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Experience a life of giving with Wayne Kendrick ’68

When Wayne Kendrick ’68, a religion and math major, enrolled at Augsburg as a junior, he was in the process of change. Wayne Kendrick smiles for a photo in front of a wooden backdrop

He spent years working towards becoming an actuary, but not long after his adult baptism, Kendrick would hear life calling him in a different direction. 

That’s when he started searching for Lutheran schools to attend. Kendrick said he wanted one with a different atmosphere than that which he had been accustomed to, mostly growing up in western South Dakota. 

Before even visiting Augsburg, Kendrick was drawn to the idea of a Lutheran college located in an area with vast cultural diversity and educational opportunities.

“I had a saying that I went by when I was in college,” Kendrick said. “Education shouldn’t get in the way of your life’s education.”

Kendrick recounted doing volunteer night patrols with the Way Center on the troubled streets of North Minneapolis and participating in a march for fair housing in Milwaukee with his college roommate and Father Groppi. He attributed these memories to an enriched college and life experience. 

“Although I only attended Augsburg for two years, it had a real profound impact on my life,” Kendrick said with a look of fondness and appreciation. 

After graduating, his giving journey began when he purchased a life insurance policy with Augsburg as the beneficiary. Kendrick would go on to enroll at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul and would later become a pastor. 

Kendrick continues to give back to the community that has influenced his life so immensely with multiple donations to the StepUp® program and an annual gift to the Augsburg Fund. 

“I know without our [donor’s] gifts, large or small, Augsburg simply wouldn’t exist,” Kendrick said. “It’s not just enough to be appreciative, one must also make sure that others can enjoy the benefits that we, ourselves, have enjoyed.”

Join Kendrick and ensure students have an opportunity to receive the educational and life experiences they deserve by making your donation today! 

Any gift made to any program will automatically count towards your class’ total for the Alumni Class Challenge!

Learn more ways to give.

ANNE RICHTER SUPPORTS THE TEAMWORK IN GIVING

Like many Augsburg University alumni, Anne Richter 86 said she was thankful to have professors and mentors that were passionate about teaching and giving students opportunities to excel in academics and athletics. Anne Richter smiles for a photo in a dark room on the couch

Now, Richter wants to give present and future students the same opportunities and wonderful experiences she had at Augsburg.

“Augsburg helped me grow up and experience the world and was an important next step in my life,” Richter said. “It’s a place where you find community, friendship, and a foundation.”

This is the 40th year anniversary from when Richter chose to attend Augsburg in 1982 for academics and to play volleyball and softball. She graduated with a degree in psychology and would later go on to be inducted into the Augsburg Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.  

After graduation, Richter got a graduate assistantship at St. Cloud State as an assistant volleyball coach. A position that her volleyball coach at Augsburg, Marilyn Pearson Florian, helped her secure.  

Richter started giving back to Augsburg a few years ago when a gift officer approached her about supporting construction for a new volleyball women’s locker room, a cause that spoke to her.

Since then, Richter has given to the women’s softball and volleyball programs. She also made contributions to the Patricia Piepenburg ’69 Women’s Locker Room, which recently opened during the Great Returns: We’re All In – All School Reunion.

Richter knows that giving is a team effort, that’s why she reaches out to other Augsburg alumni, friends, and athletes and encourages them to give.

One of her favorite giving campaigns is Give to the Max, Augsburg’s annual day of giving. Richter said she enjoys seeing all the different opportunities there are to give and is excited to know that Augsburg students are receiving help from people who care.

“Our [donor’s] gifts are critical to the foundation of Augsburg,” Richter said. “They allow the university to provide the best professors and facilities to support the best students.”

Give to the Augsburg University Volleyball program and/or join A-Club and support Augsburg athletes as they strive to excel on and off the field, and any gift made to any program will automatically count towards your class’ total for the Alumni Class Challenge!

Learn more ways to give.

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.

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!”

The El-Hibri Family to Fund an Endowed Chair and Executive Directorship for Augsburg’s Interfaith Institute

Fuad & Nancy El-Hibri
Fuad & Nancy El-Hibri

In 2019, Augsburg University established Interfaith at Augsburg: An Institute to Promote Interreligious Leadership. This program illustrates the many ways in which our commitment to interfaith learning and leadership can shape our work on campus and in the wider community, and this work requires a strategic leader and distinguished scholar to provide direction. Today we are pleased to announce that a significant gift has been made to make this leadership position possible: the El-Hibri Endowed Chair and Executive Director for the Interfaith Institute.

