Bill Schmidt ‘76 and his wife Jill were more than thrilled to welcome fellow Auggie Alumni to their cabin for a wrestling reunion that took place on Saturday, August 14. This annual event provides a fun way for Auggie wrestlers to stay connected.
Front row left to right: Daryl Miller ’69, Larry A. Stewart ’72, William C. Hickman ’71,Michael R. Good ’71, Scott J. Brown ’73 Back row left to right: Roger L. Gorham ’73, Charles E. Blixt ’77, Jeff F. Swenson ’79, Murray L. Herstein ’78, William A. Schmidt ’76, Mike Benson ’78, James J. Pappas ’78, Jeffery A. Blixt ’77, Stephen M. Varichak ’84, Ronald R. Johnson ’72, Patrick J. Marcy ’72, Dean R. Kennedy ’75
Augsburg University is pleased to announce the appointment of Amy Alkire as vice president of Institutional Advancement, effective September 8.
Amy will lead the university into the public phase of Augsburg’s Great Returns Campaign, our largest campaign in history, as well as continue to grow our culture of philanthropy and engage our alumni, friends, faculty, and staff.
Amy started at Augsburg eight years ago as a gift officer and director of leadership gifts. In 2015, she was promoted to assistant vice president, a role she held until this past August when President Pribbenow asked her to move into the interim vice president role after Heather Riddle’s departure.
“The opportunity to promote Amy to serve as Augsburg’s vice president for institutional advancement was very meaningful to me,” says President Paul Pribbenow. “She has been a part of the advancement staff for several years and has illustrated through her outstanding work a passion for Augsburg’s mission and strong professional skills. I look forward to working with Amy and her colleagues as we continue to strengthen Augsburg’s philanthropic culture.”
When asked about her new role, Amy says she is excited for the challenge of it. She loves working with Augsburg’s alumni, donors, faculty, and staff and is passionate about Augsburg’s mission.
“Amy has provided amazing leadership working with our board and the Augsburg community over the years,” says Matt Entenza, Augsburg University’s Board of Regents chair. “I’m very excited to get to work with her because she embodies what it means to be an Auggie!”
Prior to her work at Augsburg, Amy was a development officer for two years at Children’s Hospital Minnesota and a major gift officer at Concordia University—St. Paul for three years. Amy was also a teacher for eight years, teaching English and literature, before she moved into a career in development.
“I’m laser focused on the strategies that will engage the Augsburg community and foster philanthropy to solidify Augsburg’s long-term financial stability,” says Amy. “We have a strong team and I am eager to continue to build upon their strengths. I am grateful to Kristen and Sarah for their partnership in leading Advancement efforts and look forward to great successes in the future.”
Along with Amy’s promotion to vice president, Institutional Advancement has two other promotions. Sarah Erkkinen, assistant vice president for special projects, will be promoted to associate vice president, Institutional Advancement leading principal and major gifts and the campaign. Kristen Cooper, senior director of advancement, will be promoted to assistant vice president, Institutional Advancement Operations and Alumni/ae Engagement.
Outside of work, Amy serves on the Lake City Education Board of Directors and is a member of the City Council for Lake City.
Amy currently lives in Lake City, her hometown, with her husband, their two kids, and their three dogs.
Kevin Fjelsted ’18, MBA ’20 is one of many Augsburg students who graduated during the pandemic. However, Kevin’s higher education story has a unique beginning. While most of Augsburg’s recent graduates started their higher education in the last four or five years, Kevin started in 1973.
Kevin graduated from high school in the 70’s and as he thought about college, he wasn’t particular about where he would go. He admits he wasn’t heavily involved in picking Augsburg.
“My grandparents wanted me to go to Augsburg. They told me to look at Augsburg and I said ‘fine,’” says Kevin.
He started at Augsburg in 1973 and took a few classes during the fall and January interim semesters. But Augsburg didn’t have what Kevin was looking for at the time, so he transferred to the University of Minnesota in 1974 where he also worked at the U of M’s Computer Center.
