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.
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.”
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!
Sylvia Ann Sabo (nee Lee), 85, passed away on October 26, 2022.
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.
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.
When it comes to Augsburg’s Undergraduate and Graduate Opportunity (URGO) program, things have really come 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!
It is with a heavy heart, we share the news that Fuad El-Hibri passed away peacefully in his sleep early in the morning of April 23, 2022, surrounded by his family at his home in Maryland after a heroic battle with pancreatic cancer.
Fuad has made a tremendous mark on Augsburg over the past two decades. Fuad and his wife, Nancy, first learned of Augsburg in the early 2000s when their son, Karim ‘06, participated in the StepUP program. Fuad and Nancy served as inaugural co-chairs of Augsburg’s President’s Council, and Fuad was instrumental in forming the current strategic plan Augsburg150. Fuad and Nancy most recently made a generous gift to create the El-Hibri Endowed Chair and Executive Directorship of the Interfaith Institute at Augsburg and has annually sponsored Iftar dinners for the campus during Ramadan.
“The Augsburg community has lost a dear friend with the passing of Fuad El-Hibri,” President Paul Pribbenow remarked. “Fuad and his family have been generous with their time, wisdom, and gifts to support me and our community as we advance Augsburg’s deep commitments to collegiate recovery, interfaith dialogue, and student success. Fuad was a role model for our students as he combined his faith, his business acumen, and his love for his family in all that he pursued. I will miss him and know that his legacy will live on at Augsburg and beyond.”
Fuad was the Founder and the Executive Chairman of Emergent BioSolutions Corporation, Chairman of East West Resources, and Chairman of Aptevo Therapeutics. He retired from those positions on April 1, 2022. He was also a member of the Advisory Board of the Yale Healthcare Conference, as well as serving on the Board of Directors of the International Biomedical Research Alliance. Fuad, Nancy and their children, are also on the Board of the El-Hibri Foundation, started by Fuad’s father in 2001. Fuad and Nancy have three children and three grandchildren.
“Faud was a compassionate, visionary leader who cared about people in a very personal way. This was evident in the way he supported the Muslim students at Augusburg,” shared Muslim Student Program Associate, Fardosa Hassan.
Augsburg’s Board Chair, Matt Entenza, said “Fuad has been a good friend to Augsburg and to me over the years. I will miss his passion, counsel and our many energizing conversations.”
Fuad believed in the possibility of a world where any young person could feel welcomed and encouraged to pursue their potential on any college campus, no matter their faith tradition. He was a leader in interfaith peace-making and dialogue, believing much could be resolved if we listened and learned more about one another. Fuad will be greatly missed by the Augsburg community.
Augsburg is gearing up for this year’s Give to the Max Day! This year’s goal is to have 1,869 Augsburg donors participate during Give to the Max Day, which would make it our largest giving day ever!
Auggie passion is the fuel that drives strong donations on Give to the Max Day, and that’s why it is Augsburg’s biggest fundraising day of the year. It is exciting and inspiring to hear your personal stories about Augsburg and why you are passionate about supporting a particular cause.
So far we have the projects listed below fundraising this year during GTMD, with more participating every day. If you would like to help advocate for one of these projects, or advocate for a new project, we would love to hear from you. You can send in a 45-60 second video of yourself sharing what inspired you at Augsburg, and you can be featured in our Give to the Max Day campaign.
Please contact Chris Bogen ‘09 by October 15th with videos or questions at email@example.com.
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.”
Lisa Zeller ‘81 has long been a vocal and enthusiastic fan of Augsburg. She was part of the first class to complete the Master of Arts in Leadership (MAL) degree in 1989, and she was a founding member of Augsburg Women Engaged (AWE). She volunteers regularly for both and supports their fundraising initiatives regularly. But her latest effort—to support the endowed AWE scholarship with a substantial estate gift—is born of a deeper connection.
The first in her family to attend college, Lisa did not have the usual college experience. Shared dorm or house living, evening study sessions, weekend parties, and fun with friends were not for her. Her mother was a single parent who “struggled her whole life. Money was always a worry,” Lisa recalls. Yet “my earliest memories are of her instilling in my sister and me that we get an education and become self-sufficient. She planted those seeds early and strong.”