Fuad and Nancy El-Hibri first learned of Augsburg while researching higher education options for their son Karim, who was in recovery from substance issues. The family was looking for a university that could provide both a college education and a supportive program. 

“Nancy and I diligently explored universities for our son which offered programs like StepUP. We were surprised that we could only find a handful of schools that had anything close to what Augsburg offers. StepUP clearly stood out with its reputation, scale, and program scope,” says Fuad.

Once Karim graduated from the StepUP program, Fuad and Nancy continued to stay engaged with the university. Initially, their support was focused on StepUP, including a significant gift towards the Oren Gateway Center where the program is housed. Fuad was among the sincere supporters who encouraged the university to create a StepUP Program Endowment, a fund that has since raised nearly $10 million to support the program’s unique offerings and outstanding staff.

“We are grateful for the StepUP program and the opportunities it provides to students in recovery. Karim is now the President of East West Resources Corporation, a business development and private equity firm. We are proud of his leadership skills and successful management of the business,” says Fuad.

As they learned more about other programs at Augsburg, the El-Hibris were impressed with how the university cares about its incredibly diverse student body. They were inspired by Augsburg’s philosophy which is embodied by the newly built Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion, integrating three crucial pillars of study.

“Our family values higher education tremendously. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of engaging with several academic institutions, including American University and Yale School of Management,” says Fuad.

Great Returns Campaign Chair Dr. Paul Mueller '84, Fuad and Nancy admiring the Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Dr. Peter Agre '70 on display in Augsburg's Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion.
Great Returns Campaign Chair Dr. Paul Mueller ’84, Fuad and Nancy admiring the Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Dr. Peter Agre ’70 on display in Augsburg’s Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion.

Augsburg holds a special place in their hearts though, and they have admiration for its leadership, including its tenth president, Paul Pribbenow.

“Paul is an extremely impressive and effective president. He is community-minded, strategic, and a true visionary.”

The El-Hibris aim is to support the university’s overall strategic direction, not just individual projects. They encouraged President Pribbenow to form the President’s Council, a small group of professionals and industry experts who serve as advisors to Paul and provide insights on strategic and operational matters. Fuad and Nancy currently serve as co-chairs of the council and have enjoyed getting to know the members and connecting more deeply with Augsburg’s programs and possibilities. 

Now, Fuad and Nancy are generously establishing the El-Hibri Endowed Chair and Executive Directorship for the Interfaith Institute. President Pribbenow plans to launch a comprehensive search for a candidate who will serve as a national ambassador of the interfaith movement and partner with campus leaders as a change agent for interreligious learning and living. This position will lead the Interfaith Institute while simultaneously participating as a member of the faculty. 

Fuad and Nancy’s gift will help to fulfill one of the goals of Augsburg150, the strategic plan, to advance the public purposes of an Augsburg education by enhancing interfaith leadership on campus and nationally.

Nancy with a group of Augsburg's Interfaith Scholars
Nancy with a group of Augsburg’s Interfaith Scholars: Abbey Garofalo ’21, Ava Fojtik ’20, Oluwatofunmi Oteju ’21, Abdikhaliq Sahal ’20, and Isaac Tadé ’21.

“We live in a world that is religiously diverse, and allowing religions to thrive is a step in the right direction. But it is not enough. Interfaith dialogue, learning from one another, and engaging together in meaningful work is what it’s truly all about. The timing now is critical and we hope this is just the beginning,” says Fuad.

This sort of strategic philanthropy will help to fulfill Augsburg’s vision: As a new kind of urban, student-centered university, we are educating Auggies as stewards of an inclusive democracy, engaged in their communities and uniquely equipped to navigate the complex issues of our time.

“We have a unique opportunity to build an interfaith learning community that will be a model for all of higher education. The combination of Augsburg’s interreligious student body, with Fuad and Nancy’s support and counsel, will create the sort of academic and community leadership the world needs today,” says President Pribbenow.

The El-Hibris believe interfaith competency increases social capital and creates a thriving society. They see this gift as a catalyst for interfaith dialogue on campus and hope more people will become involved in supporting Augsburg’s Interfaith Institute, both as advisers and with financial contributions.

Two students talk with Fuad after his presentation
Abdirahman Aden ’20 and Zakariya Abdullahi ’21 talk with Fuad after his presentation to a group of students, faculty, and staff in October 2019.

