We can’t wait to have students, alumni, family, and friends on campus for all of our Homecoming events between October 8-14, 2023!
Whether you have been coming back to Augsburg every year since you graduated, or it has been a while, we can’t wait to reminisce, celebrate, and gather together as Auggies. Our Homecoming weekend includes the Athletics Hall of Fame on Thursday, October 12, the Distinguished Alumni Award Celebration on Friday, October 13, the 50th Reunion Breakfast, Homecoming Chapel, Taste of Augsburg, tours of Augsburg’s campus, and the Homecoming Football Game on Saturday, October 14
There is nothing like returning to campus, and we hope that you will join us.
Join us for the events and tours listed above by RSVPing here: RSVP TODAY!
You may know Dave Stevens ’90 from his time playing minor league baseball for the Saint Paul Saints or when he tried out for the Dallas Cowboys, or maybe you know Stevens from his seven National Sports Emmys, which he won while reporting with ESPN for over 20 years.
And there’s still an abundance of Stevens’s accolades that could be mentioned but few people know it started with his time as a football player at Augsburg. He was and still is the only congenital amputee to ever play NCAA football. Stevens was offered a scholarship to Augsburg after his story aired on ABC’s That’s Incredible! in 1981.
“I had a job opportunity at KSTP and a scholarship that Julian Foss provided for me to attend Augsburg, and I wanted to work in television,” Stevens said. “Covering sports at 19-years-old and in a market like Minnesota when the Metrodome had just been built was a big deal.”
But not long into his first year at Augsburg, Stevens got homesick. That, and the passing of a parent contributed to him moving back to his hometown in Arizona where he got a job and soon realized that his life wasn’t going in the direction he wanted.
Luckily for Stevens he was given a second chance and a one-way ticket back to Minnesota when he asked his former benefactor if he could retain his scholarship and return to Augsburg, and in 1987, he was back to finish what he had started.
Stevens recalled long days in the classroom, on the field, and at work, getting off late evenings to meet up with friends for some affordable food and entertainment at the Cabooze before heading home to catch some sleep and doing it all again the next day.
“It was so awesome that this little Division III school gave me such a huge opportunity to play football and live my dream,” he said. “And to top it all off I had so many amazing professors, mentors, and resources that really helped me develop as a person and not just as a person with a disability.”
After his time at Augsburg, Stevens would go on to transition more into his career in television. He has covered NCAA Final Fours, World Series, and Super Bowls. Currently Stevens is an adjunct professor at the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, a motivational speaker, and works with a number of charitable foundations. One word that Stevens said is not in his vocabulary is “can’t”.
He hopes to one day be inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame for his time at Augsburg and his contributions to the sport. Stevens said he appreciates the opportunity that Augsburg gave him and continues to give to all of its students.
“Augsburg is this amazing melting pot, and it helps you in the real world to realize there are other people out there who have different ideas, beliefs, and capabilities,” Stevens said. “It’s a school that I don’t think gets enough love for the reputation that it continues to maintain.”
Longtime Director of Choral Activities and Professor Emeritus, Dr. Peter Hendrickson, died this past June at the age of 67. A celebration of his life will be held at Hoversten Chapel on the campus of Augsburg on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 2:00. All are welcome to attend!
An important part of the memorial service will be a special choir made up of Augsburg alumni and former Masterworks Chorale singers who had the privilege of singing under Dr. Hendrickson. A short rehearsal, led by Mark Sedio and Nancy Grundahl, will take place at 12:30, just prior to the memorial service in Hoversten Chapel.
Tina Brauer in the Augsburg Music Department can be contacted with questions as needed (email@example.com). Music to be sung will be emailed to you in advance.
Evangeline “Vangie” Hagfors passed away peacefully on October 4, 2022 at her home.
Vangie’s deep connection to Augsburg began when her father, Elnar Gundale ’33, emigrated from Norway and attended Augsburg Seminary. Vangie attended classes on Augsburg’s campus from 1957-1959 as part of the Nurse’s Training Program through the Lutheran Deaconess Hospital. And three of Vangie’s siblings – John Gundale ’67, Stephen Gundale ’70, and Ruth Gundale ’73 – also attended Augsburg.
