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Throwback Thursday

A Periodic Tale of Departmental Lore (Part 8)

Written by David Lapakko 

Ray Anderson: the one-man department

For four decades, the communication major at Augsburg was really the domain of just one person: Ray Anderson.  Ray taught at Augsburg from 1949 to 1989 (yikes!), and it’s not an overstatement to say that for all those years he single handedly ran the program, with only modest help from a few adjunct instructors and faculty who floated in and out of the department.


Needless to say, with only one full-time person, the curriculum was much more limited; out of necessity, the major needed to be interdisciplinary.  So Ray’s pragmatic solution was to require the following courses as part of a communication major:  PHI 130 (Logic), PSY 105 (General Psychology), SOC 121 (Principles of Sociology) or SOC 336 (Cultural Anthropology), SOC 375 (Social Psychology) and either ENG 223, 225, 226, or 227 (an advanced writing course).  Then, to round out the major, students would take Public Speaking, Mass Communication, Argumentation or Persuasion, Interpersonal Communication, and an internship.  In other words, it was a ten-course major, but only five of the courses were in the department!  But thanks to Ray’s steady hand, the major survived and in many ways thrived. 


Ray’s entire family has left a large imprint on Augsburg.  His wife Margaret worked at our library from 1967-1990 and was its director for her last thirteen years here.  Ray’s son Stuart is now a retired Auggie physics professor, and his son Brian is a class of ’82 alum.  His surviving family members recently donated $50,000 to endow a scholarship in Ray and Margaret’s name. 


Ray died in 2013, and Margaret passed on in 2017 at the age of 92.  But countless alumni will always remember them.  According to his son Brian, Ray once said that “he loved his job so much that he felt guilty getting paid to do it.”  And Ray was a real Renaissance man with many interests, including trumpet, piano, painting, woodworking, and writing.


I was fortunate enough to get to know Ray in his last years on the faculty, and I will always remember his modesty, civility, gentle humor, and wisdom.  We all stand on his shoulders!