Shortly after, Kevin began working full-time as an operating systems programmer at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs. Over the next fifteen years, he worked for a few companies – including IDS Financial Services, McGraw-Hill, and American Express – before going out on his own as a systems consulting and programming service provider. He took computer science courses here and there, but never focused on a degree because he was working full time.
In 2010, Kevin decided to go back to school and finish his degree in computer science.
“My default was to go back to the U of M,” says Kevin. “But there were two problems. One, the lecture size. There were over 100 people in my computer science classes. And two, I needed accessibility. I needed books in braille and although the U of M has a large disability resource center employee count wise, they didn’t have the experience accommodating a blind person.”
Kevin knew Kathy McGillivray from the National Federation of the Blind, and knew she was the director in Augsburg’s CLASS Office.
“We talked about smaller classes that were actually taught by the professors, unlike the U of M having Teaching Assistants do a lot of the teaching. Kathy knew what I needed for accommodations as well. She was an ally in the whole process. We worked together through accessibility for both my computer science undergraduate degree and the MBA program. Once we got that solved, it was great!”
Kevin completed his undergraduate computer science degree in 2018 and immediately started in Augsburg’s Master of Business Administration program, graduating in the winter of 2020.
Now he is working with a business colleague on building a couple company’s telecommunications space and Voice over Internet Protocol and Omnichannel call center solutions. Kevin is also excited about starting an A.I. venture in the near future.
Despite the process taking almost 50 years from start to graduation, Kevin is thankful for his time at Augsburg. He’s particularly thankful for the professors he studied with.
“I didn’t have a single negative experience with a professor at Augsburg, even going back to the 70’s. I had a great calculus professor and psychology professors. George Dierberger, the MBA director, has pulled in great adjunct professors who are the best in the industry. You can respect and trust the information from the professor because they have the knowledge and industry experience.”
When asked why others should consider a degree in computer science at Augsburg versus another university, Kevin pointed out that Augsburg uses the same program as the U of M for their undergraduate computer science program.
“They use the same textbooks, the same curriculum. At the U of M, you have 100 plus people in a class, but shrink that down to 25 people at the high end at Augsburg, and that is a significant difference. Yes, Augsburg has teaching assistants and tutors like the U of M, but they don’t have the same concept where the professor pushes all the work onto the teaching assistant. At Augsburg you have direct interface and direct communication with the professors.”
After nearly nine years of advancement work and leading two of Augsburg University’s most successful fundraising campaigns, Heather Riddle, vice president for Institutional Advancement, has accepted a position as senior vice president and chief development officer for American Public Media and Minnesota Public Radio (MPR).
“Under Heather’s leadership, generous Auggies have given millions of dollars for strategic campus improvements, created new scholarships for talented Augsburg students, and made impacts well into the future. I am thrilled for Heather and confident in the great group of Augsburg advancement leaders she’s encouraged, who will continue the culture of generosity at Augsburg moving forward,” says Matt Entenza, chair of Augsburg’s Board of Regents
Heather joined Augsburg in September 2012, during the capital campaign for the Norman and Evangeline Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion. Under Heather’s leadership, that campaign successfully raised more than $55 million from more than 1,000 donors. Heather herself closed three of the largest gifts for the Hagfors Center campaign, totaling more than $25 million.
“Heather’s leadership in Institutional Advancement has been nothing short of transformational,” says Robert Groven, associate professor of Communication Studies, Film & New Media, and director of the Minnesota Urban Debate League at Augsburg. “She built a true culture of collaboration and philanthropy across campus and throughout Augsburg’s worldwide network of alumni. Heather’s creativity and relationships helped to break nearly every fundraising record in Augsburg history!”
Heather’s commitment to lead Augsburg’s development and constituent relations work has made a great impact on the university. During her time at Augsburg, Heather helped reimagine alumni relations and supervised an Alumni Board that has hosted many successful events in recent years, including Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Gala and Homecoming in 2019. She has also helped lay the foundation for Augsburg’s first ever All School Reunion, to take place Fall 2022.
