Exercising Friendship and Funding Movement: Endowed Fund Established to Honor Joyce Pfaff ’65

Kathie Erbes, Joyce Pfaff, and Karen Johnson
Kathie Erbes ’70, Joyce Pfaff ’65, and Karen Johnson ’66

To hear Karen Johnson ’66 speak about her longtime Augsburg friend, Joyce Pfaff ’65, it’s easy to understand what led her to make a commitment to start an endowment fund in Joyce’s honor. Her admiration for Joyce runs deep. While Joyce and Karen met as students at Augsburg, the story of how Karen found her way to Augsburg serves as an example in fiscal discipline and vision.

“I am an only child. My mother lived through the depression and she wanted me to go to the U of M. When I was in first grade she opened a bank account for me and set aside one quarter a week. I was not to spend one penny of that money.”

Karen goes on,” By the time I got to high school we had saved $800, the same as Augsburg’s tuition at the time. I was not excited about the prospect of attending the U. In fact, it scared me right out of my tree!  I visited Augsburg and felt welcome there. My mother wondered why I would spend all that money on my first year of college. But she realized it was my choice.”

That was the year Karen met Joyce at Augsburg.

Creating Memories Together at Augsburg

“We both lived at home as tuition money was tight and it was a good option. Darryl Carter from Columbia Heights also lived at home. Darryl and his old Chevy would make the Northeast Minneapolis rounds to pick up Joyce, myself and four others every day. We paid him a minimal amount of maybe $1 a week for that ride. It seemed like his car was held together with nothing but wire and duct tape. We pushed it out of snow drifts during many winter storms,” she laughed. “We were really bunched into that car, but it got us through.”

“We met our physical education instructor Mrs. LaVonne Peterson (Mrs. Pete), who was Joyce’s first mentor. She was our fun teacher. She inspired in all her students the attitude that movement and activity were not only fun and important now, but also for life. She was herself, an inspiration.”

“Modern dancing was not allowed at Augsburg in those days so we had square dances and all school group activities designed by Mrs. Pete and organized by students in the physical education department. She was the only female physical education professor at Augsburg in the 60s and the women had only one sport, basketball. They were called Auggiettes or Little Auggies. What the heck is that?”

Karen studied Elementary Education with a minor in Physical Education. Joyce majored in Physical Education. After they graduated Joyce returned to Augsburg where Judy Olson, another of their classmates, was already teaching. According to Karen, the college was looking for a gymnastics instructor. Joyce was it. Little did they know how that hire would work out.

“Joyce didn’t really have any gymnastics experience but she put a team together. It was the first sport she coached. They were terrible, but they all learned a lot and had a good experience. And Joyce made sure they got their due.”

The Dawn of Title IX

This was before the advent of the federal law declaring that women must have equal access to sports. Joyce Pfaff pioneered the meaning of that law before it was enacted.

According to Karen, “If the men’s teams got money to go on a bus, the women had to find the money to get themselves to their competitions. Joyce was all for physical education equality. Whether an athlete or not, her mission was to make sure that women at Augsburg had all the opportunities to participate and better themselves.”

Then along came Title IX. And Karen reports, “Joyce ran with it!”

One of the stories she tells in Joyce’s efforts to equalize athletics for women is a story of running.

“She would invite the Dean to run with her. She’d run with him until he was breathing hard and she thought he was ready for serious talk or he was out of time. Then she would ask him for money or improvements for women’s programs. It often worked.”

For Joyce, physical education was both physical and mental. She advocated that everyone was a student first, then an athlete, and everyone should reward his or her body with exercise.

“She never wavered from her mission and vision that athletics or activity are for everyone. She made a big dent on the men. Over the years she had many encounters with the men’s programs and scheduling. Her positive and sometimes courageous attitude helped build the women’s athletic program of today.  She never gave up!”

Giving in Joyce’s Honor

The idea to make a gift to Augsburg to honor Joyce came recently.

In Karen’s words, “Initially, I thought I would keep my estate planning idea to myself. But then I learned about Great Returns -the effort to increase Augsburg’s endowment and I thought, I can help do that!  So I met with a committee of Joyce supporters, plus Donna McLean (of the Augsburg Advancement team) and Jeff Swenson ’79 (Athletic Director) and made it official. I’m giving a portion of my estate to help fund the Joyce Pfaff ’65 Endowment fund!”

