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.”

A Bountiful Blessing

Out of family tragedy, springs student opportunity

The Lester A. Dahlen Family Endowed Scholarship is a bountiful blessing. It rewards Augsburg University students’ hard work and provides financial assistance, while also assuring the family of Rev. Lester Dahlen that their family’s values will live on at Augsburg and be carried into the world. “As graduates go on to their lives after Augsburg, we hope they will be loving Christian people wherever they are and that they will touch whomever they can with the love of Jesus,” explains Barb (Dahlen) Cornell.

A blessing today, the scholarship sprang from a family tragedy more than 50 years ago. In 1966, when Barb was 18 and her sister, Ginny (Dahlen) Baali ’72, was 16, their brother Paul died in a plane crash with fellow Augsburg senior Jerry Pryd. Paul was pursuing a social studies major and physical education minor and, like his father before him, he played on the Auggie baseball team. To memorialize their son and highlight the importance of Augsburg to their family, Rev. Lester Dahlen ’39, ’42 and Marian Dahlen established the Paul Dahlen Memorial Scholarship to help students who had Christian purpose, demonstrated academic achievement and participated in extracurricular activities.

Blessed by Augsburg

Ginny (Dahlen) Baali and Barb (Dahlen) Cornell
Ginny (Dahlen) Baali ’72 and Barb (Dahlen) Cornell

“Our family’s connection to Augsburg started with Dad,” explains Barb, who supports the scholarship along with Ginny. A Minneapolis native, Rev. Dahlen enrolled in Augsburg in 1935 and quickly became involved in athletics, choir, student government and other organizations. “Augsburg helped prepare him for God’s calling and to be a man of faith and missions,” she continues.

“Ever since we were little kids we heard about Augsburg from our dad,” remembers Barb. Rev. Dahlen often brought the family to concerts, games and other campus events and, in later years, he sometimes wore Paul’s letter jacket. He was grateful for his lasting friendships with Augsburg greats Leland Sateren ’35, Edor Nelson ’38, Ernie Anderson ’37, Sig Hjelmeland ’41 and others.

After graduating from Augsburg Seminary, he served several parishes during the course of his 40-year career. The family did mission work in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and Rev. Dahlen also served as Lutheran Free Church Director of World Missions and staff member of the American Lutheran Church Division of World missions. “Augsburg was in his heart always,” remembers Barb. Their mother also held Augsburg in high regard: Marian worked in the financial aid office and joined the Augsburg Associates to provide volunteer support.

A Lasting Memorial

When Marian passed in 2003, memorial gifts boosted the scholarship fund. When Rev. Dahlen passed in 2012, a portion of his estate and memorial gifts further augmented the fund. Around that time Ginny and Barb fine-tuned the scholarship criteria to clarify their parents’ intent and more closely represent their family’s values. “Barb and I have continued to be representatives of the scholarship,” explains Ginny, who supports other Augsburg programs in addition to the family fund. The scholarship gives priority to students who are involved in campus ministry and pursuing a major or minor in physical education, and who demonstrate financial need and academic achievement. “People who have a faith background should come to the school and be blessed by it,” says Barb.

And after graduation? “I hope that scholarship alumni will be Christian witnesses to those around them, reach out in love and share their faith with others,” says Barb. “It’s important that Augsburg’s Christian legacy be nurtured and encouraged for all the students who will attend and be blessed by the school. That’s why we want to continue with this.”

-Kara Rose

Orville and Gertrude Hognander Endowment Fund

“I guess you could say that if it weren’t for Augsburg, I wouldn’t be here,” said Joe (Orville C.) Hognander, Jr. with a chuckle. The retired naval officer and private investor has deep Augsburg roots: his grandfather, Reverend Lars R. Lund, graduated from Augsburg Seminary in 1912 and his parents, Gertrude Lund and Orville Hognander, met during their Augsburg Class of 1936 freshman registration.

Reverend Lars R. Lund, in an oval-framed cabinet card photo
Reverend Lars R. Lund, ’12

Gertrude and Orville shared a lifelong love of music. Gertrude began playing the piano when she was five and subsequently played the organ in her father’s church while still in her teens. Orville, who also grew up surrounded by church music, supported his dad’s ministry by serving as announcer for the family’s weekly WDGY radio program of music and the spoken word. Joe recalls hearing classical music regularly in their home, especially from their complete collection of New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s 78 RPM records in the pre-FM radio days.

Gertrude Lund and Orville Hogander together in their home
Gertrude Lund and Orville Hognander

While students at Augsburg, both Gertrude and Orville were deeply involved in the newly formed choir, Gertrude as piano accompanist and Orville as the announcer/business manager. Most notably in 1935, he created and produced the “Hour Melodious,” a weekly radio program on WCCO featuring the 50-member choir. He also planned and arranged the choir’s first tour, which covered 20 concerts and more than 2,000 miles.

