tutor, and a community advisor. She also served as the student representative on several committees, and had internships at St. Paul’s History Theatre and Fox Tax, a Minneapolis firm where she now works as a CPA. She describes the senior keystone course in El Salvador on Vocation and the Christian Faith as a profound religious experience. “I had such an amazing experience at Augsburg that I didn’t want it to end,” says Beth.
Some of her friends wonder why she supports Augsburg financially when she’s still paying off the student loans she took out to supplement scholarships, paychecks, and her mom’s help. “I think of paying back the loan as paying for my education,” explains Beth. “My gifts are a way of paying Augsburg back for the experience and the way it shaped me… I am who I am because of Augsburg.”
Beth secured an internship and, eventually, her current job at Fox Tax, thanks to her advisor, Accounting Professor Stu Stoller, who suggested that she apply for a scholarship from the American Society of Women Accountants (now the Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance). A member of the scholarship selection committee referred her to Fox Tax, which shares Beth’s interest in providing tax services to individuals and small businesses in the creative industry. After earning a Master’s of Business Taxation and working for two years at a local public accounting firm, Beth returned to a full-time position at Fox Accounting. She recently recruited fellow Auggie Greg Mann ’11 to the firm.
Every gift counts
Beth says she supports the CSBR Campaign in addition to The Augsburg Fund because it gives people something of which to be proud, it’s good for campus, and it’s good for student recruitment. “I never gave it a second thought that science, business, and religion belong in the same building because of how seamlessly they are integrated at Augsburg.”
“I’m honored to be associated with Augsburg,” says Beth. “Just imagine what would happen if everyone in my class—or in every class—gave $5 a month.”
Do you stop and wonder sometimes, how is it we make the choices that turn us in life-changing directions? Decisions like where to go to college, whether and with whom to create a family, and what vocation to embrace.
As an active and engaged alumna of Augsburg, I marvel at how this small campus shifted me in almost every way. It’s why I am committed to its future strength.
As some of you know, I grew up on the prairie of North Dakota. My congregation in Minot was of the Lutheran Free Church tradition, with strong ties to Augsburg. In eighth grade I heard the Augsburg Choral Club, and I decided right then that Augsburg was where I wanted to go to college.
While a student, I traveled to post-war Europe. That’s when I met my husband, Jim ’51, on board ship. Jim was part of the flood of soldiers who had returned from World War II on the GI bill, and were being welcomed at Augsburg. That was a time of both relief and optimism. With Jim by my side in Europe’s war-torn countries, I had my eyes opened to people living in refugee camps. I saw children of war.
We witnessed how geography and conditions can make life unbelievably hard. We felt all the more gratitude for our own circumstances.
Augsburg instilled in us a commitment to find and act on what we can do to help others. Jim became an educator, we raised our family, and I worked for a youth development research organization.
Today, I see Augsburg as a place that acts on its foundational commitments—a place that models resilience, and turns toward growth.
I write you now because I have joined Chris Ascher and Wayne Jorgenson in helping lead the Class Challenge effort to secure gifts of $1 million from each Augsburg class in support of the new Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR).
My family and I decided to do two things: to endow a scholarship and to dedicate a room in the CSBR. In making these gifts, we stretched ourselves to do more than we at first thought possible. And, now that we have made these commitments, we find great joy in acting on our belief in this wonderful college.
I see this new center as a highly innovative educational opportunity—a center for interconnected learning, for the formation of lifelong relationships and transformative discoveries. The integration of learning around science, business, and religion is crucial to effective global citizenship. Beyond their life’s work, more students will find their purpose and guiding-life direction. By making these investments, I can help Augsburg keep its roots strong.
As you read the stories shared in this issue of the Class Challenge news, you will learn about others who have made similar investments in Augsburg’s great future. Please join us by making your commitment to the CSBR through the Class Challenge. I look forward to the day we can spread the good news of your gift, too.
Shelby Andress ’56
We commonly use the phrase “seeing is believing” to communicate the idea that only with concrete evidence can we be convinced of a new idea. It is the essence of the disciple Thomas’s statement of doubt before he saw the risen Jesus and believed. Jesus responded—“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”.
I thank each of you who read our “Good News” each month. You know the power and passion of my message to ‘Believe’ that the Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR) will be a reality. When we aim our vision in the direction of what we truly desire and believe, we open up new possibilities and along the way, and achieve that vision. We are on an exciting journey.
This summer a new saying has emerged for me…”Believing is Seeing”. As I continue to meet with Alumni and friends of Augsburg who believe in the college’s mission, they are visualizing (seeing) how the new CSBR, as the new heart of campus, will become a vehicle to help us live out our mission of educating future leaders for our changing and challenging world. You continue to find ways to support this campaign because you believe and therefore you see the possibilities!
Most of you have heard and responded to my three calls for your action:
• To prayerfully consider a stretch gift (cash, stock, wills and other creative mechanisms)
• To consider who else needs to hear the story of Augsburg as this special place that is small to its students and big for the world;
• To become a Class leader and help spread the word of this important project to classmates and help your class exceed its goal of $1 million for the campaign.
You have taken my requests and run with them. It’s exciting to see what happens when you do.
Last issue I mentioned the doors opened by Mert Johnson,’59, who has introduced us to business and technology leaders in Alexandria, MN. These relationships are blossoming with multiple exchanges involving campaign leadership, President Pribbenow, local retired business leader Rick Ekstrand, ’72, and faculty members who are learning about the exciting work being done in the sciences and business by a company guided by its strong faith and religious commitment.
It has been exciting to explore potential synergies with these community and business leaders as we share Augsburg’s story of excellence today and the exceptional alumni across many generations who are also business, community, and faith leaders. These conversations would never have occurred without Mert’s thoughtful response to my second request of him.
I ask each of you to think about community and business leaders you know who might resonate to Augsburg’s mission and our vision of the Center for Science, Business, and Religion. Each conversation, each meeting, each new commitment further convinces me that now is our time. This is Augsburg’s time to be bold and confident that we have something very special in our culture, our mission, and our urban campus to share with the world.
Please join this movement of those for whom Believing is Seeing–becoming leaders who embrace the challenges of life in the 21st century. Those who know that by acting on belief, we can truly shape a better future for us all.
Read on and enjoy the stories of some great Augsburg givers.
And remember, I am always eager to hear from you and look forward to sharing the inspiring stories of Augsburg.