Luther College professor Kate Elliott publishes art history book

DECORAH, Iowa – Dr. Kate Elliott, Luther College associate professor of art history, has published an art history book that explores visual representations of the first contact between European settlers and Native Americans. “Framing First Contact: From Catlin to Russell” is available for purchase where books are sold today. 

Dr. Kate Elliott

I actually got to work on the project during my last year of graduate school,” said Elliott. “I was interested in the representations of Native Americans by white American artists, and I kept noticing these history paintings of contact in all sorts of contexts. Asking why they were so popular in American art was enough to launch the entire project.” 

Elliott holds a Ph.D. in American art history from the University of Iowa and teaches a range of art history courses at Luther including American Art, History of Photography and Twentieth Century Art. “I always tease my students that there are few art history classrooms in America where so much attention is paid to George Catlin and Charlie Russell,” said Elliott. “We talk a lot about how paintings do not illustrate history, rather they help construct history and offer the artist’s specific agenda in the presentation of history.”

Elliott’s book helps uncover the less obvious messages of first contact paintings and forces readers, and her students to think about why we tell the stories we do and why those stories matter. 

“I’m still so excited about these paintings, and these artists, that I can’t help but to demonstrate that to the students,” Elliott said.  “I also know that they won’t all become art historians, but if I can model how to interrogate paintings and think critically about how stories from history are told visually, I know that they will become more sophisticated consumers of images in their own lives.”

“Framing First Contact: From Catlin to Russell”

Published by the University of Oklahoma Press, “Framing First Contact: From Catlin to Russell” will be available for purchase at the Luther Book Shop as well as local and major booksellers. 

In addition to teaching, Elliott is the director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching and curator of the Fine Art Collection at Luther. She is the recipient of the Wyeth Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship, sponsored by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington; the United States Capitol Historical Society Fellowship, Washington D.C.; and the H. George and Jutta F. Anderson Faculty Development Fund from Luther College. 

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 College presents virtual Haunted Lab

DECORAH, Iowa – Members of the Luther College physics and chemistry departments will present a virtual Haunted Lab experience this Halloween season. The video will feature fun and seasonal demonstrations to enjoy, as well as easy to follow directions to replicate them at home.

“We love putting on the Haunted Lab experience each year because we get to see the excitement as kids discover science through doing. While the Haunted Lab experience will be virtual this year, we are excited about the opportunity for kids of all ages to learn about science in their own homes,” says Erin Flater, associate professor of physics. “The process of recording experiments on video has been a lot of fun for our physics and chemistry students, and we hope our viewers enjoy watching and trying the experiments for themselves.”


Gather the following supplies to participate in one or more of the activities:

  • Balloon chemistry experiment: Empty water bottle, balloon, ¾ cup vinegar, 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • Dissolving candy corn experiment: candy corns, vegetable oil, white vinegar, cold water, hot water
  • Exploding pumpkin experiment: a carved pumpkin, ½ cup of hydrogen peroxide, dish soap, 1 tablespoon of yeast, 3 tablespoons of water
  • Oobleck playdough experiment: 1 cup cornstarch, ½ cup water, food coloring


Luther’s virtual Haunted Lab experience is intended for budding scientists of all ages. The video will be released on Luther College’s official YouTube channel on Oct. 28. For more information, contact Erin Flater at (563) 387-1632 or

Luther College will not be offering residence hall trick-or-treating this year due to COVID-19.

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

The 38th Annual Decorah Park-Rec. Turkey Shoot is November 3

The 38th Annual Decorah Park-Rec. Turkey Shoot will be held in the DHS Main Gym on Tuesday, November 3, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. Please note that face masks must be worn by all individuals upon entering the high school and at all times while inside the building. In this fun family event, a parent and child team up, combine their ages to determine their competition bracket, and each shoot 10 free throws in an attempt to win a certificate for a free turkey.   In addition, all teams are eligible for a prize drawing. Winning teams will be posted on the Park-Rec. website and Facebook by 5:00 pm on Wednesday, November 4.  This is a free activity, just show up!  This event is sponsored by Decorah Fareway, Deco Products Company, T-Bocks Sports Bar & Grill and The Family Table.

