Bing tracking

COVID-19: Fall 2020 plans and student resources ›

Their Passion for Music and an Augsburg Education Inspired a New Endowed Music Scholarship

Becky Bjella Nodland ’79Becky Bjella Nodland ’79 was once a young person yearning to put her passion for music into practice but lacking the means to do so. Being able to face and overcome that challenge changed her life, just as she hopes the endowed music scholarship that she and her husband, Jeffrey Nodland ’77, are donating will change other young lives.

Growing up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Becky was one of the “middle kids” in a family of eight. All were musicians, but college funds were lacking. Without a “great scholarship—all four years” and robust work-study program, Becky, who played string bass and organ and sang in the Augsburg Concert Choir, could not have attended Augsburg at all. She chose the school because it was then one of only two in the country that offered a music therapy program, which intrigued her.

“Augsburg was so innovative that way,” she recalls. “But the program was so new that it scared me. I talked to the seniors, and they were not finding jobs. I really needed a job when I graduated, so I switched to music education.” Today, of course, music therapy is a vibrant field. “There is a real need for it in the world,” Becky adds, although she has no regrets. Music education proved a flexible and rewarding choice; she taught for 10 years before her son was born. She is a choral arranger, organist, and accompanist as well as a music educator, has directed adult and youth church choirs, and currently serves on Augsburg’s Music Advisory Council. She has also instilled a love for music in her son and daughter, Emily Nodland ’18, an elementary education major.

Her years on campus were a “very positive experience. I made lifelong friends. The professors were incredible and very strong mentors for me,” says Becky, citing choir with Leland Sateren, organ with Stephen “Gabe” Gabrielsen, and orchestra with Robert Karlén, all now deceased but renowned for their decades of service to Augsburg’s music department. She was also involved in Lutheran Youth Encounter, and, as a freshman, met transfer student Jeffrey Nodland, a junior business major immersed in campus leadership activities. After graduating, Jeff attended night classes to earn his MBA at the University of St. Thomas. He and Becky married in 1980.

Jeffrey Nodland ’77Jeff spent the first 17 years of his career in various management positions with the Valspar Corporation, which transferred the young family out of Minnesota in 1982. He recently retired as the president and CEO of KIK Custom Products (CIP), one of North America’s largest manufacturers of national-brand consumer products, such as Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, and L’Oreal. Although the Nodlands have lived in The Woodlands, Texas, since 2001, Jeff joined the Augsburg Board of Regents in 2010 and is happy to once again be involved with their alma mater.

“I have been extraordinarily impressed with President Paul Pribbenow’s leadership and how they have leveraged themselves in the marketplace,” Jeff says. Such innovative programs as CLASS (Center for Learning and Accessible Student Services) and StepUP are “very inspiring. It’s so great to see the commitment. Paul has done an amazing job.”

When the couple began talking about endowing a scholarship, music made perfect sense. “Becky got her music degree at Augsburg, and music is a part of my life, too,” says Jeff. Adds Becky: “I am so happy to be able to do it. Hopefully it will help someone else the way someone helped me.”

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 way to help others who were like me” first-generation college graduate Lars Sandven ’69 says of planned gift

Lars Sandven '69 holds photo of himself standing with King Olav V of Norway who visited Augsburg in 1968.
Lars Sandven ’69 holds a photo of himself standing with then Augsburg President Oscar A. Anderson and King Olav V of Norway who visited Augsburg in 1968.

Many who benefit from an Augsburg education say thanks by designating a gift to the University in their estate plan. But only a few pepper their lives with intriguing thank-you stories along the way. Lars Sandven ’69 is one of those.

The son of Norwegian farmers, Sandven was completing his compulsory service with the Norwegian air force in 1965, stationed north of the Arctic Circle at a base that also served American soldiers training in the frigid elements. At night he taught English, capitalizing on the year he had spent as an exchange student in Pennsylvania, for extra pay. During the day he worked at a desk job, “shoveling paper.” One of his duties was to file government newspapers, each issue a four-page compilation of name changes, divorce decrees, and other essential ephemera.

“I was supposed to just put them away, but I had plenty of time. So I read them. I happened to see an ad from the American-Scandinavian Foundation about a new Augsburg scholarship in honor of Norway’s Crown Prince Harald V. I was fluent in English, so I applied,” Sandven recalls. His application was accepted; the scholarship was his.

