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Sparking Innovation: The Thomas ’72 and Karen Howe Endowed Professorship for Entrepreneurship

Karen Howe and Tom HoweWhen Tom ’72 and Karen Howe were thinking about how they could support Augsburg, they wanted to spark possibilities for the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders. They decided to establish the Thomas ’72 and Karen Howe Endowed Professorship for Entrepreneurship at Augsburg University. Tom graduated from Augsburg in 1972 with a degree in business administration and he and Karen both have extensive leadership experience in the business sector. Tom was the owner and CEO of SwansonFlo Co from 1991-2022 while Karen was an account executive at the creative brand agency, Yamamoto, and later went into business with their daughter, Liz, owning a pet boutique, LuLu & Luigi, in St. Louis Park and Wayzata.

Although he was studying business, Tom also participated on the wrestling team, made lifelong friends as a member of Gamma Phi Omega, (known today as the Gammas) and enjoyed taking classes that were outside of his major. Upon reflecting on what he took away from his time at Augsburg, Tom explained what the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion represents to him. “Although the building was built forty years after I graduated, the three disciplines taught in that space illustrate exactly what made a lasting impact on me,” Tom shared. “My business courses prepared me for a career, but I uniquely remember a religion class that explored all faiths and an astronomy class that examined our physical origins. They challenged my beliefs and expanded my mind. I may not have known it at the time, but Augsburg gave me much more than a degree. Augsburg taught me critical thinking which is applied to every area of my life.”

Business and entrepreneurship followed Tom and Karen after graduating. Tom began working for his father’s company, Howe Inc. – a business that had been in the family for three generations. “It was a great learning experience where I could contribute ideas and be part of the decision-making process, but I also had opportunities to fail and learn from my mistakes.” Karen’s focus in home economics at the University of Minnesota contributed to her interest in the field. “I enjoyed the marketing classes,” Karen stated. “Understanding its [marketing] many facets became highly important in my day-to-day work.” It was at Yamamoto where Karen honed her skills that prepared her to own her own business. 

Throughout the years, Karen and Tom have supported Augsburg in instrumental ways. At the heart of their philanthropy is their connection to Augsburg’s mission. “Augsburg was founded as a Norwegian Lutheran college and provided an education to first-generation students. Today it continues to carry out that objective and provide students a three-dimensional education: make a living, make a life, and build a community,” Tom said. 

Paul Mueller ’84, chair of Augsburg’s Great Returns campaign shared, “We are all grateful for Tom and Karen’s very generous gift to Augsburg. The Howes believe an Augsburg education will produce the next generation of business leaders who manifest ethical and conscious entrepreneurship—business leadership that makes the world a better place.” 

Through the newly established Thomas ’72 and Karen Howe Endowed Professorship for Entrepreneurship, they hope to strengthen Augsburg’s business department and inspire innovation and leadership. “Two-thirds of all students take classes or major in business. It introduces them to the free-market system, the positives of capitalism, and the power of freedom,” Tom shared. Their accomplishments and desire to help current and future Auggies find success can all be tied back to the American dream. “You have to believe in yourself, get inspired, and figure out how your unique ideas can benefit society,” Tom said. “There are many ways people can find success and not everyone has the same starting point. You don’t have to know everything, but identify your talents and surround yourself with people who will complement your strengths.” Karen added. For Tom and Karen, supporting Augsburg is an investment in future generations that has unlimited potential.

Provost and and Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, Paula O’Loughlin shared, “We are incredibly grateful for the Howe’s generosity in establishing this endowed Professorship. Developing leaders through entrepreneurship among our students has been a signature commitment in Augsburg’s curriculum since our beginnings. The Thomas and Karen Howe Endowed Professorship in Entrepreneurship will enable us to broaden our offerings for students interested in starting their own businesses for years to come.”