“The Interfaith Institute at Augsburg is not just about one individual or two or three, but a whole critical mass. The tools gained will not only solve immediate problems, but empower a whole generation of young people to respect one another’s differences, find commonality, and connect with one another for the greater good,” says Fuad.

Fuad and Nancy are delighted with what this gift will mean for the Interfaith Institute at Augsburg. They have given special praise to President Pribbenow, Matt Entenza, and Sarah Erkkinen for offering an opportunity to create what they believe will be a significant impact on society.

“This gift could have a real ripple effect,” says Matt Entenza, Chair of Augsburg’s Board of Regents. “The El-Hibris have a remarkable vision for Augsburg to lead the way by valuing faith within a pluralistic world and actively working together to create a better society. I know this is just the beginning, and look forward to growing this effort collaboratively.”

El-Hibri Endowed Chair and Executive Director

The El-Hibri Endowed Chair and Executive Director position is now open. You may view the position details through Augsburg’s HR website here: http://augsburg.interviewexchange.com/jobofferdetails.jsp?JOBID=137435. Interested candidates may apply for the position here: http://augsburg.interviewexchange.com/candapply.jsp?JOBID=137435

A Continuing Love of Augsburg

Mark received a Water Droplet, a gift from Augsburg to benefactors who choose to invest in an endowed scholarship.

Mark Raabe started at Augsburg in 1949 with the idea of becoming a teacher.

“I loved school, but I didn’t have a clear direction. If you ask me today what I want to be when I grow up, I still don’t know,” Mark says with a chuckle.

He spent two years at Augsburg and played second base on the baseball team. However, his interests shifted at the end of sophomore year and he transferred to the University of Minnesota, where he received his undergraduate and graduate law degrees. Yet after spending only two years at Augsburg, one influence always stuck with him: Coach Edor Nelson.

When Mark started college, WWII had just ended. Edor Nelson ’38 was a war hero and recent addition to the Augsburg faculty.

“He had been a part of Patton’s Army, a German prisoner, and he escaped. To me he was larger than life in every way and such a good man.”

Mark became a lawyer with a career in Washington D.C. He kept an eye on Augsburg from afar with a focus on Coach Nelson’s activities. In 2001, Mark and his wife Jean attended an A-Club luncheon celebrating the naming of Augsburg’s athletic field in Coach Nelson’s honor. Mark had only visited Coach Nelson once since his time as a student, but, as Mark remembers, “When we were still 30 feet away, our eyes met, and he said, ‘Here comes my second baseman!’ The fact that he would remember, 50 years later, who I was and what position I played for only two years is just amazing. What it says to me is that he cared about his kids. Edor is legendary in that regard.”

In 2013, the Raabes made a significant gift to the Center for Science, Business, and Religion campaign, naming a faculty office after Coach Nelson. Then in 2015, they pledged a future estate gift to the CSBR campaign, naming the science lab in Coach Nelson’s honor.

“Coach Nelson had a profound impact on me.”

Two of Mark’s nieces would eventually graduate from Augsburg and both spoke highly of the university to him. Ann Morrice Allenson ’92, who now has a family law practice in Minneapolis, and Norah Anderson ’21, who just graduated summa cum laude.

“Norah kept me up to date on Augsburg’s happenings. She credits me with being important in her decision to go to Augsburg. Now she’s on her way to law school.”

At the end of 2020, Mark again connected with Augsburg with hopes of supporting students through an endowed scholarship.

Mark and Jean Raabe
Mark and Jean Raabe in 2015, part of Auggies Across the US.

“I have always thought Augsburg served its community well. Now in recent years, especially under President Frame and President Pribbenow, that definition of community has expanded far beyond its original meaning to include the world. I love the university’s openness and its focus on diversity and inclusion, and its appeal to students with economic needs. It projects a caring, not unlike what I felt from Coach Nelson. I am excited about giving back to Augsburg as it prepares its remarkable students to help make our world a better place.”

Mark established the Mark ’53 and Jean Raabe Endowed Scholarship in 2020-2021 to support students who demonstrate financial need and academic achievement.

Leaving a Legacy Gift Now

Linda ’85 and Ron Ott chose to give a Charitable Gift Annuity to Augsburg to support Augsburg’s nursing students.

“I was always grateful for my time at Augsburg and wanted to give back,” says Linda.

