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The Man in the Pines – one Auggie’s quest to find a story

The Man in the Pines-NashPer Minnesota tradition, David Nash ’06 first met the giant, talking Paul Bunyan in Brainerd, Minnesota when he was really young, and it left a lasting impression. So a few years ago when picking an American folklore to read to his son, it was obvious to David he should read the story of Paul Bunyan. Unfortunately, his son wasn’t that interested in tales of Paul and Babe the Blue Ox.

David has always enjoyed writing music, so he wrote a song about Paul to sing to his son, imagining if Paul was a real person. He wondered what if Paul’s story was a bit sadder, and perhaps we were taking advantage of his story and turning it into something else to get the happy folklore that it is now.After writing the song, David played it at an open mic and people really enjoyed it. Later, he heard an interview of a musician he listens to who mentioned they wrote a book based off a song.

“It occurred to me: why does my song have to be the end of the story?”

After his kids went to bed one summer night in 2018, David sat down and started writing. Then it was every night when the kids went to bed. He’d sit down in a chair and write and write and write.

“It all came on suddenly, almost to the point that it felt kind of like a sickness. It was like I couldn’t get better until the story was all written down.”

By researching the history of logging in Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as the great Hinckley fire, David aimed to write a historically accurate novel with American folklore, historical ecology, Native American spirituality, and love.

When a draft was complete, the next step was publication. David’s wife, alumna Sara (Holman) Nash ’06, suggested he reach out to Augsburg’s English Department. Sara is an English major graduate from Augsburg and connected David with Professor Emerita Kathryn Swanson.

“Kathy Swanson and the English Department helped me look for publishers and things to consider in terms of what makes the project marketable, and writing resources.”

Two publishers accepted David’s book: one was from Oregon and the other, Orange Hat Publishing, is located in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

“I went with the Waukesha publisher. Being more local, I felt a good connection with their owner, who went to the same high school as me.”

After rounds of formal editing and book designs, The Man in the Pines was ready to be released. A book launch party was planned for April 2020 at a local brewery in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The party and book tour was going to be accompanied by David’s The Man in the Pines music.

However, the current pandemic prevented the party from happening and canceled the book tour.

“With COVID, self-promotion is hard right now. As a musician, I thrive more off immediate interaction with people, in-person.”

David isn’t giving up, though. He still released the book in March and did an online reading with a few other authors. He also hosted an online concert with one other musician, during which David explained a few stories from book and played songs. When it’s safe to do so, he will tour with his book and accompanying songs, and have a proper launch party in La Crosse.

One surprising thing David learned about himself while writing The Man in the Pines is that he really likes writing.

“If someone would have told me I would enjoy writing a book, it would have been hard to comprehend. I like that you can start with an idea and you may not know your destination. I like writing myself out of problems. It can be frustrating, but also gratifying to discover the journey of your characters as you write.”

Photo from alumna Lauren (Falk) McVean ‘06. Photo credit Lauren B Photography (

David had an early connection to Augsburg. His mom, Susan Nash, Ed.D., has been a nursing professor at Augsburg’s Rochester campus since 1998, and his older brother, Collin, played hockey at Augsburg. David was a biology major and also played hockey. He met his wife, Sara, their senior year in college, at a mutual friend’s birthday party.

Today, David is a Pediatric Ophthalmologist and Strabismologist at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse. He lives in Wisconsin with his wife and two children, where they spend most of their time outdoors, kayaking, jogging, fly and trout fishing, hiking, painting, and practicing photography.

“I have more interests and hobbies than I have time for!”

Making an Impact Through Problem Solving

Brynn Watson ’89 is Lockheed Martin’s Vice President in the Digital Transformation Program. As COVID-19 moved most of Lockheed Martin’s work online, Brynn’s work became more important than ever, helping her teams pivot to a digital platform. She has been pleasantly surprised that productivity and efficiency have continued and says her teams have adapted positively to online programs to stay connected. While this has been a big change for most of the company, it’s a change Brynn embraces, especially in her leadership role.

“We’re more empathetic about work-life balance. Parents are teaching their kids. We’ve become more accepting about dogs barking in the background of a phone call. I like that change. It’s a good thing.”

Brynn has an award-winning record for her leadership abilities: Lockheed Martin Space NOVA Full Spectrum Leadership Award; Tribute to Women Honor by the YWCA of Silicon Valley; and Lockheed Martin Space Ed Taft Diversity Leadership Award.

In 2018, Brynn was recognized with Augsburg’s Distinguished Alumni Award for her commitment to helping young women in STEM.

Brynn’s dedication to helping others through community building started long before her work at Lockheed Martin. It started in middle school with the influence of another Auggie: Ertwin “Ert” Jones-Hermerding.