A Real Game Changer

Patricia Piepenburg headshotBasketball has played an important role in Patricia (Patty) Piepenburg’s ’69 life. In her small hometown of Grove City, Minnesota, Patty discovered her natural athleticism. “I grew up pre-Title IX, so the only exposure I really had to sports were through intramurals and gym class,” she shared. Her high school team was organized through the Girls Athletic Association (GAA) where she and her teammates had to work hard to find other teams to play. They eventually convinced their advisor to play a neighboring town. In Patty’s words, it could be more accurately described as “scheduling a time two schools could get together and do intramural activities.” At the time, the rules were completely different for women’s basketball. It was played on half the court and each team had 6 players. Nonetheless, Patty fell in love with the game. 

A black and white photo of the Augiettes
The 1966 Auggiettes (Patty pictured 2nd row, third in from the left)

While she was a student at Augsburg, she participated on the Auggiettes women’s basketball team. During her four seasons, the team only lost four games, and were completely undefeated her junior year. She was also the leading scorer her last two years in school. A big part of the team’s success can be attributed to Patty’s coach at the time, LaVonne Johnson Peterson, or Mrs. Pete, more affectionately. “She was a great teacher and friend. She played a big factor in me staying at Augsburg all four years,” Patty shared. 

Patty shooting a basketball into the hoop during a gamePatty graduated with a degree in Physical Education in 1969. She taught and coached various grade levels in Atwater, Minnesota while also working double time to help her dad with their family farm. “There came a point where I was just burned out and couldn’t do both anymore,” Patty reflected on deciding to leave coaching and teaching after over 30 years. The family farm, conservation, and wildlife remain an important part of Patty’s life – she has even won awards for her conservation projects!

In 2011, Patty was inducted into Augsburg’s Athletics Hall of Fame. Although some of her teammates were inducted several years earlier, Patty wanted to be retired when she accepted the honor. “A hall of famer is someone who not only contributed to the sports while they were in school, but it should also reflect what they went on to do after college,” she said. “I felt like I needed to earn my place.”

Patty has given a generous gift to help update the Si Melby Women’s Locker room. The dedication will take place in October during Augsburg’s Homecoming Week and All-School Reunion, where Augsburg will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX. When reflecting on what inspired this decision, Patty shared, “Trying to figure out your estate plans is difficult when you aren’t married and don’t have kids… you want to channel it to where you think someone made a difference. I chose the women’s locker room because I would love to see a legacy.” The advice Patty has for current and future generations of women athletes at Augsburg is, “Always be prepared, be yourself, and willingly accept opportunities for leadership.”

Remembering Fuad El-Hibri

Fuad El-Hibri

It is with a heavy heart, we share the news that Fuad El-Hibri passed away peacefully in his sleep early in the morning of April 23, 2022, surrounded by his family at his home in Maryland after a heroic battle with pancreatic cancer.

Fuad has made a tremendous mark on Augsburg over the past two decades. Fuad and his wife, Nancy, first learned of Augsburg in the early 2000s when their son, Karim ‘06, participated in the StepUP program. Fuad and Nancy served as inaugural co-chairs of Augsburg’s President’s Council, and Fuad was instrumental in forming the current strategic plan Augsburg150. Fuad and Nancy most recently made a generous gift to create the El-Hibri Endowed Chair and Executive Directorship of the Interfaith Institute at Augsburg and has annually sponsored Iftar dinners for the campus during Ramadan. 

“The Augsburg community has lost a dear friend with the passing of Fuad El-Hibri,” President Paul Pribbenow remarked. “Fuad and his family have been generous with their time, wisdom, and gifts to support me and our community as we advance Augsburg’s deep commitments to collegiate recovery, interfaith dialogue, and student success. Fuad was a role model for our students as he combined his faith, his business acumen, and his love for his family in all that he pursued. I will miss him and know that his legacy will live on at Augsburg and beyond.”