“It was so funny—they called from the palace! It was a big deal. I have an image of the lieutenant, my boss, standing at attention while he talked to the royals in Oslo,” he says. Returning home on leave, he discovered that they had first contacted his small town in fjord country. “It sounded like a fairy tale. The ladies at the switchboard were all abuzz. It was very humorous.”

Sandven knew little about Augsburg, of course, and having just lost his father to a farm accident, lacked travel funds. When the ASF “asked sweetly” whether he might need some help, he accepted. Passage on a boat shipping out of Bergen was negotiated, as long as he was willing to join the crew, loading fruit, aluminum bars, and other cargo as necessary. After navigating the Atlantic and the St. Lawrence Seaway, he disembarked in Montreal and took a Greyhound bus to Detroit and then St. Paul.

“I got there in the morning, very disoriented. I never got a sense of direction in the Twin Cities. It was so flat—no Eiffel Tower, nothing,” Sandven, then 21, remembers with a chuckle. He moved into freshman housing, where he secreted Wonder Bread and margarine (it melted) in his metal locker to help stretch his limited finances. To supplement his one-year scholarship, he taught Norwegian as an “instructional assistant” while the Augsburg professor was on sabbatical, worked summers at the Concordia Language Camp, dug ditches, painted walls, translated for pastors, and donned a Beefeater costume to wait tables at the Sheraton Ritz Hotel’s Cheshire Cheese Olde English Beefe House. He was paid $100 to join three other foreign students and two American drivers on a six-week, cross-country, Ambassadors for Friendship road trip. Organized by Macalester College and underwritten by American Motors, the experience was “eye-opening,” memorable and meaningful, with homestays in locations ranging from Salt Lake City and New Orleans to Las Vegas (where he got lost) and Nogales (where he slipped across the border for a beer). He also worked in the kitchen at the Minikhada Country Club; his colleagues there served him and his mother a fancy dinner when she visited Minnesota. Thanks were in order on all fronts.

After finishing his Spanish degree in three years, Sandven (and his skis) shipped home to the University of Bergen, where he met his California-born wife, Ann. It was during a celebrity-studded World Cup event, at an intimate party of about 20, that he got the opportunity to thank Crown Prince Harald directly for his scholarship. “We came full circle. After I got home, the staff sent me a Christmas card from the palace with a picture of the royal family and a note that said, ‘come and see us while you are in Oslo.’ I was feeling very ‘close’ to royalty for a while,” he jokes. (He had met and been photographed with Norway’s King Olav V during the king’s 1968 Augsburg visit.)

Following a rather common path of first-generation farm kids becoming teachers, says Sandven, he taught elementary school in Oslo. He also worked in television before he and Ann headed back to America, two small sons in tow. In 1982, the growing family settled in Boise, Idaho, where he worked as an educator and school counselor before retiring. His sons graduated from Stanford and his daughter from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin; all have thriving careers, and two of them have settled their families in his home country.

With their planned gift, Sandven sums up his gratitude and expresses appreciation for his philanthropically inclined wife. “It’s a thank-you to Augsburg, and a way to help others who were like me,” he says. “It’s wonderful to be able to share our blessings, both of us.”

Fahlberg Scholarship will encourage and support students to have a holistic Augsburg experience

John FahlbergA serial entrepreneur who relishes new challenges and opportunities to share his leadership expertise, John Fahlberg ’68 has not forgotten what it is like to work hard, play hard, and struggle to afford a college education. He and his wife have designated $375,000 as a planned gift to establish the John A. and Martha C. Fahlberg Scholarship, which will support students who have financial need and enjoy participating in extracurricular activities.

Extracurricular activities marked Fahlberg’s early life, but they were not always the fun kind. Yes, he played sports as far back as he can remember, and he was happy to serve as student council president and captain of the football team. But he also started pumping gas at his father’s filling station at age 13, shoveled snow, and did whatever odd jobs needed doing in the small town of Alexandria, where his family moved when he was in the third grade. He also spent a college summer as a spot welder on the assembly line at the Ford plant in St. Paul.

“I learned about the world of hard work at a very young age, and it stuck with me my whole life. I was very lucky. I chose the right parents,” says Fahlberg, who is now a business consultant and executive coach in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “My dad was a stoic Swede and my mom an outgoing Norwegian. They married in the early ‘30s, during the Depression, and they had a rough life. They never got a chance to finish college, but they taught me great values.”

