Art Meets Science in Hagfors Center

Steve and Sandra BataldenSteve ’67 B.A. and Sandy Batalden say they were attracted to the “Art and Identity” project when they saw the “stunning” work of Amy Rice. Rice’s series, Six Minnesota Wildflowers to Meet and Know, was commissioned by Augsburg University for the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion. “We immediately liked her work,” explains Sandy, who shares with Rice an appreciation for letterpress printing, which is featured in the works. “Not only is she using original materials in her paintings, but the unusual botanical subject matter seems to fit perfectly in a building intended for the life sciences.” In a recent donor statement, the Bataldens wrote that “beyond botanical accuracy, Amy’s drawings transport us into an entirely new realm as leaves and flowers become frames for musical scores or other chosen text woven into each piece. What a creative, beautiful expression for the university of the twenty-first century!”

Art and Identity

In her artist’s statement, Rice explains that she began her process by hand-drawing and hand-cutting stencils of rare Minnesota plants. “The plants are ‘painted’ in with a variety of antique and vintage paper: maps and plat books of Minnesota counties (I only used maps from counties where the plants are actually found), Norwegian-language liturgy from the 1870s, sheet music, handwritten letters from early Minnesotans, homework, biology textbooks and early Augsburg ephemera.” She notes that her interest in native plants connects to her Christian faith tradition. “It is the sacred trust we have been given to be stewards of our Earth. My Grandpa Ed, a seventh generation Midwestern farmer, knew the names of every plant on his large farm. He didn’t own them; he was responsible for them.” That, she wrote, was one way he modeled faith in action.

Beauty and Inspiration

Steve notes that the timeliness of the “Art and Identity” project captured his own and Sandy’s imagination. “We are living in a deeply troublesome and dangerous Trump era when, especially here in the Arizona southwest, walls are political symbols meant to divide sharply and impose barriers. What a wonderful idea for Hagfors Center to refashion walls as settings for beauty and inspiration!”
Augsburg commissioned Six Minnesota Wildflowers and works by other artists to express its core identity, grounded in durable faith, inclusion, and experiential learning. “Great universities manage to nurture creative artistic production alongside scientific discovery,” say the Bataldens, who have spent their careers in higher education. Steve is professor emeritus of Russian history and founding director of the Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies at Arizona State University. Sandy is a retired university librarian, bibliographer, and scholarly book editor.

A gift that healed a deep wound

Merton Strommen’s fourth-floor apartment offers a glimpse of his long life. In a corner of the living room is a Steinway, an impulse buy from decades back that the 98-year-old still plays daily. Artifacts from Norway commingle with books. Framed landscapes mix with family portraits on the walls. Clearly, he’s lived a life of music, travel, scholarship, family, and faith. Yet unless you ask about the large painting of the handsome young blond man gazing out over the mountains, you might miss that his life has included tragedy.

The painting is of David, the youngest of Strommen’s five sons, who in 1985 was struck by lightning while leading a youth group in the Colorado Rockies. David’s death catapulted Strommen and his wife, Irene, into a grief that included a strong desire that something meaningful come out of their loss.

They wanted to further the work that their son, a seminarian with a passion for youth, had been pursuing when he died. As both husband and wife had attended Augsburg and sent their five sons there as well, they decided to support training in youth and family ministry at Augsburg. As Merton Strommen put it in Five Cries of Grief, a book he co-wrote with Irene, he could envision “a thousand young men and women taking Dave’s place in a congregation’s youth and family ministry.”

Fundraising began with the 1985 Twin Cities Marathon, as David’s brothers and friends solicited pledges and ran in his place. In 1986, with support from family and friends, the Strommens established the David Huglen Strommen Endowment to support program and faculty development, and scholarships. The fund later grew dramatically with a large gift from Thrivent Financial (then called Lutheran Brotherhood). Today, the endowment is valued at more than $800,000.

A scholarly approach

The fact that youth ministry exists as a field of study and a career option is in large part the work of the elder Strommen, who in the 1940s when he was a young seminarian and pastor noted how little was being done in the church for teenagers. “There were pastors who believed that God’s intent was that young people would come to faith primarily by preaching alone,” he says. “I thought, My gosh, this isn’t responding to where kids are at.” Strommen’s idea was to allow youth to ask questions about the faith, build relationships with adults and each other, and have fun.