Fuad was the Founder and the Executive Chairman of Emergent BioSolutions Corporation, Chairman of East West Resources, and Chairman of Aptevo Therapeutics. He retired from those positions on April 1, 2022. He was also a member of the Advisory Board of the Yale Healthcare Conference, as well as serving on the Board of Directors of the International Biomedical Research Alliance. Fuad, Nancy and their children, are also on the Board of the El-Hibri Foundation, started by Fuad’s father in 2001. Fuad and Nancy have three children and three grandchildren.

“Faud was a compassionate, visionary leader who cared about people in a very personal way. This was evident in the way he supported the Muslim students at Augusburg,” shared Muslim Student Program Associate, Fardosa Hassan.

Augsburg’s Board Chair, Matt Entenza, said “Fuad has been a good friend to Augsburg and to me over the years. I will miss his passion, counsel and our many energizing conversations.” 

Fuad believed in the possibility of a world where any young person could feel welcomed and encouraged to pursue their potential on any college campus, no matter their faith tradition. He was a leader in interfaith peace-making and dialogue, believing much could be resolved if we listened and learned more about one another. Fuad will be greatly missed by the Augsburg community. 

Read Fuad’s obituary. Check out the pictures below that highlight his visits to campus.

 

Public launch success for the Great Returns: We’re All In campaign

On Friday, May 6, Augsburg alumni, faculty, staff, students, and friends came together to celebrate the public launch of the Great Returns: We’re All In campaign. During the event, we shared that our public campaign goal is to raise $125,000,000. And we’ve already raised more than $105,000,000!

Thank you to Augsburg’s Board of Regents for fully funding this event and to anyone who has contributed to this historic campaign. We’re All In for our students, our community, and our world!

See why we’re all in:

Check out photos from our event! Photos are by Rebecca Slater.

Creating a Legacy for Morgan

A photo of Morgan Yesnes leaning against a brick wall with his arms crossed and smiling. He is wearing a blue zip-up sweater and glasses. Lori Larson and David Yesnes remember their son Morgan as a vibrant and generous person who loved to connect with others. Morgan valued deepening his knowledge. While studying at Augsburg University, Morgan discovered his affinity for history. He quickly developed an incredible passion for World War II. “There was an event we were at where Morgan talked some guy’s ears off for over an hour about history!” his sister Sydney remembered with amusement. Morgan faced daunting challenges with his health, however he didn’t let this stop him from living life to its fullest potential. Because of the experience Morgan had at Augsburg, creating the Morgan A. Yesnes Endowed History Scholarship in his memory was an easy decision for David and Lori to make. The family established their endowed scholarship in celebration of the joyous and resilient nature in which Morgan lived his life and in appreciation for Augsburg University’s commitment to serve all students, especially those who need financial and specialized learning support in housing and learning for an equitable education. Due to Morgan’s physical limitations, the family had to be selective about where Morgan could attend college. “We had to choose a school that allowed for ease of mobility between buildings,” Lori recalled. Augsburg was one of the few campuses in Minnesota that had skyways and wasn’t overwhelmingly big. “It was also a great location because it was close enough to home but far enough for him to have independence,” David added. They knew Augsburg was the right fit when they saw Morgan’s face immediately light up when he first arrived on campus.

One aspect about Augsburg Morgan’s family remembers with gratitude is the supportive environment Morgan experienced. “The people in the CLASS center were so helpful when Morgan was in school. The accommodations he received helped him be independent… the last thing he wanted was to feel different,” Lori shared. This support, along with Morgan’s outgoing and caring nature, made it easy for him to find his place. He made friends by attending game nights in the student lounges, going to the occasional football game, and connecting with people in his classes. 

Lori, Sydney, and David sitting on a bench outside. Sydney is sitting between her parents and holding a glass water droplet.
Lori, Sydney, and David receiving a gifted water droplet from Augsburg for the endowed scholarship they created.

