Keith Green, Class of 1980
I graduated from St. Olaf in 1980 with majors in philosophy and history, and then spent a year at Manchester College-Oxford through St. Olaf. (That year ‘saved’ me from law school, and ‘diverted’ me to Yale Divinity School (MDiv 1984) and then to the department of religious studies at Brown (PhD in 1992). I am now associate professor in the philosophy department at East Tennessee State University—-and living back in the Western NC mountains, where I actually grew up.
I came to the study of philosophy at Saint Olaf. I remember with great fondness and appreciation Vicki’s logic course. Do I remember correctly that I never saw her consult a note? She has always been a model, not only of lucidity, but of professional generosity. A colleague of mine at East Tennessee State remembers her as a respondent to a paper he delivered (with great fear and trembling)at the APA–as a graduate student. He recalls her generosity and kindness, and the copious notes and help that she offered him. Vicki also offered help when I had to step up to the plate at ETSU a few years ago and teach ancient philosophy. My students were the beneficiaries of Vicki’s patient teaching at many levels. I remember the history of modern philosophy and philosophy of religion classes with Walter Stromseth, who later urged me to apply to Yale Divinity School, and generously wrote a letter of recommendation. I remember an early morning Kierkegaard class in the spring semester of 1980 with Howard Hong. (He taught two large classes, and wanted to be done with teaching by chapel—-so class at 7-something am. I remember being in class with Paul Benson and John Bolin, among others. I came to know Diana Cates at Brown–and now count her a very dear friend. My encounter with philosophy at St. Olaf was one of the things there that marked the direction of my life in ways I could never have appreciated then—-but for which I am deeply grateful now.
Margy Sather Peterson, Class of 1980
For the brief part; my paid work life has included retail and insurance policy services management (1980-1987) then Elementary Classroom Music from 2000-2009. I worked with children’s church choirs as a pianist (K-3 choir, 1992-2002) and a director (7-12 choir, 2002-2012). I suspect reading and writing for my philosophy degree helped support a strong Miller Analogies Test result when I applied for graduate school at age 40.
My best work has been my family. We have 3 Oles (chemistry/history/Asian Studies ’09, Econ/Spanish ’12 and Chemistry ’14). I retired from teaching when my mother needed to move closer to family. She is now 95; it is a luxury to be able to walk her last steps with her during the day when her mind is sharpest, and I am thankful for the fine people who provide her physical care. I read mystery novels in Norwegian and got a blue ribbon this summer at the Minnesota State Fair for my first woven rug.
I came to St. Olaf planning to be a chemistry, music and/or Norwegian major. Spring of sophomore year Narum’s Critical Reasoning course provided the first invitation to a new path and the big turn came the following fall when I took Howard Mueller’s History of Philosophy. I was taking Organic Chemistry at the same time; Philosophy just seemed so much more relevant. I abandoned my pre-med plans. Despite my late start I finished the major with 9 Philosophy courses.
I recall my Phi Beta Kappa interview. By the time it rolled around I had a management trainee job offer at Donaldson’s. I recall Dr. Stoutland asking me why I’d chosen that path and I replied that I thought it was time to get some practical experience. In retrospect, this may explain my lack of PBK. ;-). I have good memories of a retreat at his cabin when Rorty read from Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature.
I’d love a redo on that weekend; I would have come to the retreat more prepared. If my memory serves me, I enjoyed a group hymn-sing and I believe David Hoekema accompanied us at an old pump organ. I also remember, minimally, working on a publication called “Philosophy Forum”.
Like others, I appreciate the opportunity to delve into issues which resonated with my mind and experience. Broad topics which have held perennial interest for me have been Utilitarianism (Harper), Epistemology and Meaning of Life/Death (Langerak), Religious thought (Stromseth) and Existentialism (variety). I wish I’d have been able to take a class from Hong. At this mid-point in life, especially as I attempt to put order to myriad photos from a rich life, I’d love to delve more deeply into person-hood and meaning through memory and association.
Which brings me to a big thanks for the broadcast of the Eunice Belgum lectures. I’ve held onto the hope of hearing the one on Personhood from April 2013 and this morning was finally moved to listening to it. Instead of saying that my mom is “with it for a 95 year old” I can now say that, in Lynne Rudder Baker’s words, she still has a “robust first person perspective”!
