Malcolm Gladwell on Higher Education Philanthorpy

This past weekend I drove my daughter Morgan back to Minnesota from her summer job at a camp on Big Bear Mountain a couple of hours east of Los Angeles. She had a wonderful summer, made a lot of new friends, and between sun and spills and lack of sleep she wore herself out!  As we drove across country, Morgan slept and I had a lot of time to think about my work in higher education, the privileges young people like Morgan have, and the lack of opportunities so many other children and families face.

Have you listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History?  Gladwell got some press in July for being critical of leaders in higher education and some of the most generous philanthropists who support them. You can read some of what was said here in the Huffington Post, Washington Post, and Forbes to point out just a few examples.

A total of 87 gifts of $100 million+ have been made to colleges and universities in the United States. The first was made by Hank Rowan who gave $100 million to what is now named Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey.  The story of this remarkable gift is posted here. Since Rowan’s gift to a relatively unknown university, nearly all of the subsequent $100 million+ gifts have been made to the wealthiest institutions in our country. In one of Gladwell’s podcasts he asks “what are they thinking?” The result of his inquiry is a fascinating argument that I hope you’ll enjoy listening to as much as I did.

My Little Hundred Million, Episode 6 of Revisionist History, a podcast by Malcolm Gladwell

Returning to the office today, I’m thinking about Hank Rowan and how we can build on his unprecedented investment in the promise of higher education.

July 1992 Announcement of Rowan Gift to University in New Jersey

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Reflections on Martin Sabo and Augsburg

April is a time for transitions: spring training becomes the home opener and the Twin’s season. Crocus and forsythia start showing themselves in purple and gaudy yellow. Other flowers ready themselves for full flowering—I can see one of my favorites, the perennial bleeding heart, poking out of the ground.

At Augsburg, we’ve recently said goodbye to one of our greats: the honorable Martin Sabo ’59. According to his wife, Sylvia, he’d known his time was near and planned his own service of remembrance. It was a remarkable celebration of his life.

He stood for so much of what it means to be an Auggie. He carried a spirit of hospitality to all while living a life of great service to others, especially to the citizens of Minnesota as a longtime law maker. Even after his retirement, he stayed active with Augsburg, attending events and participating in the life of the College. He loved keeping in touch with his friends, with today’s students, and with our faculty and staff.

Augsburg has always thought of itself as educating for service. It’s in the bones of the place. It captures my imagination to think of one of today’s students as a future public servant and leader like Martin Sabo. Is there a young person here today on campus dedicated to learning, to seeking out his/her vocation and preparing for a life of public service?  As people remembered Martin, they also remembered those who shaped the values and actions of so many Auggies. In particular, people think of Dr. Joel Torstensen, faculty emeritus, who taught Martin sociology; he founded the Social Work Department and dedicated himself to the cause of social justice.

Martin’s life reveals a true clarity of purpose that he carried over the whole course of his life. Through Augsburg, he discovered his vocation and calling and lived into it all his life.

The two are intertwined and reflect one another. Martin Sabo reflects on Augsburg and Augsburg reflects in Martin.

Augsburg, too, embraces clarity of purpose. We’ve rededicated ourselves to our mission:

Augsburg educates students to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders.

Small to our students and big for the world.

That’s why we created the Martin Sabo Center for Civic Engagement: to foster the vital and ongoing efforts to promote democratic action in community.  Students come to Augsburg with a measure of civic commitment. The Center focuses on empowering all students to become agents of democratic renewal and change.

I’m so grateful for the life of Martin Sabo and for the generosity with which he lived life. He brought greater visibility and focus to the work of Augsburg. I’m glad that we continued to be such a meaningful part of his life. It’s something special that makes us relevant, a place where people stay in conversation with each other.

As Vice President for Advancement, I’m really pleased to share that we’ve started efforts to secure additional investments in the Sabo Center’s endowment with an eye to expand the clarity of vision embodied by Martin Sabo. If you would like to know more, please let me know.   I’d be happy to speak with you about the Center and civic engagement at Augsburg or whatever is on your mind this spring.

You can find me at 612-330-1177,, or on twitter @heather_riddle


Heather Riddle
Vice President Advancement

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Class of ’52 Couple Give $250,000 to Sponsor Electronic Modern Physics Laboratory in CSBR

“It felt like cutting off my right arm,” Harvey Peterson ’52 says about selling CATCO, the company that had been in his family for three generations. He joined his father Art’s fledgling company, Clutch and Transmission Services, in 1951 while still an Augsburg student.