Ert graduated from Augsburg in 1969 with a degree in Speech, then moved to Robbinsdale to teach speech and theater at the middle school. This is where Brynn first met Ert and first learned about Augsburg.

“What he had our theater groups focus on was not only our craft, but our community. I got into the focus on service really young.”

Brynn thought Augsburg sounded like the best college from Ert’s depiction. In fact, when applying for college, she only applied to Augsburg.

“I followed in the footsteps of my favorite teacher,” says Brynn. “I was really motivated to go to a place where I could learn and also make an impact on my community.”

At Augsburg, Brynn was involved in campus life as a resident advisor, a cheerleader, and as part of ODK, a national organization that recognized students with responsible leadership and service in campus life skills. And it was in her math class that she developed a love for problem solving. Dr. Lawrence Copes, Chair of Math Computer Science, challenged Brynn and her classmates to think differently about math.

“He opened our minds to what math is, he called it a beautiful language and problem solving language.”

Brynn credits Dr. Copes’ coaching and mentorship for steering her into the aerospace industry. When she thought about what to do with her mathematics degree, she thought about solving hard problems. And the industry growing at the time of her graduation—the industry that presented all the hard problems—was the aerospace industry.

Leadership Through Mentorship

Brynn graduated from Augsburg, then went on to earn her master’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of California at Riverside. After a few years at Aerojet Electronic Systems, she attended a job fair where she met a female executive, Amy Flanagan, who was focused on recruiting women to Lockheed Martin. Brynn was so impressed with Amy that she decided she wanted to work for her.

“I honed my focus on service at Augsburg, but when I met Amy, I was introduced to her passion and I wanted to work for her and work for the place she was committed to.”

At Lockheed Martin, Brynn has held a variety of positions, including vice president of Navigation Systems Operations and deputy for the Global Positioning System (GPS) III program for Lockheed Martin Space.

“I have a lot of great memories and experiences of

developing products, launching satellites, those are awesome and amazing things that are doing wonderful things for our country and our world.”

When asked what she is most proud of in the time since graduating from Augsburg, Brynn says raising her daughter to be an amazing young woman. Brynn is also proud of her work mentoring others, especially women.

Augsburg prepared her to go out into the world and make an impact, and Brynn sees this impact in her daughter, in her daughter’s friends, and in others she’s mentored over the years.

“It’s visiting classrooms, it’s one kid that got a spark from that visit. That’s amazing to be able to create those sparks that can solve the next big challenge for the world.”

Brynn has mentored several women in her career, including college students who now work at Lockheed Martin. She is also on the Executive Steering Council for Lockheed Martin’s Women’s Impact Network, and is co-chairing this year’s virtual women’s leadership forum.

“As much as I believe we are making a lot of progress in our quest to improve the diversity metrics—particularly the female to male ratios—there’s a lot of work to do. I always make sure that people surround themselves with mentors and sponsors and champions. You are creating a network of support so as you need to make difficult decisions—whether it’s technical decisions within your day job or it is advice on how to find that next opportunity—you’ve got that support network.”

Brynn’s daily work doesn’t include typing code or doing math problems on the white board like she used to, but she believes her work is still about solving problems and making sure the barriers her teams might be facing are addressed.

“Sometimes you think you have to do it all on your own and that’s never the case. I got to where I am because of mentors and teachers and my parents, all those people are the shoulders that I stood on to get to where I’m at.”

Five Years of Howling Bird Press

Howling Bird Press

Since its inception five years ago, Howling Bird Press has published five winning manuscripts, all with authors who have gone on to do wonderful things. The press has also been recognized for its work in Poets & Writers, Kirkus, Foreword Reviews, Columbia Journal, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Literary Review, and The St. Paul Pioneer Press.

2020 marks the five-year anniversary of Howling Bird Press, the publishing house of Augsburg University’s Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Started by former MFA Director and Professor Emerita Cass Dalglish, Howling Bird Press is a student-run publishing program that offers an annual book contest where the winner is awarded a $1,000 cash prize along with book publication and distribution.

Students enrolled in the Publishing Concentration, a two-semester course sequence taught by poet James Cihlar, run the press while studying the publishing profession and the book trade. The students handle all the work of running a press, including acquisitions, editing, graphic design, production, marketing, and fundraising. Howling Bird Press books are distributed by Small Press Distribution and are available online and in bookstores nationwide.

The annual nationwide contest is open to manuscripts of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction on an alternating basis and is judged by the student editors and senior faculty of the MFA program. Along with the prize and publication, the winning author is invited to read at the MFA program’s summer residency in Minneapolis.

