Alumni Spotlight: Maureen Kurtz ’80 – A Full Life of Theater

MaureenAugsburg alumna Maureen (Conroy) Kurtz ’80 cultivated her life’s calling at Augsburg through the intersection of English and theater.

Since graduating in 1980 with her bachelor’s degree studying children’s theatre, Maureen has written, directed, and produced over 80 plays and movies. She also served five years on the Bloomington Art Center Board and was involved with over 50 productions at the Bloomington Art Center, the Capri Theater, the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company, and various other locations.

Maureen on the red carpetBut Maureen hasn’t only worked her magic behind the scenes; she’s also spent a lot of time on the stage, going by the name Rina Kurtz. A highlight of her career was in 2014 when she had the opportunity to go to Hollywood and walk on the red carpet for the premiere of Matthew 18, in which she portrayed Miss Hillshire. She also acted in Thunderbird and The Coffee Shop Wars, along with a handful of short films and many plays.

A graduate of Mahtomedi High School, Maureen discovered her love of theater in her youth and worked on and off stage in her high school’s theater productions. When she came to Augsburg in 1975, Maureen had the chance to work with two professors whom she credits as important mentors on her journey to what would become a full life in theater and film: English professor Toni Clark and legendary Theater professor Ailene Cole, who is recognized for her work building Augsburg’s theater department into what it is today and for whom the Green Room in the Foss Center is named.

Ailene Cole played a special role in Maureen’s career at Augsburg by creating a new major that was not only uniquely tailored to Maureen but was also the only one of its kind in the state at that time: Children’s Theater.

“I loved Augsburg because Ailene Cole developed a special major for me in Children’s Theater,” says Maureen. “It was the only school to have a Children’s Theater program.” When asked what made her want to pursue that degree, Maureen said, “I love kids; it was my idea, and Ailene put together independent studies for me.”

Maureen was busy while at Augsburg. She enjoyed Women’s Literature, joined the gymnastics team, served on the English Board for one year, and formed a liturgical dance group. Maureen also studied abroad in London, where she was able to attend 28 plays, 6 of them Shakespeare plays. Her favorite production was Equus, a drama by Peter Shaffer about a psychiatrist who attempts to treat a boy with a pathological religious fascination with horses. It won the Tony Award for best play in 1975.

1977 fall play Two by Two. Maureen is on the far left.
1977 fall play Two by Two. Maureen is on the far left.

Maureen continued her love of theatrical work on and off stage for Augsburg productions. She directed Talk to Me Like The Rain and Let Me Listen, a Tennessee Williams short play, in 1978. Maureen also acted in the plays Abia Da Capo in 1976, Two by Two in 1977, and The Crucible in 1979. And with a smile, Maureen says she even made her own costumes.

When asked what something people would be surprised to learn about her, Maureen said, “I wrote a couple of puppetry productions.” The productions were called Twink and Charlie Goes to Market. Both were put on at elementary schools. Maureen didn’t plan on doing the puppet production herself, but a last-minute cancellation changed her plans. “I didn’t want to be the puppeteer, but the guy [who was supposed to puppeteer] chickened out! I was nervous!”

Maureen says she is most proud of the 5 years she served on the Bloomington Art Center board, followed by 27 years acting on their stage while working on so many of their productions at the Black Box and Schneider Theaters. And she’s raised two boys in between it all.

This past year, Maureen was diagnosed with ALS. It has greatly limited her mobility and requires her to communicate through text-to-speech computer software using Tobii, an eye-tracking device. She selects characters to form words by looking at them, then the computer speaks the words aloud.

2019 ALS Judges Award for most inspirational MTKLACBut this has not stifled her creative mind. Earlier this year, Maureen won a “Most Inspirational” award for her poem about ALS in a walk her sister completed in her honor in Missouri. She is also currently producing a movie, Christmas Slasher.

“I have a full life,” Maureen says.

— By Jayne Carlson MFA ‘16 and Amanda Symes MFA ‘15


What Does ALS Stand For?

By Maureen Kurtz, 2019

A.L.S. is:

Acknowledging the Lord’s Sacrifice

Always Listening to Silence

Ability to Laugh at Self

Accepting Life’s Setbacks

Adoring every Little Second

Awestruck by the Light of the Stars

Adhering to the Lessons of the Soul

Appreciating the Luxury of the Sun

Avoiding Lucifer’s Sin

Adoring the Land and the Sea

Awareness of Life’s Seasons

Allowing for Love to Soar

Assuring that you are the Lord’s Servant

Attaining the Loyalty to the Senses

Aiming for Loving Service

Admitting to the Lord you have Sinned

Always Learning Something

Accepting Loss and Spoil

Another Likely Story

Apples Lemons Spinach

Acorns Lakes Streams

Art Leisure Singing

Acceptance of Loss and Self Control

Oh yea, and I almost forgot. A.L.S. stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis- but that is only in VERY RARE CASES. Let me tell you A.L.S. stands for so much more. Be sure to read between the lines. It goes to show:

You are Always Learning Something.