By the time the family sold the renamed company in 2012, all three of his children worked in the business. The firm, selling and servicing heavy duty parts for trucks, had grown to 18 locations spread over a five-state area.

Suddenly Harvey and his spouse Joanne ’52 faced a stewardship decision. What to do with the resources God had placed in their care?

Investing in vitality, making an impact

They chose to give $250,000 to Augsburg College to sponsor the Electronic Modern Physics Laboratory in the Center for Science, Business, and Religion.

Interestingly, they do not have a personal tie to physics. Harvey, a star athlete in high school and college, double majored in business and sociology. Joanne majored in sociology with minors in English and business. Her favorite activity on campus was singing in the Augsburg Choir.

So why sponsor a physics lab?

“We want to be part of the forward momentum at Augsburg”

“The Center for Science, Business, and Religion demonstrates how Augsburg is preparing for the future with energy and vitality, and we know that the CSBR is the next step to helping the school advance,” Joanne explains. “We want to be a part of that forward momentum.”

Harvey adds: “We have been giving to Augsburg for many years, and we had an opportunity after selling our business to increase our support. This gift is about our Christian faith and about relationships. We wanted to give something back to the place that means so much to us.”

“We want to support Augsburg College because we are thrilled that young people, especially those who have very little money, can gain access to a college education,” Joanne says. “And we appreciate the college’s urban location.”

Choosing connection over differences

They have deep ties to the College beyond their own student years, when each lived with their families while commuting to campus for classes and activities. Their daughter Lia ’89 graduated from Weekend College, and Harvey served on Augsburg’s Board of Regents from 1984-1996. He was elected to the Augsburg Athletic Hall of Fame in 1983 for his contributions as a quarterback for the football team and shortstop and third baseman for the baseball team.

Harvey says he and Joanne are more conservative than many people on campus today. That potentially could have gotten in the way of their support for Augsburg. He reflects: “Our faith teaches us to give. And now when we reach the point in our lives where we can give a more sizeable gift, we think carefully about where to put our dollars. We ask ourselves, ‘What do we love?’ And we realize how much we love Augsburg. This college has meant so much to us over the years. We feel it is a good place for us to put the money.”

Paid-up life insurance policy made a wonderful gift

They are surrendering a life insurance policy to Augsburg College, which had gained more value than they realized. Augsburg will sell the policy for the cash value to make the dollars available immediately for the CSBR. Giving this investment provided tax advantages, and the couple added a gift of cash to expand their gift. “We set up the policy years ago,” Harvey says, “but we had ignored the notices on value. Suddenly this seemed like a wonderful choice for a charitable gift.”

They live in Edina, Minn., and are members of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.

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2013: A Year of Firsts & Milestones

Did you know that the Center for Science, Business, and Religion is the largest building project in Augsburg’s history? Once we open its doors, it will become the new campus crossroads. So many Augsburg alumni and friends are turning our attention to bringing this special project to fruition. This Class Challenge newsletter is one way we keep you in the know about our progress on it.

With that in mind, 2013 marked the first year we made a concerted effort to seek the financial support of our entire alumni community! The Class Challenge goal we have set—for each Augsburg class to contribute a total of $1 million, collectively, toward this effort—has generated great momentum which we carry forward into this new year. In fact, this month another class exceeded its $1 Million goal.

2013–some great numbers!

  • A 53% increase in the numbers of alumni donors (now at 498, up from 324);
  • Gifts and pledges of over $13.4 million, bringing alumni gifts up to $21.1 million;
  • We have now raised $26.1 million, making quick progress towards our next goal of $34 million by the end of April 2014!

I want to extend a warm thank you to all of you who have helped to make this possible.

New Class Challenge Targets

For 2014 we set a goal for 40 or more people from each graduating class to become financial supporters of the campaign. Currently, every alumni class year from 1942 to 2015 has at least one classmate who has made a gift or pledge to the CSBR. The highest class participation award (so far) goes to 1972 with 27 donors! Which class wants to exceed their goal?