This year’s title, Self, Divided by John Medeiros, is the winner of the 2020 Nonfiction Prize.

Previous winning books are Irreversible Things, by Lisa Van Orman Hadley, winner of the 2019 Fiction Prize; Simples, by KateLynn Hibbard, winner of the 2018 Poetry Prize; Still Life with Horses, by Jean Harper, winner of the 2017 Nonfiction Prize; The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street, by Jacob M. Appel, winner of the 2016 Fiction Prize; and At the Border of Wilshire & Nobody, by Marci Vogel, winner of the 2015 Poetry Prize.

This fall, students will be reading poetry manuscripts in preparation for the 2021 prize.

First Howling Bird Press Publishing Editors

Students with winning author

The first three students to sign up for Howling Bird Press’s publishing concentration were not only adding a concentration on to their creative writing master’s program, they were helping develop the program for future publishing students. Amanda Symes, Ashley Cardona, and Kevin Matuseski are photographed with Marci Vogel at her book launch party in 2015.

Kevin Matuseski MFA ’16

It was quite lovely to be part of the first Howling Bird Press cohort of editors. The idea was to study everything in bookmaking from the initial manuscript to marketing after publication, so it seemed like a worthwhile endeavor for someone like me who wanted to eventually publish his own book. I even ordered a cake for the book launch! Those are things you don’t really imagine doing when you think of the book business, but there are many little tasks like that in publishing.

The most grueling aspect was the sheer quantity of reading we did to select a manuscript to publish. I was reading poetry manuscripts almost everyday—from right after work until I went to bed—for about a month. Then we came together as a team, with professors as our guides, to decide on the winning manuscript.

This was the most memorable to me—to have several people in one room with different tastes, values, and backgrounds—and to try to agree on the best manuscript. It was no easy task, but I think all of us were proud of our choice, Marci Vogel’s At The Border of Wilshire & Nobody.

Her book is now one of my most cherished possessions. Yes, it’s beautiful work, but it became even more valuable when we sat down as an editing cohort to read through it line by line. I think voracious readers often don’t slow down to do this, but it’s a rewarding process, especially with a text as beautiful and layered as Marci’s. You become more present with the text, you notice things, and you guess (sometimes incorrectly) at the intention of the author. It’s critical reading to the extreme.

Our appreciation for Marci’s work was compounded when we met the person behind the manuscript—a kind, humble, and wise person with a true passion for language. She even recommended a few books that I ordered for my daughter. It’s nice to have made a connection with someone so genuine. I see now that she has another book out, Death and Other Holidays. My copy has been ordered. I can’t wait to read it! It’s gratifying to see her continued success having been part of her first book release.

Ashley Cardona MFA ’15

Being part of the team responsible for creating and running Howling Bird Press is one of those experiences that I’m grateful for in ways that I’m only now fully realizing.

I learned what it takes to make a book happen. Proofing, layout, printing, cutting, binding—it was a fascinating process. And then, seeing Marci’s work finally transform from a PDF into a beautiful, tangible piece of art gave us all such a feeling of accomplishment and pride. To be able to bring her poetry to the page was a gift.

Promoting and celebrating the book came naturally for us. We were excited about sharing her work and ours with the world. Designing a promotional broadside felt like the right way to showcase the beauty of language and image that runs throughout Marci’s poetry. The bird of paradise image (below) plays with the language of the poem and serves as a reminder of place for much of her book.

We felt like we knew Marci before we ever met, and when we finally did meet for the book launch, we were met with warmth and grace—she is truly a delightful person and artist.

Amanda Symes MFA ’15

It was exciting to join the inaugural Howling Bird Press group. We not only got the chance to learn about publishing, we had the opportunity to help design the program. Our first assignment was to come up with the publishing house’s name. That was an exciting task that many other MFA students participated in.

To say we got a crash course in publishing is a bit of an understatement. The three of us in that first cohort had full-time jobs, families, were in different tracks in the MFA program (Nonfiction, Poetry, and Fiction), and were embarking on publishing the first Howling Bird Press book.

We were doing more than just a publishing job, though. And we were doing a few years’ worth of publishing work in two short semesters. We read over ninety poetry manuscripts, had back-and-forth meetings to whittle the list down to ten finalists, worked with professors in an all-day discussion to pick the winning manuscript, drafted a contract for winner Marci Vogel, edited her manuscript, designed an entire book—cover, layout, text—to print, finalized details with a book printing company, developed a marketing plan, implemented that marketing plan, and organized a book launch party.