Luther College student studies ways to combat performance anxiety

DECORAH, Iowa – Luther College junior, Abigail Toussaint spent her summer studying solutions that could be used to combat performance anxiety, a problem faced by many musicians.

“I have struggled with music performance anxiety for many years and wholeheartedly understand the stress and frustration that it causes,” said Toussaint. “In part, this project was inspired in an effort to help me, personally, get a grip on my nerves. But more importantly, I hope that this project might help those around me.”

The purpose of Toussaint’s work, with the help of her faculty advisor, Loren Toussaint, was to determine practical solutions that music students and musicians in general can utilize to cope with and combat music performance anxiety.

The project took place in two phases. Phase one included more than 400 students who completed a survey, asking about their personal experiences with performance anxiety and the methods they used to cope with it. In phase two, 65 participants completed a questionnaire measuring their musical confidence before and after an assigned reading. Half of the participants read an article about coping methods and how to use them, while the other half read an unrelated article.

To analyze the results of this project, music performance anxiety scores and self-confidence scores were calculated. Toussaint was able to draw comparisons between experience-level groups to determine that the educational reading about coping mechanisms was beneficial.

“We found that regardless of the level of music performance anxiety one may be experiencing, their confidence improved solely after reading about coping mechanisms. I believe that by reading and educating oneself, that musician can improve their confidence level and therefore, have a more enjoyable performance.”

Through this research, Toussaint had the opportunity to connect with many Luther music students and faculty members, many of who share the same feelings of performance anxiety.

“During a time when social interaction was discouraged, I was reminded of the beauty of community. Multiple participants reached out to me after completing the survey with heartwarming messages. I found great comfort in the fact that I wasn’t alone – in my experience with music performance anxiety, or in my experience as a musician during COVID-19. This project reminded me to cherish that community, despite the hurdles we may face.”

Through this summer research project, Toussaint said she learned a great deal about music performance anxiety and about the research process in general. She hopes to complete more research in the future regarding this topic with the goal of being able to make performing music enjoyable for her future students.

“As a future educator, I am eager to incorporate what I have learned in my classroom. I know how crippling performance anxiety can be so I’m hopeful that I might be able to help my students find joy in playing/singing music.”

This project was part of Luther’s Summer Student/Faculty Collaborative Research program. As a college that prides itself on offering active-learning opportunities, this program allows students to engage in collaborative research projects with Luther faculty members during Summer Session. All returning Luther students, in any major, are eligible to apply. Each full grant provides a $3,000 stipend for eight weeks of research work as well as on-campus shared housing and up to $500 for project expenses.

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 College professor wins Racial Equity and Interfaith Cooperation Award

DECORAH, Iowa – Guy Nave, Luther College professor of religion, has received the Racial Equity and Interfaith Cooperation Award from the nonprofit organization Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC).

Guy Nave

In response to a call for projects exploring the relationship between racial equity and interfaith dialogue, Nave submitted a proposal for the creation of an undergraduate course and was chosen from a pool that included hundreds of applicants.

“While I am extremely excited about receiving this award, I am even more excited and encouraged by the fact that IFYC is promoting this sort of interfaith cooperation and engagement that explicitly addresses the need to foster racial justice and racial equity,” said Nave. 

As part of this award, Nave will receive grant funding for course development for his new Religion 485 course, “Toward an Interfaith Liberation Theology,” which will be offered in the spring of 2021. The course will investigate the relationship between interfaith studies and liberation theology, specifically liberation from racial oppression. 

The innovative and cooperative curriculum “will force students and the college to explicitly reflect upon the role and function of ‘faith’ in the pursuit of equity and justice, when equity and justice often seem elusive and unattainable,” said Nave. “In response to the resurgence of racial inequity in America and the long history of societal pain, injustice, and inequity related to racism, hope is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine and/or sustain. This course will help to rekindle a sense of hope in the face of actions that often discourage hope.”