One of those values was education, of course. Sportsmanship was another. Both Fahlberg and his brother, ten years his senior, were very competitive and became outstanding athletes, following in their father’s footsteps. Fahlberg’s prowess in football and baseball attracted offers from several good liberal arts colleges. He chose Augsburg because he wanted to live in the “big city” and “hit it off immediately” with the late, legendary coach Edor Nelson ’38. A scholarship paid his tuition.

Fahlberg pitched baseball for the Auggies throughout his college years and earned several division honors as football quarterback. He was inducted into the Auggie Hall of Fame—a surprise he was not expecting—in 2001. “In retrospect, it was a great four years, and the late ‘60s was an interesting time, to say the least,” he says, recalling Seven Corners and the funky Cedar-Riverside neighborhood during that turbulent time. “I got a good education on all fronts.”

A business administration major, he grew fond of assistant professor Bruce Budge, who “really looked after us, really cared about us,” and treasured his connection with the late Jeroy Carlson ’48, “one of those genuinely great, warm human beings who supported any and all of us. He made the Augsburg experience a real plus.” These and other faculty members became a community of friends who shared the value system his parents had instilled in him: treating people fairly and well, respecting honesty and diligence, admitting mistakes, trying again after failing, doing the right thing no matter what.

Those values would also serve Fahlberg well in the business world. Getting a job was difficult in the late ‘60s, but a chance opening in the University of Minnesota’s MBA program gave him a degree and 15 job offers from around the country two years later. His financial planning and analytic skills took him to Exxon in Houston before friends eventually convinced him to move back to snow country. He joined Target, where he met his wife, Marty, and became director of accounting by the time he was 31. Preferring scrappy start-ups to large corporations, however, he quit to embark on an eclectic entrepreneurial journey that took him from freight services (Murphy Transportation) to supercomputers (Zycad, where he became CEO), retail signage (Insignia Systems), and golf courses (LinksCorp).

Tired of long winters at last, Fahlberg and his wife decamped to Chapel Hill 19 years ago, although they return to Alexandria every summer. He stays busy as an angel investor, a member of several boards, and a coach who helps young executives plumb their strengths and weaknesses.

“We all have our ups and downs, but I have always felt that if I do it right, even if I fail, then I will be all right. My Augsburg experience really helped me solidify my values and live my life. I have never wavered from that,” says Fahlberg. “I can’t think of anything better than to help students get into and get through Augsburg University.”

Two Students Find Support and Mentorship from Augsburg Women Engaged

Checking your email can get tedious, right? But for two Augsburg students, the digital chore yielded unexpected benefits. Informed that they had been selected as recipients of this year’s Augsburg Women Engaged (AWE) scholarships, they registered both shock and delight.

“I was very, very surprised. It was not something I had applied for, so I was very excited to hear I got it,” says Nayra Rios ’20. After earning an associate degree at Century College in White Bear Lake, she decided to transfer to Augsburg to major in biopsychology, the next step on her way to becoming a physician’s assistant. Unfortunately, the deadline for obtaining a transfer scholarship had passed.

“I was disappointed, but I figured I would just have to find other ways to pay for school. Then a month later, this email arrived,” Rios says. She was familiar with financial challenges. Her parents are laborers who grew up in Mexico but immigrated to California, where they met, married, and had three children. They moved to Minnesota when Rios was seven years old. She attended a charter school for Hispanic students before transferring to Tartan High school in Oakdale, a transition that carried its own culture shock. But Rios found friends and pursued academic success.

Although her older brother is now pursuing a degree in law enforcement, she was the first in her family to attend college. As a child, she had encountered health issues that scared her, but compassionate treatment relieved that fear; she has wanted to pursue a career in health care ever since.

“My parents always supported my dreams,” she says. They had their own dreams—her mother wanted to be a nurse and her father a lawyer—but lacked resources. In Mexico, she points out, families had to pay for everything related to school: books, uniforms, etc. These days, Rios helps support herself through her off-campus work with STAR Services, which supports young people with disabilities.

She has enjoyed meeting the women involved with AWE, which was formed in 2009 to unite women with shared interests and passions through events, mentorship, and philanthropy. “They are very kind, and they made me feel important,” says Rios.