For me, this process was terrifying and also one of the most rewarding experiences of my writing life. I didn’t have a background in poetry or in publishing, so everything was new. And while it was daunting, I was reassured working with Ashley, Kevin, and Marci, all who are phenomenal writers. We found a way to work together, and work with the professors, to publish what has turned into one of my favorite books: At the Border of Wilshire & Nobody.

In the end, I learned more than I could have dreamed about the publishing process. It’s helped shape my writing and prepared me for what to expect when my manuscript is finished. It’s also been deeply rewarding to see the great things Marci has done with At the Border of Wilshire & Nobody, and her continued success since.

Howling Bird Press – Five Years of Accomplishments

Howling Bird Press authors have accomplished so much in the short time since winning the annual publication award.

  • Still Life with Horses by Jean Harper, Simples by KateLynn Hibbard, and Irreversible Things by Lisa Van Orman Hadley have all been finalists for the Midwest Book Awards.
  • Simples was a finalist for Lyricality’s One Book Minnesota pick.
  • Irreversible Things won an Association of Mormon Letters (AML) book award.
  • Author Jacob M. Appel is the subject of a Netflix documentary and his Howling Bird Press winning book, The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street, is mentioned. This book has sixty ratings on Amazon averaging 4.5 stars.
  • Howling Bird Press has reprinted both Irreversible Things and The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street due to popular demand.


Howling Bird Press authors are not the only success story, however. The publishing alumni have gone on to great things as well!

  • Tracy Ross published her books Broken Signals and James Dean and the Beautiful Machine.
  • Colin Mustful founded his own press, History through Fiction.
  • Ashley Cardona and Amanda Symes have won writing contests, publishing poetry and fiction (respectively) as part of anthology collections.
  • Three students have continued their studies in Georgetown University’s publishing program (Gabe Benson), the University of Minnesota’s MFA program (Brad Hagen), and Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s graduate program in Counseling with a focus on creative writing in Art Therapy and trauma (Ciara Dall).

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

The Master of Fine Arts program at Augsburg University is designed to accommodate writers who work full-time, live outside of Minnesota, or simply desire the flexibility of a low-residency experience. This two-year program—run jointly by Stephan Eirik Clark and Lindsay Starck—offers one-on-one work with mentors throughout the year, features an annual ten-day summer residency, and provides the opportunity to join a lifelong community of writers.

Students typically begin the program with a ten-day summer residency in Minneapolis, participating in daily workshops, readings, and mini-courses that focus on literary craft as well as career skills in teaching, editing, publishing, book arts, and advertising. The program includes three summer residencies in Minneapolis.

The first and second residencies are each followed by two off-campus semesters of work with faculty mentors in virtual classrooms that make use of online and other technologies. Each semester, MFA candidates register for a Mentorship and Creative and Critical reading course. In addition, students complete a craft paper during their third off-campus semester and prepare a craft talk in the fourth. Cross genre work is encouraged. By their third and last residency, students are expected to have produced a bound creative thesis.

Students are also given the opportunity to specialize in one or more career concentrations: Teaching and Publishing (Howling Bird Press). Classes are planned with a 5-to-1 student-to-mentor ratio for the close relationship needed throughout the course of MFA studies.

Upcoming Facebook Live Events: Author Chris Stedman ’08, Musician Dua Saleh ’17, and a Panel for Augsburg Parents

Over the next two weeks, Augsburg will be featuring two alumni and a panel of Augsburg staff in Facebook live events.

On Tuesday, May 19, author and alumnus Chris Stedman ’08 will be joining us at 3 p.m. for a conversation about his new book “IRL: Finding Realness, Meaning, and Belonging in Our Digital Lives.” Then on Tuesday, May 26 at 5 p.m., recording artist Dua Saleh ’17 will be sharing some music from their new EP, ROSETTA. Both of these live events will be streamed on the Augsburg University Alumni Association page.

For parents of future and current Auggies, there will be a special Facebook live event on the Augsburg University Facebook page Wednesday, May 27 at 5 p.m. to answer questions about the fall semester and the new Augsburg Bold plan. Panelist include Director of Campus Life Mike Grewe, Director of the Center for Wellness & Counseling Nancy Guilbeault, and Financial Aid Counselor Uriah Ward.


Alumni Spotlight: Bethany Johnson ’19 Lives Out Augsburg’s Mission with Augsburg Central Health Commons

Bethany loading water bottles into vanDuring class the last week of April, Auggie Bethany Johnson, a current DNP-FNP student, wondered how she could help her local community during the COVID-19 pandemic. She wanted to volunteer her time at Augsburg Central Health Commons, a common practice for Augsburg nursing students. However, due to safety precautions, students cannot be on-site right now. Bethany asked Katie Clark, her professor and Director of Augsburg Central Health Commons, how the community is doing.