Beyond Heather’s fundraising skills was her ability to build an exceptional team in Institutional Advancement. The team has been working hard on the quiet phase for Augsburg’s next campaign, the Great Returns Campaign, which is already poised to reach a level of giving that will make it the largest single campaign in Augsburg history.
“When I first met Heather, it was obvious that she found joy in both the art and science of philanthropic fundraising. When she came to Augsburg nine years ago, she brought that joy, along with her strong professional experience and skills, and helped transform the culture of philanthropy for our university. There are obvious signs of her good work—the Hagfors Center, the Great Returns Campaign, Give to the Max Day records, and so on—but perhaps most importantly, she has invited all of us into the wonder of how philanthropy can transform an institution. Heather’s impact on Augsburg will be clear well into our next 150 years,” says President Paul Pribbenow.
President Pribbenow has asked Assistant Vice President of Advancement, Amy Alkire, to serve as interim vice president for Advancement. Assistant Vice President for Special Projects Sarah Erkkinen and Senior Director of Advancement Kristen Cooper will work closely with Amy and President Pribbenow on organizational planning during this transition.
The Augsburg Community shares our gratitude for Heather’s work as she embarks on a new adventure. We thank her for her unyielding commitment and dedication over the past nine years and wish her all the best.
About a year ago, Olivia House ’20 and Silent Fox ’18 were approached by their art advisor at the time, Christopher Houltberg. He wanted to know if Silent and Olivia would be interested in doing an art project through a grant provided by the St. Paul and Minnesota Foundation. For them, it was an easy thing to say yes to.
“Right away, we knew we wanted it [the art] to have more than one output,” said Olivia.
Silent majored in Studio Arts and Graphic Design and Olivia majored in Graphic Design. Their time at Augsburg gave them the opportunity to meet various studio artists, explore their interests, and take a hold of their agency as artists. With graduation only shortly behind them, they are already establishing their artistic careers and sharing their experience about a recent project they completed in partnership with Augsburg.
Both Augsburg and the St. Paul and Minnesota Foundation supported Silent and Olivia’s idea to expand their work beyond the singular campaign. Part of the grant went to the billboard art and the other half went to starting a Black Arts Collective, 13.4 Collective. As the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder was approaching, they wanted to create a piece that commemorated that historic moment.
“My goal was to vocalize the black experience in America and show authenticity to our lives,” added Silent.
Translating a powerful message into art may not be innately ingrained in all artists, but for Silent and Olivia, activism is at the core of their work.
“For me, activism is naturally intertwined into my art. It’s part of me, my history, and my community. I can’t imagine it not being part of my work,” reflected Silent.
“I take a lot of inspiration from Emory Douglas, the Black Panther Party’s designer,” Olivia added. “He knew how to create messages succinctly and that were accessible to people by using a lot of imagery and minimal words.”
As they created the ad campaign, they aimed to keep the art somewhat ambiguous and make others think about the deeper meaning. The billboards went up for the Juneteenth holiday and will be taken down in mid-July. Check out the locations their art is displayed.
In addition to their billboard campaign, Olivia and Silent shared their excitement about the future of the 13.4 Collective and other work they completed together. They recently wrapped up an outdoor exhibition they worked on with some graduate students at the University of Minnesota that touched on the history of mutual aid in the Twin Cities (top picture). Silent, Olivia, and Jalen Cannon (copywriter for the billboard), serve as contributors to the 13.4 Collective. They hope to continue expanding their reach with each project and sharing the messages behind the stories of the black community.
Dr. Ruth Johnson ’74 has been elected to the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota, representing the First Congressional District. She credits her time on Augsburg’s board as a major contribution to her being elected to the U of M’s board.
Ruth had a number of influences that led her to choose Augsburg as an undergraduate. She grew up in the Minneapolis suburbs, so she knew of Augsburg. Her family was also active in their large, vibrant Lutheran congregation, whereDr. Ted Hanwick, Augsburg’s first chairman of the Physics Department, was also a member. Ruth sought a college with excellent academics, a Lutheran faith background, with a preference for an urban location. Dr. Hanwick encouraged her to explore Augsburg.