Life definitely has seasons I look forward to reconnecting with my philosophical self in my present season.
Thomas A. Schmeling, Class of 1980
I started out as a Philosophy major but got drawn into poll sci by Jack Schwandt’s Political Philosophy classes. Although I started grad school in Political Theory at the University of Chicago, I got interested in judicial politics and transferred to UW-Madison after one year. Still, I kept theory as one of my major fields and probably took more theory at Madison than any other topic. I think that my philosophy major and the study of political philosophy has given me a deeper understanding of my field generally, but I value it as much for the way it has enriched my life overall. David Hoekema’s aesthetics class and Ed Langerak’s Death and Dying, in particular, changed the way I look at the world.
Karen Baehler, Class of 1981
Best wishes to Ed and Vicki. I am grateful for this long-overdue opportunity to publicly apology to Vicki for squandering the intellectual opportunities offered in her logic tutorial, and to Ed for occasionally falling asleep in the Kant seminar My lame excuse for the latter is that the Kant seminar met on the same day each week that the Manitou Messenger editors sent the final galleys to the printer, which nearly always involved an all-nighter the night before.
Despite these shortcomings, St. Olaf let me graduate in 1981. This was followed by a year at the Lutheran seminary in Chicago, followed by a big shift to what has turned out to be a very fun career in public policy — starting as a grant writer and then an analyst in several think tanks in Washington, DC over a decade, then moving to the Public Policy doctoral program at the University of Maryland and studying with William Galston (such good luck). After two babies and a lot of rewriting, I completed the PhD in 1999, and the family flew off to start our new lives in New Zealand, where I joined the faculty of Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Government and my husband took a position with the Ministry of Health. We returned to Washington, DC in 2009, and after 6 months of tele-commuting to NZ, I joined the faculty of American University’s School of Public Affairs in 2010. Our oldest son is now a sophomore at Syracuse University studying history and our younger son graduates high school in 2014.
More good luck — Teresa LaMaster (also class of ’81 St. Olaf Philosophy Dept.) and her family live just 2 miles from us; our families get together often. (And I last saw Cindy Sundberg/Wall at Teresa’s wedding a couple of decades ago.)
The earlier comments about interdisciplinary joys and challenges (Narum) ring very true for me. My scholarship on social policy has drawn heavily on ideas from Tocqueville, Amartya Sen, and Martha Nussbaum, as well as multiple branches of social science. I never feel completely at home (ah, Heidegger) in the quant-heavy social sciences because my first instincts are to approach a public policy question with the journalist’s nose for the story and the philosopher’s urge to expose and critique the arguments — both the Philosophy Dept. and the Manitou Messenger clearly left indelible marks. I am enormously grateful for those 4 wonderful years, and now appreciate fully how much work the professors put into those classes – thank you.
Wouldn’t it be grand if our members of Congress could learn from Ed Langerak the importance of formulating the strongest possible version of the opponent’s argument (doing so “rigorously but charitably”) before lighting into it? Alas, that seems unlikely.
Pastor Tim Bauer, Class of 1981
After graduating from St. Olaf with a Philosophy major I enrolled at Luther Seminary and have served the church as a pastor for 28 years. The value of the major was multiple, though perhaps indirect. I believe I learned to read, think and write through the course of the major. Two incidents still stick in my mind: 1. I think it was the first paper I wrote for Ed Langerak. His comment was that I had good ideas, but needed to do more writing to improve style, argument, etc. That was honest encouragement that I took to heart. 2. The senior seminar was reading Martin Heidegger. When it came time to work on the paper I met with Walt Stromseth and confessed that I had understood little or nothing from any of the reading we had done. He pressed me to consider if there was anything that had caught my attention. There were some writings on nature and the environment I recalled. With that he sent me off with some resources to explore and I finished the course. Again, that was helpful encouragement. I’ll admit many philosophical/theological writings are beyond me, to dense in language, argument, and history of philosophy. But because I have read, slogged through and been encouraged I plow ahead trusting that I will find something to think about, be inspired by and wonder about. An example might be the writings of Jean Luc Marion, a French Philosopher/Theologian, Idol and Distance, God without Being, which were difficult but which also reshaped my understanding of God, faith and my preaching. Because I have been encouraged to delve into things to deep for me, I also had the courage to enter into a Dr. of Ministry program at Luther Seminary. I studied art as a conversation partner for preaching. Being a Philosophy major emboldened me to keep thinking, keep writing, seek creativity and thought beyond my own, whether I could finally grasp it or not, but with trust that enough would seep through to make it worth the effort.