Vangie married Norm, a University of Minnesota graduate, and together they had two children, Mark and Rachel. Norm joined Augsburg’s Board of Regents in 1989 and both Norm and Vangie have faithfully served on Augsburg’s President’s Council since its inception in 2018. They embodied Christ’s teaching to love your neighbor, a core tenant of Augsburg’s mission.
Dr. Paul Mueller ’84 shared, “We are saddened by the passing of Mrs. Vangie Hagfors and extend our condolences to our friend, Norm, and the entire Hagfors family. Vangie understood the tremendous value of an Augsburg education rooted in our Lutheran faith. Over the years, the Hagfors have been leading benefactors of Augsburg University. Their lead gift in 2015 resulted in the construction of the campus’ signature building, the Hagfors Center for Science, Business and Religion, in which our students—and future leaders—learn about and explore the intersections of these three disciplines.”
The Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion is a multi-discipline complex that opened in January of 2018 and serves more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year.
Vangie’s gentle and generous spirit will be missed dearly by the Augsburg community. She truly clothed herself in “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” as we read about in Colossians 3:12.
President Paul Pribbenow shared that “It is a most sad day for all of us who have come to know and love Vangie. Her historic ties to Augsburg through her father, the Rev. Elnar Gundale ’33, are fittingly celebrated in the beautiful Gundale Chapel in the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion, and her deep faith was an inspiration to all of us. One of the greatest joys of my time at Augsburg has been to witness the remarkable vision and generosity of Norm and Vangie, whose legacy is forever secure in the remarkable Hagfors Center – a transformative academic building that still takes my breath away with both its architectural beauty and its impact on our students and faculty each day. Along with her family and friends, we grieve Vangie’s death and celebrate a life so faithfully led.”
The funeral service will be held at 11:00 AM on Monday, October 24, at Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church, 900 Stillwater Road, Mahtomedi. Visitation will be held from 3 PM to 6 PM on Sunday, October 23, at Bradshaw, 4600 Greenhaven Drive, White Bear Lake, and one hour prior to the service at church. Read Vangie’s official obituary.
The Manely Firm, P.C. is excited to announce its new associate attorney, Alisha Esselstein. The Manely Firm proudly practices family law throughout the state of Georgia and has the unique expertise of handling international family law cases all over the world.
Esselstein is a graduate of University of Wisconsin Law School and received her undergraduate degree from Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota in International Relations.
About Esselstein, Founding Attorney Michael Manely said, “We are very excited about Ms. Esselstein joining the firm, her international experiences will add more depth and breadth to the diverse experiences of the firm.”
Esselstein has extensive past-experience working with human rights and advocating against gender-based biases and has lived on every continent in the world (except Antarctica) and gained immense experience and knowledge from her immersion in these cultures.
She says, “As your attorney, these experiences will allow me to understand the complexities of your situation and the legal knowledge to guide you through the processes to begin your new life.”
Esselstein will focus on Family Law and International Family Law in her new role with The Manely Firm, P.C.
Colleen (Carstensen) Peterson aka “CeCe” graduated from Augsburg University in 2004 with a double major in Psychology and Religion and a triple minor. She has made it her life mission to help others see their strength through their trials and tribulations, something that she is infinitely familiar with. From being diagnosed with dyslexia at eight, being an Olympic-trained figure skater and enduring the abuse of her coaches, losing her brother at 25, to having a severely disabled son, CeCe has founded a non-profit and used art to find strength in challenging times.
The birth of CeCe’s son and her frustration with not getting the right adaptive equipment to learn, play, and grow inspired the creation of her non-profit, Children’s Organization of Lending Equipment (The COLE Foundation). This mission of COLE is “connect costly adaptive equipment from children with disabilities who outgrow the equipment to other children who need it, at no cost. COLE provides a resource for families to browse and then Lend from our library of equipment.”
Another outlet for CeCe has been her artwork. Her most recent work will be exhibited at Hallberg Center for the Arts (Wyoming, MN) from March 24 – April 16, 2022. Her intentions for her series, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, are to reveal the struggle and loneliness but also the strength of womanhood. CeCe’s bold color palette creates the female form representing light, shadow, and space. Taking a closer look at each shape and stroke, the big and small events in life become a harmonious dance on canvas. 50% of the profits from each purchased painting will go to the COLE Foundation. Check out CeCe’s website: Www.CeCegallery.com.