Each additional classmate who joins with their support for this wonderful project will find the satisfaction of adding their generosity to the cause! The goal is ambitious and we truly need a lot of you to say, “Yes, I believe and I will help.” The size of all contributions will vary, as they should, based on each person’s situation and ability to give. Please know that, for each gift, we are truly grateful.

What’s next?

Our next goal is $34 million by the end of April 2014. At that time, the Board of Regents will assess various funding options and decide whether or not to put the shovel in the ground and start the project.  This is not a foregone conclusion and your participation will make a difference. We still have much money to raise and we need your financial investment now.

Join us for our upcoming Summit

To help alumni and friends learn more about the CSBR, the Regents invite you to join us for an educational Summit on campus. Scheduled for January 30, activities begin at 4:00 p.m., with a tour of the Science building and an opportunity to meet with current students, followed by dinner at Hoversten Chapel.

For me, the highlight of the evening is a panel discussion during which the faculty share their views about the importance of the CSBR and what it will do for Augsburg’s students. Since it’s not possible for all classmates to attend these summits, we are hosting evening get-togethers in alumni homes. If you are invited to one, please try to attend. A side benefit is a fun evening with classmates and fellow alumni.

For more information and to RSVP, email or call 612-330-1171.

Giving our gifts brings joy

We look forward to many more alumni joining at all levels of giving based on what’s right for them. As I said earlier, we welcome and appreciate all gifts.  Augsburg is our college and this is our building. With each new gift we all see the enthusiasm continue to grow.

So here’s to a great 2014! Thanks to all of you who joined us last year and welcome to those who want to join the family as we joyously take this journey together. We’ll talk again soon and I will continue to pass along more updates.

Best regards,

Wayne Jorgenson ’71
Class Challenge Chair

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Nodland Family Sponsors CSBR Classroom

To meet and know Jeff Nodland ’77 and Becky Bjella Nodland ’79 is to experience enthusiasm and positive energy along with a passion for Augsburg. Both currently volunteer for the College—Jeff, CEO of KIK Custom Products, also serves as a member of the Board of Regents and Becky as an active alum who appreciates the work of the Music Department. They are even more engaged now because their daughter, Emily, transferred to Augsburg this fall and is a sophomore studying early childhood and elementary education.

Now, through a pledge toward the Campaign for the Center for Science, Business, and Religion, the Nodlands are committed to offering their generous financial support, with a goal of strengthening Augsburg’s academic programs. Jeff describes his career as a business leader as being “all about science,” which makes this gift especially meaningful.

Youth Group Weekend Leads to Love and Marriage

In the late 1970s, when many college students were taking to the streets in protest, Augsburg students (including Jeff and Becky) spent some college weekends traveling in station wagons to area churches. They spent their time singing songs, sharing their passion for faith and dedicating themselves to service to others and the church. Jeff and Becky met on one of these weekends and formed a partnership that has lasted for over 30 years. To this day, their eagerness and enthusiasm for Augsburg shine through. “It was life altering to attend Augsburg,” said Becky.

Giving Where It Is Needed Most

When asked what led them to make their leadership investment in the CSBR, Jeff replied, “If this is what is needed, we want to meet the need. We want to offer our resources where the College needs it most.”

Becky said, “We both had positive, encouraging, and supportive experiences at Augsburg. The music, and the academic and spiritual life at Augsburg made a huge difference in our lives and we are so grateful.”

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Supporting cross-disciplinary opportunities for students, Paul ’63 and LaVonne (Olson) ’63 Batalden sponsor CSBR classroom

Paul ’63 and LaVonne (Olson) ’63 Batalden embrace the art of the question. That’s one key reason they decided to sponsor a classroom in the Center for Science, Business, and Religion through their $225,000 gift to Augsburg College.  The location, on the second floor between the religion and science departments, reflects their own passion for the connection between the subjects.


 The task of mending the world taking place daily

“The most valuable gift we received from Augsburg was a liberal arts education,” LaVonne says. “The CSBR will demonstrate the liberal arts in a concrete way. The interchange that will go on between the departments makes me want to support the building.”


She points out that “business, science, and religion too often are looked upon as enemies of each other. The new building will be a strong testimony that this is not the case. Each of these disciplines offer more if they cooperate in their world views. To mend the world, it is important to work together across different ways of knowing.”


“Restless inquiry characterized the faculty members with whom we identified when we were students,” Paul says. “They weren’t just posing a question. There was an honest exploration of the territory. This was true in many departments. We appreciate that the values that shaped our own learning environment continue to be instrumental in the college today and as it looks to the future.”


