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Throwback Thursday

A Periodic Tale of Departmental Lore (Part 12)

Written by David Lapakko 

In the end, it’s all about people

Most of the previous installments of this feature have dealt with buildings and policies and technology, but for this final look in the rearview mirror, I’d like to focus on people–specifically, students who were unique and memorable.  There have been many of them, and there’s not enough space to tell enough such stories.  For now, a few examples will have to suffice.


My former students include: an advisee who started at Augsburg as a male and graduated as a female, a recent graduate who has had more than 140 brain surgeries, a StepUp student from the east coast whose father is a well-known actor (he came to Augsburg because there were so few such programs anywhere in the nation), and a student in a wheelchair whose family was from Russia–her Russian grandmother came to the commencement ceremony in tears, telling me that in her home country, something like that would not happen for someone with such a disability.  I also had a student who struggled mightily to finish her degree–in the end, she wound up taking the equivalent of 53 courses (32 would be the norm) in order to meet all her major and degree requirements.


Another former communication major was involved in a bicycle accident during a road race.  As a consequence, he became a paraplegic.  That didn’t stop him, though–he became a world class archer in the Paralympics and a sought-after motivational speaker.


Although his major was political science, I also had a student who was affected by osteogenesis imperfecta–brittle bone disease.  He had had over 200 broken bones in his lifetime.  Because he was only about 3 feet tall and had limited use of his hands, his mother pushed his adapted wheelchair to every one of my persuasion classes–and managed to stay awake through every one of them!  I was in awe of his mom’s dedication and her son’s amazing array of opinions.  He wanted to be a lawyer, but he passed on in his mid-30s before he was able to realize that dream.


But perhaps the most amazing story involves one of our former majors–in this case I’ll mention his name because his story is a very public one.  Due to a birth defect, Dave Stevens did not have legs.  He was and is 3 feet, 2 inches tall.  Yet–and this always blows me away–he was on the football, wrestling, and baseball teams!  For the Auggie football team, he was an interior lineman; he managed to play on his stumps.  In 1996, he played minor league baseball for the St. Paul Saints.  He also had a football tryout with the Dallas Cowboys, and baseball tryouts with the Minnesota Twins and Cincinnati Reds.  For more about Dave, you can check:


These and many other students have been both humbling and inspirational.  Yes, in the last year, we have all been challenged–no doubt about that.  But every person and every class and every generation faces its own set of challenges, and these former Auggies, because they rose to face them, will always stay locked permanently in my memory bank.