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A Stairway to Art and AWE 


hawksheadshotSomething special happens when three things come together.

  • Science, business, and religion.
  • An artist, a group of engaged Augsburg women, and dedicated financial resources.

At least that’s what Lisa Svac Hawks ’85 thinks.

The idea that art will bring lasting inspiration to the new Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion motivated Lisa to make the lead gift to help fund one of the two large-scale murals planned for the Center. She and the members of AWE (Augsburg Women Engaged) have set a goal to secure the $150,000 required to fully fund one of the planned stairwell murals.

In designing the new building, HGA’s architects and a team of college leaders set forth a central principle for it: to ensure it considered the neighborhood. The Center must express and reflect the importance of community and hospitality, values that live at the heart of Augsburg’s mission. The Center’s two external stairwells will serve as both beacons and open arms to the community.

These same ideas attracted Lisa and other members of AWE to explore what it would take to support the artist’s installation of one stairwell mural. AWE was founded on the idea that women want to connect and serve in different ways.

“Women think about connection and the social and collaborative nature of learning and living,” says Lisa. “What better way to express those principles than through a mural that is all about connection?” The resulting mural design is titled “Emergence.” It incorporates the image of a monarch butterfly along with references to symbiosis, textile traditions, geometry, faith, home, prayer and identity.

Sponsored by Augsburg Women Engaged (AWE).

Sponsored by Augsburg Women Engaged (AWE).
Sponsored by Augsburg Women Engaged (AWE).

Muralist Greta McClain, the artist selected by the Augsburg Art and Identity committee, which is working to bring art into the Center, looked deeply into the challenge of combining three disciplines in one building. In shaping the design for her two stairwell murals she asked, “Do those “conflicting/disparate” ideas, all housed together, stand as a reflection of our community, Cedar Riverside? Are they a dynamic social experiment, and a view our very human experience?”

In McClain’s words, “The collaboration between space and artist, community and construction, can take many forms depending on the project. Inevitably it includes a close collaboration between me as artist, and those closest to the project. Together we gather history, ideas, and images. These conversations are the key to the development of a site/content specific work for the finished mural.”

The murals she’s designed explore ideas such as collective intelligence and symbiotic intelligence. She’s asking, “How may we show that the more we come into contact with different ideas and fields, the greater our global brain becomes?”

McClain’s ideas align with the question Lisa Hawks is asking at United Healthcare, where she serves as vice president, external communications. She is always asking her colleagues: in what ways are we shaping the future leaders we need to address the challenges ahead?

“When I learned about the way Augsburg is bringing three disciplines together under one roof, I knew this was something distinctive and powerful. The learning that will take place in the new Hagfors Center will measurably contribute to shaping greater leaders for tomorrow.”

Coming to Augsburg as a student she found herself immersed in the values her parents taught her, especially humility. Trained as an athlete, she found the values she acquired on the playing field influenced her leadership style. “We assemble a team to pursue a common goal. Then we ask ourselves, are we leading with integrity; are we being respectful? We are equals and have so much to learn from one another.” She found at Augsburg a ‘pillar of faith’ where she could explore ways to live into the motto ‘through truth to freedom. ”

In late September, Donna McLean, Lia Zeller ’81, ’89 MAL, Beth Torstenson ’66, Lori Moline ’82, Shelby Andress ’56, and Bev Oren ’55, members of the AWE Philanthropy Council joined muralist Greta McLain on a tour of her work across south Minneapolis.

It did not surprise her how attracted she was to making a gift in support of the mural. “Art has a special way of helping us experience what it means to come together in a new way. Art helps us visualize new futures. It helps us connect to big concepts and to engage emotionally with them so we can see ourselves in big ideas,” she said.

It’s especially fitting for AWE to want to support this mural. As Lisa put it,“As a group of women, we believe that art connects the heart and head. By funding this mural as a permanent beacon in the Hagfors Center, we invite everyone to connect our heads and our hearts, so our hands can get to the good work.”

Lisa and other members of AWE will be working out the details for securing the funding for the mural. The AWE-Inspired Philanthropy Council is now inviting Auggie women to join them in sponsoring “Emergence.” They’re working with Donna McLean ( and Martha Truax ( of Advancement to launch their fundraising plan and reach their goal of $150,000 in gifts and pledges by December 31, 2016. AWE successfully completed its first fundraising project when 70 women came together raising $130,000 to sponsor a student study lounge in the new Hagfors Center.

Lisa has continued to be a loyal and generous donor, participating in fundraising campaigns since she graduated. Because of her love for baseball, she sponsored the baseball coach’s office in the Kennedy Center. Lisa continues to give annually, for which she is recognized in the Maroon and Silver Society, for donors who give $1,000 or more each year to The Augsburg Fund. She is also recognized in the Sven Oftedal Society for her commitment to support Augsburg from her estate.

“I set a goal for myself. I want to make enough money so I can give back. I am consciously positioning myself to be more generous. Attending Augsburg was a seminal turning point in my life. It really changed the path of my life. And I am forever grateful.”