Pam and Mark Moksnes ’79 Want You to Know How We Can Build a Stronger Foundation for Augsburg

Pam and Mark Moksnes '79
Pam and Mark Moksnes ’79

He played football. She ran cross-country. Although they first met as freshman members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Mark Moksnes ’79 and Pam (Hanson) Moksnes ’79 were focused on their studies and busy with their sports. He was a sociology and social work major with an eye on the seminary. She was a psychology major and biology minor, considering dental school.

The two started dating in senior year and married soon after college, although neither knew for sure where their paths would take them. But they did know that Augsburg had provided a strong foundation, not only in faith-based education, but also in community service and outreach. Perhaps they knew, too, that their allegiance would make charitable giving essential to their lives, allowing them to share those benefits with new generations.

Mark built a business career as a sales and marketing executive with Delta Dental and Anthem. A postgraduate financial planning education launched Pam into a career that combined financial management and charitable giving, providing expertise that served others well in her work with Thrivent Financial and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Now parents of three college-educated children and five grandchildren, the couple has donated to Augsburg causes throughout their lives, most recently giving an unrestricted endowment to Great Returns: Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Campaign.

“We feel called to support Augsburg’s mission, just as we always have,” says Mark. Earlier in their marriage, however, giving to Augsburg meant going out on a limb, a scary prospect for a young family. “We didn’t know where the money was going to come from, or how. It’s amazing what happens. God just provided. Those are his resources, and we put our trust in him regarding that. We just absolutely love being able to share.”

“That we have continued to be so engaged with Augsburg has enriched our lives,” adds Pam, a Board of Regents member since 2013. Their daughter, Laura Moksnes ‘06, earned a psychology degree at Augsburg and a Master’s degree at Pepperdine University, later returning to Augsburg as an adjunct professor.

Pam’s professional experience in charitable giving offers a valuable perspective. What kind of gift is best? “Whatever the donor wishes to do is the right thing, of course,” she says. “Giving can be so joyful for the giver. People who have been touched by Augsburg make these connections in all kinds of ways.”

While some choose to address immediate needs, Pam and Mark believe that an unrestricted endowment can be even more gratifying and beneficial in the long run. “We all know that in today’s world, with all the political and financial changes in our economy, the challenges to universities and other organizations are substantial. A strong endowment helps ensure that Augsburg can respond to these changes and stay ahead of the curve in planning,” she says. “I feel like it’s the right thing for us.”

Raising awareness about the impact of unrestricted giving is important as well. Since no one can predict the future, Augsburg needs a strong, solid financial base to adapt and serve, to fulfill its mission no matter what needs may arise at any given time. “Ensuring that our foundation stays in place will also serve the community, so tomorrow’s leaders will leave Augsburg ready to serve the world in an ethical, moral, and faith-based way,” says Pam. “That is the Augsburg mission in action.”

Donors Seek to Remove Cost as a Barrier to Education with the Paul ’84 and Nancy Mackey ’85 Mueller Presidential Scholarship

Nancy Mueller, President Paul Pribbenow and Paul Mueller
Nancy Mueller, President Paul Pribbenow, and Paul Mueller. Photo courtesy of Coppersmith Photography.

Ask Nancy Mackey Mueller ’85 about her family’s planned giving history and philosophy, and her answer will be succinct: “We’re all in.”

Indeed they are, for reasons that both she and her husband, Paul Mueller ’84 articulate clearly. Their commitment goes deep. Paul served on the Augsburg Board of Regents for 12 years and currently chairs Great Returns: Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Campaign. Nancy was named to the Board in 2018. They have donated often over many years, including a previous bequest to support the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion, and most recently designated a planned gift to create the Paul ’84 and Nancy Mackey ’85 Mueller Presidential Scholarship, valued at $1,000,000.

