Funding Research and Accelerating Creative Learning with URGO

research symposiumThe Office of Undergraduate Research and Graduate Opportunity (URGO) connects students with new and existing summer-long research and scholarship on campus, across the U.S., and internationally. URGO also assists students applying for graduate school, professional school, and national fellowships and scholarships. In 2017–18, 88 students conducted research with a faculty member, 23 of which were sponsored by donors.

Through the URGO office, Augsburg’s annual Zyzzogeton Research Symposium on April 15 will showcase the work of over 80 undergraduate researchers in all academic disciplines.

Recent Research from URGO students:

OLIVIA HOUSE ’20
Major: Graphic Design Marketing
Research: Exploring design aesthetic of Civil Rights Movement and its influence on current activism design

ZACH JUAIRE ’18
Major: Exercise Science
Research: Investigating the relationship between hip mobility and body mechanics of running strike to develop an injury prevention strategy

HOLLY KUNDEL ’18
Major: Biology
Research: Studying dragonflies as markers of health of Minnesota lakes, with implications for climate change

LEAH PATRICK ’18
Major: Biology
Research: Seeking drought- and insect-resistant genes in wild relatives of barley, with implications for food security and climate change

SKYE RYGH ’20
Major: Communication Studies
Research: Analyzing scientific, environmental, and crisis communication used to target Native American residents regarding Line 3 pipeline proposal in Minnesota’s Iron Range

Opportunities for URGO research are made possible by the generosity of our donors. Thank you:

Thomas ’78 and Julie Bramwell
Linda (Lundeen) ’74 and Douglas Dunn
Robert and Jenny Florence
Drs. Karthik and Amit ’12 MBA Ghosh
Sharon (Dittbenner) ’65 and Richard Klabunde
Bruce ’64 and Connie Langager
Steve ’72 and Catherine Larson
Terry ’73 and Janet Lindstrom
Jean Lingen
Carl Obert ’85
SarTec Corporation
D and J Stottrup Education Fund
Leland and Louise Sundet
Dean ’81 and Amy Sundquist
Noreen (Walen) ’78 and Stephen ’78 Thompson

If you are interested in learning more about URGO or would like to make a gift to support undergraduate research, please contact Vice President Heather Riddle at 612-330-1177.

Gracia ’66 and John ’65 Luoma Honor Augsburg Family Legacy for the Sesquicentennial

Gracia ’66 and John ’65 Luoma
John ’65 and Gracia ’66 Luoma

For Gracia ’66 and John ’65 Luoma, the Augsburg Sesquicentennial marks not only a milestone for the University, but also a time to honor their own family legacy. These frequent donors have decided to celebrate by fully funding the John K. and Gracia Nydahl Luoma Endowed Scholarship with a $100,000 cash gift.

“We wanted to be proactive in our estate planning. We wanted to see the fruits of our legacy before we died,” says Gracia, noting how financial help is essential for today’s young people. The scholarship will go to an undergraduate student who demonstrates financial need, academic achievement, and a commitment to vocational service, preferably in the Christian ministry, education, psychology, or medical fields.

“Emphasizing vocation for service has always been part of Augsburg’s vision,” John points out.

And Augsburg, adds Gracia, has long been “the family business, so to speak.” Born in Minneapolis to the Nydahl family, she recalls frequent outings to Augsburg events as a young child. Her grandfather Johannes, who emigrated from Norway in 1845, graduated from both Augsburg College and Augsburg Seminary, which he attended from 1883 to 1891. He became a professor of history and Norwegian before becoming Augsburg’s head librarian in 1920 and was also a member of the Augsburg Quartette, as was his son, Harold. Johannes and his wife, Tabitha, had six children, all of whom followed his footsteps, as have many other descendants. In fact, Augsburg recognized this “formative family” with a Distinguished Service Award in 2004.

“That I would attend Augsburg was never a question,” says Gracia, a math major who forged a career in computer science. Nor was it a question that she, as well as her prospective husband, would rank service high among their career goals. “Even in the business world, you can have a sense of service in vocation. You don’t have to be in a formal ministry to serve God and serve Christ,” she says.