Morgan passed away on April 22, 2020 at the age of 24. Lori, David, and Sydney strive to live their lives in a way that honors Morgan and carries on his legacy of wanting to make a positive impact in people’s lives. When reflecting on what they hope their scholarship accomplishes, David shares, “I want to give kids the opportunity to go to school, who might not otherwise have the chance due to financial barriers.” “We also want to give students a chance to grow and broaden their knowledge in a educational environment… Really have that college experience and be part of a community,” Lori said. The Larson Yesnes family believes that challenges and disadvantages should not prevent a bright future.

There is comfort and healing knowing that their gift is bigger than their family. The students who receive this scholarship will be connected to Morgan in a special way. The important lessons of resilience David, Lori, and Sydney learned through Morgan are something they hope they can pass onto future generations. “Always live life to the fullest and never put limits on yourself and your dreams.” Morgan’s enthusiasm delighted his teachers and inspired his peers. He lived a full, rich, and compassionate life.

Giving Tuesday

Today is Giving Tuesday! A global movement that started in 2012 and encourages people and organizations to come together and transform their communities and the world. At Augsburg, we continue to center our students and make sure that they have the resources and tools to go out into the world as leaders.


We recently completed our Give to the Max Day campaign and the results have blown us away! Here is a breakdown of what we accomplished:

  • $387,981 total amount raised.
  • 1,901 donors.
  • 40 % of the 45 projects were fully funded and several others were incredibly close to reaching their goals.
  • People gave across 41 states and one came in from France!
  • Our donations were also made up of 31% alumni, 23% friends, 12% parents, 7% faculty/staff, and 5% students.

We are excited to share that since we concluded, we have reached our goal of 1,900 donors and 16 projects have been fully funded! We are optimistic that we will reach our fund goal of $400,000 by the end of the year. Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to visit our GiveCampus site and support any of our 45 projects.

 

 

 

Support the University that Supported Her Daughter

Donor Betty Shaw with her daughter and son-in-law receiving a water droplet for her newly established endowed scholarship at Augsburg.
Betty Shaw, with her daughter and son-in-law, receiving a water droplet for her newly established endowed scholarship at Augsburg.

Augsburg is proud to announce a new endowed scholarship has been set up by Auggie friend Betty Shaw, in honor of her daughter: The Laura Shaw-Wright Scholarship for Students with Dyslexia and Reading Disabilities

Betty Shaw and her late husband, Earl, had four daughters. Their daughter, Laura (Shaw) Wright, attended Augsburg in the early 90’s, graduating with honors in 1996 with a B.A. in Studio Art, and a B.S. in Social Work. 

Laura has lived with severe dyslexia her entire life. She credits the supportive, affirming, and encouraging faculty, staff, and learning environment that she experienced at Augsburg, along with the support services provided by the CLASS office, as being integral to her positive, successful college education and experience.

It is for this reason that Bettywith the encouragement and support of Laura and her husband Alfonzo “Al” Wright ’97would like to establish The Laura Shaw-Wright Scholarship for Students with Dyslexia and Reading Disabilities. The goal of this endowed scholarship will be to help provide access to an Augsburg education for students who may be challenged with dyslexia or other reading disabilities. The scholarship will be awarded with preference given to those students with dyslexia who utilize the CLASS office to address the challenges that their reading disability may otherwise impose on their ability to successfully learn and achieve success in their academic endeavors.

Thanks to the supportive environment she found at Augsburg, Laura went on to a successful career teaching art in the Burnsville Public School District and then South Washington County in Woodbury. Laura and Al met at Augsburg their freshman year and are now married and have two daughters, Lilly and Stella.

Betty, Laura, and Al were presented with a Water Droplet in late October as a thank you establishing a new endowed scholarship. Augsburg is sharing these original Water Drop sculptures with the first 150 benefactors who choose to invest in an endowed scholarship, whether that investment is in a new endowed scholarship or a gift towards an established endowed scholarship.

Betty finds great joy in what she calls “paying it forward.”