Linda was already working as a nurse for a few years when she decided to go back to school to earn a baccalaureate. There weren’t many programs that had what she was looking for, until she found Augsburg.

“Augsburg faculty and the school meets students where they are. One example of this was with my transfer requirements for a physical education course. I was in a golf league and my professor said, ‘The spirit of this requirement is met.’ Not all schools will work with students like that.”

After graduation, Linda worked as a nurse for the VA hospital for many years. When Linda and Ron found themselves in a position to give back to their alma matters, they decided to set up Charitable Gift Annuities.

“A Charitable Gift Annuity is a way for us to do something now that ensures Augsburg has funding. It also provides tax advantages, and a little income back to us each year. Quite frankly, Augsburg made the whole process very easy, even to split our gift between a few different programs we want to support.”

Small for our students, big for the worldLinda requested their gift to Augsburg be split between the nursing program and nursing student scholarships. She wants other students to be able to achieve higher degrees in nursing, since she was able to advance her nursing career through Augsburg’s program.

With the income that comes back to them each year through the charitable gift annuity, the Ott’s love to travel. They routinely travel to new places and enjoy visiting Switzerland in the summer.

Interested in learning more about a charitable gift annuity?

If you are interested in learning more about using a charitable gift annuity to establish a gift at Augsburg, please visit Plan My Legacy. Institutional Advancement Director Heather Riddle has also recorded a video about what CGA’s are and how they work. You can view it on her YouTube channel.

If you would like to speak with someone about giving, please contact:

Amy Alkire
Assistant Vice President, Institutional Advancement
612-330-1188
alkirea@augsburg.edu

Participating in His Estate Gift

<em>Augsburg students in Vanuatu, including Mark Johnson ’75 and Professor Tim Pippert</em>
Augsburg students in Vanuatu, including Mark Johnson ’75 and Professor Tim Pippert

A few years ago, Mark Johnson ’75 updated his estate plans to include Augsburg. He wanted his estate gift to honor Professor Joel Torstenson, the “father” of Sociology at Augsburg who started the Metro-Urban Studies program at Augsburg in 1971. Mark was one of the first students to graduate from Augsburg’s Metro-Urban Studies program, now called Urban Studies. He also went on Augsburg’s first Scandinavian Urban Studies Semester trip to Oslo, Norway. Mark’s gift will fund a professorship for faculty in the Urban Studies or Sociology departments.

Mark has been very involved at Augsburg since graduating in 1975. Along with joining the Board of Regents, Mark has been in constant contact with the Urban Studies and Sociology departments. And his connection has gone above and beyond monetary gifts.

“Community involvement is important,” Mark said. “My job was a chance to encourage people to reach out beyond themselves and to seek ways to be a bridge builder of relationships.”

As Mark witnessed the impact of quality faculty in today’s educational environment, he wanted to support the transformational effect of an education rich in experiences. This is why he started the Torstenson Scholars in 2015.

Professor Joel Torstenson
Professor Joel Torstenson

Joel Torstenson came to Augsburg as a history major from rural West Central Minnesota. After graduating in 1938, he worked in education for farmer’s co-ops. He began teaching part-time at Augsburg upon earning a master’s degree in history and sociology. During the war years, he became involved in the peace movement and participated in establishing a cooperative farm community, which led to employment with Midland Cooperatives as an educational director and community organizer. In the fall of 1947, President Christensen invited him back to Augsburg to develop its programs in social work and sociology while completing his doctorate in sociology at the University of Minnesota.

Today, the legacy of Joel Torstenson lives on through the Torstenson Scholars program, sociology and metro-urban studies majors, the Strommen Center for Meaningful Work, HECUA, and the college-wide “Engaging Minneapolis” requirement. Torstenson’s work also gave birth to the college-wide requirement that started as the “Urban Concern,” which was succeeded by the “City Perspective,” and is now known as the “Engaging Minneapolis” requirement.

Students in the Torstenson Scholars program are financially supported for one academic year, which includes a research trip with the Sociology or Urban Studies department. Mark’s funding has been used in four significant trips: a research trip to Vanuatu in September of 2018; two research trips to Williston, North Dakota, in 2017 and 2019 to study the effects of the oil boom on a small town; and a community research project in Two Harbors, Minnesota, Mark’s hometown.

As a Regent, Mark came to understand the significant positive impact of philanthropy at Augsburg.