Teresa LaMaster, Class of 1981
I was a 1981 St. Olaf philosophy grad and carry with me many fond memories — Interim arbeitsgemeinschaften with Howard Hong; a seminar with lots of conversation involving a brain in a vat; careful parsing of the health consequences of eating a particular can of beans; and the senior year weekend at Fred Stoutland’s cabin, with him waking us up by blasting “You’re So Vain” on the stereo.
As first generation in my family to attend college, philosophy opened a whole world to me. It was there that I first learned to try to be a careful reader and a precise writer. I remember the day quite clearly (it was one of those brain/vat sessions) when for the first time I truly understood what an unstated assumption was. Unearthing mine and those of others, framing questions, envisioning implications are all skills I first learned from St. Olaf philosophers and for which I am deeply grateful. Big ideas from Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Kierkegaard, and Wittgenstein all continue to shape my values and help me find meaning in my life and work.
I have enjoyed all my work, though I am not at all sure I would offer my career path as some sort of example for an undergraduate to emulate. I have done lots of different things, most likely because I appear to be easily bored and happiest on the learning curve, trying something I haven’t ever done before. I have followed my nose a bit and been guided by some wisdom Fred wrote to me in a letter when I deciding not to finish my stalled PhD program — “do what you think is interesting and important, the rest will follow.”
After St. Olaf I went to finish an AM in religion at the University of Chicago and worked for 10 years in arts administration, first at the Field Museum in Chicago and then at the Smithsonian Institution. I received a JD degree from the University of Maryland and practiced business and intellectual property law for eight years. I then returned to the University as managing director of its clinical law program, which provides hundreds of thousands of hours of free legal services to people in Baltimore who are poor and marginalized. I am now Associate Dean at the Law School and, in that capacity, have done everything from raise $59M in a capital campaign, to represent the Law School on issues of academic freedom before the Maryland legislature, to develop a new program to provide legal services to Maryland’s small farmers, to launch new undergraduate and graduate degree programs in law at the University. And I have to say it is all the skills my philosophy professors at St. Olaf tried to develop in me that my employers and colleagues seem to value most.
Of course, all the philosophizing I did at St. Olaf about love, truth, meaning, value and the human person has been tested by the crucible of ordinary life. I have been married for nearly 25 years to a wonderful man and we have a daughter who is about to turn 18. She is autistic and intellectually disabled — suffice it to say her brain is hardwired quite differently from all of ours. It is a marvel to watch it work. Our life with her is a ready reminder that for all that St. Olaf philosophers taught me about the life of the mind, what I learned from them about heart and soul has clearly meant the most.
Elliot Herland, Class of 1981
I started in ’76 wanting to be a doctor like my dad, but Biology, Chemistry and Math failed to catch my attention. The religion major was my default so that I could “get done” in four years. Then in my junior year I took my first philosophy course and was in love with the study of it. “It” caught my attention. The subject matter, the professors, my classmates, the conversation, the struggle, and the experience grabbed me. I felt compelled to finish a major in it so I stayed an extra year after graduating in 80 thanks to very indulgent parents and a college willing to let me stay. That extra year on the hill was truly a gift. (I visit my son there, now, and smile every time I drive up the avenue.)
I entered William Mitchell College of Law, graduated and became an attorney in 1984. I came to hate being an advocate so much that I thought my career path had led me to the abyss of despair. Thankfully in 1997 I discovered the art of mediation and the movement toward alternative dispute resolution in many of my legal circles. To be a peace maker rather than a warrior felt so much better to me.
In mediation I get to work with many people from diverse backgrounds with very different points of view as how a certain set of “facts” made a certain result the “fair” resolution. That’s where these two majors allowed me to figure out how to help people move away from a determination they thought was “right” to an agreement they could accept. What joy it brings me to help people find their ways through and out of difficult situations. The valuable skills used in my job were not born in the study of law, but rather in the embrace of my St. Olaf education, with one major by default and the other by choice.
