Decorah resident among seven Luther College alumni to receive Distinguished Service Award

DECORAH, Iowa – Luther College President Jenifer K. Ward is proud to announce the 2020 recipients of the Distinguished Service Award. The award is presented to alumni or individuals with strong connections to Luther College who have exhibited admirable service to society in areas such as education, government, the arts, business, church, labor, industry, agriculture, research, medicine and community affairs.

This year’s recipients are Mark Donhowe ’70, Brian Juchems ’95, Karen Julesberg ’60, Rev. John Melin ’70, Dr. Kristin Tjornehoj ’80, Ted Tweed ’55 and Cassie Warner ’85.

Mark Donhowe ’70

A Decorah resident, Mark Donhowe is honored for his contributions to the Decorah community. Over the years, he has served a multitude of organizations including the Decorah Lutheran Church, the Ulster Project, the Lions Club and Northeast Iowa Helping Services. Donhowe is also a major advocate for education and economic development. He served Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum as a local campaign co-chair and worked on the Trout Run Trail fundraising committee. Donhowe spent 25 years serving on the boards of Decorah Jobs and Winneshiek County Development, providing a progressive and even-handed vision for the future economic health of Decorah.

In support of education, Donhowe served on the Northeast Iowa Community College Foundation Board for 25 years. He and his wife, Vicki (Mohlis) Donhowe ’70 are charter members of the NICC President’s Circle. Donhowe served on the Decorah Public Schools Foundation Board and Shareholder’s Committee prior to being elected to serve 12 years on the school board. At Luther College, the Donhowes are former class agents for the Class of 1970, they have served as capital campaign leaders, are Life Members of the President’s Council and are members of Heritage Club. Through a planned gift, they have provided endowed funding for a Donhowe family scholarship as well as scholarships honoring Luther faculty members who were positive influences on their lives.

In retirement, Donhowe volunteers at the Decorah Community Food Pantry, follows five grandchildren’s activities and golfs whenever he can.

Brian Juchems ’95 

Brian Juchems is well known for his vocal support and activism on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community at Luther and well beyond. Juchems was among the first students and staff members at Luther to gain notoriety and respect for his bold and unflinching work to push forward the community’s embrace of LGBTQ+ community rights.

In 1998, Juchems moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where he has been at the forefront of fostering inclusive schools in Wisconsin for LGBTQ+ youth. Juchems joined the Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools (GSAFE) as a program manager in 2002 and was promoted to senior director of education and policy in 2014. He has served as co-executive director of the organization since 2018. In 2005, Juchems partnered with Madison students to successfully pass the state’s first district-level transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination policy, and has since worked with dozens of districts to take similar steps. Then throughout 2016-17, with the support of the Wisconsin Partnership Program and Gender Spectrum, Juchems developed and piloted GSAFE’s Gender Inclusive Schools Project, a multi-level approach to help school districts create systemic change for the health and well-being of transgender and non-binary students.

Juchems is partner to Jeremy Briggs. The pair have no children, but do have four chickens, several fish and a wonderful boxer-pitbull mix named Willis.

At Luther, Juchems serves as a class agent for the class of 1995 and is a member of the Reunion Giving Committee. Brian has returned to campus several times to speak with Luther students about the issues of equity and inclusion he is passionate about and to encourage further progress at Luther and in the Decorah community.

Karen Julesberg ’60

From teaching at all levels of education to becoming a management and marketing consultant, Karen Julesberg has had an impressive career – but what’s maybe more impressive is her lifelong dedication to volunteering.

Julesberg began volunteering for the Cancer Information Service in 1975 prior to working for the organization. She was a founding member of the Friends of Fitchburg Library; she has served All Saints Lutheran Church and Midvale Community Lutheran Church in Madison, Wisconsin, where she currently lives; and she was on the board of the Epilepsy Society of South Central Wisconsin.

More recently, Julesberg has become involved in the Madison Urban Ministry. She serves as a volunteer coordinator for the Madison Area Jail Ministry Program and she utilizes her talent for teaching  by volunteering in multiple capacities at the Dane County Jail in Madison. Julesberg also volunteers on multiple committees for Madison Organizing in Strength, Equality, and Solidarity (MOSES), a grassroots interfaith organization working for criminal justice reform and racial justice through 22 MOSES member congregations in the Madison area.

At Luther, she established the Karen Julesberg Scholarship in 2012, supporting students with demonstrated need for financial assistance who qualify for the TRIO Achievement Program. Her scholarship is supporting four students this year, and has benefited 18 students since its inception. She is also a dedicated member of the President’s Council and the Heritage Club and has served as a class agent for the class of 1960 since 2010.

Rev. John Melin ’70 

Rev. John Melin has spent his life serving people and congregations around the world during pivotal moments in history. After graduating from Luther, he travelled to Laos, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Middle Asian countries before completing his pilgrimage in the former USSR.

He returned to Iowa to marry his wife, Barbara Brownell. The pair went off to Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California, where John received a Lutheran World Federation Scholarship to intern in southern Brazil in 1972. He learned Portuguese and served the Lutheran Church in Novo Hamburgo.

After receiving his M.Div. degree from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in 1974, Melin was ordained and worked at the Lutheran World Federation in New York City. In 1977, Melin continued his call to international ministry as he was called to serve as the first American pastor in the Lutheran Church of the Netherlands.