“It makes me somewhat uncomfortable when people thank me for making a gift or supporting a cause,” says Betty. “I believe it’s a privilege to join in the work of a place like Augsburg, and it brings me great joy to know that I can help make it possible for future students to have the kind of education that Laura and Al had here at Augsburg. I truly believe that it is in giving that you receive…I have experienced that my whole life!”

A Love of Life Through Science and Math

Tamra and Bravo
Tamra and her horse, Bravo

Tamra (Pederson) Pyrtle ’86 had a love for science and math that went well beyond practical uses for the subjects. She excelled in school, and later, in her career. Yet Tamra always made time for the fun side of science and math.

At an early age, Tamra developed a talent for playing the piano, despite not possessing a natural ear for music. However, she did have a methodical mind that allowed her to do well in mathematics. And as music and math are close cousins, she developed that musical talent through piano lessons and diligent practice. Tamra played Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer for her piano recital and finished without making a single mistake, earning her a solid round of applause.

When it came time to choose a college, Tamra had her choice of St. Olaf, Concordia, Gustavus Adolphus, and Augsburg, among others. Like many of Augsburg’s students, Tamra chose Augsburg in part for the community atmosphere. She felt the campus vibe at Augsburg fit her personality better than any other college.

At Augsburg, Tamra blossomed. Chemistry was her first academic love, mathematics was second, and German was third. The faculty at Augsburg, particularly Arlen Gyberg and John Holum, were inspirations for her thirst of knowledge. Tamra was encouraged to pursue a chemistry major based on the American Chemical Society standards for a bachelor of arts graduate. This was a great challenge, particularly for a student with a double minor in mathematics and German. But Tamra’s persistent nature helped her earn a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry, graduating with honors in 1986.

“Obviously she was not afraid of a challenge. There is a saying of which she was particularly fond. It went like this: ‘Go ahead, underestimate me, that will be fun,’” says Brett Pyrtle, Tamra’s husband.

Tamra 1984 - Augsburg yearbook photo
Tamra 1984 – Augsburg yearbook photo

Tamra’s exceptional knowledge wasn’t always reserved for schoolwork. One night in 1983, she and her friends convinced members of the Augsburg football team to carry a Volkswagen Beetle into the student center. Tamra was able to direct the crew so they could do this without taking the doors off the entry. The geometry of this feat was lost on the maintenance staff, who had to remove the entrance doors to get the vehicle back out.

The orange Volkswagen Beetle, owned by Auggie Chuck Rath, snuck into the student center in the spring of 1983.
The orange Volkswagen Beetle, owned by Auggie Chuck Rath, snuck into the student center in the spring of 1983.

Tamra enjoyed using her science skills in the kitchen. She was a scratch baker and would purchase pumpkins and process them to make pies. She preferred working with raw materials so she could control the process to the fullest extent. Her family still fondly remembers her superb home-made pizzas, which were made entirely from scratch.

Tamra honed her skills from the ground up. In her first professional job, she was hired as a lab supervisor for Buckbee-Mears-St. Paul. She was the first college graduate to hold the job, and learned quickly how to balance her book knowledge with the fast-changing demands of metal etching production. She also learned how to stand up for herself in a plant where she was the only woman in technical management.

After that role, Tamra broadened her skills by mastering the use of HPLC, ICP-MC, and GC instrumentation in a consulting lab, before being hired by Innovex to supervise the etched metal operations in Litchfield. She was tasked with specifying, designing, and supervising the construction of an onsite analytical laboratory, as well as training lab support to help operate it.

Tamra shifted careers to science education for a few years, teaching AP Chemistry at Robbinsdale and Benilde-St. Margaret’s high schools, then returned to the lab as a quality assurance analyst for Paddock Laboratories, a pharmaceutical manufacturer in New Hope. She worked nearly a decade for this firm, was promoted twice, and earned her American Society for Quality (ASQ) designation as a Certified Quality Auditor.

In 2012, Tamra moved from pharmaceuticals to medical devices, joining Medtronic’s Neuromodulation division as a Senior Quality Engineer. She was quickly promoted to Principal Quality Engineer and developed a reputation among her colleagues as the go-to resource for tough quality engineering and analytical challenges.