Alumni Spotlight: Kathy Kuross ’85 – “I exist because of Augsburg!”

Kathy KurossKathy Kuross and the IT Evolution

If you want to get a sense of the “electronic evolution” at Augsburg since computers wormed their way into our lives, you would be well advised to ask Kathy Kuross ’85, Senior Programmer/Analyst for IT (Information Technology). She has quite an Auggie history!

When she began her employment in Admissions in 1986, it was the beginning of a relationship with printers, computers, and IT machinery that has continued for over 33 years. Since those early days, when she did word processing for Admissions–followed by work in institutional research, programming, and analysis–she has had a front-row seat from which to observe—and experience—this electronic evolution at Augsburg.

When Arthur Met Bev

And how did Kathy’s 33-year commitment to Augsburg evolve? Kuross has said that she “owes her existence to Augsburg” since her parents met on campus. Her father, Arthur Kuross, arrived at Augsburg as a first-generation college student in the early ‘50s, after having served in World War II. On campus, a certain young secretary in the Teacher Placement Office caught his eye—Beverly Eckman. Before long, he asked her for a date, and she sought advice from Millie Nelson, then the switchboard operator. Millie (who subsequently served Augsburg for decades, most notably as College Center manager) thought the date was a good idea, granted her approval, and the following year, she was present at their wedding.

Arthur, who had emigrated from Norway as a small boy, stayed connected to Augsburg as the years unfolded, particularly through sports. Several of his college buddies would join him at football and hockey games, and Kathy relished the invitations to join her father and his friends at many of the games. Arthur became very active in the A-Club and served as its president for a number of years.

Still Connected

Kuross in her early work setting in the Science building
Kuross in her early work setting in the Science building

When Kathy accepted a position as word processor in the Admissions office in 1986, just months after having completed her Bachelor of Arts degree, she worked in the Science building—the same building in which her mother had worked 36 years earlier. Certainly, there had been changes in how office work got done over those 36 years, but those changes would likely pale by comparison with those that Kathy has observed in the 33 years since then.

Kathy began her work when there was only one printer on campus and most people were still using typewriters. At that time, she would carry all the students’ admissions folders in a metal bin from the Admissions office (then located in a house) to the basement of the Science building, where the Administrative Computing office was located.

She recalls the Registrar’s office using punch cards to process registrations and pasting labels for each term’s data onto students’ transcripts. Eventually, the campus moved on to using a mainframe computer system, with green-screen computer terminals at people’s desks. Larger reports were printed on a giant green bar printer. (Remember the wide perforated continuous-feed green-and-white sheets with holes along both margins?)

As Kuross reflects on the many changes in electronics and campus life, she notes that in 1985, the top five names of students attending Augsburg were Johnson, Anderson, Peterson, Olson, and Nelson. Today, the top five names are Vang, Johnson, Yang, Lee, and Mohamed. Kuross is proud to work at a university that has expanded its reach and willingly changes, adapts, and grows.

When she started at Augsburg, there was a room in the Christensen Center that played MTV videos all day. The name of the cafeteria was the Chin Wag, and it was located at the base of the current stairway in Christensen Center. Employees could smoke at their desks. Parking was free. At registration time, students waited in long lines in the gym.

By contrast, Kuross can now sit at her IT desk and watch thousands of registrations happen in minutes. We now have lactation rooms, foot-washing stations, and gender-neutral restrooms. Whereas faculty advisors once did all the advising, we now have the Gage Center, with a whole floor of the library designated to assist students. There is an Academic Advising office, TRIO, CLASS, StepUP, and Multi-cultural Student Services, just to name a few.

Throughout her 14-year stint in IT, plus 13 years of institutional research and earlier admissions work, Kuross has not been lured to other workplaces. When asked why, she responded that she values the quality work environment, the friendships, and the challenges, both personal and professional.

She has found particular fulfillment through her role in helping Augsburg students graduate. Over 33 years, that’s a lot of students!

—————

-by Cheryl Crockett ‘89

Celebrating Donna McLean’s Retirement – December 12

Donna McLeanAfter 34 years, four positions, seven fundraising campaigns, 12 office moves and thousands of conversations with alumni, parents, and friends, Donna McLean has decided to retire from her work at Augsburg. Her last day will be December 20. Her time at Augsburg will be celebrated with a reception on December 12 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (program at 4 p.m.) in the Arnold Atrium, Foss Center. All are welcome to attend.

