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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 (riddle@augsburg.edu).

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.”

Exercising Friendship and Funding Movement: Endowed Fund Established to Honor Joyce Pfaff ’65

Kathie Erbes, Joyce Pfaff, and Karen Johnson
Kathie Erbes ’70, Joyce Pfaff ’65, and Karen Johnson ’66

To hear Karen Johnson ’66 speak about her longtime Augsburg friend, Joyce Pfaff ’65, it’s easy to understand what led her to make a commitment to start an endowment fund in Joyce’s honor. Her admiration for Joyce runs deep. While Joyce and Karen met as students at Augsburg, the story of how Karen found her way to Augsburg serves as an example in fiscal discipline and vision.

“I am an only child. My mother lived through the depression and she wanted me to go to the U of M. When I was in first grade she opened a bank account for me and set aside one quarter a week. I was not to spend one penny of that money.”

Karen goes on,” By the time I got to high school we had saved $800, the same as Augsburg’s tuition at the time. I was not excited about the prospect of attending the U. In fact, it scared me right out of my tree!  I visited Augsburg and felt welcome there. My mother wondered why I would spend all that money on my first year of college. But she realized it was my choice.”

That was the year Karen met Joyce at Augsburg.

Creating Memories Together at Augsburg

“We both lived at home as tuition money was tight and it was a good option. Darryl Carter from Columbia Heights also lived at home. Darryl and his old Chevy would make the Northeast Minneapolis rounds to pick up Joyce, myself and four others every day. We paid him a minimal amount of maybe $1 a week for that ride. It seemed like his car was held together with nothing but wire and duct tape. We pushed it out of snow drifts during many winter storms,” she laughed. “We were really bunched into that car, but it got us through.”

“We met our physical education instructor Mrs. LaVonne Peterson (Mrs. Pete), who was Joyce’s first mentor. She was our fun teacher. She inspired in all her students the attitude that movement and activity were not only fun and important now, but also for life. She was herself, an inspiration.”

“Modern dancing was not allowed at Augsburg in those days so we had square dances and all school group activities designed by Mrs. Pete and organized by students in the physical education department. She was the only female physical education professor at Augsburg in the 60s and the women had only one sport, basketball. They were called Auggiettes or Little Auggies. What the heck is that?”

Karen studied Elementary Education with a minor in Physical Education. Joyce majored in Physical Education. After they graduated Joyce returned to Augsburg where Judy Olson, another of their classmates, was already teaching. According to Karen, the college was looking for a gymnastics instructor. Joyce was it. Little did they know how that hire would work out.

“Joyce didn’t really have any gymnastics experience but she put a team together. It was the first sport she coached. They were terrible, but they all learned a lot and had a good experience. And Joyce made sure they got their due.”

The Dawn of Title IX

This was before the advent of the federal law declaring that women must have equal access to sports. Joyce Pfaff pioneered the meaning of that law before it was enacted.

According to Karen, “If the men’s teams got money to go on a bus, the women had to find the money to get themselves to their competitions. Joyce was all for physical education equality. Whether an athlete or not, her mission was to make sure that women at Augsburg had all the opportunities to participate and better themselves.”

Then along came Title IX. And Karen reports, “Joyce ran with it!”

One of the stories she tells in Joyce’s efforts to equalize athletics for women is a story of running.

“She would invite the Dean to run with her. She’d run with him until he was breathing hard and she thought he was ready for serious talk or he was out of time. Then she would ask him for money or improvements for women’s programs. It often worked.”

For Joyce, physical education was both physical and mental. She advocated that everyone was a student first, then an athlete, and everyone should reward his or her body with exercise.

“She never wavered from her mission and vision that athletics or activity are for everyone. She made a big dent on the men. Over the years she had many encounters with the men’s programs and scheduling. Her positive and sometimes courageous attitude helped build the women’s athletic program of today.  She never gave up!”

Giving in Joyce’s Honor

The idea to make a gift to Augsburg to honor Joyce came recently.

In Karen’s words, “Initially, I thought I would keep my estate planning idea to myself. But then I learned about Great Returns -the effort to increase Augsburg’s endowment and I thought, I can help do that!  So I met with a committee of Joyce supporters, plus Donna McLean (of the Augsburg Advancement team) and Jeff Swenson ’79 (Athletic Director) and made it official. I’m giving a portion of my estate to help fund the Joyce Pfaff ’65 Endowment fund!”

The goal for the fund is to add $500,000 to the endowment.