“We both felt that our experience at Augsburg gave us the keys to success for our future,” explains Nancy. Their college experience was not only positive but also rigorous, preparing them for challenging graduate work and distinguished careers. “We were both encouraged in different ways. As the only woman in the physics department at the time, I was always very much supported. I never felt I had to prove myself any more than the guys in my major, and that gave me the confidence to stretch myself.”

Coming to Augsburg

Nancy became a structural engineer, earning a master’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Maryland and helping the U.S. Navy design submarines before eventually becoming a physics and chemistry teacher at Mayo High School in Rochester. She had followed her father and her aunts to Augsburg, where she first met her future husband when she was a nervous sophomore tutoring juniors and seniors in physics. He remembers being smitten; she remembers just trying to get through the intimidating hour. Dating came later, but the scene had been set.

“We have a deep affection for Augsburg. It’s where we met,” Paul says. “We also appreciate the values of the institution—its academic rigor, its vision, its commitment to the Cedar-Riverside community. Augsburg transforms lives.”

Paul had already won a scholarship to the University of Minnesota when a visit to Augsburg’s campus altered his trajectory. Impressed by the warmth, welcome, and undivided attention he received that day, especially from chemistry professors, he chose Augsburg. Now-retired chemistry professor John Holum became his mentor and inspiration. Paul went on to earn his MD and MPH at Johns Hopkins University and is now an internist and professor of medicine and biomedical ethics at Mayo Clinic and the regional vice president of the Mayo Clinic Health System—Southwest Wisconsin.

What Sets Augsburg Apart

Both Muellers have fond recollections of Augsburg support and inclusion. “It felt like family. Somebody was always looking out for you. If you missed class, the professor would see you later and ask where you were. That was one of the things that set Augsburg apart, then and now. No matter who you were, or what interests or inclinations you had, you felt very welcomed,” Nancy says.

That Augsburg “vigorously retained its Lutheran heritage while at the same time welcoming everyone is very important and appealing to us. It’s the idea that we are called to love and serve each other, without regard to personal characteristics such as race, religion, or sexual orientation,” adds Paul. “In today’s world, it seems like the focus is more on what separates us than what brings us together.”

He also notes that these days, more than half of the student population are people of color. “It didn’t look that way when we were there, and I love that about it,” he says.

Nancy points to the unusual number of programs designed to help students with special needs and talents, from StepUP to URGO. “As parents, we’ve been on many college campus tours, and nowhere else offers the programs that Augsburg does,” she says. “It’s a unique place, and we so believe in their mission.”

Their oldest son, Luke, majored in math and history at Augsburg before pursuing a graduate degree in statistics from Harvard. His mother notes that his presidential scholarship made a big difference to him, both financially and by providing opportunities he may not otherwise have had. Endowing such a scholarship for future generations made perfect sense.

“Removing cost as a barrier to education—that was our intent,” Paul says. “We very much wanted Augsburg to be able to attract top-notch students without regard to expense. To have brilliant, talented, gifted students be able to come to Augsburg without having to worry about how to pay for their college education? Now that is changing lives.”

Bruce Olson ’71 Pays it Forward with Olson Peterson Wiggins Scholarship

Bruce Olson '71, his brother Brad Olson '73, and scholarship recipient Nick Thompson
Bruce Olson ’71 (center), his brother Brad Olson ’73 (left), and scholarship recipient Nick Thompson (right).

When Bruce Olson ’71 was a youngster in Brooklyn Center, he was not sure what he wanted to be when he grew up. He was sure of a couple of things, though. Active in the Lutheran church, he knew he wanted to attend a Lutheran college, and he preferred being in the city, where ‘60s activism meant things were happening. He also knew that his rural extended family would support him fully, although they could provide little more than love and encouragement.

“I came from a family of modest means. I needed a lot of help,” says Olson. He was grateful to receive an Augsburg legacy scholarship but wished he could have met his benefactors. “I wondered about the history of it, but I never really knew,” he recalls.