“I have been extremely fortunate to participate in the exciting growth and development of this special place over the last 30 years,” Donna said. “It has truly been a privilege for me to serve Augsburg. I continue to be impressed by all that is Augsburg of today. I’ve had a most rewarding vocational journey here – the mission has always been my passion and the people my inspiration.”

Donna began her career at Augsburg as the assistant registrar in 1985. A year later she moved into the role of director of annual giving and held this position until 1990 when she became director of alumni and parent relations. She came back to fundraising in 1997 as the director of the Augsburg Fund and has held a number of positions in the advancement office since. Most recently, as a director of leadership gifts, Donna has had the opportunity to work with generous donors who wish to carry on the mission of the University through their philanthropy.

“In her 30+ year tenure at Augsburg, Donna McLean has had countless relationships with donors and alumni and has made a lasting impact through giving her time, talents and treasures to the University,” President Pribbenow said.

“At any Augsburg event, Donna probably knows half the guests and has made family connections with the other half,” said Martha Truax, director of leadership gifts. “Thanks to her incredible ability to build relationships and her genuine, contagious enthusiasm for Augsburg’s mission, she has helped donors create meaningful gifts that have transformed this campus.”

In 2011, she led a team of Auggie women who created AWE – Augsburg Women Engaged. This initiative serves as a catalyst for tapping the potential of Auggie women to connect, learn and give. This impressive group of women has generously supported several of Augsburg’s fundraising campaigns and most recently created the AWE Scholarship Endowed Fund that currently supports two AWE scholars.

One of her most rewarding experiences while working at Augsburg has been raising funds to support the StepUP Program, for students in recovery.  Donna wished to provide a legacy of support to the work of StepUP and in 2016, she established an endowed scholarship named the Donna Demler McLean Endowed Fund, in honor and memory of her son, Matthew, to provide financial support and encouragement to Augsburg students participating in the StepUP Program.

A meaningful way to thank Donna for her years of service to Augsburg would be a special gift to her scholarship fund.

We are collecting photos of Donna and her Auggie friends over the years for a slideshow at her retirement gathering. Please email any photos you would like to share to Martha Truax at truaxm@augsburg.edu by Monday, December 2.

Auggies, Together We can Give to the Max

link to give to the max day videoGive to the Max Day is set for November 14, but this year there will be 14 days of giving starting on November 1.

In 2019, Augsburg marks 150 years since its founding. Our sesquicentennial is a year-long opportunity to reflect on our past and present – to honor our leaders and legacies, and also to discover our roots. This Give to the Max Day (November 1 – November 14), we have a special goal, engaging 1,869 donors throughout all of our projects, to celebrate Augsburg’s founding in 1869.

Give to the Max!

See all 38 campus fundraising projects for Give to the Max Day below. From athletics to academics to campus and community programs, there’s an Augsburg University Give to the Max Day project for you!

  1. A-Club – Athletic Facilities led by Jeff Swenson ’79
  2. Augsburg Associates Endowed Scholarship led by Jessica Wahto ’98
  3. Augsburg Historic Film Digitization led by Bruce Nelson ’71
  4. Augsburg Women Engaged Endowed Scholarship led by Lisa Zeller ’81 (and ’89)
  5. Baseball led by Nick Rathmann ’03
  6. Biology Student Scholarship led by Lisa Raetz
  7. Campus Kitchen Program led by Natalie Jacobson
  8. Center for Global Education and Experience led by LaJune Lange ’75
  9. Chemistry Student Scholarship led by Michael Wentzel
  10. Cross Country led by Meghan Peyton
  11. Echo led by Chris Dykstra ’85
  12. English Speaker and Event Fund led by Doug Green
  13. Golf led by Eric Rolland
  14. Health Commons led by Katie Clark
  15. Lacrosse led by Delaney Everett ’18
  16. Latinx Student Services led by Ruby Murillo
  17. Mary Wilson Flute Scholarship led by Merilee Klemp
  18. Masters of Arts in Leadership led by Alan Tuchtenhagen
  19. Men’s Basketball led by Aaron Griess
  20. Men’s Hockey led by Mario Mjelleli
  21. Men’s Soccer led by Darcy Debbing ’77
  22. MFA – Howling Bird Press led by Amanda Symes ’09 (and ’16)
  23. Music Therapy led by Annie Heiderscheit
  24. Pan-Asian Spring Trip led by Mai Xee Vang
  25. Physics led by Ben Stottrup
  26. Religion Department led by Mike Matson ’06
  27. Sesquicentennial Endowed Scholarship led by Brandon Williams ’19
  28. Softball led by Melissa Lee ’04
  29. StepUP Program led by Toby Piper LaBelle ’96
  30. Strommen Center led by Lee George
  31. Undergraduate Research and Graduate Opportunities (URGO) Program led by Dean Sundquist ’81
  32. Undocumented Student Support led by Paul ’63 and LaVonne ’63 Batalden
  33. Urban Debate League Program led by Meg Luger-Nikolai
  34. Volleyball led by Jane Becker
  35. Women’s Basketball led by Aaron Griess
  36. Women’s Hockey led by Ashley Holmes
  37. Women’s Soccer led by Ashley Waalen ’17
  38. Wrestling led by Nick Slack ’02

