Lori Larson and David Yesnes remember their son Morgan as a vibrant and generous person who loved to connect with others. Morgan valued deepening his knowledge. While studying at Augsburg University, Morgan discovered his affinity for history. He quickly developed an incredible passion for World War II. “There was an event we were at where Morgan talked some guy’s ears off for over an hour about history!” his sister Sydney remembered with amusement. Morgan faced daunting challenges with his health, however he didn’t let this stop him from living life to its fullest potential. Because of the experience Morgan had at Augsburg, creating the Morgan A. Yesnes Endowed History Scholarship in his memory was an easy decision for David and Lori to make. The family established their endowed scholarship in celebration of the joyous and resilient nature in which Morgan lived his life and in appreciation for Augsburg University’s commitment to serve all students, especially those who need financial and specialized learning support in housing and learning for an equitable education. Due to Morgan’s physical limitations, the family had to be selective about where Morgan could attend college. “We had to choose a school that allowed for ease of mobility between buildings,” Lori recalled. Augsburg was one of the few campuses in Minnesota that had skyways and wasn’t overwhelmingly big. “It was also a great location because it was close enough to home but far enough for him to have independence,” David added. They knew Augsburg was the right fit when they saw Morgan’s face immediately light up when he first arrived on campus.
One aspect about Augsburg Morgan’s family remembers with gratitude is the supportive environment Morgan experienced. “The people in the CLASS center were so helpful when Morgan was in school. The accommodations he received helped him be independent… the last thing he wanted was to feel different,” Lori shared. This support, along with Morgan’s outgoing and caring nature, made it easy for him to find his place. He made friends by attending game nights in the student lounges, going to the occasional football game, and connecting with people in his classes.
Morgan passed away on April 22, 2020 at the age of 24. Lori, David, and Sydney strive to live their lives in a way that honors Morgan and carries on his legacy of wanting to make a positive impact in people’s lives. When reflecting on what they hope their scholarship accomplishes, David shares, “I want to give kids the opportunity to go to school, who might not otherwise have the chance due to financial barriers.” “We also want to give students a chance to grow and broaden their knowledge in a educational environment… Really have that college experience and be part of a community,” Lori said. The Larson Yesnes family believes that challenges and disadvantages should not prevent a bright future.
There is comfort and healing knowing that their gift is bigger than their family. The students who receive this scholarship will be connected to Morgan in a special way. The important lessons of resilience David, Lori, and Sydney learned through Morgan are something they hope they can pass onto future generations. “Always live life to the fullest and never put limits on yourself and your dreams.” Morgan’s enthusiasm delighted his teachers and inspired his peers. He lived a full, rich, and compassionate life.
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 Betty – with the encouragement and support of Laura and her husband Alfonzo “Al” Wright ’97 – would 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!”
Tamra (Pederson) Pyrtle ’86 had a love for science and math that went well beyond practical uses for the subjects. She excelled in school, and later, in her career. Yet Tamra always made time for the fun side of science and math.
At an early age, Tamra developed a talent for playing the piano, despite not possessing a natural ear for music. However, she did have a methodical mind that allowed her to do well in mathematics. And as music and math are close cousins, she developed that musical talent through piano lessons and diligent practice. Tamra played Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer for her piano recital and finished without making a single mistake, earning her a solid round of applause.
When it came time to choose a college, Tamra had her choice of St. Olaf, Concordia, Gustavus Adolphus, and Augsburg, among others. Like many of Augsburg’s students, Tamra chose Augsburg in part for the community atmosphere. She felt the campus vibe at Augsburg fit her personality better than any other college.
At Augsburg, Tamra blossomed. Chemistry was her first academic love, mathematics was second, and German was third. The faculty at Augsburg, particularly Arlen Gyberg and John Holum, were inspirations for her thirst of knowledge. Tamra was encouraged to pursue a chemistry major based on the American Chemical Society standards for a bachelor of arts graduate. This was a great challenge, particularly for a student with a double minor in mathematics and German. But Tamra’s persistent nature helped her earn a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry, graduating with honors in 1986.