IFYC will offer Nave virtual networking opportunities with other faculty award winners dedicated to developing similar curriculum. Nave’s stipend will also support his use of the IFYC Interfaith Leadership Video Series, designed to help campuses creatively respond to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis with diverse interfaith remote learning possibilities.

Nave hopes that students who take his course will come away with “a sense of the power of faith when fueled by interreligious (and even nonreligious) cooperation that transcends exclusivist loyalties.”

Nave received his Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. from Yale University. Since joining the Luther faculty in 2001, Nave has taught courses focusing on the topics of Christianity, the New Testament, religious construction of meaning, and the intersections of race, religion, and politics. His current research centers on the power, politics, and meaning behind the rhetoric of “change” and what social “change” looks like in Christian contexts. He created his own online platform, “Clamoring for Change,” as a forum for discussion about this topic.  

IFYC seeks to create conversation and community action based on the shared values of mutual respect and religious diversity. The relationships, resources and leadership training IFYC provides connects young people to the global interfaith movement. IFYC’s “We Are Each Other’s” campaign offered this Racial Equity and Interfaith Cooperation Award to equip interfaith leaders to respond to the nation’s current crises by providing curricula, funding and connection opportunities.

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 College to host virtual Local Candidate Forum

DECORAH, Iowa – Residents of Winneshiek County are invited to learn more about the candidates on their November ballot as they answer questions posed by Luther College students. Newly formatted for this unique time in history, the local candidate forum will be presented as a video available beginning Oct. 19 on the Center for Ethics and Public Engagement and the Decorah Area AAUW YouTube pages. 

Winneshiek County Courthouse

All candidates on the Decorah ballot were invited to participate. Recorded interviews include candidates for Winneshiek County Supervisor District 3, Shirley Vermace and Julie Askelson; Iowa House District 55, Michael Bergan and Kayla Koether; and Iowa Senate, Matt Tapscott and Michael Klimesh. Opposing candidates were asked identical questions related to current issues.

“The presidential contest dominates the national news, but voters are also about to make choices about state and local candidates who represent them,” said Carly Foster, associate professor of political science. “This video will provide the audience a chance to hear directly from candidates so that they can make informed voting decisions.”

The virtual forum will be available online at no charge. It is sponsored by the Luther College departments of political science and social work, the Center for Ethics and Public Engagement, and the Decorah Area chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

The Decorah Area AAUW is part of the national AAUW, a non-partisan organization that works at the local, state and federal levels to support laws and policies that enable women’s success.

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 College announces recipients of annual Homecoming Music Awards

DECORAH, Iowa – This 2020 Homecoming season, Luther College continues the tradition of presenting the Weston Noble, Dr. Carlo A. Sperati, Presser Scholar and Hemp Prize awards. Student and alumni award winners are recognized each year during the annual Homecoming Concert, this year in a virtual format. To watch the concert from your own home, free of charge, head to the Luther College Music Department YouTube page.

Eric Melear, Dan Mollick, Zachariah Mayer, Isabelle Searcy

2020 Weston Noble Award

Eric Melear ’95 is the recipient of the 2020 Weston Noble Award. Weston Noble served on the music faculty at Luther College from 1948 to 2005. During that time, the college grew in numbers, in national reputation and Noble became a leader in training trailblazers in the field of music education. Established in 2004, the Weston Noble Award recognizes music educators who honor and continue Noble’s legacy.

“Eric has risen to high level positions with opera companies because of his intellect, his diligence and his commitment to vocal music,” said Andrew Last, director of choral activities and professor of music at Luther College. “He is a kind, gentle person who has a very special gift of presenting unique, well thought-out ideas in performing opera roles.”