Mark Mattes, Class of 1982
This is Mark Mattes. I graduated in 1982 and was very grateful to be a Philosophy Major. I treasured courses with Bill Narum, Walter Stromseth, Ed Langerak, and Vicki Harper. With those teachers, I also enjoyed courses from Lloyd Gunderson, who taught classical Greek, HaroId Ditmanson, and Charlie Wilson, with whom I did an independent study on Hegel (and which years later was finally published as an article). I feel privileged to have done or continue to do the following activities. I teach Theology and Philosophy at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa where I have been for almost 20 years but prior to that I served as a Lutheran pastor in Wisconsin and Illinois. I earned my PhD from Chicago, where my advisor was David Tracy, but I also studied with Paul Ricoeur.
I authored The Role of Justification in Contemporary Theology (Eerdmans), co-authored Imaging the Journey, co-translated Theology the Lutheran Way and A Contemporary in Dissent: Hamann as a Radical Enlightener, both by Oswald Bayer (Tübingen theologian), co-translated Cross and Resurrection by Claus Schwarzwäller, co-edited the collected papers of Lutheran theologian Gerhard Forde, A More Radical Gospel and The Preached God, and edited Twentieth-Century Lutheran Theologians(Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht).
I have served on the Board of Theta Alpha Kappa, the national honors society for Theology/Religious Studies, currently serve as an editor for Lutheran Quarterly, and also serve on the continuation committee of the International Luther Congress. Along with my wife, Carol, I have three children, still two at home, and a grandchild.
I repeat that I am most grateful for my St. Olaf education. I feel it prepared me well for graduate work and a career in college teaching.
Michael Swenson, Class of 1982
After starting my St. Olaf career as a biology major, I quickly changed courses after taking Howard Hong’s interim class on philosophy and literature my freshman year. Between Howard’s class and Lewis Thomas’ Lives of a Cell, I decided to pursue a career in medicine via philosophy, since the philosophy courses at St. Olaf were far more interesting than organic chemistry! So interesting, in fact, that I went from St. Olaf to complete a PhD in philosophy concurrently with my MD at the Univ. of Minnesota. Thanks to a St. O class on political philosophy, my PhD dissertation explored the application of John Rawls’ theory of justice within health care.
Alas, the prospects of a remunerative career seemed much better in medicine than in philosophy at the end of my studies at UofM, so after 6 years in Minneapolis my wife Leslie (’83) and I moved to Denver for a residency in internal medicine at Univ. of Colorado. I intended to stay in academic medicine in biomedical ethics, but I was intrigued by a job offer from up north after completing residency, so we moved to Nome, Alaska to work with the Indian Health Service for a couple of years. We fell in love with Alaska, and we’ve been here even since, now in Fairbanks 23 years later. As a practicing internist, I believe that I use my training in philosophy every day: from serving on the hospital’s ethics committee, to paying attention to assumptions and beliefs underlying patients’ problems, to trying to understand the unique worldview of people from an Inuit heritage. And even Rawls has proved useful in recent discussions at our hospital of distributive justice in disaster scenarios!
Despite our distance, we haven’t lost our ties to the Hill–our oldest Rachel (’13) is among the newest Ole grads (now off to South Africa for a year with the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission), and our “middlest” Sara is slogging through her junior year as a physics major in Regents’ Hall–so close and yet so far from my experiences on the Hill in Holland Hall! It has been a treat to spend time again in Northfield, seeing “Mother St. Olaf” through their eyes.
Diana Fritz Cates, Class of 1983
Diana Fritz Cates (1983). I was pre-med at St. Olaf until I took a philosophy course as a distribution requirement, at which point I fell hopelessly in love—with philosophy. As a member of the Paracollege, I integrated my interests in biology and philosophy, writing an honors thesis on pre-natal and neo-natal biomedical ethics. Late in the game at St.Olaf, I also discovered religious studies, which took me even further into the sorts of questions I wanted to ask. After graduating from St. Olaf, I earned a Ph.D. at Brown University in the Department of Religious Studies. In 1990 I assumed my first academic post in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Iowa, and I have been there ever since. I am currently Professor and Chair of the department. One of my greatest influences at St. Olaf was a seminar taught by Karen Warren on “The Philosophy of Mind: The Emotions.” I’ve been studying ethics and moral psychology, with a focus on the emotions, ever since. The coolest thing about the study of philosophy is that it challenges you to think deeply and for yourself about really important things, which makes every day of your life richer and more interesting.