Karen summed it up, “Joyce has dedicated her life’s work to all the women of Augsburg to improve their lives through physical education and movement. Her passion for the importance of lifetime activity and women’s sports can live on through this endowment. The goal of the fund will help convey to all students and faculty the importance of healthy exercise and to include it in their lifelong activity. The endowment gives us a chance to recognize Joyce’s efforts and encourage more people to follow her example.”

Trinity Lutheran Scholarship honors George Sverdrup Michaelsen ’31

Kristine (Michaelsen) Wickens ’73 says Trinity Lutheran Congregation and Augsburg University have been inseparable for a long time. She should know: Her family tree includes two Augsburg presidents, great grandfather Georg Sverdrup (1876-1907) and his son, George Sverdrup (1911-1937), and five generations of Trinity members and leaders. In 1993, Trinity celebrated its 125th anniversary by creating the Trinity Lutheran Scholarship at Augsburg. The endowed scholarship also remembers life-long Trinity member George Sverdrup Michaelsen ’31, Kristine’s father. Michaelsen, a professor of public health at the University of Minnesota, was president of Trinity, chairman of the board of Lutheran Deaconess Hospital, and chair of the Augsburg Board of Regents. The scholarship fund was later augmented with an estate gift from Michaelsen’s sisters, Katherine and Else Michaelsen ’31.

Serving immigrants since 1868

The Trinity–Augsburg connection goes back to 1868, when Norwegian and Danish immigrants formed Trinity Lutheran. The congregation soon built a small wooden church at the corner of 12th Avenue and 3rd Street South, where US Bank Stadium now stands. Trinity leaders encouraged Augsburg Seminary to move from Wisconsin to the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood in 1872, and their collaboration led to the creation of Lutheran Deaconess Hospital in 1888. The trio of institutions became indispensible to the immigrant community, and by the 1890s Trinity had over 1,200 members. In 1897, Trinity earned the nickname, “The Mother of the Free Church,” when Trinity, Augsburg and a handful of other congregations formed the Lutheran Free Church, a group of independent congregations committed to congregational autonomy and personal Christianity.

“Homeless congregation” finds a place at Augsburg

In 1966, Trinity’s 1000-seat building on 20th Avenue was demolished to make way for I-94 construction. “Rather than disbanding, the congregation accepted offers from Riverside Presbyterian Church and then Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church for worship and office space,” explains Wickens. “There was a tremendous commitment to Cedar-Riverside, just as Augsburg has always been committed to its inner-city location and community.” Augsburg began providing Trinity with worship space in the 1990s. The two institutions and other partners host community suppers at Trinity’s common space, and Augsburg students volunteer at Trinity’s drop-in tutoring program for K-12 students from the neighborhood, many of whom are Muslim immigrants.

Campus Connections

The lives of the Sverdrup and Michaelsen families have been intertwined with Augsburg and Trinity for five generations. “The campus was so familiar to me,” remembers Kristine, who grew up six blocks from campus. “Everything we did had some kind of Augsburg or Trinity connection.” She remembers visiting her grandmother, Else Sverdrup Michaelsen (Georg’s daughter) who, after the death of her husband Michael Michaelsen ’xx continued to live on campus until her own death in 1965. Today, Kristine and two of her siblings, Jennifer (Michaelsen) Windingstad ’67 and George Michaelsen II, remain members of Trinity. Another sister, Mary (Michaelsen) Garmer ’69 and her husband Reverend Gregory Garmer ’68 live in Duluth. Peter Windingstad studied at Augsburg before transferring to the University of Wisconsin. Many members of the family are donors to Augsburg.

Looking back on the two institutions’ shared history, Kristine sees theirs as a story of immigration; from the Scandinavians of the 19th century to the East African and other immigrants living in the Cedar-Riverside area today, and all those in between. “My family were immigrants,” she says. “It’s essential that we welcome new people, include them in our lives and help them get established.”

 

A Deep Augsburg Connection

Jon Thorpe’s connections with Augsburg run deep and across many generations. So it’s not surprising that in thinking about the gift of art he and his wife, Dr. Suzette Peltier M.D., made to the Art and Identity initiative for the Hagfors Center, they decided to do something that honored the Thorpe family’s deep rivers of ancestry.

“My father, Rev. Gordon Thorpe ’52, and mother, Gloria (Parizek) Thorpe ’53, met at Augsburg.Jon Thorpe
“My grandfather on my father’s side, Antone Julius Thorpe, was born in 1895 and was very Norwegian, born to immigrants. His education never went beyond 8th grade, but somehow both of his children attended Augsburg (Gordon Thorpe ’52 (Jon’s father) and Glenn Thorpe ’56(Jon’s uncle)). Antone was a man of modest means, a dairy farmer living in central Wisconsin. But he understood the importance of an education.