“Obviously she was not afraid of a challenge. There is a saying of which she was particularly fond. It went like this: ‘Go ahead, underestimate me, that will be fun,’” says Brett Pyrtle, Tamra’s husband.
Tamra’s exceptional knowledge wasn’t always reserved for schoolwork. One night in 1983, she and her friends convinced members of the Augsburg football team to carry a Volkswagen Beetle into the student center. Tamra was able to direct the crew so they could do this without taking the doors off the entry. The geometry of this feat was lost on the maintenance staff, who had to remove the entrance doors to get the vehicle back out.
Tamra enjoyed using her science skills in the kitchen. She was a scratch baker and would purchase pumpkins and process them to make pies. She preferred working with raw materials so she could control the process to the fullest extent. Her family still fondly remembers her superb home-made pizzas, which were made entirely from scratch.
Tamra honed her skills from the ground up. In her first professional job, she was hired as a lab supervisor for Buckbee-Mears-St. Paul. She was the first college graduate to hold the job, and learned quickly how to balance her book knowledge with the fast-changing demands of metal etching production. She also learned how to stand up for herself in a plant where she was the only woman in technical management.
After that role, Tamra broadened her skills by mastering the use of HPLC, ICP-MC, and GC instrumentation in a consulting lab, before being hired by Innovex to supervise the etched metal operations in Litchfield. She was tasked with specifying, designing, and supervising the construction of an onsite analytical laboratory, as well as training lab support to help operate it.
Tamra shifted careers to science education for a few years, teaching AP Chemistry at Robbinsdale and Benilde-St. Margaret’s high schools, then returned to the lab as a quality assurance analyst for Paddock Laboratories, a pharmaceutical manufacturer in New Hope. She worked nearly a decade for this firm, was promoted twice, and earned her American Society for Quality (ASQ) designation as a Certified Quality Auditor.
In 2012, Tamra moved from pharmaceuticals to medical devices, joining Medtronic’s Neuromodulation division as a Senior Quality Engineer. She was quickly promoted to Principal Quality Engineer and developed a reputation among her colleagues as the go-to resource for tough quality engineering and analytical challenges.
Despite her technical jobs, Tamra continued to maintain the fun side of science and particularly loved how science and nature intersected. Growing up, she coveted the opportunities to visit her grandparents’ farm to be around the dogs, calves, and cows. She also loved visiting her uncle’s horse.
“It was not really a surprise when she sold her collector car to buy a horse. And what a horse it was! A thoroughbred with a blood line to the 1978 triple-crown winner ‘Affirmed’ whose given name is ‘One Smoother Talker,’ also called Bravo,” says her parents.
Tamra learned as much as she could about veterinary care and medicine. She regularly administered Bravo’s shots and saw to it that he had regular visits from his chiropractor, veterinarian, and farrier.
“The communication between Bravo and Tami was something special. They would have conversations and both knew full well what the other was saying. Bravo would perk up when he saw Tami coming, he even recognized her vehicle. They had a ritual when together that both depended upon. Bravo was a 1,200 plus pound pet!” says her parents.
Establishing a Lasting Memorial to Tamra Pyrtle
On December 13, 2018, Tamra passed away at the age of 55 after battling cancer for more than two years. She left behind her husband of 24 years, Brett; her parents, Wayne and Lynette; her brother, Carey Pederson ’88; and her sister, Kristin (Pederson) Merkel ’91.
For her family, choosing a way to honor their memory of Tamra was a difficult task. She was far too young when she passed away, and she was at a point in her life where recruiters were seeking out her extraordinary knowledge and skills.
“All three of our children are Augsburg graduates, and our family ties to Augsburg run deep,” said Wayne. “Augsburg was a significant contributor to Tami’s success. We wish for other students to have the opportunities Tami had, and what better place to provide some assistance than at Tami’s alma mater.”
Wayne and Lynette wanted their children to have the freeing experience that a solid values-based education can provide. Tamra was the first in their family to do so.
