Category Archives: Augsburg Alumni

A message to Augsburg Advancement Volunteers

I imagine a lot has changed for you in recent weeks. I hope you are well and finding some peace and balance in this new reality. When you have a moment, let me know how you are doing. Could we schedule a time to talk by phone or a video call? I would welcome that.

Augsburg’s President Paul Pribbenow sent an email yesterday sharing news from our campus related to the coronavirus and news of layoffs and furloughs. I’m writing to follow up with members of the Alumni Board, the AWE Board, the Augsburg Associates, the A-Club Board, All School Reunion volunteers and other leadership volunteers who have worked with staff in our division who were included in lay-offs or furloughed.

While these transitions are tough, I want to let you know that we are 100% committed to supporting you in your volunteer work. Building relationships between Auggies and between our alumni and the University means a great deal to all of us. While it may be a bit before we can get together for in-person meetings and events, there are many ways our work will continue over the coming months.

If you haven’t already, please add me to your address book. My mobile phone is 651-283-7949. Think of me as the primary contact in Advancement for your volunteer work. Please also feel free to send me thoughts and ideas. I’ll share regular updates with you by email and through my “good news” blog.

Where do we find good news in all of this?

The place where I find silver lining is that, unlike similar disasters experienced by humanity, this one strikes when we are at our strongest. If I can lean on my liberal arts background for just a bit… in the 14th century, a pandemic spread from East Asia to Britain in a span of 10 years and between 25% and 50% of the entire world’s population died. By the time the contagion was gone, no one had any idea what it was, what caused it, how it spread, or even how it could be stopped.

Today, however, humanity already knows what virus caused this outbreak, we’ve mapped its entire genome, and developed several ways of determining whether a person was sick or not.

Our response to this disaster is stronger thanks to places like Augsburg University and servant leaders like Paul Mueller ’84 at the Mayo Clinic, Ray Yip ’77 who worked for the Center for Disease Control and the Gates Foundation, Jean Gaudette ’14 who is a nurse manager at Fairview Hospital, Nick Gangestad ’86 who is the CFO at 3M, and thousands of Augsburg nurses, physicians assistants, doctors, researchers, logistics managers and more.

At times like this, the world depends on informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders. Thank you for being one of them. It is an honor to work with you and everyone to ensure that our mission continues.



Augsburg All-School Reunion Postponed to Homecoming 2021

Due to the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and out of care and concern for the health and safety of the entire Augsburg University community, we are postponing the university’s first All-School Reunion that had been planned for Sept. 26, 2020.

The reunion will be rescheduled to coincide with Homecoming 2021. Those dates are still being finalized.

If you’ve already purchased tickets to the event, you have three options. First, you can do nothing—we will honor your registration for the new date in the fall of 2021. Second, you can request a refund by emailing Kristen Cooper at Finally, you can ask that Kristen convert your registration into a donation to the Student Emergency Fund to support current Auggies facing hardships during this challenging time.

The reunion will be an occasion to draw together alumni; current students; and past and present faculty, staff, and friends of the university to celebrate more than 150 years of Augsburg history and—most importantly—the relationships that have shaped the lives of generations of Auggies. We are also discussing ways to incorporate some of the Sesquicentennial projects by faculty and staff that were canceled or curtailed because of the pandemic.

We are grateful to the many volunteers working to make the All-School Reunion a reality, and while we know this postponement is disappointing, we promise: in the end, it will be an event worth waiting for!

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!

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.

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