Martin Ericson, Class of 1983
Vicki Harper, Bill Narum, Howard Hong, Walter Stromseth … It was an impressive group of scholars at St. Olaf when I graduated in ’83. I went from Olaf to Luther Seminary, just a short leap away and moved from reading Kant and Kierkegaard and Whitehead, to reading Kant and Kierkegaard and Whitehead and Luther. I’m admittedly somewhat provincial. Since ’87 I’ve served as parish pastor in Princeton MN, Madison WI, and now again in St. Paul MN. In all of my parish ministry, I’m seldom if ever asked about Kant, Kierkegaard, Whitehead or other philosophical greats. But the window they open into processes of thought, systems of understanding, and models of reasoning has served me well. Questions of meaning, value, transcendence and self-understanding are at the core of much of our religious life and St. Olaf’s philosophy department prepared me well for engaging these dimensions of community and religious life with openness and curiosity.
Steve Keay, Class of 1983
I am Steve Keay and graduated in 1983 with double majors in philosophy and math. I have great memories of the philosophy department including a philosophy retreat to Fred Stoutland’s cabin (including a sauna and a jump in the lake in the middle of winter), taking Howard Hong’s last class at St. Olaf over interim and being hosted by Howard and Edna at their home. I did quite a lot of independent studies at St.Olaf including with Fred Stoutland (Heidegger, Foucault, etc.), Vicki Harper (logic), and a Cambridge don (post-Hegel 19th century German philosophy) on a semester in England.
After St. Olaf, I worked for a few years at IBM, graduated from Harvard Business School in ’88, and then moved to Chicago where I worked both in the US and Europe for McKinsey & Company. After about ten years, and with a family of young children, Suzanne (also an ’83 graduate) and I moved to Des Moines where I am now running my family’s educational publishing business. I’ve also recently finished with a term as congregational president for Lutheran Church of Hope in Des Moines, which is now the largest ELCA church in North America with over 16,000 members.
While philosophy does teach logic (as does math), philosophy also taught me how to think through problems when there are no right answers. I learned skills like examining assumptions, analyzing arguments, and synthesizing and communicating a point of view. Perhaps more importantly, I also learned the importance of asking great questions and not being satisfied with easy answers. I have always gravitated toward problem solving, and the St. Olaf philosophy professors really gave me life-long gift with their teaching.
Amy Stenback ‘84
I graduated from St. Olaf in 1984 with majors in Philosophy and Physics. I recall taking a semester abroad at Cambridge, studying Kierkegaard and using books edited by Hong. Frankly, I hadn’t thought too much about my future plans while at St. Olaf. I eventually realized that although I really enjoyed Philosophy, I had a calling to the sciences. My Philosophy major led me to believe, at the time, that I had an ethical obligation to pursue a vocation in the academic area I was best at. That may have been a slightly affected decision at the time, but it all worked out well!
I went on to medical school at the University of MN, did a residency in Pediatrics at UC San Diego and have been a practicing Pediatrician ever since. My Philosophy major has been by my side all the way. It has affected how I make ethical decisions daily, how I treat my patients, and how I Interact with my family and my community. It has helped me look at the world as a complicated place full of many different beliefs and perspectives. I think this has helped me to be a better physician and to continue to enjoy learning and striving to be better.
I now live north of San Francisco, in Marin County, have 3 young children with my husband John and lead a simple, but happy and fulfilling life. My years at St. Olaf in the Philosophy Department were life changing for me. I can only hope that my children can have such an opportunity.
Jay Kinn ‘85
I started St. Olaf as part of the class of 1985 with plans to prepare for medical school, focusing my class schedule on calculus and chemistry and other courses of study in my comfort zone. One way or another, however, I ended up in Karen Warren’s beginning ethics class and discovered a new world of study so very different from any course I had previously taken. Fascinated, I followed up with Vicki Harper’s mid-level logic course, which to this day provides me with some of my most vivid memories of college study. Writing paper after paper for Professor Harper provided a real sense of accomplishment. I switched from pre-med to a double major in philosophy and political science.