Although Strommen decided to pursue graduate study at the University of Minnesota in educational psychology, his interest in youth ministry didn’t wane. In fact, he decided to make it the focus of his scholarship. His dissertation, a national study of 192 congregations, explored fundamental questions that had never been answered: What did young people need? What did they want?  What did pastors and lay adults think youth needed? His study yielded an important finding. Adults had little understanding of where their youth needed help. Moreover, youth weren’t taking away from the church the most fundamental truths about God’s grace and forgiveness.

There was much more to learn. Strommen founded the Search Institute in 1958, which pioneered the use of social science research to understand young people. Over the years, he was involved in large-scale studies, many of which laid the foundation for youth and family ministry approaches used congregations in major denominations and in seminary and college training, including that offered by Augsburg.

The ongoing impact

For two decades, Augsburg offered a Bachelor of Arts degree in Youth and Family Ministry. And students like 2016-17 Strommen scholarship recipient Leah McDougall graduated with a major in Youth and Family Ministry. Beginning in 2017, students interested in youth and family ministry enroll in the new Theology of Public Ministry major and opt for a youth studies minor. “Students who sign up for such a curriculum receive essentially the same education and experience offered under the older Youth and Family Ministry program,” says Hans Wiersma, a religion professor long involved with the programs.

Wiersma says an important part of each student’s course of study is “discerning the nature of God’s call for their lives.” Some, he says, go directly from Augsburg to a congregation. Some do service through organizations such as Lutheran Volunteer Corps or go to seminary, and some work in public schools or youth service organizations.

At nearly 100 years of age, Strommen remains keenly interested in youth ministry. He’s concerned that not enough are learning that faith is life-changing. “What disappoints me is that there hasn’t been a focus in so many congregations on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” he says. And he’d just love, if he could, to do one more national study, to demonstrate the effectiveness of the peer ministry approach.

He’s pleased with what he’s accomplished. “When I start talking [about my life], I get excited, I get awed,” he says. He knows that he has made a tremendous impact on the field of youth ministry. For indeed, a thousand young people are now taking David’s place.

 

By Carmen Peota.

Art to inspire: Karolynn Lestrud

Personal and public. Creative and practical. Forward-thinking and backward-knowing. By sponsoring “Both/and,” a custom glass art treatment for the skyway that links the library to the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion, Karolynn Lestrud ’68 supports artist Teri Kwant’s effort to bridge disparate disciplines both figuratively and literally.Karolynn Lestrud on the skyway in Hagfors.

Kwant’s art will illustrate the transitional space by etching pairs of words from different disciplines into the glass of the skyway. Think: define divinity, probe force, radiate support, love density. When Lestrud, an English major who did graduate work in linguistics and considers word play a part of her life, first saw the proposal, she thought, “Fantastic! But then I started puzzling over the pairs that didn’t make sense—and thought aha! She got me! She made me ponder,” says Lestrud. “I hope students will react the same way, with their curiosity piqued as they stroll through. I wonder if they will write about their experiences, walking through this walkway of words.”

Words on the skyway windows will also make the glass visible to birds, so they don’t “smack themselves silly on the glass. I thought this was a brilliant solution to a real concern, and a very thought-provoking piece as well,” she adds.

Lestrud lauds the selection process, too. A resident of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, she volunteers for and supports various art groups, including those charged with choosing art for public spaces. “It’s such an interesting process, because you have people who know nothing about art but ‘know what they like.’ It’s hard to set up guidelines when you hear commentary like that,” she points out. “Many people want to go for something very representational, very safe, and in many cases, very uninteresting. But that didn’t happen on this committee.”

She served on Augsburg’s Art and Identity committee, which began discussing art when the Hagfors Center was “still a dream on paper,” working with architects to identify where artwork should go, what size it should be, and how it should be lit. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, people wait until the structure is inhabited before they start embellishing it,” she explains. “We seem to have an innate yearning to embellish our surroundings. The earliest people did cave drawings. The Victorians had every surface covered with doodads. So we’re following a very natural impulse, and I think it’s wonderful that Augsburg made the commitment to do this in a well-thought-out and big way.”

Once locations were selected and artist proposals solicited, committee members met with artists individually to field questions and fuel the creative mission through a deeper understanding of the building in particular and Augsburg in general. “That was also interesting and not always something that happens in the broader world,” Lestrud says. She was delighted to chat with Kwant, a public artist, director of RSP Dreambox, and frequent lecturer on experience design, environments, and communications for the U. of Minnesota School of Design and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Kwant will also create one-of-a-kind glassed-topped tables that are available for sponsorship.

