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
It was the summer of 1963 when Augsburg accepted two curious high school boys into its summer National Science Foundation course for high school students. The course sparked a deep interest in chemistry for Jon DeVries ’68 and his friend, Covey Hendrickson, who had polio.
That spark influenced the two tight-knit friends to enroll together at Augsburg to study chemistry.
Covey lost his battle with the after-effects of polio while the two were attending Augsburg, but DeVries’ love for chemistry lived on.
DeVries went on to earn a doctorate degree in organic chemistry from the University of Minnesota, and then spent the majority of his career as a scientist at General Mills, specializing in food safety and nutrition analysis.
“Augsburg provided me a very good baseline—very solid in math, science, and chemistry—which was great for launching a career in chemistry,” DeVries said.
DeVries and his wife, Sharon, hope to inspire other science-minded youth to become well-rounded contributors to society, whether it be in industry, government or academia, utilizing Augsburg-acquired scientific skills and other essential life competencies. They are acting on this hope by giving $50,000 for two faculty offices in Augsburg’s planned Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR).
“I think every person’s career should have a balance between societal responsibility, good business sense, and scientific knowledge—it’s important,” said DeVries, who looks forward to the CSBR being a place where students develop this balance.
“Contributing to the CSBR is an important effort,” DeVries said. “Building the CSBR is a necessary step for Augsburg to take, to stay current and be competitive in what’s a fiercely competitive environment for colleges.”
The couple also contributed $10,000 to help fund the CSBR’s Quantitative Analytical Chemistry Laboratory, which will be named to recognize Jon’s long-time colleague and mentor, Dr. Arlin Gyberg, Augsburg chemistry professor emeritus.
When reflecting on that influential summer on Augsburg’s campus in 1963, Jon can’t help but feel honored to have launched his career that now permits him and Sharon to contribute to the science legacy that will live on through the students who study in the CSBR.
Melodie Lane joined the Augsburg staff less than five years ago, but her team spirit makes it seem as if she’s been here much longer. She is both a generous donor to the Center for Science, Business, and Religion and a CSBR campaign cheerleader through and through.
“There are times when I’m the face of Augsburg in the athletics office. But then, we’re all the face of Augsburg,” says Lane, who serves as athletics business manager/program coordinator, is a current Master of Arts in Leadership student, and also coordinates the A-Club.
Her journey here covered several of her many interests. She taught elementary school, managed theater productions, became a real estate appraiser, and ran an appraisal business in Texas before following her brother-in-law, then an assistant football coach, and sister, who previously worked in the athletics department, to the inner-city campus.
“I think Jeff [Swenson '79, Athletic Director] knew we had a good work ethic in our family when he called, and I was looking for a change,” says Lane, who began as an over-qualified administrative assistant but happily pursues new responsibilities. “The reason why I’m still here is not so much the job I do—everyone wants to do meaningful work, and sometimes secretarial things just need to be done. It’s something about all the people here, the mission of the college, and the mission of the athletic department that makes you feel you’re part of the team. And that makes you want to stay.”
Lane didn’t hesitate when Swenson challenged his department to give the CSBR their full support. “I would say we mirror his passion and his commitment to the college being the best it can be. I believe the CSBR is the next big step for our entire campus,” she says. “I’m not a science or a business major, so it doesn’t connect for me in that way. It’s more about the college as a whole and what we can accomplish together as servant-leaders in the world.”
Lane is now an official Auggie, having finished her master’s degree in leadership in May. She is excited about collaborating with Athletic Department Chaplain Mike Matson ’07 on an authentic leadership project. She also manages to pursue her photography, gift, and card business in her spare time.
“I keep doing things I love. That’s just who I am,” she says. “I feel like I’ve been blessed in so many ways, over and over—not just my job, but my master’s degree, the people I work with, the entire Auggie family. So I want to give back, to carry this forward so that those who follow and want a great education can have it.”
Lane is convinced that the CSBR will attract more students. “I really do believe Augsburg is a diamond in the rough. We’re the middle-of-the-city school, probably the most diverse in the metro area. But we keep surprising people, and we don’t settle for mediocrity.”