At the same time, my focus at St. Olaf started to move from classes to the Manitou Messenger. By the time my junior year started, I was spending 60+ hours per week on the Mess, with every Wednesday evening being an all-nighter to get the paper to press. With the time commitment and challenges of the Mess, and enrollment in the challenging classes from Professors Stromseth, Stoutland and Langerak, it all seemed impossible. After being selected as editor-in-chief for my upcoming senior year, I felt I could no longer give the proper attention to my philosophy classes and was ready to drop the more demanding side of my double major. Professor Stoutland would have none of it. He quickly dissuaded me from making a bad decision. In the end, I successfully made it through St. Olaf, putting out an award winning newspaper and completing a double major with honors – and I give much of the credit to my St. Olaf professors, who were all very respectful of my time commitment to the Mess, even seeming to avoid giving exams on Thursdays, the day after my Mess all-nighter.
Freed from the Mess after graduation, I went on St. Olaf’s Term in the Far East as a graduate, picking up a concentration in Asian Studies, and staying on in Asia after others headed back to the Hill for their second semester. I backpacked through 1987 China, building on my exposure to the world off the Hill.
The following year I started law school at the University of Minnesota, and immediately felt the stifling of creativity that law school imposes on a student. So I took a leave of absence after a year to explore India and Nepal and find myself before something pesky like a career could get in the way. But, having learned never to give up (witness my philosophy major), I went back to finish law school at Minnesota and then started my legal career at a large law firm in Los Angeles (having been determined to start off in a large, cosmopolitan city). At the law firm, it quickly became apparent that St. Olaf prepared me to write well, think analytically, communicate effectively, and interact with peers and superiors and subordinates in an understanding and compassionate manner.
After six years at the law firm, I moved into L.A.’s vibrant entertainment industry as part of Legal & Business Affairs at Warner Bros. Studios. I’m embedded in the home entertainment division, handling a wide range of matters, including the acquisition of distribution rights to filmed entertainment libraries, the production of direct-to-home entertainment films, the licensing of the company’s patent portfolio, representing the company on standards setting bodies for new technologies, negotiating worldwide supply chain deals, entering into digital distribution deals, and developing and implementing studio policies. My career takes me to many fascinating places on a regular basis, including Tokyo, Paris, Shanghai, Seoul, Rome, and London (I’m writing this while monitoring a meeting in Paris). After 23 years, my husband (married in 2008 during the first Freedom to Marry window in California) and I are settled in Los Angeles for the long term. I’m forever grateful for the foundation and launch that St. Olaf provided, and I still count a large number of Olaf alumni among my closest friends.
David Narum ‘85
I began studying philosophy at St. Olaf in about 1965, at age two, when I began listening in on the living conversations of Narum (my dad), Hong, Stromseth and Stoutland, inhaling healthy (or not!) amounts of pipe and cigar smoke in the process. I used to love going to Hong’s house in particular because he always gave me sugar cubes that I would dip in their coffee. Perhaps the most profound thing I offered to these philosophical conversations–a few years later at around age seven–was when Jon Stromseth (Walt’s son) and I ran into the living room making punching motions. When asked what we were doing, we replied, “hitting God, because god is everywhere!” That got some laughter. I went on to study philosophy at St. Olaf (1985), and ultimately environmental policy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1994). While I was warned that I should not do an interdisciplinary graduate degree (which involved law, economics, ethics, sociology, etc.), I did so anyway, and was hired by Emory University after I graduated because, as their job description noted, they were looking for someone with an interdisciplinary degree! So there. I have since taught at other universities and colleges (including St. Olaf), and now own an environmental consulting firm, where every day I employ the thinking skills that I learned in various living rooms, at St. Olaf, and elsewhere. I also have about 50 of my dad’s books on my shelf here in California, and yes, you can still smell the pipe smoke!
Jeff LeMunyon ‘87
Smoke, smoke and more smoke.
