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Chilstrom Scholarship Inspires Lives of Courage

Bishop Herb Chilstrom’s journey from poor, small-town boy to first presiding bishop of the ELCA began with a spiritual awakening at age 14. By the time Bishop Chilstrom ’54 reached college age his goal to become an ordained minister was clear, but the source of funds to pay for college was less certain. “There weren’t many scholarships at the time I attended Augsburg,” he remembers. Knowing that his parents wouldn’t be able to give him more than a five dollar bill every once in a while, he chose to attend the Lutheran college located in the heart of the job-rich Twin Cities: Augsburg. There, he knew, he’d be able to find a job – or two or three jobs (at the same time), as it turned out. That experience and a desire to help today’s students led the bishop and his wife, the Reverend E. Corinne Chilstrom, to establish the Corinne and Herbert Chilstrom Scholarship for students interested in social work or the ordained ministry. If you give a student some kind of financial support, he says, “It means you’re doing well, and we want to help you.”

A social conscience emerges

When Bishop Chilstrom arrived at Augsburg he began to realize that both his spiritual journey and his view of the world had been too narrow-minded. “I had too many pat answers,” he remembers. Augsburg professors like Joel Torstenson, sociology, challenged him to open windows to the world. “I wasn’t wealthy, but I realized I had the privilege of simply being white, and that opened doors that weren’t open for others. Joel impressed on us that we have a profound responsibility to those who did not have the advantages we had.” At Augsburg, says Bishop Chilstrom, he learned about Christianity’s call to fight injustice and how to live a courageous life. He began to develop the radical social conscience for which he later became known.

Those who do not learn from history …

“To be an effective pastor you really have to study the Bible and theology and church history, but you also have to have a much broader perspective,” says Bishop Chilstrom. “Sociology really broadened my world, and I fell in love with history, thanks to Professor Carl Chrislock.” He recalls Anne Pedersen, “the best English teacher in the world,” who opened his mind to literature and instilled respect for the English language. He was amazed by President Bernhard Christensen’s intellect. “It was awesome to hear him reach into the depths of his mind and spirit and pull poetry and prose and Biblical understanding together.” He remembers sitting in chapel and thinking, “He’s the kind of person I would like to be.”

Augsburg also provided opportunities to stretch his leadership wings. He became president of the campus youth group his sophomore year, and as student body president his junior year, he led the student campaign to raise funds for Memorial Library. He went on to earn degrees from Augustana Theologial Seminary and Princeton Theological Seminary and his doctorate from New York University. He became a parish minister, professor and church leader, serving as the first bishop of the fledgling ELCA from 1987 to 1995.

Tither turned philanthropist

“After I had an enlightening experience as a teenager, one of the first things I discovered is that people who believe put their faith on the line by giving,” says Chilstrom. While still in high school he began tithing 10 percent. “I gave at least 10 percent all through my life,” he explains. “Now Corinne and I are able to give much more than that, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Dusty Froyum: “It Felt Like Home”

The life path of Dustin (Dusty) Froyum ’98 has had its share of twists and turns, but somehow he always manages to find his way “home” to Augsburg. He acknowledges his gratitude with an annual gift to the Augsburg Fund as well as a recent pledge to sponsor a room in the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion to honor favorite professor and fellow alumnus Dale Pederson ‘70.

“Augsburg runs through my whole family. It’s a big part of who we are,” says Froyum, citing alumni relatives that include both parents, his aunt and uncle, and a younger brother. “When my older cousins were attending Augsburg during my teenage years, I think I had promised that I was never going to Augsburg. But you know what? I went there on a football visit and it just felt right. It felt like home,” he adds. “I turned down some football and academic scholarships to come home to Augsburg.”

Sports and science connections cemented the bond. Like his father and brother, Froyum played football, and like his mother and brother, he majored in science during his upper division years, landing in Pederson’s notoriously challenging cellular biology class. “He is a tough but fair professor. I never tried so hard to get a 4.0,” says Froyum, who managed a 3.5. “He is a role model as a person of science and faith famous for pushing students to do their best. My brother’s zoology class was famously difficult as well. Dr. Pederson famously said that he could write a test for which no one could get a right answer, and I’m sure that’s true. He is an extraordinarily brilliant person who, quite frankly, could have been successful in a lot of different settings. But he chose to dedicate his vocational life to Augsburg, and that should be honored. With its fusion of science and faith and impact on the community, the Hagfors Center spoke to me. I can think of no better place to honor Dr. Pederson.”

After graduating, Froyum earned a J.D. from Hamline University School of Law, intending to become an intellectual property lawyer focused on biotech and chemical patents. “But I ended up as a summer intern at Wells Fargo and fell in love with it,” he says. He has handled technology transactions there for nearly 17 years. “That’s an important part of my giving motivation. Wells Fargo is a huge corporate donor and has one of the largest community support programs in the country. It is ingrained in our culture, and they make giving very easy, especially to quality nonprofit educational institutions.”

In his younger years, Froyum adds, he had more time to donate. But today, with two young children, a busy career at Wells Fargo, and side projects dedicated to integrated alternative energy, financial contributions—especially when matched by his employer—are what he is best able to give.

