Monthly Archives: February 2013

Enjoying artistic, natural beauty out West

mainDENVER — We took our “road show” out West to visit with alumni, parents and friends in Denver and in Phoenix. My father and mother lived near both of these communities shortly after their marriage, and we often visited both areas when I was a child. I always look forward to returning.

Alumni catch up at the Denver Museum of Art.

Alumni catch up at the Denver Museum of Art.

About 50 guests joined us at the Denver Art Museum. We started the evening with a docent-led tour of the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit. The exhibit featured O’Keeffe’s work from her years in New Mexico, along with some of the Hopi katsina dolls that she used in her work, as well as paintings by others whom she influenced. It was interesting to watch the Augustana graduates who are geologists comment on which of the pieces seemed to present the authentic geology of the region and which were more abstract.

During our discussion, the group was quite interested in the escalating cost of a college education. I agree that Augustana must do all it can to contain costs, but I’m also convinced that we must make raising money for endowment a higher priority, considering that Augustana has a relatively modest endowment for a college of its quality. The earnings on endowment provide needed scholarships for students, and doubling our endowment would help ensure that Augustana is accessible to all promising students.

Alumni learned about the survival strategies of desert plants from a docent at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

Alumni learned about the survival strategies of desert plants at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

PHOENIX — Our Phoenix event began with guided tours of the Desert Botanical Gardens, which were among the most spectacular I’ve ever seen. We learned about cacti and other desert plants and their strategies for survival. Alumni and friends then gathered for a reception and program in an outdoor pavilion.

One of our alums commented that Grand Canyon University in the Phoenix area was once a small college, but had grown into a huge university due to the addition of online and evening options. He asked whether I thought Augustana might go in that direction. I was pleased to report that there is no desire among our board, administration or faculty to go in this direction. One of Augustana’s strengths is the consensus that exists in support of our mission as a residential liberal arts college. While online courses might be good at conveying information, professor to student education is best at helping our students become wise, ethical citizens motivated to make a difference in today’s world.

Coping with winter travel

We’ve been traveling quite a bit this winter and had enjoyed remarkably smooth travels until this trip. Our initial flight out of Moline was canceled due to last week’s anticipated snow storm, so Jane and I accelerated our travel by a day to beat the storm. And our flight home from Phoenix was canceled due to a major snowstorm in Denver, our connecting city, delaying our return by a day.

Having to spend an extra day in Arizona in February was really a treat. Jane and I immediately agreed to take a twilight hike in the Superstition Wilderness, about an hour’s drive east of Phoenix. It was an outstanding walk. The desert colors were spectacular in late afternoon, and became even better as the sun set, creating a warm orange glow over the high desert as the temperature dropped.

Jane and I are drawn to the wilderness, but most of our wilderness experience has been in the Northern Rockies and Canada. I agree with Charles Lindbergh who observed, “In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia.” I feel the same way — in the wilderness I see the beauty of creation uncomplicated by the challenges of everyday life. The wilderness renews my soul and my energy. It helps me have a positive and grateful frame of mind where I view challenges as opportunities. We are looking forward to another wilderness trip next summer, when we raft the Alsek River through spectacular mountains in the Yukon and Alaska.

But first, we’ll complete our 10th Anniversary Tour. On to Los Angeles!
desert_sunset

Let the tour begin

While in Naples, Fla., for the first stop on his 10th anniversary tour, Augustana President Steve Bahls attended a performance by the Augustana choir, which is on its spring break tour.

While in Naples, Fla., for the first stop on his 10th anniversary tour, Augustana President Steve Bahls attended a performance by the Augustana choir, which is on its spring break tour.

Naples, Fla. — Jane and I have been looking forward to our 10th anniversary tour, and now it’s finally begun. We’re both looking forward to the opportunities these visits will provide for reflection on Augustana — its recent past, its present and its future.
We had a large crowd in Naples for dinner and an even larger crowd for our concert. The musical talent of our students never ceases to amaze me.  In 10 years, I have probably attended a few dozen Augustana choir performances.  I enjoyed last night’s selections the best. I appreciated the grouping around the various themes. And the performance of a relatively new setting of Amazing Grace was heavenly.

Augustana President Steve Bahls addresses alumni at the Naples tour stop.

Augustana President Steve Bahls addresses alumni at the Naples tour stop.

young_alumni_georgia
Atlanta — We had about 30 alumni, friends and parents for dinner at Livingston Restaurant near downtown in Atlanta. Apparently, we brought the icy weather from the Quad Cities, with the temperature dipping below freezing!

The evening started with comments from Lynn Jackson, our vice president for advancement, and then Jane and me. Lynn is gracious in saying that Augustana has changed for the better over the last 10 years and I am quick to give credit for that change where it is due — to our faculty, trustees and staff.

Jane Bahls poses with 90-year-old Doris Pells in Naples, Fla. Pells' sons and late husband are Augustana alumni.

Jane Bahls poses with 90-year-old Doris Pells in Naples, Fla. Doris’ sons and late husband are Augustana alumni.

I was particularly touched by one comment about change that was made by an alumna. She mentioned to me that we had only met twice, the first time being 10 years ago when I was first introduced at a similar reception in Atlanta. She commented on how much Augustana had changed me in 10 years — from an earnest, newly appointed president from outside the traditional liberal arts’ fold, to a spokesperson not just for the liberal arts and sciences, but for the Augustana tradition, as well. What an honor it is to be at Augustana!

Next tour stops

  • Friday, Feb. 22 — Denver Museum of Art
  • Saturday, Feb. 23 — Phoenix Botanical Gardens

Full tour schedule

 

Ten years and counting

Augustana President Steve Bahls in 2003.

It’s hard to believe that a decade has passed since I arrived at Augustana in the summer of 2003. Later this week, Jane and I will begin a coast-to-coast tour of the country that will give me an opportunity to thank Augustana alumni for their support.

In addition to celebrating the accomplishments of the past 10 years, I also hope to share what’s ahead for the college. I plan to discuss some of the critical challenges the college faces in the years ahead and how our next strategic planning process will address these challenges. I also want to share the personal goals I have identified that will guide my leadership of the college in the future. When we are in your area, I hope you will be able to join us.