“The question always has been: How can we manage change for the good of all?” says Mark.

He didn’t want to wait for the day when the estate gift would arrive at Augsburg’s door. Instead, he decided to launch the Torstenson Professorship now so he can actively participate in the things that will be supported by gifts in his estate plan. Mark also wants to encourage his fellow Auggies to join him in honoring Professor Torstenson.

Mark has seeded the endowed professorship fund with a gift of $50,000 and an available match of another $100,000. He hopes others will join him by giving to the fund to remember Joel’s legacy.

“Joel touched many lives and I think a contribution to the professorship is a great way to commemorate that. All contributors to this fund – a small gift or large gift – will be acknowledged equally,” says Mark.

Until the endowed fund reaches $250,000, Mark is funding the professorship annually.

Briana Mitchell ‘19, Britta Andress ‘19, and Sociology Professor Tim Pippert in Vanuatu
Briana Mitchell ‘19, Britta Andress ‘19, and Professor Tim Pippert in Vanuatu

“We are so grateful to Mark Johnson for his generosity and vision in honoring the Torstenson legacy at Augsburg with this professorship,” says President Paul Pribbenow. “It is particularly meaningful to me that Professor Tim Pippert will be the first incumbent of the Torstenson Endowed Professor. I have had the privilege to teach with Tim and to witness his commitment to our students.”

Professor Timothy Pippert joined the Augsburg faculty in 1999.  He holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His teaching interests center on family systems, juvenile delinquency, homelessness and affluence, statistics, research methods, and race, class, and gender. In 2011, he received the Distinguished Contributions to Teaching and Learning – Excellence in Teaching Award.

If you would like to donate to the Torstenson Professorship, or are interested in funding a new professorship, please contact Amy Alkire at alkirea@augsburg.edu or 651-323-4844.

Donors Seek to Remove Cost as a Barrier to Education with the Paul ’84 and Nancy Mackey ’85 Mueller Presidential Scholarship

Nancy Mueller, President Paul Pribbenow and Paul Mueller
Nancy Mueller, President Paul Pribbenow, and Paul Mueller. Photo courtesy of Coppersmith Photography.

Ask Nancy Mackey Mueller ’85 about her family’s planned giving history and philosophy, and her answer will be succinct: “We’re all in.”

Indeed they are, for reasons that both she and her husband, Paul Mueller ’84 articulate clearly. Their commitment goes deep. Paul served on the Augsburg Board of Regents for 12 years and currently chairs Great Returns: Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Campaign. Nancy was named to the Board in 2018. They have donated often over many years, including a previous bequest to support the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion, and most recently designated a planned gift to create the Paul ’84 and Nancy Mackey ’85 Mueller Presidential Scholarship, valued at $1,000,000.

“We both felt that our experience at Augsburg gave us the keys to success for our future,” explains Nancy. Their college experience was not only positive but also rigorous, preparing them for challenging graduate work and distinguished careers. “We were both encouraged in different ways. As the only woman in the physics department at the time, I was always very much supported. I never felt I had to prove myself any more than the guys in my major, and that gave me the confidence to stretch myself.”

Coming to Augsburg

Nancy became a structural engineer, earning a master’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Maryland and helping the U.S. Navy design submarines before eventually becoming a physics and chemistry teacher at Mayo High School in Rochester. She had followed her father and her aunts to Augsburg, where she first met her future husband when she was a nervous sophomore tutoring juniors and seniors in physics. He remembers being smitten; she remembers just trying to get through the intimidating hour. Dating came later, but the scene had been set.

“We have a deep affection for Augsburg. It’s where we met,” Paul says. “We also appreciate the values of the institution—its academic rigor, its vision, its commitment to the Cedar-Riverside community. Augsburg transforms lives.”

Paul had already won a scholarship to the University of Minnesota when a visit to Augsburg’s campus altered his trajectory. Impressed by the warmth, welcome, and undivided attention he received that day, especially from chemistry professors, he chose Augsburg. Now-retired chemistry professor John Holum became his mentor and inspiration. Paul went on to earn his MD and MPH at Johns Hopkins University and is now an internist and professor of medicine and biomedical ethics at Mayo Clinic and the regional vice president of the Mayo Clinic Health System—Southwest Wisconsin.

