Investing in Minneapolis

Inez and Lyall Schwazkopf '59

Photo credit: John Walsh

Like many Augsburg students, Inez (Olson) Schwarzkopf ’59 counted on paychecks to help meet college expenses. She ran the switchboard at St. Barnabas Hospital and operated the freight elevator at Deaconess Hospital, taking the dirty linens down to the basement, and the morticians’ gurneys up to the morgue. The job at Messenger Press Bookstore on 22nd and Riverside was the one that really paid off, though. That’s where she met Lyall Schwarzkopf, a veteran whose widowed mother owned and operated the hardware store next door. “The best thing I got out of that was my husband,” laughs Inez. She and Lyall have been married for 56 years, and made a gift to Augsburg every year since Inez graduated.

It was Lyall who suggested they make a bigger commitment to the Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR). “I was a consistent kind of giver to the annual fund as well as capital drives” explains Inez. But when her non-alumnus husband said, “I think we have to do something [for the CSBR],” Inez listened. “He appreciates the value of the College as a business anchor for that part of Minneapolis,” says Inez of Lyall, who is former Minneapolis city clerk and city coordinator, and secretary of the Minneapolis Charter Commission.

Learning at Father’s Knee

Inez’s father, Iver Olson ’35, was an ordained pastor and professor at Augsburg Seminary and Augsburg College, where he taught religion and Scandinavian language, literature, and culture for twenty years. He’d regale Inez and her three siblings with Norwegian folk tales, as well as tales of Augsburg, all the while moving smoothly between Norwegian and English.

Her family expected that she would go to college, and that the college would be Augsburg. “Nobody ever told me there was anyplace else to go!” she remembers. A writer from an early age, at Augsburg Inez encountered professors like Jerry Thorson, head of the English Department, who helped her hone her craft. “He didn’t let me get away with any sloppiness,” she remembers. “That was an important turning point for me … I was a flashy writer, but I had to get good.” She received several writing awards at Augsburg and at the University of Minnesota, where she later received a Master of Arts. Continue reading

Caring, Sharing, and Impact

Pam MoksnesHow many times in our lives do we have the chance to make a truly transformational impact?

I hope that, for you, this brings to mind some very meaningful experiences when you felt part of something larger than yourself.

Did you feel the smiles and gratitude for your help or involvement? And, perhaps, love and generosity in return? During February, a month known for expressing our caring and love for others, I invite you to join in another of those transformational life experiences.

As fellow Auggies, we each hold special memories of Augsburg. For me, Augsburg College fostered values that aligned with mine: faithfulness, excellence, inclusion, opportunity and hope for the future—values we held as we embarked on our pathway of living and serving in the world. Today, Augsburg’s core values remain the same. They live today through the students in even more significant, global ways.

Just a few weeks ago, many of us attended a Summit gathering for the Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR) on campus. More than 250 alumni and friends joined with the Board of Regents and faculty to hear the good news that this planned, signature, first-of-its-kind facility will truly transform the campus.

I felt the joy of reconnecting with alumni from my class and others, amazement with the excellence of faculty and students who “lead on” in this world, and love for Augsburg College, still standing boldly to educate students in world class programs. Each of us were encouraged to become part of this tremendous project, the Center for Science, Business, and Religion.

The really good news is that this is not a dream; it will happen and be built with the involvement of you and me and so many others. We have already raised more than $40 million in commitments toward the $50 million goal.

I invite you back to campus to take time to learn more about the impact of this top-tier signature facility. Augsburg is receiving positive feedback both locally and nationally from civic officials and business leaders regarding this interdisciplinary approach.

As you read the stories included in this news update, you will also find another way to participate. You can add your very tangible support by purchasing a brick that will be included in the new building. This link takes you to more information about how to make a gift that will make visible the legacy of generosity growing among us.

Even if you have already made your gift to the CSBR, please consider adding a memorial brick, or even two, in honor of your family, former student, or someone else who made a difference in your experience at Augsburg.

With your caring and sharing, the impact for the students, the community, and for Augsburg will be truly transformational through the new Center for Science, Business, and Religion.

We are almost there! Please join us! We want everyone to be part of the excellence of Augsburg going forward!

Pam Moksnes ’79

Class Challenge Leader

Board of Regents


Alumni Couple Look Back with Appreciation, Pay Forward with Conviction

Erickson photoDenny and Mary Lou (Ervin) Erickson, both ’64, first read about plans for the Center for Science, Business, and Religion in an annual fund correspondence. They’d also heard about the Center from Chris Kimball, a former Augsburg provost and dean and current president of California Lutheran University, where Denny is serving his third term on the Board of Regents. But it wasn’t until Keith Stout, assistant vice president of major gifts, drove down from Denver to northern New Mexico to spend a few hours in their Los Alamos living room that the CSBR vision came into focus.

“That visit explained the project in a way that gelled our thinking and commitment,” Denny says. “The creative inspiration that brings these three mainstream disciplines together in one place can only happen at a faith-based institution. The synergy they create is one of the underlying thrusts of our culture, and that will be even more important as we go forward into the future. It’s going to be dramatic.”


Shaping a world view and a lifetime

Denny credits his Augsburg education for not only his esteemed physics career at Los Alamos National Laboratory but also a broad worldview that serves him well. He credits an inspirational pastor at what is now Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in Mounds View, where he and Mary Lou were active in the Luther League, with introducing them to Augsburg. LuVerne ‘Red’ Nelson was an Augsburg and Augsburg Seminary graduate who promoted his alma mater every chance he got.

“In those days we didn’t think too much about leaving home and going across the world to get educated, so for us it made sense. And once it got us, we never looked back,” Denny recalls.

He’d considered starting out at Augsburg, then transferring, but once on campus, he quickly reconsidered. “That’s when Ted Hanwick captured me,” Denny says. “I became one of his protégés, and he put me on a life track that I never got off. He was one of those few wise individuals I’ve been lucky to come across in life, especially in my young life. He understood the beauty and rigor of physics, and he recognized—I now know in retrospect—my aptitude for science. He kept feeding and pushing and inspiring me, and at the end of my junior year, he helped me get a summer appointment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.”

Continue reading

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

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