Endowed Scholarship Inspired by Study Abroad

 

Miriam Peterson1
Miriam ’68 and Ron Peterson on a trip to Asia in October 2015.

“What an opportunity for me! The most incredible thing is that I’m going to be able to meet the people,” says Miriam Peterson ’68, who is donating her IRA distributions to fund the Miriam Cox Peterson Scholarship. Soon there will be enough to cover travel and study abroad for a scholarship student, preferably one studying Spanish or another language. Peterson will not only get to meet the recipients, but also share the stories that have inspired her for seven decades so far.

Peterson grew up in St. Paul, where her wanderlust and appetite for learning began early. Her father, who had grown up in poverty but saw the world while serving in the Navy, nourished his family’s cultural curiosity. For example, he assigned a theme to their annual vacations; their “Lincoln year” meant travel to various Lincoln tourist sites.

At school, second grade was Peterson’s “golden year. I had the most wonderful teacher. Our whole class went by train to Red Wing for a day, and she would do all sorts of special projects. She only taught for one year, but she’d have reunions with our class, and I kept in contact with her through high school. She and her husband ended up being missionaries in Hong Kong.”

The teaching seed firmly planted by high school graduation, Peterson discovered Augsburg: “comfortable, welcoming, and ever so much better than the other colleges I visited.” The first in her family to attend college, she majored in English and education but also wanted to continue her high school Spanish. She was thrilled that classes were small and weekly seminars were held in teachers’ homes. “It’s not the norm. I was a part of their lives, and they were a part of mine,” she says.

Miriam and Ron Peterson with Shanghai in the background.
Miriam and Ron Peterson with Shanghai in the background.

For eight weeks between her junior and senior years, and for a year after college graduation, she lived in Mexico, thus paving her future path. “That made all the difference,” she says. “It widens your whole perspective on the world. You can talk about or think about travel, but if you go to another place, it’s different.”

After earning her master’s degree at the University of Illinois, Peterson taught Spanish in the St. Paul Public Schools from 1970 to 2005. She followed her early mentor’s footsteps, taking her students on trips and teaching them language not just through studying grammar, but through culture, cooking, holiday traditions, even soccer. Even after she retired and taught weekly beginning Spanish classes at the Center for Global Education, she used Fisher-Price little people and Monopoly money to set up play scenarios and make classes fun, which her adult students very much appreciated.

Peterson stays fluent by translating, once during a medical mission to Nicaragua, and, while visiting a Spanish-speaking country, “talking to everyone in the market,” as her patient husband, Ron, sometimes complains. As head of the outreach committee for Galilee Lutheran Church, Roseville, she has also visited students in Tanzania, where she was impressed by the generosity of those who have so little.

She is also impressed by Augsburg’s continuing commitment to service here at home. “They embrace the city—tending gardens, feeding people, using their proximity to the University of Minnesota to good advantage. And the second chances they’re giving to students are pretty remarkable,” she says. “It makes me proud to be a part of it.”

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”

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.”