LuomasJohn Luoma, the boy she first met in Luther League and later dated and married while in college, learned of Augsburg through his affiliation with Trinity Lutheran Church. In his quest to become a pastor, he never considered going elsewhere. Fully committed and active on campus, he was elected student body president in his senior year. After receiving his Ph.D. in theology, he served as a college and seminary professor and Lutheran parish pastor for more than 40 years.

“Augsburg was very formative for us in those years. It built on the values we’d had as young people, strengthening them, testing us, and preparing us very well for our vocations,” Gracia says.

The couple had two sons, both of whom also chose service vocations. Aaron, who died suddenly from an undiagnosed heart defect in 2015, was an occupational therapy assistant, international traveler, and frequent volunteer who worked with immigrants, refugees, and hospice patients. Jason is a clinical psychologist in Portland, Oregon. Neither had children.

“Our son is fine financially, and we have no grandchildren, which started me thinking: I would like to leave a legacy. Even on my mother’s side, there was always a commitment to service for others,” says Gracia.

The Luomas raised their family in Connecticut and Ohio before moving to their current residence in Lady Lake, Florida, but they return to Minnesota every summer to escape the heat. Now retired, they are able to visit Augsburg regularly, attending their class reunions and the annual Nydahl cousin reunion, usually timed to coincide with homecoming. They have reacquainted themselves with the current administration and reaffirmed their confidence in Augsburg’s vision. While the neighborhood and student population may have changed in recent years, the basic values have not.

“A lot of schools do not bring up their religious connection. I like that Augsburg is still proud of being a Lutheran college without being pushy about it,” says John, who has served on the ELCA Board of Education. Adds Gracia: “It has a unique place among Lutheran colleges. It does a lot to reach out to businesses and the community, and to make that connection between education and serving in an urban environment.”

A Big Opportunity for a Big Milestone

How an Endowed Scholarship WorksThe Sesquicentennial Scholarship is a new, unrestricted scholarship created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Augsburg University. This fund will support students in financial need.

Why endowments?

  • You’ll see how your contribution makes a difference in the learning and life trajectory of real students in the Augsburg community. As a donor, you’ll have the opportunity to meet the scholarship’s recipients during Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial festivities in 2019–20.
  • Your gift today is a way you can stay connected to Augsburg throughout your lifetime. Donors will also be recognized on campus on the Sesquicentennial Scholarship Fund donor wall.

Celebrate the Sesquicentennial by supporting students

  • Over 200 donors have already contributed more than $110,000 to the Sesquicentennial Scholarship.
  • All donors who give receive annual reports on the overall value of the fund, contributions, market growth, and scholarship recipients.
  • Early contributions like yours will spark more potential for Augsburg students, the community, and the enduring legacy of inspired education. Make a gift to the Sesquicentennial Scholarship at augsburg.edu/giving.
Make a gift to the Sesquicentennial Scholarship Fund

Pam and Mark Moksnes ’79 Want You to Know How We Can Build a Stronger Foundation for Augsburg

Pam and Mark Moksnes '79
Pam and Mark Moksnes ’79

He played football. She ran cross-country. Although they first met as freshman members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Mark Moksnes ’79 and Pam (Hanson) Moksnes ’79 were focused on their studies and busy with their sports. He was a sociology and social work major with an eye on the seminary. She was a psychology major and biology minor, considering dental school.

The two started dating in senior year and married soon after college, although neither knew for sure where their paths would take them. But they did know that Augsburg had provided a strong foundation, not only in faith-based education, but also in community service and outreach. Perhaps they knew, too, that their allegiance would make charitable giving essential to their lives, allowing them to share those benefits with new generations.

Mark built a business career as a sales and marketing executive with Delta Dental and Anthem. A postgraduate financial planning education launched Pam into a career that combined financial management and charitable giving, providing expertise that served others well in her work with Thrivent Financial and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Now parents of three college-educated children and five grandchildren, the couple has donated to Augsburg causes throughout their lives, most recently giving an unrestricted endowment to Great Returns: Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Campaign.

“We feel called to support Augsburg’s mission, just as we always have,” says Mark. Earlier in their marriage, however, giving to Augsburg meant going out on a limb, a scary prospect for a young family. “We didn’t know where the money was going to come from, or how. It’s amazing what happens. God just provided. Those are his resources, and we put our trust in him regarding that. We just absolutely love being able to share.”

