Alumni Achievement Awards 2019
Each year, St. Olaf College recognizes alumni whose service and leadership exemplify the ideals and mission of the college. In honoring these graduates for their exceptional achievements and professional contributions, they become an integral part of college history and a testament to St. Olaf’s tradition of excellence. The college was pleased to recognize the 2019 recipients — Nathan Lindgren ’63, Karine Swensen Moe ’85, P’19, and as a group, Jerry Appeldoorn ’67, Douglas Tate ’70, P’06, Robert Gehringer ’71, and John Mittelsteadt ’81, P’10, ’12, ’15 — during Homecoming Weekend.
Distinguished Alumni Award
Nathan Lindgren ’63
Physicist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory
Nathan Lindgren has led a life embodied by quintessential values ingrained at St. Olaf. His professional achievements, as well as his deeply grounded commitment to serving the world beyond his Upper Midwestern roots, reflect a life well lived in the service of others.
Lindgren earned a B.A. degree in physics and religion, Phi Beta Kappa, from St. Olaf in 1963. “He’s unfailingly proud of being a St. Olaf alumnus,” says his wife, Denise Picard Lindgren, on his behalf. (Lindgren is living with Alzheimer’s disease.) Lindgren was empowered by his Christian faith, his family, and his St. Olaf education, which gave him a “solid foundation for all that he pursued after leaving campus,” Denise says.
While Lindgren was a St. Olaf student, President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps to foster mutual understanding between Americans and peoples of other nations and cultures. Lindgren felt called to serve and, after graduation, spent a summer in training at Cornell University before joining one of the Corps’ first contingents abroad. He served two years in Sierra Leone, teaching high school math and science courses. He also established a local Boy Scout Troop, drawing on his own experience as an Eagle Scout. Lindgren enjoyed pursuing his lifelong passions for paleontology and hiking while he lived in Africa, as well as later in life in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, not far from his home in Massachusetts.
“Nate’s spirit as a doer was nurtured at St. Olaf,” Denise says. “The Peace Corps also inspired his love of adventure and enabled him to put his education to use.” Upon completion of his service, he returned to the United States to teach science and math at a “last chance high school” in Oakland, California, for students who had previously dropped out of school. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at the University of California–Berkeley in 1970. His thesis, “Electrostatic Oscillations of an Inhomogeneous Plasma,” was adapted for publication in The Physics of Fluids Journal in 1976.
Shortly thereafter, Lindgren returned to Africa to teach physics for two years at the University of Malawi, and in 1978, he co-authored a monograph on rock art and Nyau symbolism in Malawi that was published by the country’s Department of Antiquities. In 1983, a Fulbright Scholarship brought him back to the university as a lecturer in its Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. His time in both Sierra Leone and Malawi inspired his lifelong love of the cultures and people of Africa. “Nate has always been interested in other people’s lives, wanting to connect on a human level, not just an intellectual level,” Denise says.
In 1974, Lindgren joined the technical staff in the Ballistic Missile Defense Division at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, a federally funded research center that develops advanced technologies to meet critical national security needs. He spent the next 40 years of his career there as an expert researcher in radar studies, retiring in 2014 as a senior staff member. Many of Lindgren’s contributions have been pivotal in U.S. defense systems deployed around the world. He was known for teaching and mentoring junior staff and colleagues, and he developed a course on radar studies that is taught in the lab’s internal training program.
Lindgren is proud of his deep Norwegian heritage, and both Nathan and Denise Picard Lindgren have made significant contributions to St. Olaf, including supporting the Norwegian-American Historical Association and the Lindgren-Lohre Scholarship Fund. His wife is working on his behalf with St. Olaf faculty members regarding the potential donation of his extensive invertebrate fossil collection to the college to be used for undergraduate instruction.
“St. Olaf stands for an education that enriches you personally, but is meant to enrich the world as well.” — Nathan Lindgren ’63
Alumni Achievement Award
Karine Swensen Moe ’85, P’19
Provost and Dean of the Faculty, F. R. Bigelow Professor of Economics, Macalester college
Karine Swensen Moe’s distinguished career in economics was first influenced by her education at St. Olaf. A native of Long Island, New York, Moe chose the college in part to experience a different way of living in America. Once there, she fell in love with studying economics, particularly the way it uses logic and mathematics to study human behavior. Her academic work, coupled with participation in St. Olaf’s Global Semester, fostered her deep desire to understand how women in particular are affected by differing economies.