The financial cushion served him well. He participated in student government and played all four years on the golf team, which won both conference and state championships. He changed majors four times, abandoning religion after nearly flunking his first theology class, contemplating a future as a high school math teacher, succumbing to the inverse multiple-choice question challenges in his sociology exams, and, finally, plugging a gap one semester with an accounting class.

“I loved it,” he says.

Accounting became his major and business his forte. Right out of college, he worked for a small mobile home finance company, then Josten’s, then a series of successful entrepreneurial ventures in various fields, from insurance and computer services to light manufacturing and retail. He retired at 45 and moved to Florida to play golf, including with such luminaries as Arnie Palmer, but 10 years of retirement sufficed. Now a Kansas City resident, he is back at it, officially the owner and president of the HRS Group.

“I love the challenge of taking a new idea or a new product and making it work,” he says.

Olson also loves the idea of establishing the Olson Peterson Wiggins Scholarship. It is named for his family, including his grandfather Olson, who owned the five-and-dime back in Afton, Iowa; his grandfather Peterson, the town mechanic and truck and tractor repair whiz in Tracy, Minnesota, where he was born; and his near and dear great uncle Walt Wiggins, Walnut Grove’s town barber, who offered shaves and haircuts there along the banks of Plum Creek. And it will grant $25,000 to someone like him.

Olson was delighted to meet the first recipient, Nick Thompson, when the initial $5,000 installment was awarded. “He’s real nice, an athlete who plays baseball and a reasonably good student who aspires to become a physical therapist. But who knows? I told him I hoped he would be lucky enough to hold onto that dream but reminded him that it would be crazy to guarantee it.”

Olson hopes, too, that Thompson will enjoy the same Augsburg benefits he found: a good education, both academic and social, and important lessons about how to conduct one’s life. He also points to Augsburg’s growth and progress, demonstrated in part by the much-expanded economics and business department in the impressive Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion.

“It’s a pay-it-forward sort of story,” Olson says. “I was lucky to come from a great family, get a good education, and have some success in life. Now I’m finding a way to honor my family by honoring somebody else in the same situation.”

A Foundation for Future Educators

Doug and Deb Wagman
Doug and Deb Wagman

Call them stepping stones or building blocks—Deb Wagman’s foundation for life began at Augsburg University.

“Augsburg gave me the foundation to build on, for what I have today,” Deb says. “I owe them so much for helping me get started.”

Perhaps “paying it forward,” as Deb says, more aptly describes how she and her husband, Doug, think of their planned gift to Augsburg. With a gift in their will, also known as a bequest, the couple has not only returned that sense of gratitude, but they also are helping pave the way for tomorrow’s educational leaders through the Deborah K. and Douglas R. Wagman Education Scholarship.

“It was an inspiration to witness how excited the Wagmans were to create a scholarship to help train future educators,” says Ann Ulring, director of leadership gifts.

Graduating in 1978 as an elementary education major with a minor in library science, Deb worked in the teaching profession for 34 years; 25 of those were as a media specialist at an elementary school in Chaska, Minnesota. She saw firsthand the need for good, dedicated teachers.

“I definitely believe in education. Education is power,” she says.

As Deb sees it, the couple’s scholarship can bolster future educators and provide the stepping stones of success by easing students’ financial concerns. That way they can focus on learning the profession.

“If I can help someone at Augsburg and continue to grow the profession,” says Deb, “that’s my legacy.”

 

This article was reposted from http://augsburg.planmylegacy.org/auggies-give/deb-and-doug-wagman

StepUP Gala Raises More Than $425,000

StepUP Students and Alumni

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

 

Toby Labelle Award WinnersThe StepUP Gala was a night to celebrate how the StepUP Program at Augsburg University has helped students champion lives of recovery, achieve academic success, and thrive in a community of accountability and support.

With the strength and support of the StepUP community, we rose to meet this goal. This year’s Gala generated over $425,000 for the program in one evening. The event was thoughtfully planned by the StepUP Board and the Gala committee including co-chairs Cindy Piper and Douglass Sill.