“That we have continued to be so engaged with Augsburg has enriched our lives,” adds Pam, a Board of Regents member since 2013. Their daughter, Laura Moksnes ‘06, earned a psychology degree at Augsburg and a Master’s degree at Pepperdine University, later returning to Augsburg as an adjunct professor.

Pam’s professional experience in charitable giving offers a valuable perspective. What kind of gift is best? “Whatever the donor wishes to do is the right thing, of course,” she says. “Giving can be so joyful for the giver. People who have been touched by Augsburg make these connections in all kinds of ways.”

While some choose to address immediate needs, Pam and Mark believe that an unrestricted endowment can be even more gratifying and beneficial in the long run. “We all know that in today’s world, with all the political and financial changes in our economy, the challenges to universities and other organizations are substantial. A strong endowment helps ensure that Augsburg can respond to these changes and stay ahead of the curve in planning,” she says. “I feel like it’s the right thing for us.”

Raising awareness about the impact of unrestricted giving is important as well. Since no one can predict the future, Augsburg needs a strong, solid financial base to adapt and serve, to fulfill its mission no matter what needs may arise at any given time. “Ensuring that our foundation stays in place will also serve the community, so tomorrow’s leaders will leave Augsburg ready to serve the world in an ethical, moral, and faith-based way,” says Pam. “That is the Augsburg mission in action.”

Donors Seek to Remove Cost as a Barrier to Education with the Paul ’84 and Nancy Mackey ’85 Mueller Presidential Scholarship

Nancy Mueller, President Paul Pribbenow and Paul Mueller
Nancy Mueller, President Paul Pribbenow, and Paul Mueller. Photo courtesy of Coppersmith Photography.

Ask Nancy Mackey Mueller ’85 about her family’s planned giving history and philosophy, and her answer will be succinct: “We’re all in.”

Indeed they are, for reasons that both she and her husband, Paul Mueller ’84 articulate clearly. Their commitment goes deep. Paul served on the Augsburg Board of Regents for 12 years and currently chairs Great Returns: Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Campaign. Nancy was named to the Board in 2018. They have donated often over many years, including a previous bequest to support the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion, and most recently designated a planned gift to create the Paul ’84 and Nancy Mackey ’85 Mueller Presidential Scholarship, valued at $1,000,000.

“We both felt that our experience at Augsburg gave us the keys to success for our future,” explains Nancy. Their college experience was not only positive but also rigorous, preparing them for challenging graduate work and distinguished careers. “We were both encouraged in different ways. As the only woman in the physics department at the time, I was always very much supported. I never felt I had to prove myself any more than the guys in my major, and that gave me the confidence to stretch myself.”

Coming to Augsburg

Nancy became a structural engineer, earning a master’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Maryland and helping the U.S. Navy design submarines before eventually becoming a physics and chemistry teacher at Mayo High School in Rochester. She had followed her father and her aunts to Augsburg, where she first met her future husband when she was a nervous sophomore tutoring juniors and seniors in physics. He remembers being smitten; she remembers just trying to get through the intimidating hour. Dating came later, but the scene had been set.

“We have a deep affection for Augsburg. It’s where we met,” Paul says. “We also appreciate the values of the institution—its academic rigor, its vision, its commitment to the Cedar-Riverside community. Augsburg transforms lives.”

Paul had already won a scholarship to the University of Minnesota when a visit to Augsburg’s campus altered his trajectory. Impressed by the warmth, welcome, and undivided attention he received that day, especially from chemistry professors, he chose Augsburg. Now-retired chemistry professor John Holum became his mentor and inspiration. Paul went on to earn his MD and MPH at Johns Hopkins University and is now an internist and professor of medicine and biomedical ethics at Mayo Clinic and the regional vice president of the Mayo Clinic Health System—Southwest Wisconsin.

What Sets Augsburg Apart

Both Muellers have fond recollections of Augsburg support and inclusion. “It felt like family. Somebody was always looking out for you. If you missed class, the professor would see you later and ask where you were. That was one of the things that set Augsburg apart, then and now. No matter who you were, or what interests or inclinations you had, you felt very welcomed,” Nancy says.