Her sentiments are echoed by Sydney Fields ’22, who describes her benefactors as “really cool.” She, too, was surprised by the scholarship award, although she recalls meeting the person who recommended her through a multicultural diversity engagement group. A graduate of Champlin High School in Brooklyn Park, she chose Augsburg for its diversity, its proximity to home, and a chance to play on the basketball team. She is #10, a guard.

“I love playing at Augsburg. It’s such a welcome and supportive program,” she says. And although she got good grades in high school and was expecting to work hard at college, she was not quite prepared for the amount of schoolwork she would encounter. Studying, on top of basketball practice and her work as a housing specialist, “gets really exhausting!”

With four older and two younger siblings, all of whom have or are pursuing some sort of college degree, Fields did come to Augsburg prepared with goals. Currently a finance major and management minor, she wants to launch two businesses. One would be a college prep class for teens, to help them prepare for the onslaught of responsibility she is discovering. The other would be a nonprofit 24-hour childcare center, designed for low-income families who need extra help because they work nights or have other scheduling challenges.

As she navigates her college years, Fields is grateful not only for the financial support AWE has provided, but also for the connection to people who understand the various situations she will experience at Augsburg. “We participants know we have a resource in this group of women. They will help us with anything we need.”

link to AWE video

Accessibility to Education and an Open Community Inspires Graves Family Endowed Scholarship

Sam '16, Hazen and Kathy Graves with President Pribbenow at their scholarship signing.
Sam ’16, Hazen and Kathy Graves with President Pribbenow at their scholarship signing.

When Hazen and Kathy Graves toured Augsburg with their son, Sam Graves ’16, they immediately felt they had found the right place. “We were totally impressed,” says Hazen, a retired partner at the Faegre Baker Daniels law firm, where he advised nonprofit organizations and handled legal matters related to charities and charitable giving. “Just walking through the campus, we found students very respectful, friendly, and eager to engage.”

They also found that Augsburg offered the unique assistance Sam needed as a young man with cerebral palsy who uses a power wheelchair. “As we learned more about the support Augsburg offers to students with various kinds of challenges, we came to understand that Augsburg had been doing this for a long time, long before ADA,” says Hazen. “The University’s attitude—that’s the way the world is, here we all are, let’s get on with it—came through loud and clear, and it was reinforced as Sam went through four years there,” he adds.

Education is a high priority for the Graves family. Sam had a very good experience at Minneapolis South High School, where he excelled in academics and played in South’s robust adapted athletics program. After graduation, however, the choices were more difficult.

“Sam is very bright and has always done well in school. One of our goals was to make sure he could really capitalize on that,” says Hazen. He and his wife, Kathy, a principal in the communications and planning firm of Parenteau Graves, quickly learned that not every higher education institution was able to—or even seemingly wanted to–serve students with physical disabilities.

A tour of Augsburg was all it took. Sam agreed with his parents’ assessment and enrolled in 2012. He graduated with a degree in psychology in 2016. Now 26, Sam manages social media and creates digital content for the Minneapolis-based technology company Accessible360. He fondly recalls Augsburg’s CLASS program as well as his favorite teachers, Michael Lansing, Bill Green and especially his advisor, psychology professor Bridget Robinson-Riegler. “She was really fun and really, really smart. Plus she talked about the Twins a lot,” Sam says. An ardent sports fan, he is the co-author of the baseball blog “Two Men On.”

Sam’s parents applaud Augsburg’s “great services, great students, great faculty, and great accommodations made for those with disabilities. And they appeared happy to provide them,” Hazen says. “We had the overarching feeling that Augsburg embraced differences and made sure everyone has an opportunity to get a good education.”

The idea of supporting Augsburg financially occurred to both Hazen and Kathy independently, and they decided to donate $50,000 to endow a scholarship. “This is the most open community that I’ve experienced anywhere, with the possible exception of South High, and it’s pretty clear that this attitude permeates the place,” adds Hazen. “Access to higher education is a big issue, and we’re just doing our little part.”

Belief in Young Debaters Inspires Grant Dasher to Endow Augsburg’s MNUDL

grant dasher
Grant Dasher

Genocide in Darfur. United Nations peacekeeping missions in Syria. Those were only two of the relevant issues Grant Dasher tackled while on the debate team at Edina High School. But they made a lasting impression.

