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End the year by doubling your gift!

Students throwing snow in air outside of HagforsAs we wrap up 2023, consider making an impactful gift to support Augsburg before the end of the year.

Will you make a year-end gift to help us raise funds for Augsburg students?

Your year-end gift to the Augsburg Fund will make a difference, no matter the size. Last year, Augsburg directed 100% of Augsburg Fund gifts to student scholarships. By supporting this fund again this year, you are investing in the leaders, innovators, and change-makers of tomorrow.

And thanks to our Board of Regents, every gift up to $275,000 will be matched dollar-for-dollar. Your gift to the Augsburg Fund can have double the impact!

Double your gift today!

Giving Back to the Place that Invested in her

Christina OlstadChristina Olstad ’00 ’05 demonstrates what being “All In” for Augsburg can look like. She earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work from Augsburg and remains committed to the university in a multitude of ways. She serves on the board of Augsburg Women Engaged (AWE) and has contributed to the Augsburg Fund and the women’s soccer and hockey programs.

Christina grew up in Apple Valley with the dream of playing soccer in college. Her traveling team in high school played occasional games on Augsburg’s campus. When she began looking into colleges, the Augsburg Women’s soccer coach at the time, Scott Hansing reached out to her. Christina’s connection to Scott, Augsburg’s Lutheran roots, and the close proximity to her family made Augsburg an easy choice. 

In addition to athletics, one class that made a profound impact on Christina was her freshman January term class. “My friends and I did an ‘exploring human services’ course. We would take the bus to go to the MS Achievement Center every day to volunteer. It was because of that class that I knew I wanted to go into social work and I met some of my closest friends,” she reflected. 

Shortly after graduating, Christina secured a position as a hall director and student activities advisor at Augsburg. “I feel like Augsburg has given me so much. They invested in me as a young professional and mentored me through the early stages of my career.” Christina is currently the Dean of Students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and continues to carry the valuable experiences she had at Augsburg with her.  

When Christina heard about the opportunity to participate on the board of Augsburg Women Engaged (AWE), she was eager to help out her alma mater in any way she could. “In my role as Dean of Students, I get the opportunity to interact a lot with our advancement team, so I understand the importance of cultivating a culture of philanthropy.” One initiative she found noteworthy was a campaign they held in collaboration with Augsburg’s Campus Cupboard. “I’m really passionate about food security and ensuring no student goes hungry at my school, so it was rewarding to be a part of that effort.”

Along with her position with AWE, Christina has made gifts to various programs and initiatives at Augsburg. When it comes to giving she is adamant about the belief that any amount of giving helps. “It’s all about how you want to give back and how you want your gift to help leave a legacy,” she said. For Christina, getting in the habit of giving is crucial and it helps to think about what drew her to Augsburg in the first place. “For me, it was my class sizes and the ability to get to know all my professors. Augsburg is an incredible institution that provided me with a lot of opportunities. It’s important to reflect on where you are today and how places like Augsburg helped you get there.”

The Great Returns: We’re All In campaign concluded on May 31 and raised more than $128,000,000 thanks to our generous benefactors, alumni, and partners! Read more about the Great Returns campaign and RSVP for our September 29th celebration event!

Paving the way for Interfaith Peacebuilding

Najeeba SyeedNajeeba Syeed joined Augsburg in August 2022 as the inaugural El-Hibri Endowed Chair and Executive Director for the Interfaith Institute. She recalled hearing about the national search for this position through a direct message on Twitter from an adjunct faculty member. “One day I received a message saying ‘there’s a position opening and it sounds like your life story written in the job description!’” Najeeba reflected amusingly. After learning more about the role, she realized how reflective it was of her life’s work.

Although she hadn’t spent much time in Minneapolis, Najeeba was familiar with Augsburg through her interfaith work and noticed the cultural and demographic changes that had taken place over the years. “For a lot of us who are Muslim American, it [Minneapolis] has become this dynamic place that is a center for culture and community, as well as political organizing,” she said. 

This observation was reinforced through Augsburg’s demonstrated commitment to various communities on campus and its core mission support surrounding equity and inclusion. “What makes Augsburg special is how its diversity connects students to the neighborhood and really the world.” After a campus visit and lunch with students, Najeeba felt called to this opportunity. 

Najeeba brings her non-profit background and expertise in working with cross-cultural and interreligious groups to her role at Augsburg. “Ultimately, we all want similar things,” she stated. “Safety, a place of belonging… At the Institute we talk about the idea of pluralism. How do we bring different people together and find common purpose?” This overarching inquiry is what Najeeba hopes to explore and find tangible solutions to. “The work is never done, but by harnessing the power of different viewpoints, faith traditions, and moral perspectives, many of our problems can be solved.” Examining these complex topics and creating sustainable outcomes is a privilege that comes with an endowed position.

Endowed positions strengthen Augsburg’s financial resiliency, attract and retain talented faculty, and expand our capacity for leadership in specific areas. Since the inception of Augsburg’s Great Returns: We’re All In campaign, there have been five endowed positions established by incredible donors and seven endowed positions created overall. 