What Sets Augsburg Apart

Both Muellers have fond recollections of Augsburg support and inclusion. “It felt like family. Somebody was always looking out for you. If you missed class, the professor would see you later and ask where you were. That was one of the things that set Augsburg apart, then and now. No matter who you were, or what interests or inclinations you had, you felt very welcomed,” Nancy says.

That Augsburg “vigorously retained its Lutheran heritage while at the same time welcoming everyone is very important and appealing to us. It’s the idea that we are called to love and serve each other, without regard to personal characteristics such as race, religion, or sexual orientation,” adds Paul. “In today’s world, it seems like the focus is more on what separates us than what brings us together.”

He also notes that these days, more than half of the student population are people of color. “It didn’t look that way when we were there, and I love that about it,” he says.

Nancy points to the unusual number of programs designed to help students with special needs and talents, from StepUP to URGO. “As parents, we’ve been on many college campus tours, and nowhere else offers the programs that Augsburg does,” she says. “It’s a unique place, and we so believe in their mission.”

Their oldest son, Luke, majored in math and history at Augsburg before pursuing a graduate degree in statistics from Harvard. His mother notes that his presidential scholarship made a big difference to him, both financially and by providing opportunities he may not otherwise have had. Endowing such a scholarship for future generations made perfect sense.

“Removing cost as a barrier to education—that was our intent,” Paul says. “We very much wanted Augsburg to be able to attract top-notch students without regard to expense. To have brilliant, talented, gifted students be able to come to Augsburg without having to worry about how to pay for their college education? Now that is changing lives.”

Bruce Olson ’71 Pays it Forward with Olson Peterson Wiggins Scholarship

Bruce Olson '71, his brother Brad Olson '73, and scholarship recipient Nick Thompson
Bruce Olson ’71 (center), his brother Brad Olson ’73 (left), and scholarship recipient Nick Thompson (right).

When Bruce Olson ’71 was a youngster in Brooklyn Center, he was not sure what he wanted to be when he grew up. He was sure of a couple of things, though. Active in the Lutheran church, he knew he wanted to attend a Lutheran college, and he preferred being in the city, where ‘60s activism meant things were happening. He also knew that his rural extended family would support him fully, although they could provide little more than love and encouragement.

“I came from a family of modest means. I needed a lot of help,” says Olson. He was grateful to receive an Augsburg legacy scholarship but wished he could have met his benefactors. “I wondered about the history of it, but I never really knew,” he recalls.

The financial cushion served him well. He participated in student government and played all four years on the golf team, which won both conference and state championships. He changed majors four times, abandoning religion after nearly flunking his first theology class, contemplating a future as a high school math teacher, succumbing to the inverse multiple-choice question challenges in his sociology exams, and, finally, plugging a gap one semester with an accounting class.

“I loved it,” he says.

Accounting became his major and business his forte. Right out of college, he worked for a small mobile home finance company, then Josten’s, then a series of successful entrepreneurial ventures in various fields, from insurance and computer services to light manufacturing and retail. He retired at 45 and moved to Florida to play golf, including with such luminaries as Arnie Palmer, but 10 years of retirement sufficed. Now a Kansas City resident, he is back at it, officially the owner and president of the HRS Group.

“I love the challenge of taking a new idea or a new product and making it work,” he says.

Olson also loves the idea of establishing the Olson Peterson Wiggins Scholarship. It is named for his family, including his grandfather Olson, who owned the five-and-dime back in Afton, Iowa; his grandfather Peterson, the town mechanic and truck and tractor repair whiz in Tracy, Minnesota, where he was born; and his near and dear great uncle Walt Wiggins, Walnut Grove’s town barber, who offered shaves and haircuts there along the banks of Plum Creek. And it will grant $25,000 to someone like him.

Olson was delighted to meet the first recipient, Nick Thompson, when the initial $5,000 installment was awarded. “He’s real nice, an athlete who plays baseball and a reasonably good student who aspires to become a physical therapist. But who knows? I told him I hoped he would be lucky enough to hold onto that dream but reminded him that it would be crazy to guarantee it.”

Olson hopes, too, that Thompson will enjoy the same Augsburg benefits he found: a good education, both academic and social, and important lessons about how to conduct one’s life. He also points to Augsburg’s growth and progress, demonstrated in part by the much-expanded economics and business department in the impressive Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion.

“It’s a pay-it-forward sort of story,” Olson says. “I was lucky to come from a great family, get a good education, and have some success in life. Now I’m finding a way to honor my family by honoring somebody else in the same situation.”