Despite her technical jobs, Tamra continued to maintain the fun side of science and particularly loved how science and nature intersected. Growing up, she coveted the opportunities to visit her grandparents’ farm to be around the dogs, calves, and cows. She also loved visiting her uncle’s horse.

Tamra and Bravo
Tamra and Bravo at Paradise Ranch

“It was not really a surprise when she sold her collector car to buy a horse. And what a horse it was! A thoroughbred with a blood line to the 1978 triple-crown winner ‘Affirmed’ whose given name is ‘One Smoother Talker,’ also called Bravo,” says her parents.

Tamra learned as much as she could about veterinary care and medicine. She regularly administered Bravo’s shots and saw to it that he had regular visits from his chiropractor, veterinarian, and farrier.

“The communication between Bravo and Tami was something special. They would have conversations and both knew full well what the other was saying. Bravo would perk up when he saw Tami coming, he even recognized her vehicle. They had a ritual when together that both depended upon. Bravo was a 1,200 plus pound pet!” says her parents.

Establishing a Lasting Memorial to Tamra Pyrtle

On December 13, 2018, Tamra passed away at the age of 55 after battling cancer for more than two years. She left behind her husband of 24 years, Brett; her parents, Wayne and Lynette; her brother, Carey Pederson ’88; and her sister, Kristin (Pederson) Merkel ’91.

For her family, choosing a way to honor their memory of Tamra was a difficult task. She was far too young when she passed away, and she was at a point in her life where recruiters were seeking out her extraordinary knowledge and skills.

“All three of our children are Augsburg graduates, and our family ties to Augsburg run deep,” said Wayne. “Augsburg was a significant contributor to Tami’s success. We wish for other students to have the opportunities Tami had, and what better place to provide some assistance than at Tami’s alma mater.”

Wayne and Lynette wanted their children to have the freeing experience that a solid values-based education can provide. Tamra was the first in their family to do so.

“I knew from playing with her and watching her play that she was uniquely talented and creative. She was not one to back down from a challenge – in a good way. She studied hard and earned every A in her classes, which in high school were mostly college preparatory. She took the hard classes and excelled in all of them. That, in turn, earned her a membership in the National Honor Society. She graduated salutatorian in her class of about 700 people.”

Wayne and Lynette Pederson, along with their son-in-law, Brett, established the Tamra Lynn Pederson Pyrtle Endowed Scholarship at Augsburg. This scholarship will be used to support students interested in pursuing a major in chemistry and who maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Wayne, Tamra, and Lynette at Christmas. Brett and Tamra.
Wayne, Tamra, and Lynette at Christmas in 2015. Brett and Tamra in 2014.

The El-Hibri Family to Fund an Endowed Chair and Executive Directorship for Augsburg’s Interfaith Institute

Fuad & Nancy El-Hibri
Fuad & Nancy El-Hibri

In 2019, Augsburg University established Interfaith at Augsburg: An Institute to Promote Interreligious Leadership. This program illustrates the many ways in which our commitment to interfaith learning and leadership can shape our work on campus and in the wider community, and this work requires a strategic leader and distinguished scholar to provide direction. Today we are pleased to announce that a significant gift has been made to make this leadership position possible: the El-Hibri Endowed Chair and Executive Director for the Interfaith Institute.

Fuad and Nancy El-Hibri first learned of Augsburg while researching higher education options for their son Karim, who was in recovery from substance issues. The family was looking for a university that could provide both a college education and a supportive program. 

“Nancy and I diligently explored universities for our son which offered programs like StepUP. We were surprised that we could only find a handful of schools that had anything close to what Augsburg offers. StepUP clearly stood out with its reputation, scale, and program scope,” says Fuad.