The importance of philanthropy remains at the forefront of Najeeba’s mind as she envisions the future of Augsburg being a central leader for interfaith leadership, dialogue, and peacebuilding. “I feel blessed in this role. The El-Hibris’ [Fuad, Nancy, and Karim] vision for this chair to have a place both in academics and the campus life of students, faculty, and staff is exciting.”

Since beginning her role, Najeeba has found ways to engage in Interfaith discourse with students in class and through experiential opportunities including, guest lecturing in classes across campus, traveling around the country to educate on the importance of interreligious dialogue and leadership, and teaching the Interfaith Scholars course. “Our students are so eager about the opportunities they have been given, there is so much energy and hunger to learn!” 

Augsburg’s first Interfaith Symposium took place on March 2 where Najeeba served as the keynote speaker and addressed the topic of interfaith leadership and healing in times of crisis. “My hope is that this annual tradition will attract intellectual leaders from around the globe and bring their voices on campus,” she said. 

“We’ve accomplished a lot already! The diversity of our student body coupled with a long-term investment in helping our students, faculty, and staff build intentional and caring communities will further amplify the work we’re doing.”

Learn more about Endowed Professorships or visit our website.

Honoring the Family That Helped Her

Ann with Ilene and Luther's son, John Forde
Ann with Ilene and Luther’s son, John Forde

A serendipitous meeting nearly 35 years ago has led to a promising future for new generations of international students through the Forde Family Endowed Scholarship, which Ann Nagendran ’92 has established with an initial gift of $100,000 as part of Augsburg’s Great Returns campaign.

Ann was a medical student in Kandy, Sri Lanka in 1989, when her mother, Anula Lawrentz, traveled to the U.S. for Ann’s sister’s wedding and wound up spending six months in Minnesota. Not one to sit around and waste time while waiting to return home, Anula began volunteering, taking care of a terminally ill Sri Lankan woman who lived here. Ilene Forde was a volunteer with Meals on Wheels, so the two met often as food was delivered to the ill woman’s home. When she needed to go to the hospital, both volunteers were there to take her, and they got to chatting in the waiting room. Anula told Ilene about Ann’s studies as well as her own fervent wish to help her children escape their war-torn homeland and pursue their educations abroad.

Anula was back home when she received a letter from Ilene and her husband, Luther, offering to sponsor Ann in the U.S. The Fordes would handle all the documentation and help Ann get set up in a new home. They could also recommend a good college: Augsburg. 

“I was so excited! I was 24 when I came, and it was my first time out of the country as well,” says Ann. “I was nervous because I didn’t know the system at all, but it was a small college and manageable.”

Perhaps blessed with her mother’s energy and sense of purpose, Ann settled in, making friends, taking classes, and working 20 hours a week at various jobs, including in food service, at a deli, and as a phone operator. While earning her psychology degree, she also interned as a counselor, working with sexually abused teenagers and the mentally disabled.

Meanwhile, the Forde family—Ilene and Luther as well as their children, John, Jim, and Martha—stayed close, offering friendship as well as kindness and support.

“We had a wonderful relationship, always great,” Ann says, recounting how the two families eventually crossed oceans and continents to visit each other. “John especially was like my big brother, always there for me. He took me on my first camping trip, into the Black Hills, and to a hippie festival once. He showed me so much. Even simple stuff, like going to an Army surplus store for inexpensive clothes. I wore that sweater for years.”

Now married, the mother of three sons in their 20s, and living in New Jersey, Ann is busy running a laundromat and an Airbnb when she is not traveling or ballroom dancing. She has recently visited the Augsburg campus, where she was impressed by the new buildings as well as the growing diversity, religious and otherwise, of the student body. She also was thrilled to meet President Paul Pribbenow, whom she praised as “a down-to-earth gentleman.”

She has not forgotten what it meant to be a foreign student on an unfamiliar campus, and she wants her gift to help those who follow in her footsteps. At the same time, she wants to honor the Forde family that has meant so much to her. She stays in touch with John and his wife, Catherine, as well as Jim and his wife, Sandy. Ilene, Luther, and Martha have passed away.

“In hindsight, I wish I would have done this while they were alive. Just before my father passed away just a few years ago, he told me how important it is to make the people you are honoring aware of what you have done. Although I had always meant to donate, that had never occurred to me,” she says. “But it’s never too late. The Fordes opened doors for me, and I should do likewise for someone else.”  

Learn more about Augsburg’s Great Returns campaign.

Building Community in Athletics

Grace Eastman headshotGrace Eastman ’23 grew up in a small town north of the Twin Cities. Upon reflecting on her decision to attend Augsburg Grace shared, “Augsburg gave me the vibes of a small town in a big city setting. It was important to me to have small class sizes and actually know my professors.” Another driving factor was being able to play on the basketball team. In fact, pursuing an athletic career at Augsburg isn’t something new to Grace’s family. “My uncle Randy Eastman ’95 wrestled here in the ’90s,” she excitedly shared. 