Based in Vienna, Austria, Melear currently enjoys a career as both a conductor and pianist, regularly traveling the world with a variety of singers and companies. During his time at Luther, he was a vital member of the music department. He was a gifted pianist and singer, a tremendous conductor, a sought-after collaborative pianist and president of Nordic Choir.

Melear reminisced about his memories of Luther saying, “What has remained with me through the years are the day-to-day rehearsals. Watching Weston build a piece musically and spiritually from the slow, bare bones of it to the performance-ready version was a constant life lesson in how to get the best of every single person in the room…Little did I know then, that he was cultivating skills in me that have served me well every day of my professional musical life.”

Melear has accomplished an impressive collection of feats through his work. He has worked with orchestras around the world; he spent three seasons as the Houston Grand Opera’s associate music director; he was a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio and San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program; he completed graduate work with esteemed pianist Martin Katz; he has conducted at the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival and has served as a guest coach for programs and universities in the U.K., Italy and the U.S.

Since returning to the Vienna State Opera full-time in 2015, Melear has assisted world-renowned conductors Zubin Mehta, Peter Schneider and Simone Young. He shares in the duties of preparing the 45-50 operas a season, he conducts the full-time stage orchestra, regularly coaches the ensemble of singers and can be seen in countless recitals.

2020 Dr. Carlo A. Sperati Award

Dan Mollick ’00 is the 2020 recipient of the Dr. Carlo A. Sperati Award. Dr. Carlo A. Sperati, a pillar of Luther College and the Lutheran music tradition, was the conductor of the Luther College Concert Band for 38 years until his retirement in 1943. His work ethic, demand for perfection and patience when working with music students are part of the identity of the Luther College Music Department to this day. This award recognizes those traits in music educators as they follow in Sperati’s footsteps.

“To receive an award named in honor of the great music educator, Carlo A. Sperati, is quite humbling,” said Mollick. “I am reminded that a teacher can make a huge impact in this world and that impact can continue into future generations. That is why I entered the teaching profession when I graduated from Luther and continue to be a music educator today. Guided by the inspiration of my past teachers, I hope to make positive contributions to the world by holding myself and my students to the highest standards of musical excellence, personal growth, kindness and generosity.”

Mollick received his Bachelors of Arts degree in music at Luther and continued on to get his master’s degree in music education from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He has shown faithful service to the field of music education through his energy, positivity and student-centered teaching philosophy, teaching students of all backgrounds, ages and skill levels in his twenty plus years as a music educator. He has taught in many public school districts including Minneapolis, Minnesota; Bloomington, Minnesota; Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles; Minnetonka, Minnesota; and currently teaches orchestra at Valley View Middle School in Edina, Minnesota.

During his seven seasons of conducting the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony’s Concertino West Orchestra, Mollick has had the opportunity to collaborate with the Hmong Community Center in St. Paul, the Somali Museum of Minnesota Dance Troupe and Mariachi Mi Tierra, both out of Minneapolis. He has also had the opportunity to present at the Minnesota String Teachers Association Summer Workshop and the Minnesota Music Educators Midwinter Clinic.

2020 Presser Scholar Award

Zachariah Mayer is the 2020 recipient of the Presser Scholar Award. The Presser Scholar Award was established in 1939 by the Presser Foundation in honor of Theodore Presser, the publisher of The Etude, a magazine dedicated to music, and founder of the music publishing firm bearing his name. The award, funded by a monetary gift from the Presser Foundation of Haverford, Pennsylvania is presented annually to a current Luther music major chosen by a music faculty vote by consideration of excellence and merit.

Mayer, a senior from La Crosse, Wisconsin, will graduate from Luther in 2021 with a degree in music education. After finishing his studies in January, he will continue to prepare for a career as an orchestra teacher with a semester of student teaching. His instrument of choice is the double bass.

“In the bass studio, Zach has been a mentor and friend to other players, is always ready to help no matter what the question, is an enthusiastic collaborator in contemplating research and performance questions, and has shared his wicked sense of humor with us. Working with Zach has made me a better teacher and a better bass player,” said Andi Beckendorf, double bass instructor and professor of library and information studies.