“I knew from playing with her and watching her play that she was uniquely talented and creative. She was not one to back down from a challenge – in a good way. She studied hard and earned every A in her classes, which in high school were mostly college preparatory. She took the hard classes and excelled in all of them. That, in turn, earned her a membership in the National Honor Society. She graduated salutatorian in her class of about 700 people.”
Wayne and Lynette Pederson, along with their son-in-law, Brett, established the Tamra Lynn Pederson Pyrtle Endowed Scholarship at Augsburg. This scholarship will be used to support students interested in pursuing a major in chemistry and who maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0.
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.
“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.
Lou Anne and Tim Sexton believe philanthropy is based on a personal experience with an organization. They experienced this connection with Augsburg after their son, Shea ‘19, joined the StepUP Program.
“Shea’s experience with StepUP and Augsburg was transformational,” says Lou Anne.
Shea learned about StepUP while at a Hazelden Fellowship in St. Paul. A group of clients from fellowship were going to tour the StepUP dorms and Shea went along.
“He had kind of given up on the notion of pursuing a four-year degree while staying on a college campus.”
Shea attended Luther College and Inver Hills Community College where he struggled to stay sober. But after learning about StepUP, he realized there was a way he could get a degree and stay sober.
“He was mainly concerned about finding a place to live that would allow him to continue his recovery.”
Tim and Lou Anne appreciated the community aspect of StepUP for their son. They also liked the mission of StepUP: being able to live in recovery and pursue a higher education in a university, a university that also focused on diversity and non-traditional students.
So when Lou Anne and Tim learned of students who loved Augsburg and StepUP but had to leave because they couldn’t afford it, they knew they could help.
“We want to be part of the solution, to help students realize their potential. StepUP parents have already spent a lot of money on treatment and often can’t afford to send their kids to Augsburg also.”
The Sexton’s set up a StepUP Endowment Fund in 2020. It is a blended gift which includes a cash gift, a future IRA distribution, and a bequest in their estate. They hope their gift will help future StepUP students who can’t afford to go to or stay in StepUP.
“StepUP actually helped our entire family. It’s a great investment.”
Lee ’88 and John planned early on in their lives to give back to a program that affected them so dramatically: Augsburg’s Center for Global Education and Experience (CGEE).
“It’s where we met and fell in love! John was a student at Pacific Lutheran and I was at Augsburg,” says Lee. “Our experiences in the program allowed us to recognize our shared values and commitment to equity, while enjoying life.”
Lee and John made lifelong friends through their CGEE trip to Central America, people who are still their good friends today. Their experience had a major impact on both of their careers. Before the trip, John planned on getting his PhD in plant ecology and doing research. However, he was so drawn to what he learned in Central America that he decided to become a teacher instead.
“Studying Freire and seeing the impact of liberating education in Mexico and Nicaragua opened my eyes to what education can bring about in a person’s life. CGEE allowed me to see teaching as an impactful, inspiring career,” says John.
For Lee, the experience reinforced everything she was already doing.
“I was committed to advance gender and racial equity and justice. CGEE helped me realize the importance of listening to communities and centering their wisdom as the foundation of change. I also witnessed the courage to act. I have applied these principles throughout my career,” says Lee.
CGEE also impacted how Lee and John would raise their daughter.
“We have a family mission statement! It’s written on a cocktail napkin somewhere… but basically it’s: create a family that is supportive and provides agency, love, kindness, joy, and growth as we move through the world and do our part to create change,” says Lee.
Lee and John enrolled their daughter in a global exchange program in Guatemala when she was in high school, where she helped with the local community and learned Spanish. Their daughter, Astia, had such a good experience that she went on to do a semester in Ecuador during college. Both of these experiences impacted her life and career in much the same way as her parents. Lee and John are proud that today Astia provides bilingual medical care as a doctor.
“My parents raised me with the practice of tithing. I think that’s part of the reason I have a very comfortable relationship with using money as a resource for change. Philanthropy is just tithing on a macro level,” says Lee.