Highlights of the Gala included:

  • Nearly 350 guests in attendance
  • Emcee Leah McLean, from KSTP 5 Eyewitness News
  • Neil King ’18, Alumni Speaker
  • Alexa Anderson ’19, Student Speaker
  • Toby Piper LaBelle Award recipients Jon and Julz Schwingler
  • Klobuchar and PribbenowA special appearance by Senator Amy Klobuchar

We hope to continue to build on this generous momentum from the Gala. If you wish to make a gift to support the StepUP program, visit StepUP Giving and indicate Gala gift in the comments field.

Thank you to all who joined us for the “We Rise” StepUP Gala. We firmly believe that a student should not have to choose between recovery and a college education. Your support will help make that possible today, and for years to come.

“Care is just a word if you don’t act”: Linda Giacomo Invests in Augsburg Women

Linda Giacomo with President PribbenowSometimes a match made in heaven requires a connection here on earth. Such is the case with Linda Giacomo, whose generous gifts to the Augsburg Women Engaged (AWE) Scholarship fund are the outcome of a chance meeting.

Giacomo, 67, is a retired clinical psychologist who speaks freely of her two passions: helping women get educated and helping them get elected to political office. When she met Catherine Reid Day, an Augsburg friend, donor, and strategic marketing consultant through her company, Storyslices, at a political event last May, the two talked about the interests they shared. What ensued was as unlikely—yet as likely—a serendipitous result as anyone could imagine.

In so many ways, Giacomo and Augsburg are a matched set. An Italian-American who hails from Port Chester, New York, Giacomo knew in her teens that she wanted to work with children, perhaps in elementary education. But a comment by her younger brother—“Stop talking to me like you’re a psychologist!”—led her to study psychology at SUNY-Buffalo, then earn a Ph.D. in child clinical and adult psychology at Michigan State University.

“It was fascinating,” she says. “It combined everything I’m interested in: people—what makes them tick, why they feel and do things, being intellectually challenged, and helping others. It was a perfect fit.”

After post-doctorate work in Philadelphia and other positions that proved too research-heavy, she moved to Minneapolis for a clinical position at Children’s Hospital, then went into full-time private practice five years later. After retiring, and with much appreciation for the area’s affordable real estate, bike paths, parks, and “just enough” theater, art, and music, she has stayed. So has her propensity for research.

After learning more about Augsburg, she did her homework. “I have had patients who went there, but I knew very little about it,” she says. “Having gone from having no money to probably being considered fairly wealthy, I was looking for an estate beneficiary. I have no loyalty to any particular institution, but I do have a great commitment to representation, especially of women in the faculty and administration.”

She studied Augsburg’s numbers—need, diversity, solvency, service—and visited campus to meet its leaders. What she found was common ground. Like so many Auggies, she was the first in her family to attend college, earning merit scholarships but still needing a decade to pay off student loans. She empathizes with immigrant struggles, recalling impoverished grandparents who left southern Italy to become naturalized U.S. citizens, and parents who could not afford their children’s college tuition despite her father’s three jobs and her mother’s one. She also inherited a legacy of service, after watching her family take in neighborhood children and offer help to anyone in need.

“There are people who say they care, but care is just a word if you don’t act,” says Giacomo. “In my practice, my one concern was to make sure I didn’t leave behind the people who had no money. I never turned a patient away for lack of funds. About a third of my patients paid whatever they could afford.”

Giacomo reviewed statistics revealing that college graduates’ increased earning potential could move them up two socio-economic classes. “Education is transformative in a way that gives you so much power and choice. People should not be denied that opportunity because they have no money,” she says. A prior visit to a small, struggling college in South Carolina “touched my heart, but it also woke me up. My family knows I love them and will help if they ever need money, but they are educated and affluent enough to help their children easily afford college or repay loans. I want to help people who have nobody.”