“Katie said they need water. I thought that seems so elementary,” says Bethany. “But everything is closed, none of the regular bathrooms or shops where a marginalized person can fill up water are open. My husband’s coffee shop has slow business right now so I called him and asked how much water he had.”

Bethany’s husband, David, owns UP Coffee Roaster and told her he’d order a pallet of water.

One week later, Bethany loaded up her daughter, her husband, and 1800 bottles of water in the UP Coffee Roaster’s delivery van and headed to the Health Commons.

“I think everyone in the community is shocked to hear people need water because we don’t think of things like this. It’s a basic, basic need,” says Bethany.

The COVID-19 outbreak has affected everyone, but it has particularly affected the marginalized communities in the Twin Cities.

“Encampments are being torn down and individuals coming to the Health Commons are saying they have no water,” says Dr. Joyce Miller, Chair of Augsburg’s Nursing Department.

Bethany finished her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Augsburg in 2019 and is now part of the Doctor in Nursing Practice program.

“Their mission is what brought me to Augsburg,” says Bethany. “To reach out and be so inclusive in their neighborhood and the greater community. Augsburg felt like my people. Felt like home.”

It’s no surprise to her professors, then, that Bethany jumped at the chance to help.

“Bethany’s generous donation to the Augsburg Central Health Commons was truly moving. Not only is Bethany working on the frontlines, but she is caring for those who are marginalized. Healthcare for the Homeless, St. Stephens Outreach, and AICDC also took portions of our water donation to distribute to the unsheltered population,” says Katie Clark.

“I have two kids in college, plus I’m in college, and Augsburg is the only one not closing everyone out. Not everyone has a safe home to go home to, so Augsburg is staying open to take care of people. It blows me away, I love it,” says Bethany. “They walk the walk and talk the talk.”

While she waits for approval to volunteer at the Health Commons, Bethany and her family are already planning to donate more water. They have also generously offered to help others donate water to the Health Commons.

If you would like to donate, please contact Bethany directly at


Augsburg’s Health Commons

The Augsburg Central Health Commons is a nursing-led drop-in center that is dedicated to building relationships based on mutual benefit and understanding with those who utilize our space. Nursing faculty members and students from Augsburg University lead, organize, and participate at the Augsburg Central Health Commons in hopes to create changes in our healthcare system to honor the wisdom of all people as they seek to reduce bias, increase compassionate based care, and discover what it means to be a citizen nurse.

The Augsburg Central Health Commons was founded in 1992 (previously called the Nursing Center). It has provided an opportunity for faculty and students from the Nursing Department at Augsburg to become involved in independent practice. Through the years, Augsburg nurses have met community members who have welcomed their service. In the relationships that have developed, nurses continue to experience the mutuality of health–when someone grows stronger, that strength helps everyone in the community.

Alumni Spotlight: Jon Dahl, Captain U.S. Army National Guard MNARNG, MFA ‘16

John Dahl in uniformJon Dahl has many roles in life. He’s a husband, father, screenwriter, director, marathon runner, and a Captain and Logistics Officer for the Army National Guard. His current role as Contract Specialist in the National Guard is what is keeping him extra busy right now, during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a Contract Specialist working for the U.S. Property and Fiscal Office, Jon is one of a dozen people in Minnesota authorized to recommend federal vendors, vendors who usually bid on government contracts, to fulfill the State of Minnesota’s medical supplies needs.

Dahl joined the National Guard and went to basic training in 2004, commissioned as an officer in 2007 and still serves today. In his time since joining, his favorite job was contracting for Moral Welfare and Recreation in Camp Buehring in Kuwait in 2018. It allowed him to indulge in his love of movies and entertainment while stationed in Kuwait.

“If it wasn’t in Kuwait, I’d still love to be doing that job,” Dahl says.

Dahl worked with the USO and MWR, the restaurant and clothing vendors, the movie theater, basically all the entertainment directorates at Camp Buehring. He was also in charge of all the talent who visited camp, including The Couples of Comedy, the Blizzard Call of Duty team, and the band Joyride.

Now, Dahl spends most of his day processing vendor offers to get medical supplies to Minnesota during the current pandemic. He leverages the federal system – System of Award Management – to manage vendors around the world who are interested in selling medical equipment to the State of Minnesota. And the items Dahl is working hardest to get are Nitrile Gloves; N95, BiPap, PAPR, and disposable face masks; face shields; and medical gowns, hoods, and coveralls.

“3M, Boston Scientific, there are lots of large Minnesota businesses we’re talking to in order to get medical supplies,” Dahl says. “There are a lot of local people doing a lot of things!”