Financially, Lee and John barely made their trip to Central America work. Lee was working full time and going to school full time. The reason they are giving back to Augsburg’s CGEE program today is to make the same experience available to students who might not otherwise be able to go.
“There are scholarships and grants that help with tuition, but things like living expenses, incidental money, airline tickets, and lost income from not working are generally not covered and can present a big barrier. We’re delighted to make this gift in the hope that it will help remove barriers. And we hope others will join us in supporting CGEE,” says Lee.
The Roper-Batker family wants to use their resources to create more equitable outcomes in this world.
“To me, the question is how do you align your values with your philanthropy. It’s important to John and me that our legacy changes systems in order to multiply opportunities for many people; our wealth is not for family inheritance. It feels great to know that we will have a small part in creating a more level playing field so that any student can enjoy the transformative experience of immersion study abroad.”
At the end of 2020, Lloyd Amundson decided to start a nursing scholarship at Augsburg. But this wasn’t the first nursing scholarship he’d established. It wasn’t even the second. Lloyd and his late wife, Barbara, have multiple nursing scholarships set up around the country, from Maui to Sioux Falls and now at Augsburg.
“Nursing scholarships have been our pride. My wife and I were sold on the nursing profession because we feel like they’re the masters of the health care industry. Doctors are good, of course, but when the doctor walks into a room, the nurses have everything ready for them to go,” says Lloyd.
One of Lloyd’s passions is a nursing program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester he and his wife helped launch years ago, which helps nurses continue their education.
“I have a good friend named Leeann Johnson who has really been a good pusher for these things, so now we’re doing more to urge nurses to go on to higher education to earn a master’s degree in nursing.”
Lloyd graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1951. While in school, he didn’t know much about Augsburg other than it was a smaller school near the U of M and had a good athletics program. Lloyd followed Auggie Jeroy Carlson’s career. Also known as “Mr. Augsburg,” Jeroy played baseball, basketball, and football as a student and was part of four MIAC championship teams. Years later, Lloyd and his wife started going to Mayo Clinic and met Dr. Paul Mueller ’84. Paul is a Regent Emeriti of Augsburg University, is a past chair of Augsburg’s Board of Regents, and currently serves as Chair of Augsburg’s Great Returns campaign.
“We’re nuts for Mayo since they’ve taken care of us over the years. My wife had pancreatic cancer, it was a routine checkup and Dr. Mueller caught it. He is a really, really good guy, a good doctor. He was such a supporter of my wife.”
So when Lloyd was looking to establish another scholarship, he thought of the university that Dr. Mueller loves so much and started the Lloyd A. and Barbara A. Amundson Nursing Scholarship Honoring Dr. Paul Mueller ’84.
Lloyd hopes this scholarship will inspire more students to go into nursing.
“It’s a good job, it’s a responsible job, and we need more people in there. I would like to see this nursing program get a lot bigger. We’re working our way into a bad problem of not having enough nurses. As the population is getting older, like I am, we need to be careful to graduate enough qualified nurses.”
Lloyd also hopes his gift will encourage others to create their own scholarships for students.
The purpose of this scholarship is to provide financial support to Augsburg nursing students, prioritizing students who demonstrate academic achievement and financial need, and are passionate about nursing.
“I have had the pleasure of knowing Lloyd Amundson for many years. I also knew his wife, Barbara. Their love for each other and their communities was obvious. After his wife died several years ago, Lloyd has expressed his enduring love for her and compassion for others through generous philanthropy. Lloyd is a strong advocate for education, especially of future nurses. Lloyd appreciates the student-centric values of Augsburg University and the outstanding nurses that graduate from Augsburg—many of whom now work at Mayo Clinic. Lloyd’s generous gift will support the training of many future Augsburg nursing students.”
– Paul Mueller ’84
Chair of Augsburg’s Great Returns campaign
Donors who give annually to academic scholarships or create permanent scholarship endowments reduce student debt and provide financial support to those who may not otherwise be able to afford college. These gifts encourage students in highly valued academic disciplines, reward students for high achievement, and inspire students to pay it forward.