“I have a very early memory of our family gifting to Augsburg through a gift of property. I was around seven years old when I heard the story.

“In 1960 Antone purchased a piece of lake property to enjoy in his retirement. It was a large enough property to create some additional lake lots to sell, but he also wanted to support the mission of Augsburg. A friend of his, Miss Elvie, walked the lakefront and chose two lake lots for her cabin, which Antone first gifted to Augsburg, then Miss Elvie purchased her lots from Augsburg. If there is a will to give, there is a way – he didn’t have much cash, but he had property.”

Jon reports that upon his death, his grandfather, Antone, left a modest endowment to his church to fund scholarships to Lutheran colleges for children of Bethany Lutheran, a rural church just east of Wausau which was founded by his father, and Jon’s great-grandfather, Karl Thorpe.

“Over time the endowment has grown. Because such a small church congregation did not have the resources to be the best stewards of the investment, Augsburg generously took on management of this endowment, and it is still managed by Augsburg to this day to fund scholarships for Bethany students to attend any institutions related to the Lutheran Free Church tradition.”

Jon commented, “I know that my father Gordon and my uncle Glenn Thorpe then created an additional Thorpe Family Scholarship endowment specific to Augsburg to be used at Augsburg’s discretion.”

On the day Jon spoke about his passion for art and Augsburg and his family’s recent gift, he noted the significance of the date.

“It’s an auspicious day. Today is All Saints Day! Yesterday was All Hallows Eve, along with Reformation Day, the day when Martin Luther ostensibly nailed his manifesto to the church doors. And tomorrow will be All Souls Day. Together all three days form the triduum of “Allhallowtide”. In many Hispanic cultures, this is also Dia De Los Muertos, the three days when many Hispanic cultures honor the dead. I see these three days as holding great significance relative to the art work we funded for the Psychology Department.”

“I see these three days as reflecting the power of transformation, renewal, and reformation. I see Augsburg as a Lutheran institution that has embraced these themes to include many cultures in its purpose and focus.”

When Jon and Suzette saw the artwork by artist Tina Tavera they were excited; it speaks to themes present in the study of the human mind, of our individual psychology, while also connecting culturally to the notion of celebrating our ancestry. Jon was serving on the Augsburg Art and Identity task force to determine both the ways art would infuse and inform the new building, and the range of artists whose work would be added, through sponsorships, to the building.

As the artist says, “My woodblock illustrations are meant to document narratives often told for centuries orally, and without visual representation as time passes, some may otherwise be lost.”

Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and its functions focused on understanding, explaining and predicting human behavior, emotions and mental processes. The six woodblock prints represent universal concepts in psychology with an emphasis on those areas within Augsburg: clinical/counseling, social, biopsychology, developmental, cognitive, law and forensic. (link to artist statement and images?)

“We can choose to remember where we’ve come from and who has come before us. One of our relatives, the late Dr. Neil Thorpe, taught science here at Augsburg when my sister, Dr. Amy Jo Thorpe Swenson studied here in the 1970’s. She met her husband Rick Swenson here at Augsburg. My late mother Gloria met my father here. Recently, it was also the 60th anniversary of my father Rev. Gordon Thorpe’s ordination from Augsburg Seminary, and we hosted a class reunion here on campus in the very room these seminarians studied in all those years ago.

“My father was thrilled when our son, Rennesoy Peltier Thorpe, decided to attend Augsburg.

Suzette and I are so excited we could make this gift of art to celebrate and honor his 2017 graduation with a bio-psych major.”

Making our gift in his honor let’s us make explicit how excited we are to be a multi-generational family of Auggies.

A Strong Belief in Education

Eric BEric Browning Larsen in Tuscanyrowning-Larsen ’75 believes in education. That belief is strong, persistent, and broad, compelling him to champion learning that takes root in college but continues to grow through travel, career challenges, and creative pursuits. Already a contributor to the Mary E. Larsen International Studies Scholarship and the Murphy Square Literary Award, Browning-Larsen has designated estate gifts to benefit both causes.

Mary E. Larsen is Browning-Larsen’s mother, a feisty 92-year-old who still lives on her own in Park Rapids, the small town where Browning-Larsen was born and raised. Widowed when her husband died in his early ‘30s, she worked for more than 30 years in customer service at Minnesota Power, then retired to her lake home, where she continued to do the yard work and maintenance well into her 80s. Although she did not go to college, she imbued her son with global curiosity, perhaps through their subscription to National Geographic and her opinionated, and continuing, monitoring of current events around the world.