The goal for the fund is to add $500,000 to the endowment.

Karen summed it up, “Joyce has dedicated her life’s work to all the women of Augsburg to improve their lives through physical education and movement. Her passion for the importance of lifetime activity and women’s sports can live on through this endowment. The goal of the fund will help convey to all students and faculty the importance of healthy exercise and to include it in their lifelong activity. The endowment gives us a chance to recognize Joyce’s efforts and encourage more people to follow her example.”

Success Leads to Success: Announcing the Sundquist Endowed Professorship in Business Administration for Augsburg University

Dean Sundquist with Greta McClain
Dean Sundquist with Hagfors Center artist Greta McClain in January 2018.

“It takes a long time to create success and business is no exception,” says Dean Sundquist ’81, an Augsburg Regent and chairman and CEO of Mate Precision Tooling. “I’m investing in the long view and success of Augsburg.”

As a businessman and entrepreneur, Dean Sundquist ’81 and his wife Amy have made several major investments in Augsburg. Their most recent commitment will add to the Augsburg endowment as a leadership gift to Great Returns: Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Campaign. Great Returns will support Augsburg’s mission by securing gifts to strategic priorities including endowments, distinctive faculty, and key programs. The Sundquists’ gift will endow the third professorship for Augsburg in the largest department at the University.

“The things I was looking for when I went to college are still relevant to the reasons I invest in Augsburg. I wanted a smaller school in the city. Minneapolis is a good city for business. Being so close to downtown offered me access along with a close community feeling on campus. That continues to be a competitive edge for Augsburg.”

In addition, Dean appreciates the importance of great teaching and faculty.

“As a student I majored in and loved business. Yet the most influential professor for me was a political scientist, Myles Stenshoel. He taught constitutional law which drew me in. He taught me how to write, to love history, and to understand and embrace freedom. Those lessons stayed with me through graduate school and in my life as a businessman.”

Investing in Business

While working at Mate Precision Tooling in the time between Augsburg and the University of Minnesota, Dean was asked to research a product that Mate found hard to get. “Then we realized we could make it ourselves just as well. So we started Command Tooling Systems to do that. I sold that company in 1997.”

“At first the business was just me, and then it grew. We kept our focus on a customer and market orientation. We’ve been able to maintain stable growth and that keeps me interested. I love the whole discipline of business.”

Investing in the department of Business Administration is a dream of Dean’s.

“Business Administration is the largest department with the most majors on campus. Business is a positive and good for society. I’m investing in promoting the power of capitalism. I want the faculty who hold this position to be pro-capitalism, pro-business, and pro-freedom.”

According to Monica Devers, Dean of Professional Studies, “An Augsburg education is based on excellence in the liberal arts and professional studies. This generous gift from Dean Sundquist to create an endowed professorship will play a significant role in recruiting and retaining the very best faculty to our Business Administration department at Augsburg.”

“Augsburg University has a long tradition of highly engaged teachers and scholars. Recruitment of the best faculty supports and enhances our academic excellence and that, in turn, attracts students to our institution. This endowed professorship will elevate the visibility of the faculty and the unique aspects of our undergraduate and graduate business programs.”

As a Regent Dean keeps his attention on building a great future for Augsburg.

“I see the Augsburg leadership team rising to the challenges of higher education. President Paul Pribbenow keeps learning new ways to work. He has done really well to stay aggressive and to invest in going to the next step. The fundamentals are in place. I have a lot of faith in the way Augsburg is moving forward. They do a lot with the resources they have. I say to others, Take Note! Augsburg has worked hard to position itself. They are on the edge in a good way. There’s no coasting at Augsburg and I like that. I say, let’s keep the momentum going and keep our foot on the gas!”

One of Dean’s hopes in making this major gift to Augsburg is that it will encourage others to make similar and even more significant gifts.

“Other places have gotten really big gifts to their endowments—gifts of $25 million or more. I want Augsburg to receive more transformative gifts because an Augsburg education is a transformative one.”

Department chair Dr. Jeanne Boeh declared, “Dean is a superior role model for our students as they begin their vocations with a career in business. We thank him for the hard work and vision which has enabled this very much appreciated gift.”