At church, Lisa had noticed two posters, one for Pacific Lutheran University and the other for Augsburg. Pacific Lutheran was too far away, so Augsburg became her alma mater. But tight finances meant she was living at home, working several jobs, getting parking tickets on a regular basis, and devoting all spare time to her studies. “I was shy and introverted, although I loved college. The one thing I regret is that I had no social life. I think that is actually a big part of why I’m involved now.”
Lisa majored in communications and religion, the latter surprising her. While taking the requisite classes, she discovered that she loved studying religion and philosophy that went beyond Lutheranism and Christianity. Undecided about her future, she considered going into the ministry until one of her business professors explained that “the business world needs good, ethical people, too.” She pursued an advanced business degree elsewhere but found that accounting and statistics classes felt “like sticking needles in my eyes. I hated every second.” Augsburg, on the other hand, was “talking about creativity and a whole new liberal arts approach to leadership. If I could have designed my own program, MAL would have been it.”
As part of the first cohort, Lisa made the lasting friendships and connections she missed the first time around. “It was such a great experience,” she says. “I give so much credit to Augsburg for my self-discovery and becoming who I am today. No one had told me I was smart before. Augsburg helped me cultivate my passion and interests.”
She embarked on an eclectic business career and in 1994 founded the Phaedrus Group, a training and consulting firm she still runs with her husband. As a member of AWE, Lisa has observed that women approach philanthropy differently from men, seeking more connection with causes and recipients. Her planned gift to the AWE endowed scholarship provides just that. This scholarship exists to support Auggie women, especially those who are first-generation, students of color, or other underserved populations, so perhaps they will be able to earn a degree without giving up friends and fun. It is her way of paying it forward.
“I’ve had an opportunity to meet the first two AWE scholars, and these young women inspire me and give me hope for the future. It is so fun to cheer on this generation of women!”
In memory of his parents and in celebration of his brother, Augsburg professor emeritus Stuart Anderson, Brian J. Anderson ’82 and his wife, Leeann M. Rock ’81, are donating $50,000 to endow a scholarship designed to encourage future students’ “rigorous education and academic excellence.” Yet the rich legacy that accompanies this gift goes far beyond those lofty goals.
Brian’s father, the late Dr. Raymond E. Anderson, joined Augsburg in 1949 as a speech and communications professor, helping to establish the department now called Communication Studies, Film, and New Media. Students adored his wry sense of humor as well as his warmth and compassion. He made his speech classes “fun” while maintaining high standards.
“He was very committed to his students, but he demanded the best from them,” says Brian, naming several who used those formative public speaking classes to build acclaimed careers: the late U.S. Representative Martin Sabo, who served Minnesota’s 5th District for 14 terms; Rev. Mark Hanson, former presiding bishop of the ELCA; and Minnesota District Court Judge Bev Benson. “He was also committed to honesty and integrity. When a student once admitted almost proudly that she would say anything in a job interview just to get the job, my father explained that if he were asked to write a recommendation letter, he would disclose that fact to the interviewer. He had standards, and he stuck to them.”
Brian remembers his dad coming home and “working like a dog” till 9:30 at night, listening to speeches so he could grade and return them promptly. Brian also remembers him confessing that he loved his job so much that he felt guilty getting paid to do it. A man with many interests, including trumpet, piano, painting, woodworking, and writing, Ray retired in 1990 and died in 2013.
Brian’s mother, the late Margaret J. Anderson, joined Augsburg in 1967, using her master’s degree in library science and the college’s limited resources to make Augsburg’s library the best it could be. She became library director in 1977, and, after retiring in 1990, continued to volunteer for cataloging and archiving projects. She, too, was known for diligence and deep commitment to community and family as well as her own violin, cuisine, and literary pursuits. She died in 2017.
That Brian should follow his older brother, Stu, to Augsburg is little wonder. Stu was to become a physics professor; Brian majored in math, physics, and religion. In recent years, Brian strongly supported the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion and has followed closely Stu’s leadership challenges and successes with its development. “All of my majors were right there, which made it special. It was fun to be in on it from the inside,” says Brian.
During college, grammar had not been Brian’s strong suit. He confessed his strategy in freshman English: “raise your hand immediately if you knew the answer so later the teacher would skip you when you did not.” The girl who sat behind him, alphabetically in Old Main’s narrow classroom, always knew the answers, he reports. That was his future wife, Leeann Rock ’81, who had accompanied a friend pursuing a music major to Augsburg’s Discovery Day. Leeann had planned to attend a different college, but when she heard biology professor Neal Thorpe speak, she was hooked.
