In memory of his parents and in celebration of his brother, Augsburg professor emeritus Stuart Anderson, Brian J. Anderson ’82 and his wife, Leeann M. Rock ’81, are donating $50,000 to endow a scholarship designed to encourage future students’ “rigorous education and academic excellence.” Yet the rich legacy that accompanies this gift goes far beyond those lofty goals.
Brian’s father, the late Dr. Raymond E. Anderson, joined Augsburg in 1949 as a speech and communications professor, helping to establish the department now called Communication Studies, Film, and New Media. Students adored his wry sense of humor as well as his warmth and compassion. He made his speech classes “fun” while maintaining high standards.
“He was very committed to his students, but he demanded the best from them,” says Brian, naming several who used those formative public speaking classes to build acclaimed careers: the late U.S. Representative Martin Sabo, who served Minnesota’s 5th District for 14 terms; Rev. Mark Hanson, former presiding bishop of the ELCA; and Minnesota District Court Judge Bev Benson. “He was also committed to honesty and integrity. When a student once admitted almost proudly that she would say anything in a job interview just to get the job, my father explained that if he were asked to write a recommendation letter, he would disclose that fact to the interviewer. He had standards, and he stuck to them.”
Brian remembers his dad coming home and “working like a dog” till 9:30 at night, listening to speeches so he could grade and return them promptly. Brian also remembers him confessing that he loved his job so much that he felt guilty getting paid to do it. A man with many interests, including trumpet, piano, painting, woodworking, and writing, Ray retired in 1990 and died in 2013.
Brian’s mother, the late Margaret J. Anderson, joined Augsburg in 1967, using her master’s degree in library science and the college’s limited resources to make Augsburg’s library the best it could be. She became library director in 1977, and, after retiring in 1990, continued to volunteer for cataloging and archiving projects. She, too, was known for diligence and deep commitment to community and family as well as her own violin, cuisine, and literary pursuits. She died in 2017.
That Brian should follow his older brother, Stu, to Augsburg is little wonder. Stu was to become a physics professor; Brian majored in math, physics, and religion. In recent years, Brian strongly supported the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion and has followed closely Stu’s leadership challenges and successes with its development. “All of my majors were right there, which made it special. It was fun to be in on it from the inside,” says Brian.
During college, grammar had not been Brian’s strong suit. He confessed his strategy in freshman English: “raise your hand immediately if you knew the answer so later the teacher would skip you when you did not.” The girl who sat behind him, alphabetically in Old Main’s narrow classroom, always knew the answers, he reports. That was his future wife, Leeann Rock ’81, who had accompanied a friend pursuing a music major to Augsburg’s Discovery Day. Leeann had planned to attend a different college, but when she heard biology professor Neal Thorpe speak, she was hooked.
Brian earned his Ph.D. in physics at the University of Minnesota in 1987 and taught briefly at Augsburg before joining The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, where he often hosted summer interns referred by Augsburg physics professor Mark J. Engebretson. Leeann obtained her M.D., also from the University of Minnesota, and is a pathologist at Frederick Memorial Hospital. Now living in Mount Airy, Maryland, both want to honor Brian’s parents, who were so instrumental on campus during their lives. Endowing a scholarship seems like a natural next step, Brian says. “It’s a formal way of maintaining our relationship with Augsburg while ensuring more opportunities for students in the future.”