Yet Much that we May do
Message from President Steven Bahls
Since becoming president of Augustana College in 2003, I have found tremendous inspiration from the remarkable history of this institution, and especially the people who for the past century and a half have built it into one of America’s leading liberal arts colleges. Their ideas—and the ideals that shaped them—resonate through this campus and offer wisdom and guidance to those of us called to be its leaders today.
To give you a sense of this rich story, I’ve gathered some of my favorite thoughts from leaders of Augustana’s past, and would like to share with you my reflections on what they say to us—all of us—today.
“The stream that flows from the campus is always changing, as one generation follows another to generate power and give productiveness to the land. And though the campus will never hold just the same people again, the identity of Augustana will be kept clear.”
The college’s fifth president was uniquely positioned to challenge his successors to keep Augustana’s identity clear. After guiding the college through the World War II years, during which enrollment swooned as an entire generation mobilized for the defense of freedom around the world, Bergendoff was successful in realizing the long-held dream of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, estab-lishing Augustana in its rightful place among the preeminent colleges of America.
Some of the challenges presented by today’s economic climate could certainly be addressed by solutions that might seem simple, yet come at a terrible cost to Augustana’s mission and identity. Bergendoff and his leadership remind us that while all things change, our calling to provide students with a transformative education that prepares them to “generate power and give productiveness” must never change.
“The best result of our educational work consists not in outward things, but in spiritual and intellectual growth.”
The longest serving president in Augustana’s history, Andreen had many “outward things” to show for his leadership from 1901 to 1935: he helped build the Denkmann Memorial Library, the Woman’s Building (now Evald Hall) and the Wallberg Hall of Science. And yet he knew that even the most revered halls would be meaningless without an overriding dedication to the spiritual and intellectual growth of our students.
I think of the legendary faculty hired during Andreen’s tenure—people like Jules Mauritzson, Fritiof Fryxell, Henriette Naeseth, Henry Veld and Alma Johnson—and their unwavering commitment to student growth and development. And then I think of students like Katrina Jensen ’11, who last summer went to Thailand to teach English, but wound up learning a great deal about herself and the person she’s called to be. As she observed in her AugieBlog, no amount of stress, competition, frustration, pride, greed and “not having the right pair of shoes to wear” can contend with “the look on a child’s face when she accomplishes something she thought she could never do.” Katrina has insight into what really matters in life that many don’t discover until much later in life; I am excited to watch her leadership unfold.
“The constant and friendly interactions of college and community accrue to the distinct advantages of both.”
During his 1863-1891 presidency, Hasselquist oversaw Augustana’s move to Rock Island in 1875. He knew the vitality of the institution was inextricably linked with that of its surrounding community, a major factor in his decision to launch a preparatory academy that served as a pioneering alternative high school for immigrants newly arrived to the United States.
Today that commitment can be seen in ways I think Hasselquist would admire. Our partnership with Longfellow Elementary School is building a liberal arts program for children that’s drawn international interest; our Farm2Fork initiative is helping small-scale agricultural producers in our area sustain the tradition of family farming; and programs such as Senior Inquiry and our Called to Serve internships help Augustana students meet critical needs around the Quad Cities and across the region.
“Augustana stakes its future upon the need of American society for people who think carefully, express themselves clearly and who have worked out a set of personal values for themselves; people who understand the way in which tough decisions about difficult questions, whether they touch nature, society or culture, are made. And we believe not just that our country needs such people, but that it knows it does—that families will continue to send young people to schools like ours because we are uniquely suited to preparing responsible leaders for a democratic society.”
With these words, Augustana’s seventh president gave voice to our unapologetic commitment to a program of academic, co- and extra-curricular experiences that has proven by its outcomes to help students prepare for lives of leadership and service. As I encounter Augustana alumni from boardrooms to church basements, I never cease to be impressed by their stories of faculty, service learning or classes far removed from their major course of study that gave them both a context and an imperative for doing the right thing in their professional, personal and community lives.
It has been a privilege for me to work with this richly talented group of faculty, staff and students. It is deeply rewarding to witness the ways in which these values of Augustana have endured through every generation—though each with its own voice and timbre—even to the members of the Class of 2013 who enrolled last summer.
Each spring, one of my favorite duties as president is to welcome 50th reunion classes during Alumni Weekend. It gives me a chance to hear the life stories of remarkable people, and to marvel at their testimony to the ways in which this college has shaped lives.
Perhaps that’s why one of my favorite quotes from Augustana’s past comes from an 1894 graduate—one of Augustana’s first female students, Netta Bartholomew Anderson. At her 50th reunion in 1944, she shared this with her classmates:
“We are moved to cast longing glances back over the road we have come and ardently to wish we might retrace our steps to those happy, carefree days of long ago, or that we might linger on this inspiring hill where the flowers of friendship and remembrance bloom so sweetly and the soul is exhilarated and refreshed. But since we may never go back and may not linger, we resolutely face toward the setting sun and will be on our way again, for there is yet much that we may do.”
Netta Bartholomew Anderson
That this woman, in her 70s at a time when that was a less common accomp-lishment than today, was bold to exhort her classmates to yet more service and yet more leadership, is for me nothing short of inspirational. Ours is a good inheritance, a meaningful tradition, and a vital mission. Thank you for the important part you play in the story of Augustana College.