“Those issues are still relevant today, unfortunately,” says Dasher, whose positive experience in the debate world has prompted him to donate $10,000 to endow Augsburg University’s Minnesota Urban Debate League. About half of his donation will be matched by his employer.

The opportunity to learn about topics that are both interesting and important to society is just one of the many benefits debate offers, Dasher explains. It also develops critical thinking skills, expands global knowledge, and provides a chance to become active in the school community. As with sports, debating in a league that also promises tournaments, awards, and trophies simply makes it more fun.

“Research suggests that students who debate often pursue higher education and have better outcomes. There’s even evidence that debate may foster higher learning potential,” adds Dasher, who earned a math degree at Harvard, consulted with the U.S. Digital Service at the White House, and is now a senior staff software engineer at Google. He also notes the positive effects debate has had on his career, as it has helped him work through issues, manage people, and articulate ideas clearly.

After graduating from college, Dasher became involved in Boston’s Urban Debate League, where he enjoyed meeting with and coaching the students as well as judging the debates. Now a resident of the Bay Area, he wanted to extend the same opportunities to students in his home state.

Dasher has fond memories of his debate coach, Joe Schmitt, a labor and employment attorney at Nilan Johnson Lewis, Minneapolis. “He was a great coach. Although we had good relationships with our parents, he was a second father figure to all of us on the team. And we were pretty successful,” says Dasher, who won the state tournament with his partner. “He taught us learning skills and how to be effective. He also taught us how to use debate to become a better person. It was not just a competitive thing.”

Both Dasher and Schmitt are strong supporters of Augsburg’s MN UDL program, which debuted in 2004 and now supports more than 900 students at 39 partner schools across the Twin Cities. Led by executive director Amy Cram Helwich and faculty advisor Robert Groven, an Augsburg communication studies professor, the MN UDL boasts a 100 percent on-time high school graduation rate and 99 percent college acceptance rate among its debaters. The Augsburg Promise Scholarship also offers incoming first-year students full tuition if they have debated for three or more years, have a GPA of at least 3.25 and an ACT score of 20 or more, and are eligible for a Pell Grant.

“Debate is really valuable to people. I have seen firsthand the impact it can have on kids,” Dasher says. “I wanted to help the kids in Minnesota, both in rural areas and in the Cities, have that same experience I have had and seen.”

Rachel and Bruce A. Julian Share Their Generosity with Augsburg Chemistry Students

Julian FamilyEndowed by two doctors who met in medical school and want to include Augsburg University in their estate plan, the Rachel and Bruce A. Julian Scholarship will help yet another generation of chemistry majors follow their dreams.

Rachel Hendrickson Julian ’71 grew up in Clarkfield, a small southwestern Minnesota farming town where her father was the Lutheran minister and her mother an elementary school teacher. Both had attended Gustavus Adolphus College and valued education highly, although their finances could not cover college expenses for five children. Their oldest followed their footsteps, but the other four, including middle child Rachel, chose Augsburg for its more traditional values and culture.

Scholarship support was essential. A chemistry major, Rachel admired the school’s top ranking in that field as well as its excellent teachers. One of her favorite professors was Dr. John Holum, who taught chemistry from 1957 until his 1993 retirement and was known for his kindness and generosity as well as teaching excellence and commitment to service. He inspired many, including Rachel’s classmate, Peter Agre ’70, who later won a Nobel Prize in the field.

But Rachel soon found that one major was not enough. She added music.

“I wanted to go to medical school, but I also starting taking organ lessons. I had played piano since I was 6, and I fell in love with the organ. It was practical, too, since I could earn extra money playing on weekends,” she says. “I was very, very busy.”

Armed with her double major and again aided by scholarships, Rachel earned her M.D. at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “My med school preparation at Augsburg was very good. It not only helped me get in, but also prepared me to thrive in that environment,” she says. It was there that she met her husband, Bruce, an Indiana native with similar values and background.

“We have always been interested in education,” says Bruce, the grandson of a Methodist minister. “My father was an adjunct college professor, and although my mother did not complete college, she was a stickler for grammar and word choice. She used to cringe at newscasters.” He notes that Rachel’s siblings also “speak fondly and highly of Augsburg, which is literally in the shadow of the University of Minnesota. But any school with a Nobel winner must have something going for it.” In addition to Augsburg, the couple will donate to their medical school alma mater as well as Berea College, which serves Appalachia area students and is located near Lexington, Kentucky, where the Julians completed their medical training and practiced for several years.