Karim El-Hibri ’06 will be one of the newest members of Augsburg’s Board of Regents. He is the President of East West Resources Corporation, a small investment firm, as well as a trustee for the El-Hibri Foundation, a philanthropic organization that empowers Muslim leaders and their allies to build inclusive communities.
Karim is also a graduate of Augsburg’s StepUP program.
Karim’s path to a higher education was not clear-cut from the beginning. After a year at American University, he was forced to drop out due to failing grades. Knowing he needed to enroll in a treatment program, Karim sat down with his parents and discussed his options. They discovered the Wilderness Treatment Center, a place Karim found to be a very positive experience. After successfully completing that program, Karim was encouraged to go to a halfway house in Minneapolis called Progress Valley.
“I had no idea where Minneapolis even was, but I was learning that I needed to follow my higher power’s goal, so I went to Progress Valley for three months. They recommended I move on to Sober Living and I believe God speaks through the people around us, so I followed that recommendation. Sober Living is where I heard about Augsburg’s StepUP program,” says Karim.
Karim met Dave Hadden, former assistant director of StepUP, and Patrice Salmeri, former StepUP Director, both whom he credits as instrumental to his recovery. He says Patrice helped him become the student he wanted to be, but more importantly the person he wanted to be.
“Because I had failed engaging in school before, there was this drive to return to academia and thrive. I wanted an opportunity to prove that I deserved this second chance,” says Karim. “I was blown away by StepUP and having a community of peers who were sharing similar challenges, providing this counter-culture to the typical college partying experience. That network provided structure, and we didn’t want to let the community down.”
Karim took a variety of classes in his two years at Augsburg, including two that left lasting impressions.
“There was the Medieval Studies class with Phil Adamo, where we dressed up in medieval attire and walked around campus. And my biology class with Bill Capman experiencing the saltwater tanks with live coral and clownfish laying eggs, I’ve never seen anything quite as impressive.”
He was also a student fundraiser for the Oren Gateway Building. Karim spent a lot of time making sure that the building’s fundraising campaign was a success, knowing Augsburg would be able to house StepUP students in a safe and sober living space.
Karim graduated from the StepUP program in 2005 and in 2006 he transferred back to American University’s School of International Service to graduate with a degree in International Studies. Despite not graduating from Augsburg, Karim continued to stay engaged with the university.
“Augsburg’s culture and values align with our family’s values and has been a major motivator to stay engaged.”
In 2012, Karim brought his mentor, Professor Abdul Aziz Said, to the 24th annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum. Professor Said was a professor at American University, teaching the value of peace and ecological balance, dignity, political pluralism, and cultural diversity.
“Augsburg is such a beautiful example of what a collegiate community can be. Augsburg has a culture of peace, which makes sense why the Nobel Peace Prize Forum was hosted on campus. Professor Said told me, ‘Why not expand Augsburg’s curriculum to teach peace?’ which has been a personal passion of mine ever since.”
Karim served on StepUP’s Advisory Board for a few years and is excited to begin his work on Augsburg’s Board of Regents this fall. He believes his work with East West Resources and the El-Hibri Foundation have prepared him for this new role.
“I’m fortunate because I get to work with my family; my father is the chairman, my mother and sister are on the Board of Trustees of the El-Hibri Foundation. And at East West Resources I love that I get to focus on so many different opportunities, and we get to bring our values into every business in which we engage. I am proud to say that East West Resources only focuses on businesses that have a humanitarian dimension – enhancing people’s lives in one way or another.”
Karim is grateful to Board Chair Matt Entenza and President Paul Pribbenow for the opportunity to become a Regent on Augsburg’s Board and deeply appreciates their confidence.
“I am deeply honored to participate in any way at Augsburg. I didn’t graduate from Augsburg, but the two years I was a student had such a profound impact on me,” says Karim. “StepUP saved my life. It is more than just an education; Augsburg really had an impact on who I am today.”
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.
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.