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Paying It Forward, with Gratitude

Kathryn Lange ’72 and Dennis Sonifer in Salzburg
Kathryn Lange ’72 and Dennis Sonifer in Salzburg

A few years ago, Kathryn Lange ’72 and her husband, Dennis Sonifer, decided to update their will, a process that tends to open up a variety of possibilities that aren’t necessarily on our daily radar screens. They realized it would be possible to reach out beyond family members, and agreed that supporting a college made sense, particularly since they both had enjoyed great experiences at small, church-related, liberal arts colleges. Determined to reciprocate the favor of the substantial financial aid each had received as a student, they decided to “pay it forward” and set up an endowed scholarship at Augsburg.

Currently serving as associate dean of the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University in Boston, Lange has spent her entire career in higher education, including a six-year stint as director of admissions at Augsburg. Originally planning to find work directly related to her Social Work degree, she reassessed her plan when she found herself accepting various positions in higher education. Lange stresses, however, that she uses her Augsburg Social Work education every day in her work with students and faculty. At St. Olaf, she worked in housing for three years, followed by her admissions work at Augsburg, and then at the University of Minnesota, first in financial aid and then in student services in the College of Pharmacy. While at the U, she realized she liked working in the college environment and decided to earn a Master’s degree. In 2002, she and Sonifer moved to Boston for their next adventure.  

Lange says that her job at Tufts, simply stated, is to enable students to “achieve their doctoral programs in spite of the obstacles life throws in their way, and to help faculty write good policies and procedures so they can concentrate on what they do best—conduct research and mentor students.” Her work at Tufts continues to remind her that science is ever-changing, and not at all a set of static subjects that can be “proven.” She believes there is a lot of room for faith in the sciences.

Lange has stayed in touch with several of her Auggie friends, including Sally Daniels Herron ’79, currently director of family and constituent relations (whom she hired in Admissions over 35 years ago). In addition, Lange and her husband were especially pleased to attend an Augsburg alumni event in Boston, where they began a lovely friendship with Robert ’68 and Annette (Hoversten) ’68 Hanson, who invited them to their home, along with a group of other friends (many with Minnesota connections), for their annual smorgasbord (likely not a common event in the Boston area).

In her marriage to Sonifer in 1996, Lange says she gained two great step-kids and a cat. Both kids are now on their own. The couple’s spare time is often spent with friends, hiking, traveling, or reading. Lange, who has lived in rural Minnesota, Africa, England, and Boston, enjoys the cultural variety in being “transplanted,” while maintaining a centeredness and peace based on her spiritual growth while at Augsburg. Of her career in higher education, she says she left rural Minnesota for college when she was 18 and liked it so much that she never left!

—by Cheryl Crockett ’89