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A Deep Augsburg Connection

Jon Thorpe’s connections with Augsburg run deep and across many generations. So it’s not surprising that in thinking about the gift of art he and his wife, Dr. Suzette Peltier M.D., made to the Art and Identity initiative for the Hagfors Center, they decided to do something that honored the Thorpe family’s deep rivers of ancestry.

“My father, Rev. Gordon Thorpe ’52, and mother, Gloria (Parizek) Thorpe ’53, met at Augsburg.Jon Thorpe
“My grandfather on my father’s side, Antone Julius Thorpe, was born in 1895 and was very Norwegian, born to immigrants. His education never went beyond 8th grade, but somehow both of his children attended Augsburg (Gordon Thorpe ’52 (Jon’s father) and Glenn Thorpe ’56(Jon’s uncle)). Antone was a man of modest means, a dairy farmer living in central Wisconsin. But he understood the importance of an education.

“I have a very early memory of our family gifting to Augsburg through a gift of property. I was around seven years old when I heard the story.

“In 1960 Antone purchased a piece of lake property to enjoy in his retirement. It was a large enough property to create some additional lake lots to sell, but he also wanted to support the mission of Augsburg. A friend of his, Miss Elvie, walked the lakefront and chose two lake lots for her cabin, which Antone first gifted to Augsburg, then Miss Elvie purchased her lots from Augsburg. If there is a will to give, there is a way – he didn’t have much cash, but he had property.”

Jon reports that upon his death, his grandfather, Antone, left a modest endowment to his church to fund scholarships to Lutheran colleges for children of Bethany Lutheran, a rural church just east of Wausau which was founded by his father, and Jon’s great-grandfather, Karl Thorpe.

“Over time the endowment has grown. Because such a small church congregation did not have the resources to be the best stewards of the investment, Augsburg generously took on management of this endowment, and it is still managed by Augsburg to this day to fund scholarships for Bethany students to attend any institutions related to the Lutheran Free Church tradition.”

Jon commented, “I know that my father Gordon and my uncle Glenn Thorpe then created an additional Thorpe Family Scholarship endowment specific to Augsburg to be used at Augsburg’s discretion.”

On the day Jon spoke about his passion for art and Augsburg and his family’s recent gift, he noted the significance of the date.

“It’s an auspicious day. Today is All Saints Day! Yesterday was All Hallows Eve, along with Reformation Day, the day when Martin Luther ostensibly nailed his manifesto to the church doors. And tomorrow will be All Souls Day. Together all three days form the triduum of “Allhallowtide”. In many Hispanic cultures, this is also Dia De Los Muertos, the three days when many Hispanic cultures honor the dead. I see these three days as holding great significance relative to the art work we funded for the Psychology Department.”

“I see these three days as reflecting the power of transformation, renewal, and reformation. I see Augsburg as a Lutheran institution that has embraced these themes to include many cultures in its purpose and focus.”

When Jon and Suzette saw the artwork by artist Tina Tavera they were excited; it speaks to themes present in the study of the human mind, of our individual psychology, while also connecting culturally to the notion of celebrating our ancestry. Jon was serving on the Augsburg Art and Identity task force to determine both the ways art would infuse and inform the new building, and the range of artists whose work would be added, through sponsorships, to the building.

As the artist says, “My woodblock illustrations are meant to document narratives often told for centuries orally, and without visual representation as time passes, some may otherwise be lost.”

Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and its functions focused on understanding, explaining and predicting human behavior, emotions and mental processes. The six woodblock prints represent universal concepts in psychology with an emphasis on those areas within Augsburg: clinical/counseling, social, biopsychology, developmental, cognitive, law and forensic. (link to artist statement and images?)

“We can choose to remember where we’ve come from and who has come before us. One of our relatives, the late Dr. Neil Thorpe, taught science here at Augsburg when my sister, Dr. Amy Jo Thorpe Swenson studied here in the 1970’s. She met her husband Rick Swenson here at Augsburg. My late mother Gloria met my father here. Recently, it was also the 60th anniversary of my father Rev. Gordon Thorpe’s ordination from Augsburg Seminary, and we hosted a class reunion here on campus in the very room these seminarians studied in all those years ago.

“My father was thrilled when our son, Rennesoy Peltier Thorpe, decided to attend Augsburg.

Suzette and I are so excited we could make this gift of art to celebrate and honor his 2017 graduation with a bio-psych major.”

Making our gift in his honor let’s us make explicit how excited we are to be a multi-generational family of Auggies.