Unfortunately, there are also a lot of criminals trying to take advantage of the high demand for medical equipment, so Dahl is working extra hard to make sure legitimate vendors are selling correct supplies to the state government. After sorting through hundreds of offer sheets each day, Dahl picks the top vendors based on delivery schedules, terms, and price. He then checks with state and federal databases to make sure the vendors have a clean record and are quality vendors. Once verified, Dahl recommends vendors to the state and negotiates specifications to make sure the vendor and their product fit what Minnesota needs right now.

Jon and his familyMost of the time, Dahl is able to work from his home in Big Lake, where he lives with his family. When he needs to go into the office, he drives to Camp Ripley or to the State Emergency Operating Center. His temperature is checked at the door and he’s questioned about any symptoms of illness or people he’s been in contact with before he’s allowed in the facility.

“They’re following guidelines because there are a lot of critical people in a closed space,” Dahl says. “Overall, we’ve tripped and fallen through the whole process. But we’re tripping and falling forward. We’re getting the process done.”

Augsburg University

Dahl spent two years at Metropolitan State University, earning second his Bachelor’s Degree in Screenwriting, before coming to Augsburg.

“I was looking for a film or screenwriting master’s program to apply to just as I was graduating from MSU and Cass Dalglish (the MFA’s first director) and her team started up the program at Augsburg. Between meeting her and Stephan Eirik Clark (the MFA’s current director), I knew this would be the program for me,” Dahl says.

He was part of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing’s inaugural cohort, specializing in the Screenwriting program. He graduated in 2016 with the makings of two feature length screenplays. After graduation, he has stayed in contact with a few of his professors, and he is looking forward to the day people can gather in groups again so he can start auditions for one of those screenplays, ironically titled “Matter of the Apocalypse.”

This Week on Facebook Live: Paul Mueller ’84 and Chemistry Professor Michael Wentzel

Paul Mueller and Michael WentzelThis week, we are looking forward to two Facebook live events with Dr. Paul Mueller ’84, Regional Vice President for Mayo Clinic Health System, and Dr. Michael Wentzel, Associate Professor of Chemistry.

Dr. Mueller will be in conversation with President Pribbenow on Tuesday, April 21 at 5 p.m. CT to discuss how the Mayo Clinic Health System has been responding to COVID-19 and the research being done in that area.

Then on Thursday at 8 p.m. CT, we invite you to join us for a beer or nonalcoholic drink to hear about “The Art, History, and Science of Brewing” and how it relates to the liberal arts education with Dr. Wentzel and Chris Bogen ’09.

About Dr. Paul Mueller ’84

Dr. Mueller has been a consultant in general internal medicine for Mayo Clinic since 1998 and chaired that department 2009-2018. He is a professor of medicine and biomedical ethics for the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. In January 2019, Dr. Mueller was named a Fellow of The Hastings Institute, an internationally-renowned center for bioethics. Dr. Mueller has authored or co-authored more than 120 peer-reviewed publications and hundreds of book chapters, abstracts, letters and columns. He is an associate editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. Paul is a Regent Emeriti of Augsburg University, is a past chair of Augsburg’s Board of Regents and currently serves as Chair of Augsburg’s Great Returns campaign.

About Dr. Michael Wentzel

As an organic chemist, I am interested in developing new synthetic reaction methods. I was trained as an organometallic chemist using transition metals to develop new catalytic methods. These methods involved nitrogen containing heterocycles and boronic acids as well as C-H and C-C sigma bonds. I have been at Augsburg since 2013 and worked here part-time before that while doing graduate and post-graduate work across the river at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. I am passionate about teaching and mentoring in the classroom, laboratory, and in research settings. I have been influenced greatly by my own liberal arts education and the wonderful professors I was able to learn from and work with. I appreciate that we train our students to be strong chemists with a sense of purpose and service to others.

My research group is focused on the development of green synthetic methods. Currently, we have projects using a heterogeneous catalyst in a flow system, silylation of amines for alkylation, and the synthesis of biodegradable polymers for the educational laboratories. The polymer research has been done in collaboration with the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities NSF-funded Center for Sustainable Polymers. Finally, I am extremely proud of the success of all my former group members as they continue to be successful following graduation in their lives.

Alumni/Faculty Spotlight: Bob Stacke ’71 – “The Rhythm Is Gonna Get You”

Bob StackeEver since Bob Stacke ‘71 started classes at Augsburg, he has been a strong influence on its music—first as a student, then later as professor and director of the band and numerous ensembles. And since his retirement in 2014, the Music Department Chair Emeritus continues to make his mark.

