Author Archives: Heather Riddle

Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act

The cartoon above was in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week along with an article titled “Congress Is Coming for Your IRA” by Philip DeMuth. Qualified plans like 401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit sharing plans and IRAs are fantastic retirement savings tools and terrible estate planning tools. With the likely to pass SECURE Act, leaving assets in these account to heirs gets more challenging.

The SECURE Act has already passed in the US House and is likely to pass in the Senate. It makes lots of positive changes and a couple of changes that may create challenges. Here is an example from “What Business Owners And Their Families Should Know About the New SECURE Act” in Forbes on July 2, 2019:

“The new Act, if passed by the Senate (which appears very likely) will require most non-spouse beneficiaries of qualified plans and IRAs withdraw the entire balance within 10 years of the death of the owner. If Richard dies and leaves his IRA to Liz, his spouse, she can take it over her anticipated life expectancy, under the regular RMD rules. If she leaves it to her 25-year old granddaughter, the old rules would allow the granddaughter to take distributions over her life expectancy of 57.2 years. The new rules require her to take the entire balance within 10 years. By our calculations, under SECURE, a $1 million IRA would incur a tax acceleration of about $300,000. SECURE changes inter generational wealth transfer.”

A little planning now can make a big difference in the future. If/when the SECURE Act passes the Senate, you may want to have a conversation with your financial planner or other advisors. While you are at it, you may want to consider leaving a portion or all of a tax deferred retirement account to a Augsburg or another charity. The full amount of a gift made this way passes to nonprofits without taxation. We have information about making gifts in this way posted online here.

Remembering Gladys Strommen ’46

Memorials are times when all of us reflect on the lives of people we love and also on our own lives. What do we value most, celebrate, and lift up for others? Where do we put our faith? Who do we care for and how do we show them we care? Monday of this week all of these thoughts were rolling through my mind while attending the memorial service for Gladys Strommen who was a long time benefactor of Augsburg and part of a large family tree full of Auggies.

Below is a photo of Gladys on the day we cut the ribbon to dedicate The Strommen Center at Augsburg. She was really happy! During the service her son Bob mentioned this day and how meaningful it was to his mom. It was meaningful to all of us at Augsburg too!

At the memorial service I was reminded that the first Augsburg event I ever attended was a reception Gladys hosted in her home in Naples, Florida. She was gracious and welcoming and clearly a sort of Augsburg matriarch. She help found the Augsburg Associates–a group that has raised more than $1 million for scholarships at Augsburg! Regent David Tiede did a wonderful job of sharing some words of gratitude on behalf of the University recognizing her inspiring leadership and lifetime of generosity.

Just after we heard that Gladys has passed, Donna Mclean, a long-serving member of our Advancement staff, shared the following with me about the larger Augsburg-Strommen family tree:

“PA Strommen, a graduate of Augsburg Seminary, began his career as a pastor in the Seattle area. During the depression his salary was cut by half. At this same time, Augsburg was facing closing its doors due to lack of operating funds. The word sent out throughout the Lutheran Free Church community and PA Stommen responded, by cashing in all of his savings to help keep our doors open. He continued his strong support of Augsburg by sending all four of his sons – Mert, Clair, Abner and Lute to the College and Seminary for their educations. The legacy continued as 12 of his grandchildren and 3 of his great grand children attended Augsburg. Through the generations this family has been generous with their time, talent and treasures.”

What an incredible legacy and history of shared commitments!

The Strommen Center’s Work with Students

In 2009, the Clair and Gladys Strommen Center for Meaningful Work was established to recognize Mr. and Mrs. Strommen’s personal commitment to creating meaning and purpose in work and life. A generous endowed fund created by the Strommen family continues to support the work of this Center of Commitment that lifts up our core values and lives out the institutional vocation. The four Centers of Commitment at Augsburg include the Christensen Center for Vocation, Center for Global Education and Experience, Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship, and the Strommen Center for Meaningful work.

The Strommen Center for Meaningful Work carries out Augsburg’s mission by:
* Providing career education and planning services that will empower students to make effective major and career choices.

* Providing leadership to the campus community to incorporate employer needs, labor market trends, and industry developments in decision making.

* Facilitating relationships between employers and the campus community, including students, faculty and staff.


Thanks to the work of the Strommen Center, in the most recent school year:

* 1,200 students attended career readiness workshops or other events
* 912 students had 1:1 appointments with Strommen Center staff
* 279 students secured internships with 220 different employers across the metro
* 229 students met 1:1 with peer advisors to discuss career preparation

The Strommen Center is a key pathway for Augsburg’s efforts to help students complete their degrees and move on to make a living, make a life, and build community wherever they go after graduation. We are deeply grateful to the Strommen family for their support of this work.

Medtronic Community Garden

This week, the beautiful Medtronic Community Garden at Augsburg on the north side of the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion has sprung forward so much life! Thanks to a $100,000 grant from Medtronic we were able to make significant investments in this very special space that is shared by Augsburg students, faculty, staff, and many of our neighbors. The new community garden has a variety of raised beds, apple trees, a pollinator garden, and accessible pathways and irrigation systems.