Halfway through her senior year of high school, Ruth’s father passed away. During his illness, she spent time in hospitals with her father. Also, since age 16, she had worked in the hospital pharmacy where her father was Chief of Pharmacy. All these experiences pivoted her interests to pre-med.
“My first love was languages and I planned to pursue a Ph.D. in English or Spanish. But all I saw in hospitals moved me to a career in medicine. There’s so much a person can do in terms of advances in science and in patient care, all of which can make such a difference in people’s lives,” says Ruth.
After graduating summa cum laude with majors in chemistry and biology and a minor in religion, Ruth went on to graduate from Mayo Medical School and completed her internal medicine residency at Mayo Graduate School of Medicine.
Ruth was the first woman associate director of the Internal Medicine Residency program at Mayo Clinic and chaired the Bioethics Courses at Mayo Medical School. She later devoted 17 years to the Mayo Clinic MD-PhD Admissions Committee. She founded the Mayo Diagnostic Breast Clinic in 1993. It was shortly after this that then Augsburg President Charles Anderson invited Ruth to join the Board of Regents.Dr. John Holum, an Organic Chemistry professor and one of Ruth’s favorite professors at Augsburg, recommended her.
“I thought, ‘I love Augsburg and this is a great chance to re-engage in a new way and contribute to the college.’ It was a very meaningful experience,” says Ruth.
Early on in her stint as a board member, Ruth was involved in the fundraising and celebration of the Lindell Library, which opened in 1997. By the late 90’s, she was helping with foundational work that would lead to the creation of the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion. Among the work Ruth is proudest of during her time as a Regent is sparking the idea for Augsburg’s Rochester Campus.
“My work with nurses at Mayo Clinic made me aware that many nurses in Rochester were certificate RN’s without a baccalaureate degree. Because of this, their career advancement was limited and there was no readily available way to complete a BSN. Augsburg’s Weekend College had already had years of experience offering degree programs for adults. I went to then President Bill Frame and suggested Augsburg create a degree program in Rochester.”
University of Minnesota
In 2020, Ruth was approached by the alumni and friends of the University of Minnesota to join their Board. Her educational leadership at Mayo Clinic was well known, as was her 16 years on Augsburg’s Board of Regents.
“When you’re on a board, it’s about governance, higher level, big picture thinking. It’s not managing, that’s the administration’s job. My 16 years with three different presidents at Augsburg meant I knew how a board functions, this was a strong background for me,” says Ruth. “Augsburg also has a really excellent reputation among legislators, they know Augsburg has done good work and they know those values are part of my work.”
Augsburg will always be part of Ruth’s life, though. At Augsburg, Ruth loved getting to know fellow regents, alumni, faculty, and students. Ruth is also married to Phil Quanbeck II, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Augsburg University.
“It’s a great place and a privilege to be involved with such an incredible group of people.”
She is now looking forward to her work with the U of M, and to connecting to the people she will work with over the next six years.
On June 8, 2021, Augsburg held an in-person commencement ceremony for the classes of 2020 and 2021. After a difficult year of virtual learning and social distancing, the community was able to come together and celebrate the achievements of our Auggie grads!
The event recognized 857 graduates from our undergrad, graduate, and doctoral programs. 4,000+ attendees watched as their loved ones crossed the stage and received their diplomas. U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar also had a special message to share with the graduates. You can watch it on our Facebook page.
To all of the new alumni, congratulations and we hope you stay connected with us!
We are thrilled to introduce the newest members of the Augsburg Alumni Board! Please join us in welcoming:
Berlynn Bitengo ’21
Arianna Antone-Ramirez ’20
Willie Giller ’19
Navid Amini ’19 MBA
Dave Stevens ’90
The Augsburg Alumni Board is an opportunity for alumni from all programs and class years to build relationships with each other and the University today. Members connect with institution leaders, faculty, and students to better understand and support the mission. To learn more go to our Alumni Board page.