Brian earned his Ph.D. in physics at the University of Minnesota in 1987 and taught briefly at Augsburg before joining The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, where he often hosted summer interns referred by Augsburg physics professor Mark J. Engebretson. Leeann obtained her M.D., also from the University of Minnesota, and is a pathologist at Frederick Memorial Hospital. Now living in Mount Airy, Maryland, both want to honor Brian’s parents, who were so instrumental on campus during their lives. Endowing a scholarship seems like a natural next step, Brian says. “It’s a formal way of maintaining our relationship with Augsburg while ensuring more opportunities for students in the future.”
He played football. She ran cross-country. Although they first met as freshman members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Mark Moksnes ’79 and Pam (Hanson) Moksnes ’79 were focused on their studies and busy with their sports. He was a sociology and social work major with an eye on the seminary. She was a psychology major and biology minor, considering dental school.
The two started dating in senior year and married soon after college, although neither knew for sure where their paths would take them. But they did know that Augsburg had provided a strong foundation, not only in faith-based education, but also in community service and outreach. Perhaps they knew, too, that their allegiance would make charitable giving essential to their lives, allowing them to share those benefits with new generations.
Mark built a business career as a sales and marketing executive with Delta Dental and Anthem. A postgraduate financial planning education launched Pam into a career that combined financial management and charitable giving, providing expertise that served others well in her work with Thrivent Financial and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Now parents of three college-educated children and five grandchildren, the couple has donated to Augsburg causes throughout their lives, most recently giving an unrestricted endowment to Great Returns: Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Campaign.
“We feel called to support Augsburg’s mission, just as we always have,” says Mark. Earlier in their marriage, however, giving to Augsburg meant going out on a limb, a scary prospect for a young family. “We didn’t know where the money was going to come from, or how. It’s amazing what happens. God just provided. Those are his resources, and we put our trust in him regarding that. We just absolutely love being able to share.”
“That we have continued to be so engaged with Augsburg has enriched our lives,” adds Pam, a Board of Regents member since 2013. Their daughter, Laura Moksnes ‘06, earned a psychology degree at Augsburg and a Master’s degree at Pepperdine University, later returning to Augsburg as an adjunct professor.
Pam’s professional experience in charitable giving offers a valuable perspective. What kind of gift is best? “Whatever the donor wishes to do is the right thing, of course,” she says. “Giving can be so joyful for the giver. People who have been touched by Augsburg make these connections in all kinds of ways.”
While some choose to address immediate needs, Pam and Mark believe that an unrestricted endowment can be even more gratifying and beneficial in the long run. “We all know that in today’s world, with all the political and financial changes in our economy, the challenges to universities and other organizations are substantial. A strong endowment helps ensure that Augsburg can respond to these changes and stay ahead of the curve in planning,” she says. “I feel like it’s the right thing for us.”
Raising awareness about the impact of unrestricted giving is important as well. Since no one can predict the future, Augsburg needs a strong, solid financial base to adapt and serve, to fulfill its mission no matter what needs may arise at any given time. “Ensuring that our foundation stays in place will also serve the community, so tomorrow’s leaders will leave Augsburg ready to serve the world in an ethical, moral, and faith-based way,” says Pam. “That is the Augsburg mission in action.”
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius
The StepUP Gala was a night to celebrate how the StepUP Program at Augsburg University has helped students champion lives of recovery, achieve academic success, and thrive in a community of accountability and support.
With the strength and support of the StepUP community, we rose to meet this goal. This year’s Gala generated over $425,000 for the program in one evening. The event was thoughtfully planned by the StepUP Board and the Gala committee including co-chairs Cindy Piper and Douglass Sill.
Highlights of the Gala included:
Nearly 350 guests in attendance
Emcee Leah McLean, from KSTP 5 Eyewitness News
Neil King ’18, Alumni Speaker
Alexa Anderson ’19, Student Speaker
Toby Piper LaBelle Award recipients Jon and Julz Schwingler
A special appearance by Senator Amy Klobuchar
We hope to continue to build on this generous momentum from the Gala. If you wish to make a gift to support the StepUP program, visit StepUP Giving and indicate Gala gift in the comments field.
Thank you to all who joined us for the “We Rise” StepUP Gala. We firmly believe that a student should not have to choose between recovery and a college education. Your support will help make that possible today, and for years to come.