Making a global impact in the sciences

A premedical student majoring in chemistry and religion, Paul took many classes alongside LaVonne, who majored in medical technology and biology with minors in chemistry and religion.


He received an M.D. degree and pediatrics training from the University of Minnesota, and later worked for the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C. He returned to the Twin Cities as a pediatrician, eventually becoming chief operating officer, president of the research foundation, and chair of pediatrics for Park Nicollet Medical Center.


While they were back in the Twin Cities, LaVonne received her master’s and Ph.D. in botany from the University of Minnesota.


They lived and worked in Nashville for 8 years. Then Paul taught for 18 years at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. Now an emeritus professor, he works internationally to develop faculty who will prepare the next generation of health professionals to improve the quality, safety and value of health care.


In Sweden he is working to develop a master and Ph.D. program at the Jönköping Academy for Improvement of Health and Welfare. In the United Kingdom, he chairs the international Improvement Science Development Group for The Health Foundation. This program prepares leaders in the developing sciences of improving health care.


Now retired, LaVonne taught biology at Colby-Sawyer College in Lebanon, N.H. The couple moved to the Twin Cities to be near family.


Paul, who received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from Augsburg in 1984, got to know the College from a different perspective when he served two terms as a Regent. “LaVonne and I are deeply grateful for the learning the College gave us. We benefitted from deeply caring, creative faculty who came to teach because they identified with the mission of the College. That continues to be the case.”

“We want to help students get the space they need to do their work”

“When we hear Augsburg students talk about the great experience they are having in science research and their desire for a new building,” LaVonne says, “we want to help them get the space they need to do their work. Augsburg is involved in significant scientific research. Among Minnesota schools, Augsburg receives the third-highest research grant funding from the National Science Foundation, following only the University of Minnesota and University of Minnesota-Duluth. That’s impressive.”

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2013—A Year for Augsburg Breakthroughs, A Time for Thanks

Already, it’s been a great start to a new year, but before we get much further into January, I want to invite you to join me in celebrating some remarkable moments for Augsburg from 2013. Many of you know that I found myself agreeing to dedicate myself to the campaign to bring a new center to the heart of the Augsburg campus—the Center for Science, Business, and Religion.


I am always amazed by what happens when we set our attention on what Jim Collins, the best-selling business writer, calls a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). Everything starts to point toward achieving that goal.


Alumni stepping up in big ways

Augsburg made a real commitment to leadership, placing first among colleges and universities in Minnesota for the Give To The Max Day (November 14), and fourth overall. We reported the results in detail in our previous newsletters.


Since our Regent-sponsored Leadership Summit on October 3, more than 200 alumni, friends and supporters have added more than $570,000 to the campaign totals. Most of these new gifts to the CSBR have been donated by alumni. With the closing of the financials for 2013, the campaign has currently raised $26.1 million. Our next very important target is to secure a total of $34 million by the end of April. Each of you reading this newsletter already knows why this date is so important. The Regents will use our progress toward that number as a guidepost for determining a “shovel in the ground” date to begin building the center, thus setting in motion the process of bringing it from idea to reality.


It’s the people who make all the difference

As important as all these numbers are in helping us track our progress and momentum, it is the people who generously make their commitment to Augsburg and its future, and the students and faculty working each day on the task of teaching and learning, that inspire us as we keep our eyes on the target.


People like you

As you read through the profiles of generosity that follow here, I hope you will also identify with their stories. As I have said before, I invite you to do three things:

  • Prayerfully consider a stretch gift to the campaign
  • Think about who you know who needs to hear the story of this special place
  • Become a class leader and join the effort to raise $1 million or more per class


Thank you to every one of you who shares our vision, who believes in the importance of investing in the Augsburg of today and tomorrow. I can feel the energy growing, growing toward our vital destination.


Mike Good ’71
National Campaign Chair

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Rallying for a Slam Dunk

 When A-Club President Bruce Nelson ’71 asked his executive committee about contributing $25,000 to name a faculty room in the Center for Science, Business, and Religion (CSBR), their unanimous response was a slam dunk: “Let’s do it.”