Regent Karen Durant ’81 Invests in the Power of Unrestricted Giving

Karen Durant at the Hagfors groundbreaking ceremony.
Karen Durant at the Hagfors Center groundbreaking ceremony.

Karen (Miller) Durant ’81 grew up just 4 miles from Augsburg.

“My parents met at a Swedish Lutheran Church that I then attended with my entire extended family. I was four when I started playing the piano and then became a church organist at the age of 12. My parents did not attend college. That makes me a first generation college graduate. I paid my own way through school with the money I made as an organist and from working two additional part-time jobs.”

The discipline and work ethic that allowed her to pay her way through to an Augsburg degree informs every aspect of Karen’s life. She recently retired from a distinguished career in business, most recently as Vice President and Controller of Tennant Company.

”Given the way I got to Augsburg, you may have assumed I majored in Music, but I majored in Accounting with a minor in Economics. There are more similarities between music and accounting than you may think. There is a lot of counting involved in both, but less obvious is the balance one must find between creative expression and rules. Great musical masterpieces are written in a certain key and have a certain time signature. In my career as a financial executive I became known for my creativity and technical knowledge.”

Karen brings this distinctive expertise to her work as chair of the Audit Committee and vice chair of the Finance Committee of the Board of Regents. It’s in these roles that she’s come to understand the intricacies of finance within higher education.

“When I joined the Board of Regents in the fall of 2011 I got to see what happens behind the scenes. I worked on the audit and finance committees and went through the financials in great detail. It’s really a bird’s eye view. Sometimes we have to make tough choices. Getting the CSBR campaign completed has done so much for our momentum.”

“I want to see that momentum continue to grow.”

Karen DurantThat’s one reason she decided to participate in building the endowment of Augsburg by making an unrestricted cash leadership gift to Great Returns: Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Campaign. Great Returns will support Augsburg’s mission by securing gifts to strategic priorities including endowments, distinctive faculty, and key programs.

“My career in finance coupled with my deep knowledge of the university is how I came to learn the importance of unrestricted cash giving. This type of gift provides the highest level of financial flexibility because it not only grows the endowment, it also benefits Augsburg’s overall financial position. I’m completely comfortable and confident that the University will use the money in the most effective way for years to come.”

One reason Karen is so enthused about the future of the University is because of the core values that brought her to Augsburg in the first place.

“When I first arrived on campus, I came knowing through my Lutheran faith that all are welcome. The whole campus has always expressed our Lutheran identity and that all are welcome. Augsburg has evolved and changed to meet the needs of diverse populations. By successfully finding that balance of individual identity and all are welcome, Augsburg continues to be a healthy and relevant institution. It’s something very special.”

In making this gift to Great Returns, Karen is matching the level of commitment she made to the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion campaign.

“I have the utmost faith and confidence in Augsburg University and I trust they will manage all unrestricted endowments in the most effective way for all the years to come. Augsburg is one of the best investments in higher education today. It is a great investment in the future.”

Karen Durant is a financial executive and has been an Augsburg Regent since 2011.

A Legacy Augsburg Family Creates a Lasting Gift: The Reverend John Hjelmeland Scholarship Fund Continues to Grow

Hjelmeland family in the mid 1920s with Rev. John Hjelmeland pictured far right
Hjelmeland family in the mid 1920s with Rev. John Hjelmeland pictured far right.

No college student ever completes their education without assistance—assistance that is tangible, real, visible, and often unseen. Most students make it through their educational experience with financial support—and scholarship support can make all the difference in a student’s experience. More than 23 Augsburg students have received scholarship support through the Reverend John Hjelmeland Scholarship endowment and know this first hand.

Aware of the essential need for scholarship support for students, the Hjelmeland family created an endowed scholarship fund in 1986 to honor its patriarch, Reverend John Hjelmeland.

Reverend John Hjelmeland was the first of the Hjelmeland family to arrive in Minnesota. He left Norway to follow the call of the Lutheran Free Church and the promise of the Augsburg seal: Through Truth to Freedom. He became a student at what was then known as Augsburg Theological Seminary from which he was graduated in 1911. As a Lutheran minister, John went on to serve congregations in the Midwest and West. His influence infused the whole family with a love of the Lutheran traditions of service and stewardship.