Once Karim graduated from the StepUP program, Fuad and Nancy continued to stay engaged with the university. Initially, their support was focused on StepUP, including a significant gift towards the Oren Gateway Center where the program is housed. Fuad was among the sincere supporters who encouraged the university to create a StepUP Program Endowment, a fund that has since raised nearly $10 million to support the program’s unique offerings and outstanding staff.

“We are grateful for the StepUP program and the opportunities it provides to students in recovery. Karim is now the President of East West Resources Corporation, a business development and private equity firm. We are proud of his leadership skills and successful management of the business,” says Fuad.

As they learned more about other programs at Augsburg, the El-Hibris were impressed with how the university cares about its incredibly diverse student body. They were inspired by Augsburg’s philosophy which is embodied by the newly built Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion, integrating three crucial pillars of study.

“Our family values higher education tremendously. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of engaging with several academic institutions, including American University and Yale School of Management,” says Fuad.

Great Returns Campaign Chair Dr. Paul Mueller '84, Fuad and Nancy admiring the Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Dr. Peter Agre '70 on display in Augsburg's Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion.
Great Returns Campaign Chair Dr. Paul Mueller ’84, Fuad and Nancy admiring the Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Dr. Peter Agre ’70 on display in Augsburg’s Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion.

Augsburg holds a special place in their hearts though, and they have admiration for its leadership, including its tenth president, Paul Pribbenow.

“Paul is an extremely impressive and effective president. He is community-minded, strategic, and a true visionary.”

The El-Hibris aim is to support the university’s overall strategic direction, not just individual projects. They encouraged President Pribbenow to form the President’s Council, a small group of professionals and industry experts who serve as advisors to Paul and provide insights on strategic and operational matters. Fuad and Nancy currently serve as co-chairs of the council and have enjoyed getting to know the members and connecting more deeply with Augsburg’s programs and possibilities. 

Now, Fuad and Nancy are generously establishing the El-Hibri Endowed Chair and Executive Directorship for the Interfaith Institute. President Pribbenow plans to launch a comprehensive search for a candidate who will serve as a national ambassador of the interfaith movement and partner with campus leaders as a change agent for interreligious learning and living. This position will lead the Interfaith Institute while simultaneously participating as a member of the faculty. 

Fuad and Nancy’s gift will help to fulfill one of the goals of Augsburg150, the strategic plan, to advance the public purposes of an Augsburg education by enhancing interfaith leadership on campus and nationally.

Nancy with a group of Augsburg's Interfaith Scholars
Nancy with a group of Augsburg’s Interfaith Scholars: Abbey Garofalo ’21, Ava Fojtik ’20, Oluwatofunmi Oteju ’21, Abdikhaliq Sahal ’20, and Isaac Tadé ’21.

“We live in a world that is religiously diverse, and allowing religions to thrive is a step in the right direction. But it is not enough. Interfaith dialogue, learning from one another, and engaging together in meaningful work is what it’s truly all about. The timing now is critical and we hope this is just the beginning,” says Fuad.

This sort of strategic philanthropy will help to fulfill Augsburg’s vision: As a new kind of urban, student-centered university, we are educating Auggies as stewards of an inclusive democracy, engaged in their communities and uniquely equipped to navigate the complex issues of our time.

“We have a unique opportunity to build an interfaith learning community that will be a model for all of higher education. The combination of Augsburg’s interreligious student body, with Fuad and Nancy’s support and counsel, will create the sort of academic and community leadership the world needs today,” says President Pribbenow.

The El-Hibris believe interfaith competency increases social capital and creates a thriving society. They see this gift as a catalyst for interfaith dialogue on campus and hope more people will become involved in supporting Augsburg’s Interfaith Institute, both as advisers and with financial contributions.

Two students talk with Fuad after his presentation
Abdirahman Aden ’20 and Zakariya Abdullahi ’21 talk with Fuad after his presentation to a group of students, faculty, and staff in October 2019.

“The Interfaith Institute at Augsburg is not just about one individual or two or three, but a whole critical mass. The tools gained will not only solve immediate problems, but empower a whole generation of young people to respect one another’s differences, find commonality, and connect with one another for the greater good,” says Fuad.