“I feel an overall social responsibility to my Augsburg education,” he says. “I attribute some of those values to my grandfather, who was very progressive in many ways. At some point he turned over his farm acreage to conservation interests, and he chose to be cremated instead of occupying a piece of land.” Froyum lives his values at home, too, by driving an electric car, and tending an urban farm, and making his Golden Valley home completely energy-independent.

“To be part of your community and your world, you need to be responsible. I’ve done well in my career, and this is what I can do,” he says. There is, after all, no place like home.

Estate Gift Supports Future of Choral Music at Augsburg

John SchwartzThe foundation for the career success and generosity of John Schwartz ’67 was laid early, in Lester Prairie, then a town of 1,000, 50 miles west of the Twin Cities. There, long before he pledged a substantial estate gift to fund Augsburg’s choral music, he grew up in a musical family, singing and playing piano, pipe organ, and percussion. There, to keep school activities such as student government, sports, band, and theater alive, everyone had to participate. And it was there that his parents seeded his commitment to education, hard work, mutual respect, and philanthropy.

“My father valued education because he never had it,” Schwartz says. His father, Norman, was in 8th grade when his mother died in childbirth; he quit school to help raise four younger siblings. But he was ambitious and built a life as a farm implement dealer, bulk propane distributor, inventor, and manufacturer. Buyers for his patented tip-down truck bed came from as far away as Oregon, Schwartz discovered years later while working there.

“When I was in high school, he told me that I should get a business degree because it prepares you for many things,” recalls Schwartz. He remembers sitting at the kitchen table one morning while his mother read a “hot jobs” article in the newspaper. “She told me that hospital administration was one of them. So when I took my ACT test and had to put down my future goal, I wrote ‘hospital administrator.’” The ACT supervisor saw it and scoffed aloud; formally educated hospital administrators were rare then, and what kind of young person would choose such a career anyway? A determined one, apparently.

John Schwarts poses with Auggie Eagle
John Schwartz on campus with Auggie Eagle in February.

Augsburg College was for Schwartz a natural fit: Lutheran, affordable, well-respected, and his best friend’s first choice. Though the diverse neighborhood initially made him nervous—“it certainly wasn’t Lester Prairie!”—Schwartz learned to love the downtown proximity, riverfront gatherings, and especially singing baritone in the Augsburg choir. The five weeks they spent touring Norway, Denmark, and Germany during his sophomore year were transformative. Continue reading “Estate Gift Supports Future of Choral Music at Augsburg”

Scholarship Will Welcome Home Next-Generation Students

McNevin“Augsburg is a second home to me. It always has been and it always will be,” says Patricia A. McNevin, ’90, whose planned gift will be the Patricia A. McNevin Endowed Scholarship, designated for an English and/or art major.

In fact, after a few decades away, McNevin plans to return to her Augsburg home soon to take advantage of reduced tuition for alumni. She needs only a few more art classes to complete a second major in studio art, with a focus on painting and photography. “Last year I picked up a paintbrush, which is something I haven’t done in 30 years. It was very different, almost foreign to me.”

McNevin’s initial Augsburg journey was a long but fruitful one. She planned to double major in English and art, but health reasons forced a hiatus in the middle of her junior year, creating what she calls “my eight-and-a-half-year plan.” She completed her degree in English in what was then called the Weekend College (now Adult Undergraduate) program.

While she was earning her degree, McNevin worked in Augsburg’s college relations office, where writing projects put that major to good use, and the magazine, Augsburg Now, published her photographs. She enjoyed other benefits, too, such as a biplane ride donated by alumni who owned a farm in Farmington. Even then, with money tight, she found a way to donate $25 for one key in the Foss Center organ.

“The gifts I received from Augsburg were many,” she says. “I didn’t even know my name would be on a plaque, but I saw it when I returned for a special event. No matter the amount, leaving some sort of legacy is a way to live on, especially if you don’t have children.”

Though her career path did not follow traditional routes for English or art majors, “my Augsburg degree got me through the door in more places than one, and I’m using my education in ways that I never imagined,” McNevin adds. As an officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, she relies on traditional journalism skills to ask pertinent questions during interviews, and on research skills to learn the constitutional law she must understand to make good decisions.

She hopes that recipients of her scholarship will pursue careers in English and/or art as well as related community or volunteer work. “I would like them to not only be doing something in the field while they’re going to school, but also have a solid plan about what they want to do in the future,” says McNevin, whose volunteer work has included teaching English as a second language in GED programs.

No doubt she will also want them to love Augsburg, just as she admires the many changes that have occurred since she first arrived. She applauds the leadership and direction of recent presidents, the addition of a masters program and nursing doctorate, and the plans for the new Center for Science, Business, and Religion, to which she has also donated.

“I really don’t have very much money, but I wanted to give something back to the college. What it was I didn’t know, but then life changed and this scholarship idea came up,” she says. “Augsburg’s motto when I was there was ‘through truth to freedom.’ I have spent my life searching for truth, and Augsburg provided that background for me. I ended up in my occupation in response to that search.”

As for that feeling of being at home, she says it is hard to describe. Certainly the fellow students, the faculty, the staff, and the physical campus have something to do with it, as does the solid foundation based in the Lutheran faith. “It’s just a spiritual feeling, I guess, a feeling that Augsburg is a safe place to grow—in more ways than one.”