With a passion for exploring international music and finding ways to fuse dissimilar styles, he has performed jazz and interesting new music in a surprisingly wide variety of venues. But beyond that performing experience, as band director and professor he has provided hundreds of Auggie students with growth opportunities that draw them into an expanded world of music and enable them to discover the joy of creating and performing their own compositions and styles.

Former music composition student Brendan Anderson ‘02 found a mentor in Stacke and has said that Stacke’s early advice—to “say yes”—opened up his Augsburg studies and career in ways that he would never have envisioned in earlier years. Rather than focusing on one aspect or style of music, which may or may not be useful in a career, Anderson found that being willing to say yes—getting outside one’s comfort zone and practicing a lot—could expand opportunities dramatically, both musically and in life in general.

The wisdom of this philosophy became real to Anderson after graduating from Augsburg and settling in Los Angeles to pursue his childhood dream of being a film composer. It was all going splendidly and his goal within reach, when a new awareness of many other possibilities took hold. Now he serves as associate pastor of worship and communication at Highlands Church, a large interdenominational church in Scottsdale, Ariz. In his “free time,” he freelances in mixed media and video production for local nonprofits. He also has worked with Stacke on Augsburg Sesquicentennial music. And he is loving it all.

Student-led Initiative

Stacke teaching in jazz band rehearsalStacke first arrived on campus as a student in the turbulent 60s, when music gave full-throated expression to differing viewpoints on issues of the day—politics, faith, women’s rights, race, and human rights. On campus, he found a number of students who, like him, loved traditional music but were also interested in expanding Augsburg’s performances to include jazz and contemporary music.

With the blessing of the music faculty, several of these students formed a group, running it by themselves and practicing regularly in a music room. Uniquely, they used unusual progressive instrumentation, adding French horn and tuba to the traditional jazz band, and calling themselves the Neophonic Brass. Later, they added vocalists—the Cabaret Singers—which included current music professor, Merilee Klemp ‘75.

With gratitude, Stacke remembers mentors such as former band director Mayo Savold, who encouraged the students to develop their own musical style, and percussion teachers Elliott Fine and Marv Dahlgren. When Stacke would lament, “I just can’t get this part,” Dahlgren would respond, “Then you just haven’t practiced enough!” These Augsburg experiences and living in the 60s formed how Stacke presents music today.

Even at an early age, he performed a wide variety of music with numerous show and jazz groups. He was part of the Skeets Trio, teaming up with accordion player and Augsburg alumnus Skeets Langley ‘64 (who won the world accordion championship) and tuba player Stan Freese (who became the head of Disney Park music). Perhaps Stacke’s biggest thrill during his student years was playing as an extra percussionist for the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Though Stacke knew early on that his career would be in music, he wasn’t clear on the details. Teaching or performing? But with time, and after observing Freese’s teaching style at Edison High School in Minneapolis and working with the percussion students there, Stacke decided to look seriously at a teaching career.

In the 70s and 80s, he taught music at local schools (junior high and high school) and at the University of St. Cloud, while continuing to perform in several venues, like the Chanhassen Dinner Theater, where he played in the band for 13 years.

jazz band ensemble on the steps of old mainIn 1990 Stacke returned to Augsburg, this time as faculty, and in 1998 he was named chair of the Music Department. He also served as director of the Augsburg Band, as well as the Jazz Instrumental and Vocalist Ensembles (JIVE). To his delight, the appointment enabled him to re-energize the Jazz Band that he and his classmates had started years earlier.

Former student and mentee Dave Kerkvliet ‘95, who has been director of bands at Sebeka, Minnesota, for 24 years is—like Stacke—a drummer. Forever grateful for what his mentor did for him, he believes in using the same, most effective, tool to mentor his own students that Stacke did—“encourage your students (never discourage), and provide opportunities to showcase their talents.” Kerkvliet and some of his Sebeka band members recently enjoyed a backstage give-and-take with members of the well-known rock band, 311.

Another former student, clarinetist Lauren Lesser ‘12 of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, knew when she came to Augsburg that she didn’t want to major in music but definitely wanted to continue playing in a band, which she had done since the fifth grade. Stacke made that possible, and she never felt any less a part of the band than the music majors playing alongside her. She has said that, though Stacke expected a lot from his band members, he was able to make everyday things fun. “Bob always made sure there was plenty of time for exploration—both educational and just fun—mixed into the practices and performances,” she said.

Though Stacke acknowledges that the music faculty had more than a few animated discussions about what constitutes a music education, there was never any doubt they shared the same goal—to give the students the best education possible. They expanded the curriculum greatly and built individual skills by taking into account each student’s talents and individuality—and also strove to develop in all students a lifelong love and appreciation of all musical styles.