Jeff LeMunyon class of 87 with major in Philosophy in regular college and Greek Philosophy in Paracollege (and Norwegian). I worked mostly with Vicki Harper studying the Pre-Socratics, Plato and Aristotle. Vicki was certainly the most influential and positive force during my time at St. Olaf and for that I am grateful. Thank you Vicki.
While I never had a class from Howard Hong, I did work for a short time in the Kierkegaard Library when it was in the attic of Holland Hall. At the time, I smoked a pipe and I smoked quite a bit in the Kierkegaard Library. About a week after I started my job there, I received a pouch of pipe tobacco on my desk with a note that said “for JL. HH”. When downtown a few days later, I wandered into Tiny’s (the place with all manner of smoking materials, “reading” materials and pool tables in the back) and picked up two Robert Burns cigars in their little aluminum tubes. The next day I taped them to Howard Hong’s office door with a note “for HH. JL”.
Vicki and I also had our smoking contests. We would meet once a week in the Cage to discuss my Paracollege work. She with her Camel Filters and I with my big pipe. By the time the hour was done, her ashtray (the little tin things they had for ashtrays at the food service) was full and my pipe had caused all of the nearby tables to be empty. It was later reported that people would know that I was meeting with Vicki by the color and smell of the air at the front door of the Student Center at the east end of the building.
In my first interviews after graduating, people would ask “What are you going to do for me with a Philosophy Major?” My answers were: (1)”I can read, write, speak, listen, and think better than anyone you will interview today”; and (2) “Philosophy is the weight room for the mind. I am up to whatever task you put me to because my mind is in shape”.
First job was as a runner/clerk on the trading floors at the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. I started and owned a business that imported yarn from Norway that, while it didn’t work, was a good education. Got an MBA from the Carlson School in 1994 in Security Analysis and Portfolio Management and became a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) in 1998. I started my company, Linwood Capital, in 1997 and continue to grow it today. Linwood Capital creates and manages fuel hedging programs primarily for public transit properties on a nationwide basis. When people ask what I do, the answer is that I talk to people on the phone, play on the computer, and watch TV. The skills that I learned as a Philosophy major of writing, listening, speaking, and critical thought are skills that I use every day in my business and without which I would be lost.
I served two years as President of the CFA Society of Minnesota – a professional organization of 1200 financial analysts, am currently Congregational Treasurer of Bethlehem Lutheran in Minneapolis where my wife Ingrid Johanson ’87 and I have been members since 1989 and where I sing in choir, and have lived in Edina for almost 16 years. Three daughters: oldest graduated from Concordia in St. Paul in 2012, middle is a Senior at Luther majoring in Art and Art History, and youngest is a Freshman at Luther with her eye on a Religion major and possibly Seminary.
Leisure includes skiing but mostly sailing. My dad and I keep a 26 footer in Lake Pepin during the summer, the family usually gets a 40 footer in Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands for four days every summer, and a friend and I have been putting together groups of 12 to 24 and going to the British Virgin Islands every October for the past 8 years. We charter several 54 foot sailboats for a week and skipper/crew the boats ourselves. French Polynesia and Greece are on the list. Great fun.
Susan O’Shaughnessy ‘87
I am Alwin C. Carus and M. Elisabeth Carus Professor of Philosophy at Concordia College Moorhead MN. My philosophical research concerns Maurice Merleau-Ponty and philosophy of language. I also teach Ancient philosophy, Existentialism and Philosophy of Feminism. I am married to a Nuclear Physicist who also reads widely in the Humanities. I have two children one of whom is a freshman at Ohio Wesleyan University and the other a junior in high school. I have a dog named Argos, after Odysseus’ loyal pooch. I cycle, read, SCUBA dive, cook, sail and travel. Philosophy has meant a successful, interesting and fulfilling career as well as rich and meaningful reflection on parenthood, social justice and what it means to be in community. Philosophy guides the mind and the heart in all things, work, love, leisure, suffering, and joy. For that I am truly grateful.