Want to check something off of your bucket list?

Nidaros Cathedral from the skyDo you have a few lingering questions about what it means to be a Pilgrim? Please join us on Monday, November 4 from 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. in the Marshall Room. We will learn about the exciting Sesquicentennial Heritage trip to hike the Nidarose Pilgram Path. You will hear from Rev. Sonja Hagendar, who has hiked this path twice as well as Tour Operator Lori Moline ’82 and Alumni Director Katie Koch Code ’01.

Reservations are currently being accepted for this trip and this trip is filling up fast.

To RSVP for this meeting please contact Katie Koch Code ’01 at codek@augsburg.edu or at 612-330-1178.

Learn more about this trip here.

Spiritual Journey to Norway: Hiking the Pilgrim’s Path to Nidaros is Now on Sale

The last signpost of St. Olavsleden.Led by Rev. Sonja Hagander August 4-13, 2020

In August 2020, the Rev. Sonja Hagander, Augsburg University Vice President for Mission and Identity, will lead a hike to the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway—a pilgrimage made by travelers for more than 1,000 years. Along the way, you will learn about history and culture, and experience firsthand some of the most beautiful nature in the world. This trip is intended for experienced mountain hikers. Hagander has hiked parts of this trip twice and will be joined by a ground guide who will travel with the group. This trip will be limited to 22 participants and it is expected to sell out quickly.

This trip includes 19 meals, all entrance fees for the Peer Gynt Festival, all motorcoach transfers, gratuities, and lodging. It does not include airfare.

Over 10 days you will hike over 70 Kilometers from Dovre Church to the Trondheim Cathedral. The group will also attend the Peer Gynt Festival and will explore Lillehammer and Trondheim. 

To learn more or to register for the trip please go to the online travel brochure.

Or, to learn more about the Pilgram walk check out St. Olav Ways.

Any additional questions can be directed to Katie Code ‘01, Director of Alumni & Constituent Relations at codek@augsburg.edu or 612-330-1178

Attend Augsburg Weekend at Central Lutheran Church

“Augsburg is linked to ministry in the city.” – President Pribbenow

vespers at Central LutheranGather with fellow Auggies on October 19-21, 2019, for special services with music from Augsburg choirs and guest preachers President Paul C. Pribbenow and University Pastor Justin Lind-Ayres.

“Augsburg University’s long partnership with Central Lutheran Church will be celebrated during this special Augsburg Weekend,” said Mark Sedio, Director of Masterworks Chorale and Cantor at Central Lutheran Church. “2019 marks not only Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial but also Central’s centennial, as well as the 40th anniversary of Advent Vespers which has always taken place in Central’s sanctuary. The intertwining of history goes back five decades with the Augsburg Choir holding its annual home concerts in Central’s sanctuary, the founding of the Augsburg Central Health Commons, and many other programming initiatives.”

Saturday, October 19

5 p.m. – preaching by President Pribbenow; music by Cedar Singers

President Pribbenow’s message will explore how Augsburg’s mission is a version of helping students to “wrestle with angels,” playing off the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel in Genesis.

Sunday, October 20

8:30 a.m. – preaching by President Pribbenow; music by Riverside Singers

10:30 a.m. – preaching by President Pribbenow; music by Augsburg Choir

President Pribbenow’s message will explore how Augsburg’s mission is a version of helping students to “wrestle with angels,” playing off the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel in Genesis.

Monday, October 21

11 a.m. – preaching by University Pastor Justin Lind-Ayres

Augsburg students will also be involved in the congregation’s Monday morning worship with the Restoration Center.


Stop by the Pop-Up Bookstore

Browse and buy special edition sesquicentennial swag, books by Augsburg faculty, and a variety of items to show your Auggie pride and celebrate 150 years of Augsburg.

