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Justin Grammens ’96 Helps STEM Students By Giving

Justin smalls for the photo in front of a blurred backgroundJustin Grammens ’96 is a mathematics major who grew up in Minneapolis. His mother was a teacher for Minneapolis public schools, and his father worked as a doctor at Fairview Riverside, located across the street from Augsburg.

Grammens said he was familiar with the area and Augsburg, and one aspect that drew him to the school were the small class sizes which gave him a better connection to his classmates and instructors.

“My original plan was to start at a liberal arts school [Augsburg], then transfer to an engineering school,” Grammens said. “But when I transferred from Augsburg, I was sitting in a classroom with hundreds of other students and being taught by a TA, and I felt like why am I here?”

He ended up transferring back to Augsburg and completing his degree. But Grammens said it wasn’t just the small class sizes that inspired him to return to Augsburg, it was also the urban environment and the abundance of diversity that Augsburg offers.

At Augsburg, Grammens was able to build relationships with many different people that he maintained after graduation. He has even come back to campus on multiple occasions and spoken with students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields about his career.

Grammens is an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas, teaching a class for their masters of software engineering program. He said that he is proud to bring the skills that he learned at Augsburg and share them with his students.

“A lot of the classes at Augsburg were exploratory and non-traditional,” Grammens said. “It was really about thought process, application, collaboration, and problem solving.”

Around 2006, he started a company that was one of the first in the Twin Cities to develop mobile apps for major companies, and that’s when he said he felt like he had the income to give back.

“It breaks my heart if somebody is kicking butt in math, chemistry, or physics, and they know they want to be an engineer, but the barrier is just that they don’t have the money,” Grammens said. “I’m passionate about giving to STEM programs because those students are working with technologies that are changing our lives, and I want to support that.”

Grammens continues to make a positive impact on the lives of Augsburg students with annual donations to STEM programs, and you can too.

Donate to STEM programs and support Augsburg students as they conduct research with faculty, attend and present at national conferences, and hear from leading researchers.

Any gift made to any program will automatically count towards your class’ total for the Alumni Class Challenge!

Learn more ways to give.

Lewis Nelson ’00 Encourages You to Get Involved with Giving

Over one thousand miles away Lewis Nelson ’00, a history major, sat in front of a map in his office, which was posted behind him on the wall, meticulously pinned with various places he had visited.Lewis Nelson kneels on a football field with football and a helmet posing for the photo

Graduating high school from a small town in Wisconsin, Nelson reflected on why he initially chose Augsburg University–because of the urban environment, sense of community, and football.

But during his freshman year, Nelson, like many freshmen, felt the struggle of adapting to the new environment at first.

“And then, I started meeting more people,” Nelson said. “I began to participate in activities and student organizations, and I just got more involved on campus.”

His pitch rose with excitement, speaking about how he became an orientation leader and joined the Augsburg Student Activity Council.

Once he was fully immersed in the culture, Nelson said he was enamored by Augsburg’s diversity, and through it he learned that he could get along with anybody from anywhere.

Not long after graduation, Nelson joined the U.S. Army, where his experience at Augsburg gave him a leg up on his peers, he said.

“Augsburg helped me cultivate vital skills such as critical thinking and leadership,” said Nelson. “Skills that continue to serve me today, and that’s why I give.”

Lewis in a cap and gown holding his diploma poses for a photo under a tree with his mom.Nelson’s giving journey began when he received a call from a student about the Augsburg Fund. Since then, Nelson has made a habit of giving.

He said giving to Augsburg gives him a sense of pride and keeps the legacy alive, and upholds the value of a degree that has meant so much to all the students that attend Augsburg University.

“The feeling of giving back to the place that made me who I am today not only gives me personal pleasure, but it brings joy to other people’s lives’,” Nelson said. ”I encourage anyone to give what they can.”

You can donate to the Augsburg Fund and/or student organizations like the ones that made such an impact on Nelson’s life by visiting Augsburg’s giving page.

Any gift made to any program will automatically count towards your class’ total for the Alumni Class Challenge!

Experience a life of giving with Wayne Kendrick ’68

When Wayne Kendrick ’68, a religion and math major, enrolled at Augsburg as a junior, he was in the process of change. Wayne Kendrick smiles for a photo in front of a wooden backdrop

He spent years working towards becoming an actuary, but not long after his adult baptism, Kendrick would hear life calling him in a different direction. 

