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Memorable Mentors

Sometimes a professor just sees your cards.

When I arrived at Augustana as a pre-med major in 1983, freshman English was just another academic liability, a gathering cloud that might rain on my GPA parade. I had nothing personal against the English language-I just didn't see how it was going to help me score well on the MCAT.

Dr. Karin Youngberg was teaching the class, and of course she didn't see it that way. She wasn't there to teach "English" per se-she was there to show us how to think, and how to put our thoughts to what was then paper (pixels being a few years off).

A month into the class, Dr. Youngberg called me to her office. She liked my writing and wanted to know what I was planning to do with my life. When I told her "pre-med," she rolled her eyes across the high ceiling of her Old Main office, and then told me, in words I can't recall but with a firmness I can still feel, that I was too talented a writer to "waste" it all on pre-med. The way she put it, I owed it to myself to be an English/pre-med major.

I took her up on the offer, and she was right. Twenty-six years later, I am deeply indebted to Dr. Youngberg for peeking at my hand.

Craig Bowron '87, physician and writer, St. Paul, MN


My most memorable professor was Mrs. Adda Bozeman in history. She was at the college the same four years I was. The Midwest was very insular. Mrs. Bozeman had experienced fleeing from war and being a refugee from Latvia, and she mistrusted symbols of nationalism, which led to war. Her experience and knowledge opened up new worlds of international understanding based on a solid historical foundation. As the years went on and I lived through McCarthyism and the rhetoric of the cold war and lately the neo-con ideology, I would express these insights in discussion groups, etc. 

Elinor Ryden '47 Radlund, retired teacher, Rockford, IL

Coach Lenny Kallis, who, when he was indicating to me that I probably would not make the varsity basketball team in my junior year, told me, "No one goes through life undefeated. The important thing is that you get up off the floor when you lose and forge ahead." This from a man whose promising professional baseball career was cut short by injury and whose life later was cut short by cancer. That phraseology did not originate with Lenny, but he was the one who passed it to me, and I have passed it to others, including children and grandchildren, I hope with lasting good effect.

English Professor Henriette C.K. Naeseth was my advisor and mentor who encouraged me in my dream to become a journalist and who also encouraged me to speak up and speak out as she regularly did on all matters of concern. This was in the ‘50s when faculty were not always easy for students to approach. But despite her formidable personal presence, I discovered otherwise. Outside of class, we talked politics. She loved Adlai Stevenson and dis-approved of Dwight Eisenhower, "that damned general," the 1952 presidential nominees. When I said I thought Ike would win, she humphed in disagreement. She loved baseball. She was a White Sox fan; I was for the Cubs. But we both adored Nellie Fox, the little Sox second baseman who played every play as if it were his last. We connected, and we stayed in touch for years.

I loved them both. Still do.

Frank Wright '53, retired foreign correspondent, Richfield, MN

The professor that had one of the greatest influences on me at Augustana was Dr. Robert Berntsen, professor of chemistry. He was always clear in explaining this science and also in his expec-tations from his students. He emphasized how one had to use clarity of thought and precision of action in both classroom and laboratory exercises and experi-ments. In addition to that, Dr. Berntsen had a profound interest in each student and would spend time discussing career planning and the necessary steps for that. When I shared my combined interest in science and in people, he helped me realize that medicine combined those commitments in a profound and satisfying way. That helped me make my professional choice.

John Sutherland '58, physician, Waterloo, IA

In my junior year, I took an American literature class with Dr. Roald Tweet, and something he said changed my life. I had been a pre-med major but was floundering. I thought about possibly becoming a medical illustrator so I started taking a couple of art classes. That was when, in one of his lectures, Dr. Tweet asked, ‘How do you know what a cat is?' Do you know it by dissecting it, and understanding its muscles, nerves and how its brain works-or is the essence of a cat what you observe? Is it what the cat does, how it moves when it hunts and interacts with others? Or are they both true? My understanding of the world had always been through the sciences but when he said this, something clicked. This was an epiphany as I realized the sciences weren't for me at that time. I decided to go full fling into art, and I took off for New York to study art after I graduated.

Drew Starenko '83, cardiac surgical first assist and landscape oil painter, Rock Island, IL