John’s son, Sigvald Hjelmeland, was the next family member to graduate from Augsburg, class of ’41. In 1952, he was invited by then president Bernhard Christensen to return to Augsburg and raise money for the building of a library. Through his efforts and the generosity of many donors, Augsburg exceeded its goals for the library fund drive in 1955. Sig played a role in establishing the first development office at Augsburg. Over the next 30 years he worked to raise funds for the college. Major campaigns he led included the completion of the George Sverdrup Library, Christensen Center, Urness Hall, and Foss Center.  He retired in 1982 and remained engaged with the college. He was awarded the Spirit of Augsburg Award in 2003. He died at age 90 having lived a full life in the spirit of the call.

Many other family members have attended and graduated from Augsburg including Sig and his wife Helen’s daughter, Laurene Hjelmeland Clarke ’64; son John ’70 and his wife Lynn Benson Hjelmeland ’69; and granddaughter, Jennifer Hjelmeland ’00.

Hjelmeland family in 2018
Hjelmeland family in 2018.

The scholarship fund was established with two kinds of students in mind. It gives awards to immigrant students who continue the long tradition and value of the college to serve the immigrant; it also funds students from legacy families like theirs.

The family continues to add to the scholarship endowment and expand the impact and legacy of the first Hjelmeland who came to America so long ago to combine faith and freedom through an Augsburg education.

For more information on scholarships and ways to give to Great Returns: Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Campaign, contact Heather Riddle, Vice President for Advancement, at 612-330-1177 or riddle@augsburg.edu

Appreciation for the Interdisciplinary Inspires Art Sponsorship

Scott D. Anderson in a Norwegian-style sweater
Scott D. Anderson

As a young man just out of high school, Scott D. Anderson ’96 had already developed a love for drawing and painting. He had artistic talent, but the skills necessary to make a full-time living pursuing art were then beyond his reach. He became a chemical technician at 3M instead, launching a career that has helped him come full circle, back to his first love through philanthropy.

“Art inspires me,” says Anderson, who is sponsoring “A Song of Dust” by collage artist Stephanie Hunder in the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion through the Art & Identity program. “Ever since I got my chemistry degree, I’ve wanted to give something back to Augsburg. I’m very grateful to Augsburg for giving me the opportunity to obtain a degree in science. Now I can return the favor.”

With the support of his employer, Anderson completed his chemistry degree through Augsburg’s Weekend College. It took him about six years while working full-time. He has been a regular donor to the Augsburg Chemistry Alumni Scholarship ever since, and he has also devoted more than 36 years to 3M, where he is now a senior research chemist in the Infection Prevention Division.

The art he chose for Hagfors Center is a 6’ by 12’ piece comprised of five panels, one of which had already been sponsored. Anderson will sponsor two panels, and 3M’s employee matching gift program will cover the remaining two. Stephanie Hunder, gallery director and art professor at Concordia University in St. Paul, uses printmaking and photography to create images of actual objects, such as branches and grasses pressed into paper, that often mimic scientific recording in some ways. Anderson spotted her work while exploring an entire room of art proposed for the Art & Identity campaign.

“What she put on the canvas was partly scientific and partly artistic, so it represented the sciences and the arts at the same time. In fact, it represents what I do now at 3M—chemistry, engineering, biology. It all flows together. It meshes,” says Anderson. “To see art on the walls when you walk around campus is pretty inspiring, at least for me.” The piece will appear with a small recognition plaque in a prominent hallway near the physics area in the Hagfors Center.

The Hagfors Center is slated to open next January. Meanwhile, though he is not yet ready to retire, Anderson is beginning to rediscover his talent for art, using pen and ink, watercolor, and acrylics in occasional projects. “Sometimes I surprise myself,” he says. “I believe it is important to mix art with academics, as well as mixing humanity studies with science.”

— Cathy Madison

Stepping Up for the StepUP Fund

Cindy and Tad Piper
Cindy and Tad Piper

About 25 years ago, young Toby Piper LaBelle ’96 had already learned a few things. He’d taken a year off after graduating from Breck School and gone west to teach skiing, which convinced him that he aspired to more than a minimum-wage job.  And he’d spent time in treatment for addiction, which taught him that staying sober was the only way to ensure success in college.

“Toby wanted a local school and chose Augsburg. It was the right place for him. He felt comfortable there,” says his mother, Cindy Piper. But he wasn’t comfortable sharing a dorm with students who drank alcohol, so he moved into an apartment off campus. Eventually he approached Don Warren, then director of the Academic Skills Center at Augsburg, about the need for a safe, sober place where students in recovery could live and support each other. In 1997, under Warren’s direction, the StepUP program was born.