To Nelson, the reasons for investing in the Augsburg campaign for the new Center seem obvious. First, showing support is the right thing to do. Second, it is a public statement of belief that Augsburg is on the right path. Finally, it is a chance to participate in what all agree are exciting times, when myriad people are motivated to join hands and hearts in pursuit of a common goal.


After all, Augsburg is a “people college,” Nelson points out. “We may be landlocked in terms of our buildings, but we can compete with the rest of the colleges because of our people. Someone will always be there for you. We provide guidance, mentoring, and a good experience. And we have great coaches and alumni.”


Can a Center for Science, Business, and Religion Help Athletes?

It may not seem obvious. Will the CSBR help athletes directly? “Absolutely,” he says, though it may not seem obvious. “One of the major changes I see is that, instead of us having to go out and seek students, they will come and seek us out. We’ll be a showcase for student athletes.”


Nelson, who returned to his alma mater after 36 years as a high school teacher and coach, has a broad perspective. His son Richard Nelson ’04 is an Auggie. His father, Edor Nelson ’38, after whom an athletic field is named, launched the A-Club with three friends in 1936. The club now boasts 300 active, committed members whose focus is wide and long. It is not unusual for them to support projects that benefit the whole college.


“We are not separate,” he explains. “We believe in what the College is doing. This will put Augsburg on the map.”


Timing, he suggests, couldn’t be better. Director of Athletics Jeff Swenson ’79 agrees wholeheartedly. “I’ve been at Augsburg for 30 years, and it’s never been at a better place,” Swenson says. “It has great leadership, a great president and cabinet, and great vision. We have a goal in regard to everything we do. I also feel it’s very transparent; everybody is in the loop.”


And he does mean everybody. He is particularly proud of the fact that the capital campaign participation rate in his department is 100 percent.


Athletics and academics go arm in arm

“Our feeling here in the athletic realm is that we don’t have an athletic department unless we have a college,” he explains. “We intentionally made a statement that the CSBR is important, that it will help our athletes.”


He is convinced that athletic recruiting, for example, is destined for change. Rather than bypassing the aging science building on campus tours, which current hosts tend to do unless their guests are science majors, tomorrow’s recruiters will make the CSBR an important stop. For many, the new building represents not only Augsburg’s honored heritage, but also its future promise and elevated status in the challenging Division III conference. It will give the Athletic Department a proud leg up in what coaches often call the arms race of higher education.


“That doesn’t happen without some leadership,” Swenson says. “We really do feel that the CSBR will transform the entire College, and we’re part of that college. We want to let everybody know we’re on board.”


“You can’t have great success without great leadership. Ours is the best you could ask for,” concurs Nelson, who is also thrilled that former classmate Mike Good ’71 now chairs the capital campaign. Back in the day, Nelson was football captain while Good captained wrestling. “How can you lose, hanging around people like that?”

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U of MN graduate and racetrack entrepreneur Curtis Sampson and spouse Marian contribute a conference room for Center for Science, Business, and Religion

An interest in physics research and a personal relationship with Augsburg leadership helped Curtis and Marian Sampson decide to make a major gift to the Center for Science, Business, and Religion. The Sampsons recently gave $150,000 to name a conference room in the building.


Curt’s love for Augsburg College runs deep, though he graduated from the University of Minnesota. His father was a classmate of Augsburg’s President Bernhard Christensen, who once visited their home when Curt was a boy. He can still visualize the black coupe President Christensen drove that day.


Feels good to increase support

Their gift honors family members who attended Augsburg Academy or Augsburg College: Curt’s father Selmer B., his uncle Alvin, his brothers Aldin and Selvin (all now deceased), and his living brother Wayne Sampson. “President Christensen knew our family couldn’t give much then,” Curt says. “It feels good that we can support Augsburg today.” The Sampsons have been generous Augsburg donors over many years, with both their time and money. Recently, Curt rejoined the Augsburg Board of Regents.


Inducted into the Twin Cities Business Hall of Fame, Curt built a series of telecommunications companies headquartered in Hector, Minn., including Communications Systems, Inc.  In 1994 he purchased and revitalized Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn.


Taking pride in a small college’s excellence

He is proud that the Augsburg College Physics Department conducts geophysical research in the Antarctic with other research institutions across the world. When asked why others should support the Center for Science, Business, and Religion, Curt says: “Donors have a chance to be part of a small Minnesota college being recognized globally. We can help students who want to pursue science access a premier facility for teaching and research.”

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