Bing tracking

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!

Remembering Sylvia Ann Sabo

Sylvia Ann Sabo (nee Lee), 85, passed away on October 26, 2022. Sylvia Sabo sits at a table and does a puzzle.

Sylvia attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, and became a registered nurse. Her close connection to Augsburg began when she returned to Minneapolis, after spending a year as a traveling nurse, and married her husband, Martin Olav Sabo ’59.

U.S. Representative Martin Olav Sabo ‘59, who passed away at age 78 on March 13, 2016, was a lifelong public servant who exemplified the progressive approach and personal integrity that were modeled in his Lutheran upbringing and education. 

Sylvia also found meaning in service. She was a long-time member of the Augsburg Associates, serving on the board and working on estate sales, events, and fundraising for the scholarship support of Augsburg students.

In addition, Sylvia was an active member of the Seward neighborhood in Minneapolis, a PTA president, and participated in the Seward community orchestra, an assembly of amateur neighborhood musicians. She also enjoyed singing at the Trinity Lutheran Church on Riverside Avenue. The couple had two children, Karin Mantor ‘86 and Julie Sabo ‘90, who also attended Augsburg.

Martin and Sylvia Sabo pose for a picture in front of a dark backdrop The Sabo Center for Citizenship and Learning was founded on lessons that come from Sylvia and Martin’s work. 

In 2014, the Center for Democracy and Citizenship and the Sabo Center were combined into a single entity, bringing together these two traditions of public service and citizen engagement. 

Today, the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship is recognized for its innovative leadership in democracy education, public work philosophy, experiential learning, and place-based engagement.

President Paul Pribbenow shared, “Sylvia Sabo was a beloved part of the Augsburg community. After Martin retired from the U.S. House of Representatives, and he and Sylvia returned to Minnesota, we enjoyed their warm hospitality for students and faculty as they shared their passion for public service and community engagement. The Sabo name will reside permanently on our center, organized to promote democracy and citizenship – recognition of both Sylvia and Martin who modeled for all of us what it means to be good citizens. Abigail and I will miss Sylvia’s warm smile and gracious presence in our midst.

The funeral service will be held on Monday, Nov. 7, at Lakewood Cemetery Chapel, 10:00 AM, followed by a brunch and interment. 

Read Sylvia’s official obituary.

Donnie McCarthy ’09 Gives back to URGO

When it comes to Augsburg’s Undergraduate and Graduate Opportunity (URGO) program, things have really comeDonnie smiles for the picture in front of trees and wearing a suit full circle for Donnie McCarthy ’09. One of the program’s first student researchers, Donnie is now the first URGO alumnus to serve as a sponsor, making the same experience he had as an undergraduate possible for current Augsburg students. “I’m thrilled that I can help someone–and hopefully, help a lot of people over the years–get access to that kind of experience,” he says.

Donnie was one of the first Augsburg students to participate in URGO in the summer of 2008. It was his first experience undertaking research, working alongside now-retired Biology professor Ralph Butkowski. “It was really my first exposure to doing biological research; my first exposure to doing research in a lab setting, and really got me excited about that concept—being able to carve into the unknown a little bit,” says Donnie.

Donnie also went on to undertake asthma research with Biology professor Jennifer Bankers-Fulbright, sparking an interest in pharmacology and immunology. “My experiences at URGO were career-influencing and what resulted in me going to graduate school to do basic research. I was fascinated by the idea of asking questions and experimentally answering them. To be at the frontier of our understanding of a biological pathway seemed akin to being an explorer, albeit of the molecular type,” he says.

While a student at Augsburg, Donnie developed time management skills as he juggled school, a six-day work week, research, and playing on the men’s soccer team–another pivotal experience for him. “Coming from Michigan, not really knowing anyone at Augsburg, getting thrown into the first pre-season training session, you create a family away from your family, and that was super valuable to me, getting really close with the whole team.” 

Donnie has also been a supporter of the men’s soccer team over the years and admires head coach Greg Holker’s dedication to create a strong sense of community among students and alumni. “[Holker] really requires excellence, has a really strong standard for being a person–he really does foster a fantastic environment,” says Donnie.

After Augsburg, Donnie studied at Albany Medical College before receiving his doctorate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of New York. If he hadn’t participated in URGO, Donnie says, he would have been at a disadvantage with his fellow graduate school classmates. “Having an idea of not just the scientific process, but being able to read and interpret scientific literature–there’s really no other way to get good at it, so having done it before (in URGO) definitely helped,” he says. 

Today, Donnie works at Samsara Biocapital in San Francisco, where he serves as Vice President. In his work at Samsara, Donnie works with both company creation and more traditional investing in life sciences companies, helping companies developing early-stage drugs, take an interesting idea and how it might translate into a therapeutic concept, how it will position relative to things that are already out there. His URGO research provided the skills necessary to thrive in his career–“doing research is an excellent way to learn how to think about something critically.”

Donnie believes that a program like URGO sets Augsburg apart. “It truly does differentiate from most other small liberal arts schools–it’s not an opportunity you get at every place, for sure, and enriches the overall experience for students. It was just that impactful for me, and if I can help one person in my lifetime have that same sort of experience, I’ll do it a hundred times over.” 

URGO is just one of many ways to give back, and any gift made to the program will automatically count towards your class’ total for the Alumni Class Challenge. Join the Challenge!

Learn more ways to give. 