Although she was excited to be recruited for basketball, she admitted she didn’t know too much about Augsburg before the Student Orientation and Registration (SOAR). “I had only toured a couple of times before then, so I was unsure of what it would be like. But it was great meeting all the people and realizing I would enjoy what Augsburg has to offer.”

Like many students, Grace’s Augsburg experience was possible in part due to the generosity of benefactors who support scholarship opportunities. Throughout the Great Returns campaign, donors have given to 150 endowed scholarships. “Without financial aid, I don’t think I would have been able to come here. It really took the stress of student loans off my back and helped me be a successful student all four years,” Grace said, who is graduating with a degree in finance. 

Grace also shared what being on the basketball team has meant to her and how it enriched her college experience. “We’re like our own little family,” she said. “Beginning college can be scary, it’s like starting over, but I didn’t feel that way because I had already met my coaches and teammates ahead of time. I felt like I already had friends that I could talk to and could go to my coaches if I needed anything.” Grace feels the tight-knit community and communication attributed to the team’s success.

Another contributing factor to success is found in the renovated women’s locker room. During Augsbrug’s Great Returns campaign, a significant initiative was updating the women’s locker room. Through the generosity of Patricia Piepenburg ’69, the renovated space was unveiled in October of 2022. “It’s definitely improved our experience and makes us feel valued as athletes. I used to think locker rooms were just for changing because that’s what it’s been like my whole life, but now that we have this new space, it became a place where we could build community. We’re able to hang out, watch TV, and create bonds after practice or games,” Grace said. 

This initiative was especially significant because it happened 50 years after the passage of Title IX. When thinking about the legacy of people like Patricia who came before her, Grace shared “It gives us a sense of pride to be part of something so historical, and motivates us to play because we understand and acknowledge the struggles women before us. When we won a championship last year it was the greatest feeling and I want to leave behind a legacy for future generations too.” As she thought about how philanthropy has life-changing effects, she shared, “Gifts like these send the message that students like me matter and drive me to be the best version of myself. It is a blessing to have peoples’ support.”

Learn more about Augsburg’s Great Returns efforts on our website

Continuing the Legacy Her Husband Left at Augsburg

Cathy WoldPastor Dave, as he was known throughout his three decades at Augsburg, was a larger-than-life presence whose legacy will continue to nurture and support future students through the Pastor Dave & Cathy Wold Endowed Scholarship.

Although he retired in 2013 and died unexpectedly in 2018 at age 72, the former campus pastor is still fondly remembered by many. He was famous for the jokes and puns he inserted into conversations and the enthusiasm he brought to his various campus pursuits, from presiding over daily chapel and weekly Eucharist services to coordinating Advent Vespers and announcing athletic events such as football, men’s basketball, and wrestling. He founded the Holy Hoops basketball league and led the “World Famous Bunch of Guys Chorus” in their performances around campus. Along with providing spiritual guidance, he built and cherished relationships with everyone he met, meanwhile developing a special connection with Augsburg itself.

“He was an encourager,” says his widow, Cathy, who has designated a $100,000 planned gift to establish the scholarship. “He believed in Augsburg so much. He was the campus pastor, but he immersed himself in everything there as much as possible. He tried to get to know every student—their name, something about them.”

Neither Dave nor Cathy were alumni. The two were childhood family friends who reconnected at Concordia College, where Cathy was earning her education degree and Dave was visiting with student groups as part of his ministry. A St. Olaf graduate, he had been ordained at Luther Seminary and was serving Calvary Lutheran Church in Golden Valley when they married in 1974. He became director of the Youth Ministries Division of the American Lutheran Church, but his national and international responsibilities required such extensive travel that the young family yearned for an opportunity closer to home. 

Dave was named Director of Campus Ministries at Augsburg in 1983. “He was elated. He just loved it,” Cathy recalls. Their three children also spent much of their time on campus as they were growing up. “Everybody loved Augsburg, and we still love it.”

As a teacher and specialist in early childhood family education for 16 years, Cathy shared Dave’s respect for and devotion to higher education. “He was a big believer in liberal arts, and this is a pretty special place. It’s unique, it’s in the city, and it offers programs that not every college has, such as those for students with special needs. It also draws a really diverse population of students who don’t necessarily have the means to go to college,” she says.

Because Dave spent thirty years getting to know students, providing programs to help them, and watching as they graduated and established successful lives, Cathy thinks he would be pleased with the family’s decision to create an endowed scholarship as part of Augsburg’s Great Returns campaign. It will support students who demonstrate financial need and, preferably, intend to live out their Christian vocations through serving others and building community. During this campaign, more than 150 benefactors have either started a new endowed scholarship or made a gift of $25,000 or more to an existing one.

“Dave positively impacted so many students, and I know that because so many of them have written letters to him over the years,” Cathy says. “I want to be able to have his memory live on at Augsburg in some way, and I believe this is the best way to do that.”

Learn more about Augsburg’s Great Returns campaign.