After Augsburg, the Hognanders served their communities in many ways. Gertrude became a teacher and music education supervisor in Escanaba, Michigan, before marrying Orville and moving to Minneapolis in the early 1940’s. She became organist and director of several church choirs and joined, among other groups, AAUW, the St. Louis Park Woman’s Cub, and the United Nations Association of Minnesota, eventually becoming president of those associations. In 1973, she received Augsburg’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

Orville began work for the Tennant Company as a salesman in the Detroit area, advancing rapidly to become vice president at age 31 and member of the Board of Directors eight years later. At the same time, he rose through the ranks of the National Sales Executives, becoming vice chairman in the early 1950’s. Sadly, at age 43 he suffered a major stroke that paralyzed his right side and required him to re-learn how to walk, talk, and write. Through great determination, he succeeded and was able to resume his responsibilities at Tennant, where he negotiated foreign business agreements that opened markets in Europe and Japan.

Joe (Orville C.) Hogander Jr. wears a suit and stands in an art gallery
Joe (Orville C.) Hognander Jr.

Joe recalls how his father gave great thought to where his money should go when he was no longer here. It was a difficult decision but in the end he chose to support those organizations and causes that had been of greatest importance to him during his life.

After he died in 1997, his will provided money to Augsburg College to create the Orville and Gertrude Hognander Endowment Fund, which specifies full tuition funding for an outstanding junior and senior in the Music Department. The department faculty selects the recipient based on past performance during their freshman and sophomore years at Augsburg or another college as well as their potential for future distinction.

“The scholarship’s goal is to provide a strong incentive to encourage and reward excellence for those in the music field,” noted Joe. “I have been very impressed with each one of the past winners.”

Augsburg Associates support Christensen Scholars

For more than 30 years, Augsburg Associates have raised funds to support Augsburg University and today’s students. Their hard work and commitment has enabled more than 50 students the opportunity to live out Augsburg’s motto, Education for Service, as they work towards their degrees. Besides sponsoring the Christensen Scholars with annual gifts, they give to capital projects, including sponsoring a space in the Hagfors Center, and have established an endowment for students and committed to service or participating in campus-wide interfaith programs. Thank you to the more than 90 Augsburg Associates!

Vision BagonzaNoah BrownVision Bagonza, Class of 2017
Christensen Scholar

Hometown: Karagwe, Kagera, Tanzania
Major: Biology
Minor: Chemistry and Religion
My proudest academic achievement is excelling in classes and then being able to provide academic support for new students by tutoring and mentoring incoming first-year students.

Noah Brown, Class of 2017
Christensen Scholar

Hometown: Bloomington, Minn.
Major: Biology
My favorite thing about Augsburg is the community of students and professors who are active and engaged in their communities.

Kayla GroverKayla Grover, Class of 2018
Christensen Scholar

Hometown: Blanding, Utah
Major: Sociology
Minor: Religion
Augsburg has shaped me by encouraging me to open my mind and pursue a wide variety of interests. After graduation, I plan to work with AmeriCorps for one year.

owen-harrisonOwen Harrison, Class of 2018
Christensen Scholar

Hometown: New Hope, Minn.
Major: Psychology
Minor: Studio Art
My proudest academic achievement is making the Dean’s List every semester. I am also involved with the StepUP Leadership Team and the Mindfulness Club.

Leah McDougallLeah McDougall, Class of 2017
Christensen Scholar

Hometown: Arden Hills, Minn.
Major: Youth and Family Ministry
Minor: Spanish
Augsburg has made me more aware of the world I live in. My proudest academic achievement was studying abroad in Central America and after graduation I plan to work with youth at a camp, church, or other organization.

Hannah SchmitHannah Schmit, Class of 2017
Christensen Scholar

Hometown: Tomahawk, Wisc.
Major: Religion and Sociology
Minor: Biology
Thank you for your continued support of Augsburg and for your support of my education! You have helped make my experience possible and I cannot thank you enough.

Rebecca SchroederRebecca Schroeder, Class of 2018
Christensen Scholar

Hometown: Giddings, Texas
Major: Management, Social and Artistic Entrepreneurship
My favorite thing about Augsburg is how diverse and well-rounded the curriculum is. I’ve been able to tailor my college experience to what I feel I’ve been called to do after college and to my future career.

Blair StewigBlair Stewig, Class of 2018
Christensen Scholar

Hometown: Oakdale, Minn.
Major: Biology and Chemistry
Minor: Environmental Studies, Physics, and Religion
Thank you so much for providing me with this engaging experience. I am looking forward to growing both as a person and in my relationship with God.

Hannah ThiryHannah Thiry, Class of 2017
Christensen Scholar

Hometown: Stanchfield, Minn.
Major: Biology
Minor: Religion and Psychology
Through various experiences, debates, discussions, and philosophical thought, I’ve come to find a home in the ‘grayness’ of life—there’s no distinct ‘black and white’ side to anything. People, opinions, feelings, and passions are fluid, flexible, and unique.

Briana EkstromBriana Ekstrom, Class of 2018
Augsburg Associates Endowed Scholarship

Hometown: Chaska, Minn.
Major: Music Performance (vocal emphasis)
Minor: Music Theater
I sang in the Praise Band at my home church of St. Victoria for multiple years before leaving for college. Currently I cantor and sing for Augsburg daily chapel on occasion and am a box office volunteer at Theatre in the Round located in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. I am incredibly honored to be receiving this scholarship again this year.