Visionary leadership in support of student success

By KAYLA SKARBAKKA ’09

In 1984, Skip and Barbara Gage’s oldest son, Geoff, made an unexpected choice. Though he had been determined to attend school in California, the high school senior decided after a tour of the Augsburg campus that he preferred to become an Auggie. At parent orientation the following fall, Skip and Barbara joined the campus community for the first time.

“We couldn’t have been more pleased with the nurturing and caring environment provided at Augsburg,” Skip said.

While they remained proud Auggie parents (all four of their children attended classes at Augsburg, and two graduated from the College), it didn’t take long for Skip and Barbara to take a more active role in the community. Just two years later, Augsburg President Charles Anderson asked Barbara to join the board of regents, where she served for 12 years, including four years as chair of the board.

During the early years of Barbara’s service, she and Skip approached President Anderson to discuss ways to expand student support.

“We’ve had distinct experience with learning differences in our family,” Skip said, but at that time, little research had been done on learning differences at the college level. In fact, according to the Gages, Augsburg and the University of Colorado, Boulder, were the only two colleges they found that provided support services to students with different learning abilities.

Passionate about this cause, Skip and Barbara commissioned a $30,000 study on programming to support learning differences. Based on this study’s findings, the Gages, together with the Carlson Family Foundation, committed half a million dollars and raised another half a million to institute a new program at Augsburg, which evolved into the Center for Learning and Adaptive Student Services (CLASS). This program provides services to help all students—regardless of learning style, preference, or need— reach their full potential at Augsburg.

“We were so thankful that we had found a school that actually had ways to help students with learning differences,” Barbara said. “We were excited to help make the program larger and able to meet the needs of more students.”

Skip and Barbara have supported other campus projects through the years, including the Scandinavian Center, Lindell Library, Anderson Plaza, and the Gage Family Art Gallery. And, with their newest gift, the Gages once again reveal their enthusiasm for student support and innovative programming.

The Gage Family Foundation and the Carlson Foundation last spring announced that they will collectively contribute $900,000 toward the creation of the Gage Center for Student Success—a centralized place where all students can go to enhance their learning and achieve their academic goals. Construction for the center started this summer in Lindell Library. The center will be on the link level, creating space at the heart of the campus for the CLASS program as well as numerous other academic success programs.

Barbara noted the importance of having the learning center near the College’s technological resources and at a centralized location.

“The center will be a part of the students’ daily lives,” she said. “[The students who use the center] will become advocates of learning.”

The Gages believe that Augsburg’s leadership in student success is due in part to its mission for service.

“Augsburg has been wonderful in being inclusive in working with students of different needs,” Barbara said. “I’m so proud to be a part of it.”

Posted in It Takes an Auggie