That’s when he started searching for Lutheran schools to attend. Kendrick said he wanted one with a different atmosphere than that which he had been accustomed to, mostly growing up in western South Dakota. 

Before even visiting Augsburg, Kendrick was drawn to the idea of a Lutheran college located in an area with vast cultural diversity and educational opportunities.

“I had a saying that I went by when I was in college,” Kendrick said. “Education shouldn’t get in the way of your life’s education.”

Kendrick recounted doing volunteer night patrols with the Way Center on the troubled streets of North Minneapolis and participating in a march for fair housing in Milwaukee with his college roommate and Father Groppi. He attributed these memories to an enriched college and life experience. 

“Although I only attended Augsburg for two years, it had a real profound impact on my life,” Kendrick said with a look of fondness and appreciation. 

After graduating, his giving journey began when he purchased a life insurance policy with Augsburg as the beneficiary. Kendrick would go on to enroll at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul and would later become a pastor. 

Kendrick continues to give back to the community that has influenced his life so immensely with multiple donations to the StepUp® program and an annual gift to the Augsburg Fund. 

“I know without our [donor’s] gifts, large or small, Augsburg simply wouldn’t exist,” Kendrick said. “It’s not just enough to be appreciative, one must also make sure that others can enjoy the benefits that we, ourselves, have enjoyed.”

Join Kendrick and ensure students have an opportunity to receive the educational and life experiences they deserve by making your donation today! 

Any gift made to any program will automatically count towards your class’ total for the Alumni Class Challenge!

Learn more ways to give.

ANNE RICHTER SUPPORTS THE TEAMWORK IN GIVING

Like many Augsburg University alumni, Anne Richter 86 said she was thankful to have professors and mentors that were passionate about teaching and giving students opportunities to excel in academics and athletics. Anne Richter smiles for a photo in a dark room on the couch

Now, Richter wants to give present and future students the same opportunities and wonderful experiences she had at Augsburg.

“Augsburg helped me grow up and experience the world and was an important next step in my life,” Richter said. “It’s a place where you find community, friendship, and a foundation.”

This is the 40th year anniversary from when Richter chose to attend Augsburg in 1982 for academics and to play volleyball and softball. She graduated with a degree in psychology and would later go on to be inducted into the Augsburg Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.  

After graduation, Richter got a graduate assistantship at St. Cloud State as an assistant volleyball coach. A position that her volleyball coach at Augsburg, Marilyn Pearson Florian, helped her secure.  

Richter started giving back to Augsburg a few years ago when a gift officer approached her about supporting construction for a new volleyball women’s locker room, a cause that spoke to her.

Since then, Richter has given to the women’s softball and volleyball programs. She also made contributions to the Patricia Piepenburg ’69 Women’s Locker Room, which recently opened during the Great Returns: We’re All In – All School Reunion.

Richter knows that giving is a team effort, that’s why she reaches out to other Augsburg alumni, friends, and athletes and encourages them to give.

One of her favorite giving campaigns is Give to the Max, Augsburg’s annual day of giving. Richter said she enjoys seeing all the different opportunities there are to give and is excited to know that Augsburg students are receiving help from people who care.

“Our [donor’s] gifts are critical to the foundation of Augsburg,” Richter said. “They allow the university to provide the best professors and facilities to support the best students.”

Give to the Augsburg University Volleyball program and/or join A-Club and support Augsburg athletes as they strive to excel on and off the field, and any gift made to any program will automatically count towards your class’ total for the Alumni Class Challenge!

Learn more ways to give.

Participating in His Estate Gift

<em>Augsburg students in Vanuatu, including Mark Johnson ’75 and Professor Tim Pippert</em>
Augsburg students in Vanuatu, including Mark Johnson ’75 and Professor Tim Pippert

A few years ago, Mark Johnson ’75 updated his estate plans to include Augsburg. He wanted his estate gift to honor Professor Joel Torstenson, the “father” of Sociology at Augsburg who started the Metro-Urban Studies program at Augsburg in 1971. Mark was one of the first students to graduate from Augsburg’s Metro-Urban Studies program, now called Urban Studies. He also went on Augsburg’s first Scandinavian Urban Studies Semester trip to Oslo, Norway. Mark’s gift will fund a professorship for faculty in the Urban Studies or Sociology departments.