Mayer already has a collection of achievements. Before his time at Luther, he spent six years with the La Crosse Area Youth Symphony Orchestra, he played with the Wisconsin All State Honors Orchestra for six years and he played in the La Crosse Symphony for two years.

At Luther, Mayer has served as principal double bass for both the Symphony and Chamber Orchestras and he was a member of the Jazz Orchestra in his first year. Mayer’s teaching experience already includes working as a section coach for the La Crosse Area Youth Symphony Orchestra, teaching at the Luther College Community Music School, coaching symphony sectionals, tutoring peers in theory and ear training, and teaching private double bass and electric bass lessons.

2020 Hemp Prize

Isabelle (Belle) Searcy is the 2020 recipient of the Hemp Prize. The Richard C. and Joann M. Hemp Family Prize for Orchestra Performance is given annually to a senior member of the Luther College Symphony Orchestra. The $7,500 scholarship is funded through an endowment established from Richard ’64 and Joann (Harr) Hemp ’65. Richard Hemp is a regent emeritus, former chair of the Luther College Board of Regents and former interim president of Luther College. The auditioned prize awards students of exceptional performance, talent, musicianship and leadership.

A senior majoring in music, Searcy is from Buffalo, Minnesota. She began studying violin in sixth grade and has never looked back. After graduating from Luther, she plans to pursue her master’s degree in violin performance, with the goal of being a studio musician for orchestral film scores and violin accompaniment for singers.

“I remember Belle’s scholarship audition at Luther about 3 years ago. She was nervous, but played passionately, and she received one of our highest scholarships,” said Igor Kalnin, assistant professor of music. “In one of her messages to me before coming to Luther she wrote, ‘I can assure you I am one of the hardest workers you will meet and will give 100% when it comes to school and orchestra.’ Now, three years later, I can assure you that she kept her word. Belle has worked very hard. She was passionate and patient. She was always open to suggestions and changed the areas of her technique which needed to be changed.”

At Luther, Searcy spent one year as principal second violin in the Luther College Symphony Orchestra and is currently serving in her second year as concertmaster. She also took part in the Symphony Orchestra Vienna Residency and in the International Music Festival of the Adriatic. Before coming to Luther, Searcy had the opportunity to play in multiple orchestras including the Buffalo High School Orchestra, the Minnesota Youth Honors Orchestra, the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony, the Buffalo Community Orchestra, the Monticello Community Orchestra, the Concordia Honors String Orchestra and in several pit orchestras.

Luther is home to one of the largest collegiate music programs in the nation, with five choirs, three orchestras, three bands, two jazz bands and more than 800 student musicians. Luther students participate in large ensembles, faculty-coached chamber groups, private lessons and master classes. Nearly 275 music majors study music theory, ear training, history, education, composition, jazz, church music and performance.

Park-Rec. Youth Basketball & Adult Volleyball Registration Open

Please note participants, coaches, volunteers, spectators, and anyone who enters school facilities must wear masks at all times, including while participating in Decorah Parks and Recreation programs. 

Sharp Shooters Basketball (1st-3rd grades) will be held in the Carrie Lee Elementary Gym on Saturday mornings, November 7 thru December 12.  Participants will be divided into groups based on grade level and each participant will be assigned to attend five 45-minute sessions. All sessions will be held Saturday mornings between 8:00am and 1:00pm. Registration due Monday, October 26.

Hoopsters Basketball (4th-6th grades) will be held Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings beginning November 9 and running through December 7. Participants will be divided into groups based on grade level and each participant will be assigned to attend six 45-minute sessions (6:00-6:45pm or 7:00-7:45pm). Registration due Monday, October 26.

Adult Women’s Volleyball: Matches are played in the evenings in the Carrie Lee Elementary Gym. A and B divisions. League play is Wednesdays starting November 4. Registration due Friday, October 23.