Kris attended Augsburg carrying on a family tradition of Auggies majoring in Psychology. Her parents Jim E. Peterson ’50 and Gladys M. Dahlberg ’52 met at Augsburg, fell in love, and were married after Jim completed seminary at Luther Seminary.
“I remember my first week at Augsburg I called and said I want to come home. I missed my mom’s home cooked meals, I hated living in the dorms. My dad said no, you have to live there at least one year and have that college experience and then you can decide next year. He was right. Two weeks in I absolutely loved it,” says Kris.
Kris pursued a career with the airline industry for many years. Then in 2009, she left to pursue a career in real estate with faith-based company Keller Williams. Faith has always been important to Kris and her family. Kris’s grandfather, uncle, and great-uncle were also Lutheran ministers.
“My parents tithed 10% regardless, before food or anything else. That was instilled in me very young. To the church, Augsburg, etc. In order to keep things running, they need money. I think it’s important for all alumni to give at any level. You don’t need to give $25K. Even $20 is important. If everyone gave that much, think of what that adds up to,” says Kris.
Over the years, Kris has continued to stay involved with Augsburg, serving on the Board and Augsburg Women Engaged Advisory Council. And now she has established a new scholarship – the Kristine Pearson Endowed Scholarship – to support women becoming ordained ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).
“My parents have a scholarship at Augsburg in memory of their parents, in Physicians’ Assistant studies. As I was doing estate planning I was thinking about where I would want some of my money to go. Augsburg means a lot to me because I’m an alumna, but also because my parents met there,” says Kris. “I’m an ELCA delegate to my church, we have a female bishop which I love, and we don’t have enough women going into seminary.”
Kris hopes her scholarship will help students overcome the financial burden of a higher education. She also hopes her scholarship will encourage others to think about endowing scholarships – now or as part of their retirement or estate plan.
“Thankfully we have those that can give big gifts and we need them, but in order to serve our students, we need everyone to participate. My generation, the Boomers, are not the tithers our parents were. But I think we need to get back to giving more. I would encourage people to look at what $20/month would look like in their budget.”
“I love Advent Vespers. I’ve been going for 30+ years. This year, we’re not going to have Vespers, Velkommen Jul, and some of those things that rejuvenate us as an Augsburg community. So I would encourage people to take some time to go back and study the history of Augsburg and how Augsburg was founded, the campus, Murphy Square, and Luther Seminary’s affiliate history with Augsburg and be proud of the fact that you are part of a great institution.”
Karen’s family has a long history with Augsburg. She attended Augsburg, graduating in 1967. Karen’s brother and nephew also went to Augsburg. Her uncle, Conrad Sunde, left his estate to Augsburg after multiple conversations with Jeroy Carlson, a senior development officer for Augsburg known as “Mr. Augsburg.”
“I have always thought of giving to Augsburg,” Karen says.
Philanthropy also runs deep with her family. When Karen was 10 years old, her small town raised money to build a hospital. She remembers her family not having much money, but her parents still made a pledge.
David was the first in his family to go to college. Growing up in Minneapolis, Augsburg was the obvious choice for higher education because he could live at home and still work while in school. David’s parents also regularly gave to their church and supported missionaries, instilling a sense of philanthropy in him at a young age.
The Haugen’s both credit Augsburg’s great education as the start of their successful careers. David went to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for biochemistry and felt he was as well prepared as any student.
“The buildings, campus, so many accommodations for people with disabilities, so much diversity. All the emphasis on working with people in the neighborhood is so inspiring. And seeing the new building and labs now is so impressive,” says David.
The couple established the David and Karen (Jacobson) Haugen Endowed Scholarship Fund through a portion of their estate. The scholarship will support students majoring in the sciences.
“For us, giving a large sum of money now is not possible. But, we’re so glad we can do it from our estate, because that is possible. I’m glad this is an option,” says Karen.
Karen and David hope that the scholarship will encourage students to consider a career in science, or at least an opportunity to be literate in science.
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.
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.
“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 email@example.com or 651-323-4844.