Mark has been very involved at Augsburg since graduating in 1975. Along with joining the Board of Regents, Mark has been in constant contact with the Urban Studies and Sociology departments. And his connection has gone above and beyond monetary gifts.

“Community involvement is important,” Mark said. “My job was a chance to encourage people to reach out beyond themselves and to seek ways to be a bridge builder of relationships.”

As Mark witnessed the impact of quality faculty in today’s educational environment, he wanted to support the transformational effect of an education rich in experiences. This is why he started the Torstenson Scholars in 2015.

Professor Joel Torstenson
Professor Joel Torstenson

Joel Torstenson came to Augsburg as a history major from rural West Central Minnesota. After graduating in 1938, he worked in education for farmer’s co-ops. He began teaching part-time at Augsburg upon earning a master’s degree in history and sociology. During the war years, he became involved in the peace movement and participated in establishing a cooperative farm community, which led to employment with Midland Cooperatives as an educational director and community organizer. In the fall of 1947, President Christensen invited him back to Augsburg to develop its programs in social work and sociology while completing his doctorate in sociology at the University of Minnesota.

Today, the legacy of Joel Torstenson lives on through the Torstenson Scholars program, sociology and metro-urban studies majors, the Strommen Center for Meaningful Work, HECUA, and the college-wide “Engaging Minneapolis” requirement. Torstenson’s work also gave birth to the college-wide requirement that started as the “Urban Concern,” which was succeeded by the “City Perspective,” and is now known as the “Engaging Minneapolis” requirement.

Students in the Torstenson Scholars program are financially supported for one academic year, which includes a research trip with the Sociology or Urban Studies department. Mark’s funding has been used in four significant trips: a research trip to Vanuatu in September of 2018; two research trips to Williston, North Dakota, in 2017 and 2019 to study the effects of the oil boom on a small town; and a community research project in Two Harbors, Minnesota, Mark’s hometown.

As a Regent, Mark came to understand the significant positive impact of philanthropy at Augsburg.

“The question always has been: How can we manage change for the good of all?” says Mark.

He didn’t want to wait for the day when the estate gift would arrive at Augsburg’s door. Instead, he decided to launch the Torstenson Professorship now so he can actively participate in the things that will be supported by gifts in his estate plan. Mark also wants to encourage his fellow Auggies to join him in honoring Professor Torstenson.

Mark has seeded the endowed professorship fund with a gift of $50,000 and an available match of another $100,000. He hopes others will join him by giving to the fund to remember Joel’s legacy.

“Joel touched many lives and I think a contribution to the professorship is a great way to commemorate that. All contributors to this fund – a small gift or large gift – will be acknowledged equally,” says Mark.

Until the endowed fund reaches $250,000, Mark is funding the professorship annually.

Briana Mitchell ‘19, Britta Andress ‘19, and Sociology Professor Tim Pippert in Vanuatu
Briana Mitchell ‘19, Britta Andress ‘19, and Professor Tim Pippert in Vanuatu

“We are so grateful to Mark Johnson for his generosity and vision in honoring the Torstenson legacy at Augsburg with this professorship,” says President Paul Pribbenow. “It is particularly meaningful to me that Professor Tim Pippert will be the first incumbent of the Torstenson Endowed Professor. I have had the privilege to teach with Tim and to witness his commitment to our students.”

Professor Timothy Pippert joined the Augsburg faculty in 1999.  He holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His teaching interests center on family systems, juvenile delinquency, homelessness and affluence, statistics, research methods, and race, class, and gender. In 2011, he received the Distinguished Contributions to Teaching and Learning – Excellence in Teaching Award.

If you would like to donate to the Torstenson Professorship, or are interested in funding a new professorship, please contact Amy Alkire at alkirea@augsburg.edu or 651-323-4844.