Remembering Evangeline “Vangie” Hagfors

Evangeline Hagfors headshotEvangeline “Vangie” Hagfors passed away peacefully on October 4, 2022 at her home. 

Vangie’s deep connection to Augsburg began when her father, Elnar Gundale ’33, emigrated from Norway and attended Augsburg Seminary. Vangie attended classes on Augsburg’s campus from 1957-1959 as part of the Nurse’s Training Program through the Lutheran Deaconess Hospital. And three of Vangie’s siblings – John Gundale ’67, Stephen Gundale ’70, and Ruth Gundale ’73 – also attended Augsburg.

Vangie married Norm, a University of Minnesota graduate, and together they had two children, Mark and Rachel. Norm joined Augsburg’s Board of Regents in 1989 and both Norm and Vangie have faithfully served on Augsburg’s President’s Council since its inception in 2018. They embodied Christ’s teaching to love your neighbor, a core tenet of Augsburg’s mission. 

Dr. Paul Mueller ’84 shared that “we are saddened by the passing of Mrs. Vangie Hagfors and extend our condolences to our friend, Norm, and the entire Hagfors family. Vangie understood the tremendous value of an Augsburg education rooted in our Lutheran faith. Over the years, the Hagfors have been leading benefactors of Augsburg University. Their lead gift in 2015 resulted in the construction of the campus’ signature building, the Hagfors Center for Science, Business and Religion, in which our students—and future leaders—learn about and explore the intersections of these three disciplines.”

The Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion is a multi-discipline complex that opened in January of 2018 and serves more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year.

Norm and Vangie Hagfors visiting the construction site of the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion with President Paul Pribbenow and architect Bill Blanski.
Norm and Vangie Hagfors visiting the construction site of the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion with President Paul Pribbenow and architect Bill Blanski
Vangie is pictured above ready to cut the ribbon and officially open the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion.
Vangie is pictured above ready to cut the ribbon and officially open the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion
Evangeline “Vangie” and Norm Hagfors pictured together in the Gundale Chapel in the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion on Augsburg’s campus.
Evangeline “Vangie” and Norm Hagfors pictured together in the Gundale Chapel in the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion on Augsburg’s campus

Vangie’s gentle and generous spirit will be missed dearly by the Augsburg community. She truly clothed herself in “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” as we read about in Colossians 3:12. 

President Paul Pribbenow shared that “It is a most sad day for all of us who have come to know and love Vangie. Her historic ties to Augsburg through her father, the Rev. Elnar Gundale ’33, are fittingly celebrated in the beautiful Gundale Chapel in the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion, and her deep faith was an inspiration to all of us. One of the greatest joys of my time at Augsburg has been to witness the remarkable vision and generosity of Norm and Vangie, whose legacy is forever secure in the remarkable Hagfors Center – a transformative academic building that still takes my breath away with both its architectural beauty and its impact on our students and faculty each day. Along with her family and friends, we grieve Vangie’s death and celebrate a life so faithfully led.”

The funeral service will be held at 11:00 AM on Monday, October 24, at Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church, 900 Stillwater Road, Mahtomedi. Visitation will be held from 3 PM to 6 PM on Sunday, October 23, at Bradshaw, 4600 Greenhaven Drive, White Bear Lake, and one hour prior to the service at church. Read Vangie’s official obituary.

Dennis ’78 and Bev (Ranum) Meyer ’78 Welcome the Challenge

Dennis and Bev stand next to each other smiling for the photoBev (Ranum) Meyer 78, who graduated with a degree in mathematics, paused to collect her thoughts before recounting memories of when the Augsburg Choir practiced in the Old Main Chapel, back when fans took the bus to Parade Stadium to watch Auggie football games, and students lived in the big old houses on campus before they were all torn down. 

“When I think of our era at Augsburg, I think about how much this University has evolved since then,” said Bev. “And even though many aspects have changed, much of what we appreciated about Augsburg still remains.”

Dennis Meyer 78 majored in communications and social work and is the co-chair of the Alumni Class Challenge. He and Bev met each other at Augsburg during their undergraduate studies, and both of them experienced the benefits of grants, scholarships, and the power of generosity. 

Dennis and Bev began giving back to Augsburg in 1978 when they signed up for the Senior Challenge, which encouraged them to give a small gift every year. They became even more invested in giving when their son chose to attend Augsburg. 

“There are many reasons people give,” Dennis said. “For us, we want to pay back a place that provided us with many opportunities, experiences, and lifelong friendships.”

They mentioned the importance of paying it forward and their hope that others will have a chance to experience Augsburg for themselves and create their own memories. 

The Meyers continued to ensure their dream became a reality by contributing to the Jeroy and Lorraine Carlson Atrium Lounge, a designated space in the Hagfors Center where the Augsburg community can gather, foster relationships, and build community. They also gave contributions to the Beverly Durkee Mathematics Scholarship. 

Dennis noted there are multiple ways to give such as endowments, the Augsburg Fund, professorships, and numerous other programs.

Currently, Dennis and Wayne Jorgenson 71 are on the Board of Regents, and co-chairs of the Alumni Class Challenge, which is a part of Augsburg University’s Great Returns Campaign. The Almni Class Challenge kicks off at the All-School Reunion on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, and will last for three months. 

The goal of the larger campaign is to raise $125 million. The Alumni Class Challenge is a competition to see which class will have the highest participation rate with the winning class receiving bragging rights. A gift of any amount is appreciated and counts toward that class’ total. 

Learn more ways to give.

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.”

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.