The Piper family have been staunch supporters ever since. Cindy and her husband, Tad Piper, retired CEO and chairman of Piper Jaffray, recently pledged $500,000 to establish the Piper Family Executive Director of Recovery Advancement as well as to inspire others to contribute to the StepUP Program Endowed Fund. “We wanted to give a significant gift to get this program off the ground,” Cindy says. They have currently raised $5.2 million toward their $10 million endowment goal.

Thanks in part to Toby’s advocacy, StepUP became one of the first residential recovery programs in the nation and continues to be viewed as the gold standard for residential collegiate communities. Six months of recovery is required before students are admitted, and infractions are not tolerated. Today about 90 students are enrolled, and they maintain high abstinence rates and an average GPA of 3.2.

A smiling Cindy Piper at the podium at the 2016 StepUP Gala.
Cindy Piper at the 2016 StepUP Gala.

“Addiction is an ugly, cunning, baffling disease. Young people have to make up their minds they don’t want to be in it,” says Cindy. “I just feel so strongly about recovery for all people, especially young people who want to go to college. Toby’s business degree from Augsburg has served him well.” Now senior vice president at Northland Securities and a father of three, Toby is former chair of the StepUP Advisory Board and a member of the Augsburg College Board of Regents.

Cindy, who spent nine years as a trustee on the Hazelden Foundation, is now vice-chair of the StepUP board, where she organizes galas that gross half a million dollars a year. “That’s an unusual amount of money in recovery organizations. We’ve been able to add to the endowment through our proceeds,” she says. “As my son reminds me, we must keep in mind that we are changing lives. That’s the magic of the recovery community.”

— Cathy Madison

Historian and Art Sponsor Phil Adamo

Phil Adamo perches on the arm of a chair, resting his elbow on a plinth displaying a bust in the Lindell Library
Photo by Stephen Geffre.

If you crossed paths on the Augsburg campus with history professor Phil Adamo, you would quickly learn of his enthusiasm for the history of the place. You may even hear him share one of the many stories that make Augsburg’s 150-year history so intriguing.

Phil Adamo came to Augsburg in 2001, after completing his PhD in medieval history at The Ohio State University. In 2015, he was named “Minnesota Professor of the Year” for 2015 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the same year he began as Director of Augsburg’s nationally recognized Honors Program. Since 2013, he’s been working with students on a history of Augsburg for its sesquicentennial celebration in 2019.

When asked what made him decide to sponsor a work of art for the Hagfors Center Art and Identity initiative, here is what he said:

Phil Adamo studies at a table with a student. They are surrounded by boxes of files and papers.
Adamo worked in the College archives with students, including Caitlin Crowley ’16, as part of a class documenting the history of Augsburg. Photo by Stephen Geffre.

“Most people don’t know I’m a bit of an art collector. I go to all the student shows and have purchased student self-portraits and other contemporary art. I’m a fan of art and want to support artists. When I found out about the Art and Identity initiative, I started looking at the portfolio of stories about the artists. In fact, I watched every video story on the various artists.

“I noticed the collection includes work by former campus photographer Stephen Geffre. Stephen and I have worked on several projects together over the years. In my current work, writing the history of Augsburg, Stephen took many of the images I’m using. I’ve also bought some of his photography. Then I found out he is a multi-dimensional artist, working as a sculptor. The piece he’s doing for the Hagfors Center appeals to me because it brings to life something of the College’s past. The elm trees in the quad hold a lot of our history. Continue reading “Historian and Art Sponsor Phil Adamo”

Estate Gift Supports Future of Choral Music at Augsburg

John SchwartzThe foundation for the career success and generosity of John Schwartz ’67 was laid early, in Lester Prairie, then a town of 1,000, 50 miles west of the Twin Cities. There, long before he pledged a substantial estate gift to fund Augsburg’s choral music, he grew up in a musical family, singing and playing piano, pipe organ, and percussion. There, to keep school activities such as student government, sports, band, and theater alive, everyone had to participate. And it was there that his parents seeded his commitment to education, hard work, mutual respect, and philanthropy.