Affiliated with the University of Alabama Birmingham since 1984, Bruce is a professor emeritus of medicine in nephrology and Rachel an assistant professor of psychiatry. They have four children and four grandchildren. Rachel is also an ordained Methodist minister who serves in the church-sponsored counseling center and still plays the organ, too, monthly at the local Lutheran church and yearly in a family recital that includes her older son on piano, her older daughter on organ, and one of their twins on French horn.

Rachel returns occasionally to Augsburg, such as in 2013, when she served on a science symposium panel. “The campus has changed a lot. Some of my old haunts, like the organ studio, are gone now. But I am amazed at the serious research the students are doing now, and doing very well,” she says, recalling her participation in summer research programs. “It goes way beyond anything we could have imagined. It really matters for something.”

And for a future chemistry student who needs financial help, the Rachel and Bruce A. Julian Scholarship will really matter, too.

Augsburg Roots Spring A Generous Heart in Arlan Oftedahl ’64

Arlan OftedalAfter a lengthy career as an educator, Arlan Oftedahl ’64 has settled in Inman Park on Atlanta’s east side, where he lives comfortably in a century-old, Craftsman-style house. He recently planted 500 tulips in preparation for a springtime show of color in the historic district that he calls home. In another era, he might have become a landscape architect, but in this one, he is content to value beautiful surroundings, which is just one of the reasons he has chosen to donate to Augsburg University.

Oftedahl, who shares a common heritage with Augsburg’s third president, Sven Oftedal, has given serious thought to why he will include Augsburg in his estate plan. In addition to campus beautification, he cites his support for quality education and small liberal arts colleges as well as paying tribute to his Norwegian heritage.

“I grew up in northern Minnesota on land that my grandfather homesteaded in 1901. He emigrated from Norway in 1881, when he was 23 years old, and he lived right next to Augsburg,” says Oftedahl, who gleaned the street address from letters his grandfather mailed to relatives in Norway. Those letters were saved, and Oftedahl, having absorbed Norwegian while growing up on the family farm in Bagley, translated them. He is also a frequent visitor to his ancestral digs; he was there 2017 to celebrate Syttende Mai, Norway’s independence day.

“I have feelings for my Norwegian heritage,” he says, and his genealogical research shows that he indeed shares roots with Sven Oftedal, although his grandfather added an “h” to the spelling of their surname when he homesteaded in Clearwater County. Arlan Oftedahl was the second in his immediate family to attend Augsburg, accepting the encouragement and help of his cousin, Harlan Christianson ’57. Because his family lacked financial means, Oftedahl combined a part-time job with scholarship assistance to pay his own way through college, including rent in an older house he shared with fellow students. Thriftiness and hard work sufficed, and the experience was a fulfilling one.

“I got a very good education. Because it was a small campus, I got to know my professors. They invited me to their homes and encouraged me to make the most of my education and abilities,” he recalls. An English major, he earned a Master’s degree and taught at the University of New Orleans (then part of Louisiana State University) before shifting to special education and teaching in Fulton County, Georgia, for more than 20 years.

He enjoyed the sense of educational community that Augsburg provided and that he worries may vanish as small liberal arts colleges disappear.

“A small liberal arts college may not be for everyone, but for me, and for a lot of other people, it was a wonderful way to get an education,” he explains. “I experienced much personal growth because of that environment, and the teachers made a real effort to open my mind and make me think. I felt supported.”

As a donor, Oftedahl has designated a scholarship for an English major with a Norwegian background as well as a gift to endow Augsburg’s Urban Arboretum. A beautiful natural environment is part of the small liberal arts college experience, he contends. “Most of these colleges are in smaller towns, in an almost idyllic kind of setting. They are not just a collection of buildings,” he says. “Large trees and walkways between buildings are particularly important in a city. The real advantage of Augsburg’s location is that it owns land that could become a park-like setting, instead of just a campus crammed between high-rise buildings.”

While some students in Oftedahl’s time found the extremely conservative religious culture alienating, Augsburg has progressed in many ways since then, he adds. “It’s more in tune with the rest of society, even as its identity remains tied to the Lutheran church and Christianity, which will be around for a long time in one form or another,” he says. “My reasons for donating may be more rational than emotional, but I feel good about making a financial contribution to Augsburg’s future.”