Early on the morning of March 8, Jane and I left a snowy Rock Island for the West Coast. This winter’s snow was late to the Quad Cities. We’ve enjoyed watching the 9-foot-tall snowman in front of the Dahl President’s Home slowly bow down over the past weeks. We wondered whether our return would find a toppled snowman among the first signs of spring. (It did).
This four-day trip involved three receptions in three days — in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle! That meant six plane rides, counting connections, and four very early mornings. Remarkably, everything went as scheduled.
We had very good attendance for our Los Angeles event, held at the historic San Antonio Winery near downtown LA. It was good to see both recent graduates of the college and alumni from the 1950s and 1960s. One of our more recent graduates termed the tour the PB&J Tour (President Bahls and Jane)!
We were pleasantly surprised when Eric Lindberg joined us. Eric is a trustee of the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation, which is funding the Austin E. Knowlton Outdoor Athletic Complex at Augustana. The complex, which will include the football field, a new locker room, football offices, south-facing seating, suites, a sports club and viewing deck, will be finished before our first home game in September. Eric explained that the vision for the stadium was to create an engaging and lively game-day atmosphere for the college and mentioned that other colleges were already interested in exploring the concept for their campuses. Division III athletics has long been an important part of Augustana, and we are grateful for the vision of the Knowlton Foundation in helping continue to enhance our football program in this way.
We next traveled to San Francisco, where we hosted 40 alumni and friends at The Winery on Treasure Island, off the Bay Bridge. An engaging tour guide led us through the winery, where we sampled wine from oak barrels as it was nearly completed, and then the same type of wine when it was finished. What a difference between the two! Kind of like our students in their sophomore year compared to their senior year.
One of our alums asked a good question about the size of our endowment compared to other schools. Our endowment has grown nicely, thanks to generous gifts and market growth. Our endowment is used to sustain faculty and support student scholarships. While we are pleased with our endowment growth, it is still about half the size of the endowments at St. Olaf and Illinois Wesleyan.
Growing our endowment to double its current size is one of our top priorities. Each year we admit hundreds of students who decline due to financial reasons. Keeping with our traditions of accessibility, we must increase our endowment in order to increase the amount of scholarships we can award to deserving, highly motivated students.
We completed our tour with a visit to the Seattle Art Museum, where a docent led a tour of paintings by Rembrandt and his peers. We were pleased with a strong turnout of about 30 alumni and friends, including several who are teachers, either at the K-12 or college level. We engaged in quite a discussion of the difference between teaching and learning. When we teach, we convey information, but when students learn, they absorb and integrate the information into their lives. I observed that too many people consider the purpose of higher education to convey information to prepare students for jobs. College must be more than that. It is about learning – learning the skills for first jobs and last jobs, learning to be ethical citizens and preparing to respond to life’s disappointments.
It was a good, but very full, weekend. Jane and I are indebted to Kelly Noack, director of alumni and parent relations, for her excellent work in organizing this tour so well, and to Lynn Jackson, vice president for advancement, for her outstanding leadership. We have such a wonderful team at Augustana!