Lestrud contrasts the Hagfors Center with the boxy, cement block structure of the old science hall. “When you walked in, all you wanted to do was get out again,” she remembers. “The art going into this new building will make it the kind of place that will inspire students, give them a mental break, and, I believe, encourage them to linger.”

Chilstrom Scholarship Inspires Lives of Courage

Bishop Herb Chilstrom’s journey from poor, small-town boy to first presiding bishop of the ELCA began with a spiritual awakening at age 14. By the time Bishop Chilstrom ’54 reached college age his goal to become an ordained minister was clear, but the source of funds to pay for college was less certain. “There weren’t many scholarships at the time I attended Augsburg,” he remembers. Knowing that his parents wouldn’t be able to give him more than a five dollar bill every once in a while, he chose to attend the Lutheran college located in the heart of the job-rich Twin Cities: Augsburg. There, he knew, he’d be able to find a job – or two or three jobs (at the same time), as it turned out. That experience and a desire to help today’s students led the bishop and his wife, the Reverend E. Corinne Chilstrom, to establish the Corinne and Herbert Chilstrom Scholarship for students interested in social work or the ordained ministry. If you give a student some kind of financial support, he says, “It means you’re doing well, and we want to help you.”

A social conscience emerges

When Bishop Chilstrom arrived at Augsburg he began to realize that both his spiritual journey and his view of the world had been too narrow-minded. “I had too many pat answers,” he remembers. Augsburg professors like Joel Torstenson, sociology, challenged him to open windows to the world. “I wasn’t wealthy, but I realized I had the privilege of simply being white, and that opened doors that weren’t open for others. Joel impressed on us that we have a profound responsibility to those who did not have the advantages we had.” At Augsburg, says Bishop Chilstrom, he learned about Christianity’s call to fight injustice and how to live a courageous life. He began to develop the radical social conscience for which he later became known.

Those who do not learn from history …

“To be an effective pastor you really have to study the Bible and theology and church history, but you also have to have a much broader perspective,” says Bishop Chilstrom. “Sociology really broadened my world, and I fell in love with history, thanks to Professor Carl Chrislock.” He recalls Anne Pedersen, “the best English teacher in the world,” who opened his mind to literature and instilled respect for the English language. He was amazed by President Bernhard Christensen’s intellect. “It was awesome to hear him reach into the depths of his mind and spirit and pull poetry and prose and Biblical understanding together.” He remembers sitting in chapel and thinking, “He’s the kind of person I would like to be.”

Augsburg also provided opportunities to stretch his leadership wings. He became president of the campus youth group his sophomore year, and as student body president his junior year, he led the student campaign to raise funds for Memorial Library. He went on to earn degrees from Augustana Theologial Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary and his doctorate from New York University. He became a parish minister, professor and church leader, serving as the first bishop of the fledgling ELCA from 1987 to 1995.

Tither turned philanthropist

“After I had an enlightening experience as a teenager, one of the first things I discovered is that people who believe put their faith on the line by giving,” says Chilstrom. While still in high school he began tithing 10 percent. “I gave at least 10 percent all through my life,” he explains. “Now Corinne and I are able to give much more than that, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Dusty Froyum: “It Felt Like Home”

The life path of Dustin (Dusty) Froyum ’98 has had its share of twists and turns, but somehow he always manages to find his way “home” to Augsburg. He acknowledges his gratitude with an annual gift to the Augsburg Fund as well as a recent pledge to sponsor a room in the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion to honor favorite professor and fellow alumnus Dale Pederson ‘70.

“Augsburg runs through my whole family. It’s a big part of who we are,” says Froyum, citing alumni relatives that include both parents, his aunt and uncle, and a younger brother. “When my older cousins were attending Augsburg during my teenage years, I think I had promised that I was never going to Augsburg. But you know what? I went there on a football visit and it just felt right. It felt like home,” he adds. “I turned down some football and academic scholarships to come home to Augsburg.”

Sports and science connections cemented the bond. Like his father and brother, Froyum played football, and like his mother and brother, he majored in science during his upper division years, landing in Pederson’s notoriously challenging cellular biology class. “He is a tough but fair professor. I never tried so hard to get a 4.0,” says Froyum, who managed a 3.5. “He is a role model as a person of science and faith famous for pushing students to do their best. My brother’s zoology class was famously difficult as well. Dr. Pederson famously said that he could write a test for which no one could get a right answer, and I’m sure that’s true. He is an extraordinarily brilliant person who, quite frankly, could have been successful in a lot of different settings. But he chose to dedicate his vocational life to Augsburg, and that should be honored. With its fusion of science and faith and impact on the community, the Hagfors Center spoke to me. I can think of no better place to honor Dr. Pederson.”