In 1990, Melin served as pastor of the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy, a congregation for international English-speaking people living in the Soviet Union. During the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Melin’s congregation expanded their ministry to include the Russian people of Moscow. One year later, thousands of Somalis fled from civil war and violence of their homeland to Europe. A few thousand refugees fled to Moscow, and Melin’s congregation was able to offer nearly 2,000 Somalis food and shelter, the first ever refugee camps established in the former Soviet Union. Following these callings, Melin served in Jerusalem and Andorra.

Now, John and Barbara live in Hilton Head, South Carolina. They are members of the Heritage Club at Luther, and with John’s brother, Bennett, they established the Melin International Studies Scholarship in 2016 and the Melin-Brownell International Studies Scholarship in 2017.

Dr. Kristin (Skogland) Tjornehoj ’80 

Dr. Kristin (Skogland) Tjornehoj is receiving the Distinguished Service Award for her dedication and service to the musical arts. Tjornehoj is active as a musician, conductor, educator and speaker, which has taken her across the U.S and world.

After graduating from Luther, Tjornehoj began her teaching and conducting career at Hudson High School. She married her husband, Dan Tjornehoj ’79 in 1983.

Tjornehoj went on to earn her M.M. degree and Ph.D. in music from the University of Minnesota. She is now a professor of music at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and maintains a musical life that includes conducting in both professional and educational settings and creating new compositions. Tjornehoj is an active member in several professional scholarly and musical organizations including the Wisconsin School Music Association, the World Association of Symphony Bands and Ensembles, American String Teachers Association, National Band Association and the National Association for Music Education. Her energetic and insightful leadership is valued by boards and committees throughout the greater St. Croix Valley including ArtReach St. Croix, Hudson Hospital Foundation, Phipps Center for the Arts, St. Croix Valley Foundation and the newly founded Zephyr Theatre.

At Luther, Tjornehoj serves as class agent for the class of 1980 and was a member of her reunion Giving Committee in 2015 and 2020. She has served on the summer faculty at the Dorian Music Camps and as an adjunct faculty member for music education/student teaching. Kristin and Dan currently live in Hudson, Wisconsin, are parents to three adult children, Jessica, John and Jamie, and have one grandchild.

Ted Tweed ’55 

Ted Tweed has spent his life dedicated to educating hundreds of clinical audiologists to provide care for children and adults with auditory disorders. After graduating from Luther and serving in the army for two years, Tweed earned his master’s degree in speech pathology and audiology from the University of Iowa. He worked as an instructor in clinical audiology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine from 1960 to 1968 when he joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders as a clinical instructor in audiology. He worked there until he retired in 1992. Tweed continues to serve as senior clinical audiologist with the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

Tweed is a coauthor of more than 50 professional publications and has worked in retirement on three studies that have led to the recognition that age-related hearing loss is a preventable disorder rather than an inevitable consequence of aging.

Volunteerism is also very important to Tweed. To name a few endeavors, he developed a program to screen farmers at high risk of hearing loss from exposure to noisy farm machinery, he continues to lead the monthly Wellness Workshop for the Lions Club and he has developed and directed the 10-mile Waunafest Run for 18 years. Tweed also has been “instrumental” in the formation and leadership of local musical organizations. He was a member of the 1st Brigade Band, The Blessed Brass and Waunakee Community Band. He also served as the president of the Heritage Military Music Foundation for a combined 10 years.

Ted and his wife, Janet (Campbell) Tweed ’55, were founding members of Waunakee’s Peace Lutheran Church in 1971. They are parents of sons, Paul Tweed ’82 (Dawn (Paulson) Tweed ’82), and Steven (Krista) Tweed and have seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Cassandra Warner ’85

Since graduating from Luther, Cassandra “Cassie” Warner has built a solid reputation for herself in regard to her career and volunteerism. She began her career in public accounting as a staff accountant and manager with McGladrey & Pullen before entering the construction industry as controller with Knutson Construction Company. In 1996, Warner joined Weis Builders as their chief financial officer and senior vice president. She has helped the company exceed their goal of $1 billion in project starts over a three-year period.

In 2018, Warner was named one of the Top Women in Finance by “Finance & Commerce” magazine.

Over the years, Warner has served non-profit organizations in board and leadership positions, including Resources for Child Caring, Cornerstone, the Gillette Children’s Hospital and the Gillette Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more than a decade, she has been significantly involved in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Minnesota. Currently, she serves as a member of the board of directors and treasurer for the ACLU of Minnesota, and she serves on the board and as treasurer for the ACLU of Minnesota Foundation. Warner is also a regular volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, The Humane Society and Feed my Starving Children.

At Luther, Warner is a member of the President’s Council and Heritage Club. She established the Warner Family Scholarship at Luther in 2014 and has provided challenge gifts for volleyball and softball alumni for Luther’s annual Giving Day. She is also a member of the class of 1985 Reunion Giving Committee. Warner and her partner, Lisa Powell, live in Golden Valley, Minnesota.

2020 Distinguished Service Award recipients (top to bottom, left to right): Mark Donhowe ’70, Brian Juchems ’95, Karen Julesberg ’60, Rev. John Melin ’70, Dr. Kristin Tjornehoj ’80, Ted Tweed ’55 and Cassie Warner ’85.

Luther College is home to more than 1,800 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 60+ academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at luther.edu.