“My father valued education because he never had it,” Schwartz says. His father, Norman, was in 8th grade when his mother died in childbirth; he quit school to help raise four younger siblings. But he was ambitious and built a life as a farm implement dealer, bulk propane distributor, inventor, and manufacturer. Buyers for his patented tip-down truck bed came from as far away as Oregon, Schwartz discovered years later while working there.

“When I was in high school, he told me that I should get a business degree because it prepares you for many things,” recalls Schwartz. He remembers sitting at the kitchen table one morning while his mother read a “hot jobs” article in the newspaper. “She told me that hospital administration was one of them. So when I took my ACT test and had to put down my future goal, I wrote ‘hospital administrator.’” The ACT supervisor saw it and scoffed aloud; formally educated hospital administrators were rare then, and what kind of young person would choose such a career anyway? A determined one, apparently.

John Schwarts poses with Auggie Eagle
John Schwartz on campus with Auggie Eagle in February.

Augsburg College was for Schwartz a natural fit: Lutheran, affordable, well-respected, and his best friend’s first choice. Though the diverse neighborhood initially made him nervous—“it certainly wasn’t Lester Prairie!”—Schwartz learned to love the downtown proximity, riverfront gatherings, and especially singing baritone in the Augsburg choir. The five weeks they spent touring Norway, Denmark, and Germany during his sophomore year were transformative. Continue reading “Estate Gift Supports Future of Choral Music at Augsburg”

Wefring Establishes Scholarship to Honor Edor Nelson

Larry Wefring's newly established scholarship pays tribute to encouragement he received as a youth from his late neighbor Edor Nelson '38.
Larry Wefring’s established a scholarship in tribute to the encouragement he received as a youth from his late neighbor Edor Nelson ’38.

“Children need a lot of guidance, and it’s good to have a coach on your side as you’re growing up. He was a coach to me,” Larry Wefring says of Edor Nelson, the legendary Augsburg coach who died in 2014 at age 100. Wefring’s $100,000 estate gift will establish the Edor Nelson Memorial Scholarship, but it should be noted that Wefring neither attended Augsburg nor played football for Nelson. Their relationship went far deeper.

“Sports are a fabulous teacher of life,” Wefring acknowledges. “They teach you that you win some and you lose some, but what’s important is that you work together. To be successful in the business world, you need to be a team player.” While he now understands this concept, traditional sports were not accessible to Wefring while he was growing up across the alley from Edor Nelson’s family in south Minneapolis.

Wefring was diagnosed with epilepsy at age seven. Subject to seizures and heavily medicated, he was often targeted by bullies and decided to drop out of public school in 9th grade. Leaning on the support and encouragement offered by Edor Nelson, he enrolled in Minnehaha Academy instead. Having learned electrical and woodworking skills from his handyman grandfather, Wefring had helped his neighborly coach wire his basement. In return, Nelson offered his young neighbor rides to school. They became friends.

“Larry had his frustrating days, but my dad kept telling him that he could be somebody, that he shouldn’t listen to anyone who said otherwise. My dad was a genuine people person, one of those comforting guys you could sit and talk to. He and my mom were always there for Larry, and Larry realized that. Now he is giving back,” says Bruce Nelson ‘71, Edor’s son and Augsburg’s A-Club Advancement Manager.

Naysayers pronounced Wefring too dumb for college, but Wefring went anyway, earning a psychology degree from Mankato State University. He found yet another mentor in Stanley Hubbard, who hired him at Hubbard Broadcasting, where he worked happily for more than three decades before retiring in 2006 to care for his aging parents. He struggled with his disability for much of that time, adjusting his medications to reduce brain fog and, in 1987, undergoing successful—and life-changing—experimental brain surgery in Canada.

Wefring lauds Hubbard for teaching him servant leadership, for showing him that Protestantism and the work ethic are two sides of the same coin, and for inspiring all to “always do the right thing.” But ultimately, Wefring concludes, it was education that turned his life around.

“I was already at a disadvantage, but education offset that. That’s really, really important to remember.

’As a man thinketh, so he is,’” adds Wefring, whose Lutheran faith and spirituality have always guided him. “Trouble is a blessing. It lets you look for the paradoxical nature of life, and learn to be captain of your own ship. But you have to have a dream.”