Noting that women earn 26% less than men but carry two-thirds of the nation’s college debt, Giacomo has placed them first, designating a $30,000 outright gift to the AWE Scholarship as well as her $1.5 million estate gift. In her current role as “village elder,” and when she is not busy tap-dancing and practicing Italian, she will share her significant wisdom with the AWE Philanthropy Council, which she has joined.

“I found it deeply satisfying to be able to provide emotional help and support to so many patients, who could then face their pain and make better, happier lives for themselves. What they could achieve was profoundly moving,” she says. “Now I am able to provide financial support as well. To not be generous, to not share what you have with those in need, is heartbreaking. In making these gifts to Augsburg, my heart is full.”

The Class of 1968 Says ‘Thank You’ to Augsburg Through Their Endowed Scholarship of $75,000 and Growing

The Class of 1968When the class reunion committee first met last May, the Class of 1968 Endowed Scholarship was not on the agenda, nor did anyone mention any sort of fundraising. But the idea had already sprouted in the mind of committee co-chair Bruce Benson, and by the time he reached home after the meeting, it was firmly planted. The retired St. Olaf College pastor knew that other institutions benefited from alumni reunion gifts, so why not Augsburg? Dare he test a gift proposal among his peers?

“If I hadn’t been on the committee, I don’t know if I would have proposed it,” he says, “but I thought, ‘let’s just see what happens.’” He emailed the committee members, respectfully acknowledging their other charitable commitments, making no assumptions about class members’ financial means or inclinations, yet exploring possibilities. Would they be able and willing to contribute? Would they resent being asked? Might such a project fizzle out before reaching its final goal?

His pitch was forthright. “In 50 years I’ve developed other commitments and loyalties,” he wrote, “but Augsburg is where I got an undergraduate education that helped me live a meaningful life and contribute to the world around me. Additionally, I am rather proud of what Augsburg has become since we were students. I’d like to support that.” One could do that on one’s own, of course, but “a class gift sounds like more fun.”

The response was unanimous: yes!

“It seemed like a great idea. A lot of us got scholarships,” says Miriam Cox Peterson, who thought a goal of $50,000, the minimum required for an endowed scholarship, would be nice, but $68,000 sounded even better. “Why not try? Kids going to Augsburg now are certainly paying more than we did. We were given that opportunity, and we want other people to have it, too.”

Back in 1968, she pointed out, her guaranteed tuition ranged from $1,000 her first year to $900 her last, and her summer jobs covered the $500 for room and board. Those jobs—destroying old files in a sub-basement, sliding carbon paper between insurance policy copies—were anything but glamorous, thus convincing her that a college education was essential to a happy future. She has remained grateful to Augsburg ever since, and she will contribute $10,000 to the cause.

Benson wrote to the entire class, identifying with how hard it might be to choose among competing responsibilities but also reminding them that they had entered the era of minimum IRA distributions and might be seeking a way to make a difference. So far they have donated more than $75,000 for the scholarship, which will be available to any student in need.

“Clearly, I’m gratified. The response is very satisfying but not surprising,” Benson says. The Class of 1968, which graduated during a momentous year of assassinations and Vietnam War protests, was characterized by others as “different,” more engaged, active, and risk-taking than most. “Fifty years out, we all have an honest sense of how influential our education was. Whatever we didn’t like has faded away, and we realize this is a good thing. I’m also rather proud of what Augsburg has become since we were there,” he says.

“I’m very impressed with what they’re doing. They’re incredibly inclusive, and service to the world around us is ingrained in them, just as it was ingrained in us,” Peterson adds.

Five decades ago, Augsburg seemed trapped by its confinement in the city, with no place to grow and all the action shifting to the suburbs, Benson explains. Since then, however, it “has embraced its role as a city school and has become a good neighbor and resource. This gift will help the Class of 1968 say both ‘thank you’ and ‘bravo’ to Augsburg.

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.