Browning-Larsen chose Augsburg for simple reasons. “I wanted to go to the big city. And my father was a Lutheran,” he says, noting with a chuckle that his mother was a Methodist, but he didn’t hold that against her. As a freshman, he embraced numerous activities, serving in the student senate, becoming editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and editor of the Murphy Square Journal, and participating in politics and the anti-war movement. His busy extracurricular schedule left little time for travel, but that soon changed.

His business ambition led him to combine a master’s degree in industrial relations from the University of Minnesota with a law degree from then William Mitchell (now Mitchell Hamline) School of Law. After his first year of law school, he participated in an international study program at Oxford University.

“I enjoyed it so much I went back the following summer, to Exeter. One of my scholarship goals is to encourage people to study abroad, which is an education in and of itself. Fortunately, I had that opportunity early on,” he says. “Travel is a wonderful educational experience. You hear other languages, you meet people from different cultural backgrounds, and you learn what works well in other countries. I have been traveling nonstop ever since.”

Browning-Larsen’s corporate career in human resources included stints at The Toro Company, Graco, and Comserv in Minneapolis and Eddie Bauer in Seattle. He was vice president of international operations for Flow International, which took him to Europe one month and Asia the next. In his late 30s, he left the corporate world to start his own Asia-focused management consulting firm, which he headed for eight years. He also launched several Great Clips for Hair beauty salon franchises in the Pacific Northwest during this period, and somehow found time to write a book, Lucky at Love: Stories and Essays from Asia, which perhaps inspired some of his scholarship generosity.

“I want to encourage people who are doing creative writing, and the Murphy Square Literary Award is a way of providing some recognition for them,” Browning-Larsen says. “I also see higher education as a chance to level the playing field for people. Not everyone was born a Trump.”

After the 9/11 attacks, when the economy forced an end to his gig with a wireless software start-up company, he became a foreign service specialist with the State Department and was posted to Bosnia, India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Iraq, and Italy. Currently serving in Rome as the senior human resources officer for U.S. embassies, Browning-Larsen hopes to do more writing when he retires next January. He is also looking forward to hiking, gardening, political activism, and, yes, more international travel. Call it continuing education, a passion he aims to pass along through his scholarships.

“I benefitted from the education I received at Augsburg, and I have a sense of obligation, a need to give back. My objective is also to provide more than I received,” he says. “Over time, I hope that other people will benefit as well.”

Art Meets Science in Hagfors Center

Steve and Sandra BataldenSteve ’67 B.A. and Sandy Batalden say they were attracted to the “Art and Identity” project when they saw the “stunning” work of Amy Rice. Rice’s series, Six Minnesota Wildflowers to Meet and Know, was commissioned by Augsburg University for the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion. “We immediately liked her work,” explains Sandy, who shares with Rice an appreciation for letterpress printing, which is featured in the works. “Not only is she using original materials in her paintings, but the unusual botanical subject matter seems to fit perfectly in a building intended for the life sciences.” In a recent donor statement, the Bataldens wrote that “beyond botanical accuracy, Amy’s drawings transport us into an entirely new realm as leaves and flowers become frames for musical scores or other chosen text woven into each piece. What a creative, beautiful expression for the university of the twenty-first century!”

Art and Identity

In her artist’s statement, Rice explains that she began her process by hand-drawing and hand-cutting stencils of rare Minnesota plants. “The plants are ‘painted’ in with a variety of antique and vintage paper: maps and plat books of Minnesota counties (I only used maps from counties where the plants are actually found), Norwegian-language liturgy from the 1870s, sheet music, handwritten letters from early Minnesotans, homework, biology textbooks and early Augsburg ephemera.” She notes that her interest in native plants connects to her Christian faith tradition. “It is the sacred trust we have been given to be stewards of our Earth. My Grandpa Ed, a seventh generation Midwestern farmer, knew the names of every plant on his large farm. He didn’t own them; he was responsible for them.” That, she wrote, was one way he modeled faith in action.

Beauty and Inspiration

Steve notes that the timeliness of the “Art and Identity” project captured his own and Sandy’s imagination. “We are living in a deeply troublesome and dangerous Trump era when, especially here in the Arizona southwest, walls are political symbols meant to divide sharply and impose barriers. What a wonderful idea for Hagfors Center to refashion walls as settings for beauty and inspiration!”
Augsburg commissioned Six Minnesota Wildflowers and works by other artists to express its core identity, grounded in durable faith, inclusion, and experiential learning. “Great universities manage to nurture creative artistic production alongside scientific discovery,” say the Bataldens, who have spent their careers in higher education. Steve is professor emeritus of Russian history and founding director of the Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies at Arizona State University. Sandy is a retired university librarian, bibliographer, and scholarly book editor.