The Edor Nelson Memorial Scholarship will target students who have a disability, physical or otherwise, and who also aim high. “I told Edor that I wanted them to have a dream, and he said, ‘I do too,’” Wefring says. “And then I told him that I also wanted them to have an extra burden to bear, something that makes graduation tougher than it is for most people. And he said, ‘I do too.’ We were always on the same wavelength.”

Wefring never considered a scholarship in his own name, much preferring that it honor someone as well-known and revered as his former neighbor. He finds being able to share his legacy with institutions that mirror his faith and world view a blessing, and more than enough reward for a life well-lived.

“I gave it my best shot,” he says. “My dream has come true and then some.”

— Cathy Madison

 

Bethlehem Lutheran Honors Quanbeck with Art Sponsorships

Phil Quanbeck speaks to a table of church members
Pastor Quanbeck leading his weekly Bible study at Bethlehem Lutheran Church.

The Rev. Dr. Philip Quanbeck, Sr. ’50 is one of the most decorated faculty members in the history of Augsburg, even among the 80 or so Quanbeck extended family members in the Augsburg fold. So it is little wonder that he is also claimed by Bethlehem Lutheran Church, at 4100 Lyndale Ave. South in Minneapolis, where he became a beloved visitation pastor after retiring from teaching in 1993 and was named Pastor Emeritus in 2010. Bethlehem Lutheran has chosen to honor him by sponsoring two pieces of art in the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion.

“Everyone just adores him,” says Rianne Leaf, who chairs Bethlehem Foundation’s grants committee. “He is such a warm human being, and he has a wonderful way of drawing people out and involving them in discussions. He is not a lecturer as much as a leader, and his insights are profound.”

Phil Quanbeck in robes speaking at a podium
Quanbeck reading at Advent Vespers services in 2004.

Now in his mid-90s, Quanbeck still attends church on many Sunday mornings. He is known for arriving at 8 a.m. to hear the sermon, then adding its points to his Bible study discussion at 9 a.m. Forty to sixty people have often packed the room to participate in the lively conversations he guides.

“When Augsburg applied for a grant, we knew we wanted to honor him,” Leaf says. Although the $10,500 grant was approved a year ago, it was last November when Augsburg displayed more than 25 signature art concepts chosen for the Hagfors Center and invited potential sponsors to meet the artists. The Bethlehem Lutheran arts committee wasted little time deciding which to sponsor.

“We all immediately agreed on the sunburst. Then one of our committee noticed a beautiful woodsy landscape that reminded us of Phil and Dora and the cabin they love. The more we looked at it, the more intrigued we became, and we made a unanimous decision about 15 minutes later to also purchase that one,” Leaf recalls. “That was a fun process.”

the word "light," written in a dozen different languages, grouped inside a circle. From the border of the circle spirals a web of earth-toned cells with the look of stained glass
Let There Be Light, by Kristin Opalinski ’03.

The sunburst, titled “Let There Be Light,” will be a large three-dimensional piece of ceramic, glass, grout, and fiberglass by Kristen Opalinski ’03. The fine and studio arts graduate became a graphic designer and marketing expert and now uses her expertise to explore faith and social justice. Leaf says the piece reminded them of Quanbeck’s interest in and great respect for the world’s many religions.

A painting in different hues of green, portraying a lush growth of plants and ferns. Interspersed are various small symbols drawn in white. A pentagram, a labyrinth, and a yin and yang are among them.
Observation, by Tiit Raid.

The landscape artist is Tiit Raid, who hails from Estonia, earned his BA and MA degrees from the University of Minnesota, exhibits widely, and has worked from his Fall Creek, Wisconsin, studio for the past 40 years. His piece, “Observation,” is a 23” by 68” acrylic on paper piece mounted on a wood panel. It includes phrases along the borders, and he has agreed to incorporate some of Quanbeck’s words in the finished artwork.

Leaf said that the group was thrilled to learn, after choosing the pieces, that both were already slated for display in the religion wing. “As you come down the hallway, you’ll see the sunburst at the end. We loved that impact,” she says. “The other will go above a study shelf, where students will be able to study, philosophize and daydream while looking up at it.”

Leaf said the group is looking forward to meeting with Quanbeck to procure his favorite sayings. “He is so humble but so pleased that we are honoring him with this award,” says Leaf. “And we all hope to be there for the dedication in September or October.”

— Cathy Madison