Fuad and Nancy are delighted with what this gift will mean for the Interfaith Institute at Augsburg. They have given special praise to President Pribbenow, Matt Entenza, and Sarah Erkkinen for offering an opportunity to create what they believe will be a significant impact on society.

“This gift could have a real ripple effect,” says Matt Entenza, Chair of Augsburg’s Board of Regents. “The El-Hibris have a remarkable vision for Augsburg to lead the way by valuing faith within a pluralistic world and actively working together to create a better society. I know this is just the beginning, and look forward to growing this effort collaboratively.”

El-Hibri Endowed Chair and Executive Director

The El-Hibri Endowed Chair and Executive Director position is now open. You may view the position details through Augsburg’s HR website here: http://augsburg.interviewexchange.com/jobofferdetails.jsp?JOBID=137435. Interested candidates may apply for the position here: http://augsburg.interviewexchange.com/candapply.jsp?JOBID=137435

A Continuing Love of Augsburg

Mark received a Water Droplet, a gift from Augsburg to benefactors who choose to invest in an endowed scholarship.

Mark Raabe started at Augsburg in 1949 with the idea of becoming a teacher.

“I loved school, but I didn’t have a clear direction. If you ask me today what I want to be when I grow up, I still don’t know,” Mark says with a chuckle.

He spent two years at Augsburg and played second base on the baseball team. However, his interests shifted at the end of sophomore year and he transferred to the University of Minnesota, where he received his undergraduate and graduate law degrees. Yet after spending only two years at Augsburg, one influence always stuck with him: Coach Edor Nelson.

When Mark started college, WWII had just ended. Edor Nelson ’38 was a war hero and recent addition to the Augsburg faculty.

“He had been a part of Patton’s Army, a German prisoner, and he escaped. To me he was larger than life in every way and such a good man.”

Mark became a lawyer with a career in Washington D.C. He kept an eye on Augsburg from afar with a focus on Coach Nelson’s activities. In 2001, Mark and his wife Jean attended an A-Club luncheon celebrating the naming of Augsburg’s athletic field in Coach Nelson’s honor. Mark had only visited Coach Nelson once since his time as a student, but, as Mark remembers, “When we were still 30 feet away, our eyes met, and he said, ‘Here comes my second baseman!’ The fact that he would remember, 50 years later, who I was and what position I played for only two years is just amazing. What it says to me is that he cared about his kids. Edor is legendary in that regard.”

In 2013, the Raabes made a significant gift to the Center for Science, Business, and Religion campaign, naming a faculty office after Coach Nelson. Then in 2015, they pledged a future estate gift to the CSBR campaign, naming the science lab in Coach Nelson’s honor.

“Coach Nelson had a profound impact on me.”

Two of Mark’s nieces would eventually graduate from Augsburg and both spoke highly of the university to him. Ann Morrice Allenson ’92, who now has a family law practice in Minneapolis, and Norah Anderson ’21, who just graduated summa cum laude.

“Norah kept me up to date on Augsburg’s happenings. She credits me with being important in her decision to go to Augsburg. Now she’s on her way to law school.”

At the end of 2020, Mark again connected with Augsburg with hopes of supporting students through an endowed scholarship.

Mark and Jean Raabe
Mark and Jean Raabe in 2015, part of Auggies Across the US.

“I have always thought Augsburg served its community well. Now in recent years, especially under President Frame and President Pribbenow, that definition of community has expanded far beyond its original meaning to include the world. I love the university’s openness and its focus on diversity and inclusion, and its appeal to students with economic needs. It projects a caring, not unlike what I felt from Coach Nelson. I am excited about giving back to Augsburg as it prepares its remarkable students to help make our world a better place.”

Mark established the Mark ’53 and Jean Raabe Endowed Scholarship in 2020-2021 to support students who demonstrate financial need and academic achievement.