That Augsburg “vigorously retained its Lutheran heritage while at the same time welcoming everyone is very important and appealing to us. It’s the idea that we are called to love and serve each other, without regard to personal characteristics such as race, religion, or sexual orientation,” adds Paul. “In today’s world, it seems like the focus is more on what separates us than what brings us together.”

He also notes that these days, more than half of the student population are people of color. “It didn’t look that way when we were there, and I love that about it,” he says.

Nancy points to the unusual number of programs designed to help students with special needs and talents, from StepUP to URGO. “As parents, we’ve been on many college campus tours, and nowhere else offers the programs that Augsburg does,” she says. “It’s a unique place, and we so believe in their mission.”

Their oldest son, Luke, majored in math and history at Augsburg before pursuing a graduate degree in statistics from Harvard. His mother notes that his presidential scholarship made a big difference to him, both financially and by providing opportunities he may not otherwise have had. Endowing such a scholarship for future generations made perfect sense.

“Removing cost as a barrier to education—that was our intent,” Paul says. “We very much wanted Augsburg to be able to attract top-notch students without regard to expense. To have brilliant, talented, gifted students be able to come to Augsburg without having to worry about how to pay for their college education? Now that is changing lives.”

Bruce Olson ’71 Pays it Forward with Olson Peterson Wiggins Scholarship

Bruce Olson '71, his brother Brad Olson '73, and scholarship recipient Nick Thompson
Bruce Olson ’71 (center), his brother Brad Olson ’73 (left), and scholarship recipient Nick Thompson (right).

When Bruce Olson ’71 was a youngster in Brooklyn Center, he was not sure what he wanted to be when he grew up. He was sure of a couple of things, though. Active in the Lutheran church, he knew he wanted to attend a Lutheran college, and he preferred being in the city, where ‘60s activism meant things were happening. He also knew that his rural extended family would support him fully, although they could provide little more than love and encouragement.

“I came from a family of modest means. I needed a lot of help,” says Olson. He was grateful to receive an Augsburg legacy scholarship but wished he could have met his benefactors. “I wondered about the history of it, but I never really knew,” he recalls.

The financial cushion served him well. He participated in student government and played all four years on the golf team, which won both conference and state championships. He changed majors four times, abandoning religion after nearly flunking his first theology class, contemplating a future as a high school math teacher, succumbing to the inverse multiple-choice question challenges in his sociology exams, and, finally, plugging a gap one semester with an accounting class.

“I loved it,” he says.

Accounting became his major and business his forte. Right out of college, he worked for a small mobile home finance company, then Josten’s, then a series of successful entrepreneurial ventures in various fields, from insurance and computer services to light manufacturing and retail. He retired at 45 and moved to Florida to play golf, including with such luminaries as Arnie Palmer, but 10 years of retirement sufficed. Now a Kansas City resident, he is back at it, officially the owner and president of the HRS Group.

“I love the challenge of taking a new idea or a new product and making it work,” he says.

Olson also loves the idea of establishing the Olson Peterson Wiggins Scholarship. It is named for his family, including his grandfather Olson, who owned the five-and-dime back in Afton, Iowa; his grandfather Peterson, the town mechanic and truck and tractor repair whiz in Tracy, Minnesota, where he was born; and his near and dear great uncle Walt Wiggins, Walnut Grove’s town barber, who offered shaves and haircuts there along the banks of Plum Creek. And it will grant $25,000 to someone like him.

Olson was delighted to meet the first recipient, Nick Thompson, when the initial $5,000 installment was awarded. “He’s real nice, an athlete who plays baseball and a reasonably good student who aspires to become a physical therapist. But who knows? I told him I hoped he would be lucky enough to hold onto that dream but reminded him that it would be crazy to guarantee it.”

Olson hopes, too, that Thompson will enjoy the same Augsburg benefits he found: a good education, both academic and social, and important lessons about how to conduct one’s life. He also points to Augsburg’s growth and progress, demonstrated in part by the much-expanded economics and business department in the impressive Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion.

“It’s a pay-it-forward sort of story,” Olson says. “I was lucky to come from a great family, get a good education, and have some success in life. Now I’m finding a way to honor my family by honoring somebody else in the same situation.”

StepUP Gala Raises More Than $425,000

StepUP Students and Alumni

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

 

Toby Labelle Award WinnersThe StepUP Gala was a night to celebrate how the StepUP Program at Augsburg University has helped students champion lives of recovery, achieve academic success, and thrive in a community of accountability and support.