Donate to Augsburg University Health Commons

The Health Commons at Central Lutheran is a nursing-led drop-in center. Their mission is to promote health and healing in marginalized populations. Please help them in their efforts by making a monetary donation to the Health Commons Fund which supports the purchase of a variety of health-related items distributed to persons seeking assistance and support at the Health Commons. You may also donate needed heath-related items including diapers, socks, and hygiene supplies. If you have any questions, please contact Katie Clark at centralhealthcommons@augsburg.edu

The Augsburg Associates Fall Event: High Tea

All Augsburg Associates and those who are interested in joining the Associates are cordially invited to a High Tea on October 19 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion, Room 150.

This event will feature guest speaker, Minnesota’s First Lady Gwen Walz, who will share her initiatives in correctional education. Following her presentation will be a High Tea and brief annual meeting.

Please RSVP by October 11 on our events page or by mailing in a $20 check to Augsburg University indicating your reservation.

Check-in for the event begins at 12:30 p.m. in Hagfors.

About First Lady Gwen Walz

Gwen Walz is Minnesota’s 39th First Lady. As a lifelong Minnesotan, she is excited to work on behalf of all Minnesotans. Gwen was born in Glencoe, Minnesota, and grew up in western Minnesota. Alongside her three sisters, Gwen was raised by her parents, Val and Linn, who were educators and small business owners. She has received degrees from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter and Minnesota State University in Mankato. Gwen began her English teaching career in western Nebraska, where she met Tim Walz. Soon after they met, Gwen and Tim established a summer trip to China for their students and traveled there nearly every summer through 2003. In 1994, Tim and Gwen married and even “honeymooned” on one of these trips, with 60 students in tow.

Educating Minnesota’s children is one of Gwen’s passions. Throughout her career, Gwen has taught in public, alternative, and migrant schools; this has shaped her vision. For more than two decades, Gwen served as an administrator/coordinator in the Mankato Area Public Schools, working to eliminate the achievement gap and strive for more equity and access within education systems. Gwen knows that a strong public education system, encompassing birth through senior citizens, is critical to empowering every Minnesotan to succeed.

Lamont Slater: Decolonizing the Mind, S2E15 of The Augsburg Podcast

The Augsburg Podcast features voices of Augsburg University faculty and staff. We hope this is one way you can get to know the people who educate our students to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders. Subscribe on Itunes.

Lamont Slater, instructor and program coordinator for the Center for Global Education and Experience
Lamont Slater, instructor and program coordinator for the Center for Global Education and Experience, remotely joins the Augsburg Podcast from Windhoek, Namibia to discuss the perspective-altering value of study abroad programming — and how it changed his own life as well as the lives of current students studying abroad with him in Namibia.

 

Celebrate Augsburg’s Gospel Quartet Tradition with the Centennial Singers

The Augsburg Centennial Singers, a senior men’s, 50-voice chorus, would like to invite alumni and friends to attend their fall concert series.

Carrying on the rich tradition of quartets from Augsburg’s past, The Centennial Singers were founded in 1993 to celebrate the centennial of the first singing tour of Norway by an Augsburg College Gospel Quartet. Centennial Singers concerts feature well-known gospel music, spirituals, folk, and patriotic songs, familiar hymns, sacred selections, and a barbershop tune or two.

Centennial Singers 2019 Fall Schedule

Saturday, September 21 at 6:30 p.m.
United Redeemer Lutheran Church
560 West Third Street, Zumbrota

Sunday, September 22 at 3 p.m.
Bethel Lutheran Church
810 Third Avenue SE, Rochester

Saturday, September 28 at 10:30 a.m.
Augsburg Homecoming Chapel

Saturday, October 5 at 6:30 p.m.
St. Philip’s Lutheran Church
1401 15th Street W., Hastings

Sunday, October 6 at 4 p.m.
Christ the King Lutheran Church
1900 7th Street NW, New Brighton

Sunday, October 20 at 7 p.m.
House of Prayer Lutheran Church
7625 Chicago Ave S., Richfield

Sunday, October 27 at 1 p.m.
Normandale Hylands United Methodist Church
9920 Normandale Blvd., S., Bloomington

Saturday, November 2 at 7 p.m.
Oak Grove Presbyterian Church
2200 Old Shakopee Road, Bloomington

Sunday, November 3 at 3 p.m.
St. Philip the Deacon Lutheran
17205 County Road 6, Plymouth

A free-will offering is received at each concert to defray expenses and advance our mission of encouraging our listeners to establish and deepen their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

You can find more information about the Augsburg Centennial Singers on their websiteTo arrange an appearance by the Singers, email manager, Mike Walgren at Michaelwalgren@comcast.net.