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

Endowed Scholarship Celebrates the Ecumenical

Paul and Diane Jacobson at Redeemer Lutheran.
Paul and Diane Jacobson at Redeemer Lutheran.

As a young girl raised Jewish in St. Louis, Missouri, Diane Levy Jacobson never imagined that she and her husband, Paul, might one day endow a scholarship for a Muslim student at Augsburg. But then she never imagined that she would teach Scripture, either. Or become a Christian, for that matter.

“Becoming a Lutheran biblical professor was certainly not in my life plan while I was growing up, and I’m sure I had no idea what a seminary was. God has a great sense of humor,” says Diane, professor emeritus at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, where she taught from 1982 to 2010.

By the time she got to Connecticut College, in New London, Connecticut, she decided to major in religion. Times were turbulent, and what was then a liberal protestant church championed civil rights and antiwar causes.

“It’s interesting right now with all the politics swirling, and it wasn’t all that different in the ‘60s. I got involved in the campus ministry, which was a large part of the political movement,” says Diane, a self-described searcher. “I felt very alive and in the middle of things. God works in mysterious ways!”

Diane earned a master’s degree in religion from Columbia University and a doctorate from Union Theological Seminary, where she met and married Paul Jacobson, a St. Olaf graduate and son of a Lutheran pastor. They attended a Lutheran church, where she taught Sunday school, yet she remained Jewish “because it seemed wrong not to.” A change of heart had occurred by the time her second son was born; she and her sons were baptized together.

“Then I became a super Lutheran,” she says with a chuckle. Diane was called to teach at Luther, so the family moved to Minnesota in 1982, where Paul pursued his music career as composer, flutist, and co-founder of the Lyra Baroque Orchestra. At Luther, Diane became the first woman to teach Bible at any Lutheran seminary in the country. A well-respected leader, frequent speaker, and author of numerous publications, she retired in February as director of the Book of Faith Initiative for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

“I can’t imagine anything that would be more rewarding to do,” she says of her career. “It is quite a privilege to be a teacher of any sort, and it has been exciting to be part of the ELCA, the church, and education.” Continue reading “Endowed Scholarship Celebrates the Ecumenical”