She cites last year’s new field turf and this year’s “amazing scoreboard,” dedicated to the late Edor Nelson, as examples of striving for excellence. “The CSBR campaign brings us closer and closer to that every day,” she adds. “We are not a school that has large endowments. We work hard for our success, and when things turn out, we’re proud of it. We really are determined to be the best we can be.”
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.”
“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.”
The four years Martin Sabo ’59 invested at Augsburg returned far more than a bachelor’s degree, and even more than a revered political career. It also delivered a lifetime of treasured connections with fellow students and faculty. Martin and his wife, Sylvia, are honoring one of them with a cash pledge to the Center for Science, Business, and Religion.
Former professor Joel Torstenson, who died in 2007 at age 94, was Augsburg’s “father of sociology,” well-known for his civil rights and social services advocacy. “Clearly, people like Joel have an impact on what you think and who you are,” says Martin, who spent 46 years serving his state and country as an elected official. “Most of us felt so close to certain faculty members. They were all very good in the classroom, and they made their subjects interesting and challenging. Every one of them has had an impact on me, and several have remained part of my life ever since.”
The son of Norwegian immigrant farmers, Martin was passionate about sports and politics since early childhood in tiny Alkabo, North Dakota, which shepherded several of its Lutheran children, including his older sister, to Minnesota to attend Augsburg.
“Three of us were there at the same time,” Martin recalled. “That’s saying something for a town of 60. I came from a high school graduating class of three.”
He had his trepidations at first. “I wondered about all these kids, half of whom were from Minneapolis. Where would I fit in? But I got over that fairly quickly. When I realized that they didn’t know much more than I did, I got into the swing of it.” Within his first month or two on campus, he was recruited by fellow students looking for new Democrats and dove into student government.
After graduation, the political science/history major planned to work for a year, then go to grad school, but his roommate, former Augsburg student body president Jim Pederson, talked him into running for the Minnesota House of Representatives. It was 1960. Martin was 22. He won.
A fabled career followed, not only in the state House, where he became minority leader and first Democrat to serve as House speaker, but also in the U.S. House, where Minnesota’s fifth district elected him in 1978 and thirteen more times before he passed the torch in 2007. He remains active in transportation issues and is undoubtedly blessed often by bicyclists crossing the Martin O. Sabo Midtown Greenway bridge.
His Augsburg connection never waned. He served on the Board of Regents from 1973 to 1984. He and Sylvia made several gifts, including contributions to the Sabo Center and an endowed chair in Citizenship and Democracy, and visit campus regularly to attend church, advise scholarship recipients, and participate in various activities. Their daughters, Julie, a former state senator, and Karin, are also Augsburg alumni.
Martin remains an avid sports fan. “Before we went to Washington, D.C., we lived within a few blocks, and I used to stop by to watch basketball practice on my way home,” says Martin, confessing that his primary athletic skill is cheering for the home team.
“It is crazy,” adds Sylvia, who graduated from St. Olaf College. “Once when I went down to St. Olaf for an Augsburg basketball game, I promised my nephew that I’d root for St. Olaf, but I had a hard time doing it!” Often involved in Augsburg initiatives, she marvels at the lifelong friendships that evolved from Martin’s undergrad experience. The two remain close to Torstenson’s widow, Fran, who just turned 101.
They share enthusiasm about the CSBR—“a great addition to campus,” Martin says. “The facilities need to keep up with the quality of the faculty.” And both agree that combining three disciplines in one facility is a good thing.
“It has to be very good for getting a better understanding at what they all do for one another,” Sylvia says. “I’m always amazed at Augsburg. I think so much good comes out of it, and Martin had such a great four years there. I think its size and location give it a specialness that a lot of colleges don’t have.”
Anyone who has spent 33 years serving Augsburg College must consider its students, staff, and faculty a family of sorts, one deserving the tribute that a gift to the Center for Science, Business, and Religion represents. While that is undoubtedly true for Marilyn Pearson Florian ’76, the significant gift that she and her husband, Kenneth J. Florian, have given will also honor her first family, who introduced her to Augsburg and supported her all the way through.
Marilyn’s late parents, Eleanor B. Pearson, a secretary and homemaker, and L. Vincent Pearson, a civil engineer who spent four decades working for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, first met in the Augustana Lutheran Church choir, where they sang together for 40 years. Although they had not earned traditional college degrees, they wanted their two daughters to do so, preferably at a good, conveniently located, liberal arts college with a Lutheran connection.