Adult Coed Volleyball: Matches are played in the evenings in the Carrie Lee Elementary Gym. League play is Sundays starting November 8. Registration due Friday, October 23.


Luther College announces endowed professorships and endowed chairs

Jane Hawley, Andrew Last, Maren Johnson

DECORAH, Iowa – Each fall, Luther College awards endowed professorships and endowed chairs to honor Luther faculty members whose teaching careers and accomplishments have exemplified the philosophy and values of the liberal arts, enriched the intellectual life of students, enhanced the academic character of the institution and demonstrated leadership in the teaching profession.

“Created by the generous gifts of those who love Luther College, these positions and the outstanding teaching scholars in them are provided funds for special projects. Every endowed chair, professorship or center has been established to further the mission of the college, and each reminds us of the college’s commitment to a life of discovery, reflection and service,” said Kevin Kraus, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college. “Today we pause to celebrate the dedication and accomplishments of three Luther faculty members. As they assume these new leadership roles, we look forward to the great things they will achieve for the good of this community.”

Jane Hawley ’87, professor of dance, will serve as the next Nena Amundson Distinguished Professor.

The Nena Amundson Distinguished Professorship honors the late Nena Amundson, a 1956 graduate of Luther College who taught physical education and coached women’s athletics for more than 40 years, primarily at California Lutheran University. A pioneer in collegiate women’s sports programs, Amundson provided an estate gift to fund the endowment for the Luther wellness program. The Amundson Professorship Award provides a faculty stipend, a student stipend and funding for a research project. The award is competitive, based on the selection committee’s evaluation of project proposals, particularly those focusing on health and wellness issues for women.

Hawley’s Amundson project, Sensing Identity, will apply practices from her Movement Fundamentals research as a focal point for listening to the body while identifying personal practices for self-care, selfhood and well-being.

“Receiving the Nena Amundson Distinguished Professorship offers an exciting opportunity to highlight body/mind integrated learning and becoming,” says Hawley. “I am grateful to work alongside the students to further understand how dance integrates with our overall health and wellbeing.”

Hawley’s Amundson project launched in September and involved more than 20 students. This embodied research will continue both on and off campus over the next two years.

Andrew Last ’97, director of choral activities and associate professor of music, will serve as the next Weston Noble Endowed Chair in Music. For more than 50 years, Weston Noble ’43, professor emeritus of music, taught, directed and conducted at Luther, influencing thousands of students, including Last.

“Few teachers have had more of an impact on my teaching career than Weston Noble,” said Last. “Each and every day that I stand before Nordic Choir, I feel his spirit in the choir room. It is my hope that through this endowment, Weston’s passion for community, excellence and inclusion will be shared through educational and creative opportunities.”

Established by Ervin and Phyllis Johnson, this endowed chair recognizes the value of Christian higher education and the quality of the academic and music programs provided by Luther College. The Noble Chair will enrich the education of students at Luther College and bring national attention to the college and its programs.

Maren Johnson, associate professor of Nordic Studies and director of the Torgerson Center for Nordic Studies, will serve as the first Tomson Family Endowed Chair in Norwegian Language and Modern Nordic Culture. This position serves as the academic foundation of the Richard L. and Judith Torgerson Center for Nordic Studies, providing oversight for academic and co-curricular programs, preserving existing partnerships and creating new collaborative initiatives with educational institutions and scholars in Norway.

This endowed chair was established thanks to the generosity of O. Jay and Patricia A. Tomson, longtime friends of the college, and Marti (Tomson) Rodamaker, regent emerita, and in recognition of Luther’s sesquicentennial and more than 150 years of treasured ties to Norway.

“The Tomson family’s gift of this endowed chair cements the role of the study of Norwegian language and Nordic culture at Luther College,” said Johnson. “I am excited for the call of this position to continue to strengthen the ties between Luther and the Nordic region today to find points of collaboration for study and research for our students, faculty and staff.”

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


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.

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