Jay Brizel ’87: “An Auggie is going to change the world”

Jay Brizel ’87 in a Florida courtroom in 2019 wearing his Augsburg pinWhile Jay Brizel ’87 sat at the defense table in a Florida courtroom in 2019, helping to keep defendant Jimmy Rodgers off death row, he was wearing an Augsburg lapel pin. Years earlier, while serving with the U.S. Army in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, he wore an Augsburg t-shirt under his chemical suit. His college days may be long gone, but his relationship with his alma mater is here to stay.

He contends that he is hardly alone. “If you dig deep enough, everywhere you look, there’s going to be an Augsburg connection,” says Brizel.

Back in the day, he was the rare freshman who had never laid eyes on the Augsburg campus until the day before he was slated to show up for football camp in Willmar. Born and bred in Miami and recruited by head coach Al Kloppen for his punting prowess, the young athlete knew little about Minnesota’s terrain or formidable winters, but he knew hospitality when he saw it. Charles S. Anderson, Augsburg’s president at the time, used to seek him out, as did the late campus pastor Dave Wold.

“It was a very welcoming place, and I always knew that people wanted me to succeed up there,” Brizel says. He is honoring that legacy with a recurring gift to the sports medicine department.

“I wasn’t the best student, but I liked playing football, and the people who took care of me were the sports medicine people,” he explains. “They were always there, no matter how early I got to the locker room. They trained us, they taped us, and when we could barely move our bodies, they got us ready to play again.”

Just a few credits short of graduation, Brizel left Augsburg in 1987 to join the army and work as an armorer on Apache helicopters. After serving in the Gulf War, he finished school and earned his law degree at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale. He started out as a public defender in central Florida, then spent 16 years in private practice. Eventually, he returned to public service, where the paycheck is reduced but the endeavor rewarding. A Ft. Myers resident since 1997, he now devotes his time to handling homicide cases and death penalty challenges while also mentoring young attorneys. He claims that retirement is out of the question; he is too busy having “an absolute blast” training the newbies.

“I’m having the time of my life getting the next generation of lawyers ready to defend the Constitution,” he says. “I can tell you that there is a bright future for freedom in this country. A whole group of young people are not going to freely give up their rights or the rights of others.”

Brizel also coached high school football for 13 years. Although he worries about concussions and wishes the game were safer, he does not want it to die. He treasures the memories. “I loved playing the game and I loved playing it for Augsburg. It was an awesome, awesome experience. This is the best way to give back to both,” he says about his ongoing philanthropy. “I love the school, I love its mission, and I love what Augsburg has turned out to be. I have always believed that an Auggie is going to change the world.”

Support the Student Emergency Fund during COVID-19

Just as your family and community have felt the changes and uncertainties during this unprecedented time, Augsburg has made challenging decisions in the past week in response to COVID-19. These decisions have had a widespread effect on our lives and especially on the lives of our students. We’ve announced that classes are moving to online instruction, spring sports have been canceled, and much of our campus has moved to limited operations.

As we keep the wellbeing of our community as a top priority during this time, we also realize the impact it has had on our students, both financially and emotionally. We are currently on spring break, but our faculty and staff are working tirelessly to quickly adapt to new online instruction methods and the new financial circumstances we and our students now face. Especially to our students who face financial insecurity, the impact has been profound.

As President Pribbenow said in a message to the campus community last week: What I would ask of the Augsburg community is this: remember our mission and our 150 years of offering our students an education that equips them for life in the world; remember that we are a community that shows up for each other, with generosity and grace; and remember that we have found ways over and over again throughout our history to navigate difficult challenges – as we will do together in this moment.

I have been personally grateful to have heard from many alumni, faculty, and staff on campus who have shown great concern for our student’s wellbeing and asking what they can do to help. With that in mind, we have decided to create an immediate solution to helping those who need it the most right now.

Student Emergency Fund has been established to support the needs of financially insecure students, such as costs related to unexpected travel requirements or lost income when their jobs disappear in this economic reality. Gifts to this fund will assist students who have faced unanticipated financial burdens resulting from COVID-19.

Make A Gift

Thank you for considering this special request and for your continued support of Augsburg. You can learn more about how Augsburg will be designating these funds at augsburg.edu/giving. Stay up to date with campus changes through our task force website. Please let me know if you have any questions or feel free to drop me a note at any time.

Sincerely,

Heather Riddle

Vice President for Advancement

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

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.”