After graduating, Froyum earned a J.D. from Hamline University School of Law, intending to become an intellectual property lawyer focused on biotech and chemical patents. “But I ended up as a summer intern at Wells Fargo and fell in love with it,” he says. He has handled technology transactions there for nearly 17 years. “That’s an important part of my giving motivation. Wells Fargo is a huge corporate donor and has one of the largest community support programs in the country. It is ingrained in our culture, and they make giving very easy, especially to quality nonprofit educational institutions.”

In his younger years, Froyum adds, he had more time to donate. But today, with two young children, a busy career at Wells Fargo, and side projects dedicated to integrated alternative energy, financial contributions—especially when matched by his employer—are what he is best able to give.

“I feel an overall social responsibility to my Augsburg education,” he says. “I attribute some of those values to my grandfather, who was very progressive in many ways. At some point he turned over his farm acreage to conservation interests, and he chose to be cremated instead of occupying a piece of land.” Froyum lives his values at home, too, by driving an electric car, and tending an urban farm, and making his Golden Valley home completely energy-independent.

“To be part of your community and your world, you need to be responsible. I’ve done well in my career, and this is what I can do,” he says. There is, after all, no place like home.

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”

Scholarship Will Welcome Home Next-Generation Students

McNevin“Augsburg is a second home to me. It always has been and it always will be,” says Patricia A. McNevin, ’90, whose planned gift will be the Patricia A. McNevin Endowed Scholarship, designated for an English and/or art major.

In fact, after a few decades away, McNevin plans to return to her Augsburg home soon to take advantage of reduced tuition for alumni. She needs only a few more art classes to complete a second major in studio art, with a focus on painting and photography. “Last year I picked up a paintbrush, which is something I haven’t done in 30 years. It was very different, almost foreign to me.”

McNevin’s initial Augsburg journey was a long but fruitful one. She planned to double major in English and art, but health reasons forced a hiatus in the middle of her junior year, creating what she calls “my eight-and-a-half-year plan.” She completed her degree in English in what was then called the Weekend College (now Adult Undergraduate) program.

While she was earning her degree, McNevin worked in Augsburg’s college relations office, where writing projects put that major to good use, and the magazine, Augsburg Now, published her photographs. She enjoyed other benefits, too, such as a biplane ride donated by alumni who owned a farm in Farmington. Even then, with money tight, she found a way to donate $25 for one key in the Foss Center organ.

“The gifts I received from Augsburg were many,” she says. “I didn’t even know my name would be on a plaque, but I saw it when I returned for a special event. No matter the amount, leaving some sort of legacy is a way to live on, especially if you don’t have children.”

Though her career path did not follow traditional routes for English or art majors, “my Augsburg degree got me through the door in more places than one, and I’m using my education in ways that I never imagined,” McNevin adds. As an officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, she relies on traditional journalism skills to ask pertinent questions during interviews, and on research skills to learn the constitutional law she must understand to make good decisions.

She hopes that recipients of her scholarship will pursue careers in English and/or art as well as related community or volunteer work. “I would like them to not only be doing something in the field while they’re going to school, but also have a solid plan about what they want to do in the future,” says McNevin, whose volunteer work has included teaching English as a second language in GED programs.

No doubt she will also want them to love Augsburg, just as she admires the many changes that have occurred since she first arrived. She applauds the leadership and direction of recent presidents, the addition of a masters program and nursing doctorate, and the plans for the new Center for Science, Business, and Religion, to which she has also donated.

“I really don’t have very much money, but I wanted to give something back to the college. What it was I didn’t know, but then life changed and this scholarship idea came up,” she says. “Augsburg’s motto when I was there was ‘through truth to freedom.’ I have spent my life searching for truth, and Augsburg provided that background for me. I ended up in my occupation in response to that search.”

As for that feeling of being at home, she says it is hard to describe. Certainly the fellow students, the faculty, the staff, and the physical campus have something to do with it, as does the solid foundation based in the Lutheran faith. “It’s just a spiritual feeling, I guess, a feeling that Augsburg is a safe place to grow—in more ways than one.”