We designed the community garden with four goals in mind: to provide a space for the community to come and learn together; beautify the neighborhood and campus; provide growing space for those without it, and to assist gardeners in providing themselves a healthy diet. In every way, it has exceeded our expectations! On any given afternoon you’ll find families working on their personal garden plot, students working for Campus Kitchens, faculty and student researchers from Physics having lunch with Professor Ben Stottrup, or someone from the neighborhood reading on a bench and finding a moment of peace in the city. The view from Hagfors Center windows is beautiful and inspiring.

IRA Charitable Rollover Giving–Smart and Easy

This morning I signed a number of thank you letters to Augsburg donors who are making gifts using IRA charitable rollover giving. This can be a really smart giving option. Planning to make future gifts in this way can be a strategic solution to balancing your charitable goals with other priorities.

One reason this way of giving is becoming popular is that IRA funds are taxed whenever they are taken out. The tax burden never goes away – even future beneficiaries or heirs will pay income tax on IRA funds they receive from your estate, and federal estate taxes may apply, as well — for estates exceeding $11.4 million. If you have not yet taken your required minimum distribution, the IRA charitable rollover gift can satisfy all or part of that requirement.

We’ve got Frequently Asked Questions and Answers posted online if you are interested in learning more. Feel free to call or email me if you have any questions.

Goal: 150 New Scholarships

When Courtland Agre passed away in 1995 his family created the Courtland L. Agre Memorial Scholarship to provide “encouragement” as well as financial assistance to juniors or seniors studying chemistry. Since then, more than 25 students have received awards and a nudge from the professor whose legacy carries on today.

A key element of Great Returns: Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Campaign is an effort to add 150 new scholarships to the Augsburg endowment. The response to this idea has been incredible! As of this week, we have 75 new scholarship and a growing list of alumni and friends who are considering creating their own.

Donors who participate in Great Returns by creating a new scholarship or adding $25,000 or more to an existing scholarship are recognized with a very special gift–a limited edition and numbered glass water drop commissioned by Augsburg as a way of saying thank you. We hope it is an appropriate and meaningful symbol of how generosity today will ripple out to make a difference for future Augsburg students.

2019 Agre Symposium

In 1959 Courtland Agre founded the department of chemistry at Augsburg. Nobel Prize winner Peter Agre ‘70 claims that if he had been born into another family, he might not have become a scientist. I believe that without Courtland Agre and other early faculty leaders, Augsburg would not have the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion. The legacy of what they started here will always be remembered.

This week, Augsburg hosted the 14th annual Agre Symposium, which is designed to help today’s students think big about careers in science. Augsburg alumnus and Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Ray Yip ’72 was the keynote speaker. Ray has been remarkably generous in the time he has spent with Augsburg students and campus leaders.

We are proud to have an alum who is an international public health leader who has had a significant impact on global public health in the areas of nutrition, maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, and tobacco control. Yip has held positions with UNICEF, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Since 2015, he has served as Special Advisor with a focus on health and clean energy for bgC3, a think-tank, and an incubator founded by Bill Gates. Ray travels the world (I enjoy following his adventures on Facebook!) and calls New York home.

Other speakers included Keneeshia Williams ’03 who is Assistant Professor of Trauma Surgery, Grady Memorial Hospital and Emory University School of Medicine, Erick Turcios-Carrera ’09 who is a Sr. Scientist Sterility Assurance Microbiologist at Medtronic, and Julie Jenkins ’09 who is working in the biofuel industry as General Manager of SarTec Corporation which is owned by alumnus Clayton McNeff ’91.

What an incredible opportunity for our students! It was great to see students soak it all up and see so many warm reunions. Below is a photo of Regent Terry Lindstrom ’73 welcoming Ray Yip ’72 to the Hagfors Center. I imagine they must have had amazing years in the old science building and I know they are delighted with what we are offering students today.

New Campaign Milestone

Thanks to thousands of donors, we’ve just wrapped up a fantastic fundraising year at Augsburg University. Between June 1, 2018, and May 31, 2019, over 4,260 donors made commitments totaling $21,915,009 which is one of our strongest fundraising years ever. Thanks to the leadership of Campaign Chair Paul Mueller ’84 and the Board of Regents we also reached the important milestone of $42 million toward Great Returns: Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Campaign.

There is a growing wave of generosity in the Augsburg community for new professorships, scholarships, unique Augsburg programs like StepUP and CLASS, and toward the Augsburg Fund. Personally, I think this energy is a response to the huge step forward we took building the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion. And there seems to be a growing sense of importance for the type of education a student can get at Augsburg. I wonder if there may even be a new urgency in our world for education grounded in faith, called to serve a public good, and able to build a sense of community among one of the most diverse student bodies in higher education. With donor support, we can do even more of what Augsburg does best.

Thank you for all you do to make this possible! I’m incredibly grateful for all of the donors, faculty, staff, and volunteers who support the Augsburg mission.

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

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