Laura Stivers ‘87
I got a PhD in Christian Ethics at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, but my first teaching job in North Carolina at Pfeiffer University was to teach all of their philosophy courses as well as Christian ethics and theology. Needless to say my logic course with Vicki Harper came in handy. . .I was learning along with the students! After 10 years at Pfeiffer and a divorce, I moved back to California in 2010 and now teach at Dominican University of California in San Rafael (15 minutes north of the Golden Gate bridge). I got hired to teach philosophical ethics and this last spring was promoted to full professor and got tenure. I also direct our Masters in Humanities program. My areas of specialty are economic, environmental, and feminist ethics. I have two daughters – Marijke age 14 and Annelies age 10. I used to be a white water raft guide (in Colorado and Costa Rica) and so I love rivers; also enjoy hiking, biking, and skiing. I swim in the early mornings and am thrilled to have an outdoor pool to swim in here in CA.
I have recently had a book published entitled Earth Ethics. It is a second edition of an environmental case study book. The first edition had commentaries on the cases from a Christian ethics perspective. In this edition, the commentaries are from a philosophical ethics perspective so that the book can be used more widely in environmental studies and philosophy classes. Please click here for a flyer for the new book.
Laura’s Web Page:
Nathan Knutson ‘89
After graduating from St. Olaf in 1989, I spent the next four plus years confronting Foucault, Derrida, Baudrillard, and (as a result of an Austrian professor) Heidegger while grappling with the social, economic, and environmental issues resulting from the supposed end of the “modern project”. So while celebrating the centennial with my fellow classmates and alumnifrom the University of Minnesota’s architecture program this weekend, it was such a gift to be presented with a steady stream of emails from all of you.
Since completing my Masters in Architecture in 1994, I have helped to build a small, but internationally recognized, architecture firm based in Minneapolis. So although my home base remains quite close to the Hill (in Northfield, four kids and married to an Ole, Ed Langerak is my neighbor on Manitou Street, and the cc’d Lori above is my sister-in-law), my professional life has sent me all over the world, including a seven year long project in Beirut, Lebanon. In addition, I am an adjunct professor of architecture at the University of Minnesota and have become increasingly involved in St. Olaf’s architectural courses in the art department.
Matt Mohwinkel ‘89
I am a 1989 graduate with a double history and philosophy major. Quite honestly, I arrived at Saint Olaf knowing I wanted to be a history major because my father was a 1963 Ole alum and history major. I decided to take on philosophy as a second major much in part because Professor Taliaferro and some of my early classes.
I do recall my first class with Professor Taliaferro quite fondly or maybe some of this is exaggeration. It was an early morning class during winter time with many of us feeling too tired or too cold to be there. He decided to get our attention up by inviting down to a table in the front of class where we had set up a coffee pot, Styrofoam cups, and a bottle of no-doz.
Upon graduation, I decided to attend the University Of Iowa College Of Law and pursue a legal career. Over the past 20 years or so, I have held various positions in government (US Attorney’s Office) corporate (MCI), consulting (Deloitte), and am now Executive Vice President with Xerox Corporations litigation department. If any of you find yourselves in New York City, please drop me a line as I live near Central Park with my wife and bulldog.
My greatest takeaway as a philosophy major was twofold. First, I actually found the classes difficult and felt myself struggling at times to understand the courses or envious of how my classmates seemed to pick up on it. Second, I ended up liking it even more because of these challenges but also how helpful the professors were in getting me to continue onward.
Over the years, I think I have been successful in my life and career because my philosophy experiences made me a better thinker, writer, and speaker. Looking back on my Ole life, I will always remember and be thankful the interaction with my philosophy professors and classmates. With my 25th reunion coming up next year, I hope to see some of you back on campus during the celebration.
Susan Reinking ‘89
As a class of ’89 alum, Phi Beta Kappa and double major in Economics and Philosophy, I was one of the earliest classes to enjoy Prof. Taliaferro’s energetic and entertaining teaching. While I have not followed in the philosophical footsteps of many of those who have responded here, (I went into business, first with IBM and then into Real Estate) I believe that the logical reasoning I learned during my philosophical studies at St. Olaf has served me well over the years. In business, it taught me to formulate my arguments, problem-solve and write with clarity. In life, raising my two sons, it prepared me for many debates where I needed my wits to reason with them, to be sure. My oldest son is currently a sophomore at Yale University studying Mathematics and Computer Science and loves the rigor of a good philosophical argument (he’s very logical!) and my younger son is now a senior in high school, president of his school’s Philosophy Club, and in the midst of preparing his application to St. Olaf as I write.