Rodger Ericson graduated from Augsburg in 1966. He initially chose Augsburg for a simple reason: his brother was an Auggie. But in a short amount of time, Rodger found his calling.
Originally hoping to pursue a career in mathematics, Rodger was recruited his freshman year at Augsburg to participate in a summer residency in New Jersey which was geared towards students attending Lutheran colleges. That experience helped Rodger realize his strength was not in math but in being a pastor. He switched to a Religion major with a minor in Philosophy. Rodger joined the student government and spearheaded Augsburg’s Spiritual Life Commission as a Senior before continuing on to seminary school.
“I cherish my experience at Augsburg. I’m grateful for the education I got and the way in which it molded me. Augsburg truly turned my life around.”
Stained Glass Art
The art of stained glass making came into Rodger and his wife, Margaret’s, lives quite accidentally. “I was in the parish for 10 years, and ended up going into the Air Force,” says Rodger. It was during his assignment in Florida when he had his first encounter with making stained glass. “We found a house on the corner, that when you drove straight towards it, you could see right into the master bathroom!” After being told by the builders that they couldn’t install frosted windows, Rodger discovered some stained glass classes being held at a local shop and asked if that was a possibility. To his delight, it was, and he and Marge took a handful of classes where they made a 5’ X 6’ window for their bathroom.
Since that first window, Rodger and Margaret have continued making stained glass art. For each house they’ve lived in, they create an original piece to go in one of the windows. One of Rodger’s favorite pieces is of Santorini, Greece. “It was a lot of work trying to get the angles and coloration right.” What makes stained glass art so intricate is having to buy specific sheets of glass that come in the color you want and fitting all the pieces together. Rodger often gets asked if he simply paints the glass he buys, but it’s actually quite methodical to connect all the pieces.
Rodger and Margaret consider themselves fortunate to live a comfortable life. Remembering what he learned at Augsburg about supporting your neighbors, the couple donates their works of art to help raise funds for different organizations. They are a long-time supporter of Jaltepec Educativo, a Mexican school that empowers low income high school age girls who have great potential with scholarships to obtain skills and confidence. “Over the past year we raised about $5,000 that all goes to them.”
So when Augsburg’s Vice President for Advancement, Heather Riddle, reached out to Rodger about joining the Auggie Connections Facebook page, Rodger wondered how he could connect his glass making to support the university.
He had made a stained glass Minnesota outline with the Augsburg ‘A’ for an old classmate and liked how the piece turned out. He decided to make another piece and donate it to Augsburg, with explicit instructions that the piece be used to raise money for Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Fund Scholarship.
“It’s a win-win-win. I win because I get to make something. [An Augsburg student] wins because they get something, the scholarship. And someone else wins the artwork in the raffle.”
Rodger hopes that his stained glass donation will encourage people to participate in the raffle, and continue donating into the future.
A Raffle for the Augsburg Sesquicentennial Scholarship Fund
The Auggie Community has the chance to win this hand-crafted stained glass piece to show off your Auggie pride! And two runner-ups will have a chance to win a stained glass hummingbird, also hand-crafted by Rodger.
1 ticket $5
3 tickets $10
6 tickets $20
Drawing will be held on August 31, 2021.
To enter, mail in a check or cash to: Augsburg University
Attn: Institutional Advancement
2211 Riverside Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55454.
Players must be at least 18 years old. Mail a check or cash with this slip; credit cards cannot be used for this raffle.
In the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, mental health experts across the country say they have seen African-Americans, whose skepticism of therapy has been documented by research, seeking it in growing numbers.
Jamil and Sara Stamschror-Lott, the founders of Creative Kuponya, a mental health practice in Minneapolis, said the demand for therapy had “gone through the roof” over the past year. The couple said 31 percent of their practice’s clients are Black.
“We’ve seen everything that the nation has seen from afar, from folks in civil unrest and devastation, despair,” said Mr. Stamschror-Lott. The couple said that some residents were overwhelmed and exhausted by the events of the past year, and that there remained a “great deal of pain and trauma.”