“My parents chose Augsburg for both of us, and they supported both of us with love and financial aid while we were there. They also supported Augsburg. They came to our games and were always there for us,” said Marilyn.
Her older sister, Lavonne “Vonnie” Pearson ’74, graduated first and became a popular Spanish teacher at New London-Spicer and Osseo High Schools. Vonnie also followed her parents’ musical footsteps, becoming a longtime member of Central Lutheran Church Minneapolis Senior Choir.
Marilyn was next. “My sister lived at home and commuted, but I wanted to live on campus. It’s a great college and I absolutely loved it, both as a student and student athlete,” she said. After earning a master’s degree at St. Cloud State and teaching and coaching briefly at a community college in Mason City, Iowa, she returned to her alma mater to teach health and physical education.
“I wanted to get back to the Twin Cities, and I knew Augsburg was a great opportunity. It’s a small college, and smaller class sizes mean lots of personal attention from faculty and staff. It’s a very friendly and open place, and you get to know so many people. It also has strong academic programs,” she said. In addition to teaching as assistant professor of health and physical education, Marilyn was head volleyball coach for 19 years and became women’s athletic director, then assistant athletic director of the combined men’s and women’s department until she retired as professor emerita in 2013.
When fundraising for the CSBR began, she responded to the athletic department’s initial call to action, which resulted in 100 percent participation.
“The CSBR is a great addition, both for the college as a whole and the Athletic Department. Everyone donated something, mostly through payroll deductions. But for me—I wanted to do more,” she said. Sadly, Vonnie passed away in April at the age of 63. “She was a great teacher and a great big sister. I’m the only one left, and I want to honor what my family gave me. They really are my initial connection to this great college.”
Last fall a member of the Augsburg community, James Husfloen, passed away in Fargo, North Dakota. Jim attended Augsburg in the fall of 1954 for two years and returned for a semester in 1960. Other students at that time were Pastor Bob Bagley ’58 and US Representative Martin Sabo ’59, who roomed with him in Alpha Beta Gamma Delta in Memorial Hall one year, as well as Jim’s brother, Richard ’60. After leaving Augsburg, Jim entered the Air National Guard, served in the Air Force, and graduated from Moorhead State in 1970. Jim left the College a significant estate gift of $170,000, which will be designated towards the CSBR. Although Jim didn’t graduate from Augsburg, Gordon Meland, a good friend of Jim’s since grade school, said Jim had a “soft spot for Augsburg.” His generosity reflects his commitment to education, his Norwegian, Lutheran upbringing and loyalty to his family and community.
Jim, born January 21, 1932, in Fargo, North Dakota, was the oldest son of Norwegian Americans Joe and Clara Alfreida (Simonson) Husfloen. His father, was a non-ordained minister and preached in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Some will still remember Richard L. Husfloen ’60, Jim’s younger brother. He graduated from Augsburg in Theology and also taught Sociology at Augsburg after finishing his graduate studies at Luther Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary. Richard died quite suddenly in Sun City, Arizona, in 2003. His career in the ministry, as pastor, administrator, and resource developer, prepared him for his role as the 12th President of Augustana University College in Camrose, Alberta, where he served for seven years before retiring in 2003.
Jim graduated from Oak Grove School in Fargo in 1950. After attending Augsburg, he and his friend Gordon joined the Air National Guard. Jim lived two years on Moody Air Force base in Valdosta, Georgia, training pilots. His experiences rescuing downed pilots affected him throughout his life. After returning to the Fargo area, Jim entered college again and graduated from Moorhead State University on June 10, 1970, with a BS in Broadcasting-Film and a minor in Marketing. He later married and had a son, Robert, who died tragically after working hard in the devastating floods the Red River Valley experienced in 1997. Jim’s work life included driving a bus for college trips and representing Nabisco in sales and distribution. He also did other paid and volunteer work, including broadcasting for Fargo area radio stations and occasional writing for the West Fargo newspaper. Jim liked to draw. He suffered from illness at different times in his life and Alzheimer’s disease in his later years. Jim died in Fargo on October 16, 2013, in his last home, Rosewood on Broadway.