Music under Stacke’s tutelage has delighted many over the years, exemplified at several Augsburg commencement ceremonies, when Auggie instrumentalists and vocalists have delivered a fulsome jazz performance of the traditional spiritual song, “This Little Light of Mine.” These renditions have brought listeners to tears with their tender power.

International Influence

While Stacke was a student at Augsburg, music from other cultures was becoming a popular genre. He and his friends would listen to the Beatles collaborating with Indian musicians and jazz musicians such as Don Ellis and Buddy Rich using the rhythms of India and Eastern European countries. The world of music exploded for him in its use of rhythm.

When asked what had made him curious about such a variety of genres, he responded with one word—rhythm. He wanted to go beyond the more conventional time signatures and phrasing, and found inspiration in the words of his former teacher, the late Lee Sateren, who said, “Don’t be confined by the tyranny of the bar line.”

What continues to excite Stacke about two dissimilar musical genres “bumping up” against each other is the remarkable blending that can result. He recalls Gunther Schuller of the New England Conservatory of Music, who created a new genre he called Third Stream. It was an incredible blending of “classical” and jazz/contemporary music, Stacke says. As college students, he and his friends were extremely interested in it. Augsburg students of the 60s—such as John Eidsvoog, Greg Lewis, and Ellis Holcomb, who wrote original compositions and arrangements for the Neophonic brass—were highly influenced by Third Stream.

A survey of Stacke’s musical travels (Ireland, Turkey, Haiti, China, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Europe) is indicative of the degree to which he has lived by his own advice—to say yes to learning and embracing new styles.

Ever the Collaborator

Over the years, Stacke has collaborated with a wide variety of organizations to create unique performances. He has worked with musical artists in the Somali neighborhood near campus and directed a group called Midnimo (Somali word for “unity”). Since 2001, he has volunteered every summer at a children’s music camp in Haiti. In 2008, he recruited a big-band-style orchestra (including professional, college, and high school musicians) to present “Students Play in Witness to Duke Ellington.” With collaboration from several Twin Cities high school band directors and the Walker West Music Academy, he assembled a band of high schoolers, and added jazz ensemble members and a couple of professional musicians as mentors, in order to produce the Ellington special.

In the fall of 2013, he developed an alumni jazz band, fondly known as Bob’s Band. He continues to direct the group, which specializes in performing a fusion of jazz and world music. In 2016, Stacke was awarded the Spirit of Augsburg Award. See footage of the award ceremony here.

When he isn’t doing music, Stacke is enjoying another passion—photography. Find more at He and his wife Mary live in Spring Park, Minnesota, with their border collie Rainy, and have two children, Ben and Sarah, and four grandchildren.

—by Cheryl Crockett ‘89

Reunions and Winter Fun Remembered for This Group of Auggies

winter fun groupIf the temps dip too low, having winter fun in Minnesota can often be a matter of trying to make lemonade out of lemons! Learning how to do that can be tricky. So in the late 70s, Augsburg offered a self-directed interim class, authorized by then-dean Charles Anderson, to beat the winter blues. Entitled “Recreation and Conditioning for Minnesota Winter,” the class included working out in Si Melby, then going outside for winter sports—cross-country and downhill skiing, skating, snowshoeing, and even ice fishing.

At an Augsburg event two years ago, six Auggies in attendance realized that the entire group from that 1978 interim class was present, so they gathered for the picture above. They are, left to right: Donadee (Melby) Peterson ‘78, a big fan of winter activities and currently in Oslo, Norway, where her Auggie husband, Tim Peterson ’76, is serving as an interim pastor; Noreen (Walen) Thompson ‘78, a retired medical device marketing vice president, in front of husband Steve Thompson ’78, a retired US Bank vice president; LuAnn (Hedman) Wingard ‘79 in front of husband Tom Wingard ‘78, who together own a large family-run potato farm operation near Elk River, Minnesota; and Bev (Ranum) Meyer ‘78, a retired actuary in benefits consulting. Bev’s husband, Dennis J. Meyer ’78, also an Auggie grad, is a retired marketing executive who serves on the Board of Regents.

For some, this class has been fondly remembered as a reason to stay in Minnesota and enjoy the winter weather.

Gather your friends and make plans to join us at the first-ever All-School Reunion on September 26, 2020!

A Sweetheart of a Sale – February 11 and 12

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, join the Augsburg Associates for a “Sweetheart of a Sale” on February 11th and 12th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Christensen Center. With vintage jewelry, Valentine-themed gifts, and more it will be a great opportunity to pick out unique and special treats for Valentine’s Day! Love is in the air… see you there!