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.
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.”
Linda 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:
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.”
Carol Seiler’s personal mission is to contribute to the greater good. Whether this is through her job, through volunteer work, or through donations, she feels she must contribute through all aspects of her life. Her Augsburg experience, particularly in her undergraduate courses, affirmed this.
“I always need to feel like I’m contributing to something. I think we would all like to leave the world a better place,” she says.
Carol has been supporting women’s organizations since the 70’s. Having a service frame of mind is something she remembers from an early age, and something she learned from her father through his involvement in their local government.
When she graduated from high school, Carol was not encouraged to go to college. Instead, she was told what many women were told in that time: become a nurse, a secretary, or a teacher. But Carol wanted more. After working for many years at Honeywell, she wanted a change.
“I just woke up one morning and decided it was time [to go to college]. I looked at a few schools and found Augsburg. Augsburg was perfect for me because it was urban, diverse, had a small campus, classes were available nights and weekends, and I liked the curriculum. Once I stepped in a classroom I didn’t want to leave.”
Carol joined Augsburg’s Weekend College and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Communications in 1990. She continued at Augsburg to earn a Master’s Degree in Leadership, graduating in 1993.
“The whole experience was really life changing. That’s why I want to leave this gift so that other people can have that experience. Especially women, and especially women of color who are historically underserved.”
Carol is gifting a portion of her estate to the Augsburg Women Engaged Endowed Scholarship.
“I want to leave my estate gift to an organization that’s going to do good things in the world. I had such a wonderful experience at Augsburg and to help give someone else that opportunity is very rewarding.”
When asked what she wishes to pass along to future generations, Carol said to never stop learning.
“Recognize and acknowledge your value in the world.”
Carol worked for Honeywell for 35 years in their human resources department and credits Honeywell’s excellent education benefits for her success. She hopes that her estate gift will enable young women in the future to earn a degree and follow their passions.
An anonymous donor sent a letter to us, along with their generous gift to the Augsburg Endowment Fund. We believe their words ring true to the heart of Augsburg, and ring true to the goal of raising our endowment fund.
I give to the Augsburg Endowment Fund with thanks and fond memories of my four years there. My husband and I have given scholarships to Augsburg for many years, even though we did not live in Minneapolis after our college days. Augsburg has always been valued and it is my hope that the school will always be there to educate and direct people to be responsible citizens of the world.
In grade school and high school, I was always the youngest in my class and became the first of my family to get a college education. The years at Augsburg actually became the place where I grew up and formed an outlook for life. The professors were there to educate, but also to motivate and guide me. The friends I made at Augsburg became my friends for life.
It is always a pleasure to see and hear the great things Augsburg students achieve. I specified these funds go to the Augsburg Endowment Fund for two reasons. First, Augsburg competes with many other small schools and the Endowment Fund should be much larger. Secondly, I want Augsburg to exist and thrive for many more years.
The school today serves the same purpose it did when I was in school, but it reaches a larger variety of people. It offers the opportunities of a city and still motivates great ethics. My Augsburg education taught me that life is an Avocation – a responsibility to the world.
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.
Eleanor and John Yackel first became acquainted with Augsburg through the Center for Global Education and Experience (CGEE). They took a trip to Nicaragua with the CGEE founder and first director, Professor Joel Mugge, and loved the connections they made with Auggie students through travel. When they returned from their trip, they discussed ways to stay connected with students, stay connected with Augsburg, and ways to encourage travel in higher learning.
“Eleanor had the heart for sharing with others,” says John. “She was the driving force in guiding our philanthropic interests and goals.”
In 1998, Eleanor and John established the first of many endowed scholarships to support students engaging in educational experiences through CGEE. Both believe that higher education serves a purpose greater than just getting a job and making money. Higher education is where students discover their passions and commit to social justice and service to the world.
“My first reaction when hearing about the Students of Color crowdfunding campaign was, ‘Oh I like that!’ It’s timely and necessary right now. Eleanor and I believed in Augsburg. Augsburg is a shining example of an institution that really cares. Their acceptance for all goes way back. Augsburg reaches out to those who are typically ignored. Their focus on their urban neighbors, reaching out to students of color, as well as students in recovery and students with disabilities. Racial and social justice was always important to my wife especially, which is why I’m offering $50,000 as a matching challenge for the Critical Race and Ethnicity Studies Scholarship initiative in her honor.”
John is calling on the Augsburg community to support students through the new Critical Race and Ethnicity Studies program. You may give online by clicking here, or you can contact Ilse Rolf ‘93 in our Institutional Advancement office at 612-330-1512 or firstname.lastname@example.org.