With the strength and support of the StepUP community, we rose to meet this goal. This year’s Gala generated over $425,000 for the program in one evening. The event was thoughtfully planned by the StepUP Board and the Gala committee including co-chairs Cindy Piper and Douglass Sill.

Highlights of the Gala included:

  • Nearly 350 guests in attendance
  • Emcee Leah McLean, from KSTP 5 Eyewitness News
  • Neil King ’18, Alumni Speaker
  • Alexa Anderson ’19, Student Speaker
  • Toby Piper LaBelle Award recipients Jon and Julz Schwingler
  • Klobuchar and PribbenowA special appearance by Senator Amy Klobuchar

We hope to continue to build on this generous momentum from the Gala. If you wish to make a gift to support the StepUP program, visit StepUP Giving and indicate Gala gift in the comments field.

Thank you to all who joined us for the “We Rise” StepUP Gala. We firmly believe that a student should not have to choose between recovery and a college education. Your support will help make that possible today, and for years to come.

The Class of 1968 Says ‘Thank You’ to Augsburg Through Their Endowed Scholarship of $75,000 and Growing

The Class of 1968When the class reunion committee first met last May, the Class of 1968 Endowed Scholarship was not on the agenda, nor did anyone mention any sort of fundraising. But the idea had already sprouted in the mind of committee co-chair Bruce Benson, and by the time he reached home after the meeting, it was firmly planted. The retired St. Olaf College pastor knew that other institutions benefited from alumni reunion gifts, so why not Augsburg? Dare he test a gift proposal among his peers?

“If I hadn’t been on the committee, I don’t know if I would have proposed it,” he says, “but I thought, ‘let’s just see what happens.’” He emailed the committee members, respectfully acknowledging their other charitable commitments, making no assumptions about class members’ financial means or inclinations, yet exploring possibilities. Would they be able and willing to contribute? Would they resent being asked? Might such a project fizzle out before reaching its final goal?

His pitch was forthright. “In 50 years I’ve developed other commitments and loyalties,” he wrote, “but Augsburg is where I got an undergraduate education that helped me live a meaningful life and contribute to the world around me. Additionally, I am rather proud of what Augsburg has become since we were students. I’d like to support that.” One could do that on one’s own, of course, but “a class gift sounds like more fun.”

The response was unanimous: yes!

“It seemed like a great idea. A lot of us got scholarships,” says Miriam Cox Peterson, who thought a goal of $50,000, the minimum required for an endowed scholarship, would be nice, but $68,000 sounded even better. “Why not try? Kids going to Augsburg now are certainly paying more than we did. We were given that opportunity, and we want other people to have it, too.”

Back in 1968, she pointed out, her guaranteed tuition ranged from $1,000 her first year to $900 her last, and her summer jobs covered the $500 for room and board. Those jobs—destroying old files in a sub-basement, sliding carbon paper between insurance policy copies—were anything but glamorous, thus convincing her that a college education was essential to a happy future. She has remained grateful to Augsburg ever since, and she will contribute $10,000 to the cause.

Benson wrote to the entire class, identifying with how hard it might be to choose among competing responsibilities but also reminding them that they had entered the era of minimum IRA distributions and might be seeking a way to make a difference. So far they have donated more than $75,000 for the scholarship, which will be available to any student in need.

“Clearly, I’m gratified. The response is very satisfying but not surprising,” Benson says. The Class of 1968, which graduated during a momentous year of assassinations and Vietnam War protests, was characterized by others as “different,” more engaged, active, and risk-taking than most. “Fifty years out, we all have an honest sense of how influential our education was. Whatever we didn’t like has faded away, and we realize this is a good thing. I’m also rather proud of what Augsburg has become since we were there,” he says.

“I’m very impressed with what they’re doing. They’re incredibly inclusive, and service to the world around us is ingrained in them, just as it was ingrained in us,” Peterson adds.

Five decades ago, Augsburg seemed trapped by its confinement in the city, with no place to grow and all the action shifting to the suburbs, Benson explains. Since then, however, it “has embraced its role as a city school and has become a good neighbor and resource. This gift will help the Class of 1968 say both ‘thank you’ and ‘bravo’ to Augsburg.