“I developed a broader global perspective at St. Olaf,” Moe says. “My education there not only changed how I viewed my place in the world but also my understanding of how the world works.” In addition to a B.A. degree in economics from St. Olaf, Moe holds a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Minnesota. “St. Olaf gave me the building blocks to go on to study both public policy and economics at a higher level,” Moe says.
Moe has spent her entire career at Macalester, beginning in 1995 as an economics professor with teaching interests in labor economics, gender, and poverty. She was awarded tenure in 2001 and named the F.R. Bigelow Professor of Economics in 2010. From 2005 to 2007, she was associate director of Macalester’s Center for Scholarship and Teaching, during which time she created and implemented a faculty mentoring program. She began her work as provost in 2015.
“In the classroom, I found day-to-day engagement with students to be incredibly rewarding,” Moe says. “As provost, my role is to create an environment where faculty members and students can continue to have those close mentoring relationships.”
Moe’s understanding of economics, her problem-solving abilities, and her compassionate leadership have served her well in overseeing Macalester’s faculty. Her leadership contributions include restructuring Macalester’s Institute for Global Citizenship to better integrate multiculturalism and inclusion into the institute’s work. She has led incentives resulting in faculty of color now comprising 43 percent of new tenure-track hires. Since 2015, she has presided over the development of a new entrepreneurship program and co-led the design and construction of a new $32 million theater, dance, and classroom building. She has been the principal investigator on numerous grants awarded to Macalester, including a current $800,000 Mellon Foundation grant to improve digital competencies in the humanities by supporting interdisciplinary teaching.
As a labor economist, Moe is interested in issues related to how women’s use of time affects labor market outcomes. She has published extensively, and her many articles and book chapters have been cited numerous times. She is the co-authored the book Glass Ceilings and 100-hour Couples: What the Opt-Out Phenomenon Can Teach Us about Work and Family and edited the textbook Women, Family, and Work: Writings on the Economics of Gender, which is popular in undergraduate courses. She also speaks regularly on topics at the intersection of gender and economics, as well as on issues affecting higher education.
Moe serves on the executive committee of the Advisory Board of Deans for the Associated Colleges of the Midwest. She also is a board member of the Minnesota Institute for Talented Youth and has been a non-Board of Trustees member of Macalester’s Investment Committee. She was recently named as an Alumni of Notable Achievement by the University of Minnesota. Her family includes her husband, Paul Moe ’83, and her children, Avery Moe and Halsey Moe ’19.
“I developed a broader global perspective at St. Olaf. This not only changed how I viewed my place in the world, but also my understanding of how the world works.” — Karin Moe ’85
Outstanding Service Award
Doctors Douglas Tate ’70, P’06, pediatrician; Jerry Appledoorn ’67, dentist; Robert Gehringer ’71, pediatrician and medical director of Health Bridges International; and John Mittelsteadt ’81, P’10, ’12, ’15, dentist
Co-founders of the Peruvian Medical Experience Interim
These four service-minded medical professionals have long shared their expertise in the health sciences and mentored scores of St. Olaf students. Drs. Jerry Appeldoorn, Douglas Tate, Robert Gehringer, and John Mittelsteadt have made significant contributions to St. Olaf’s Peruvian Medical Experience (PME), developing and sustaining the service-learning program since its inception in 2005. PME continues to offer a life-changing experiential learning opportunity for students who are studying the health sciences and planning careers in health care.
The annual three-week program began when Tate, a pediatrician who had just returned from a medical service trip to Peru, worked with Biology Professor Ted Johnson to develop a study-service trip for students interested in the health professions. PME has since partnered with more than 200 St. Olaf students and nearly 20 volunteer medical professionals to serve patients living in poverty in the Peruvian cities of Cusco and Arequipa and the isolated Quechua Andean community of Willoq. Tate has participated in PME every year of its existence. He assists in the selection of student participants, and recruits and coordinates the volunteer team of pediatricians and internal medicine and family practice physicians that travel to Peru each year.
“The most important aspect of the Peruvian Medical Experience is to help students figure out their vocational niche, which is pretty hard to do. But they benefit from testing the waters,” Tate says. “We also hope to foster a spirit of service among the students no matter where they serve — internationally or in their own communities.”
Appeldoorn, who was recruited to PME by Johnson, established the program’s first dental clinic. He and Mittelsteadt, PME’s current lead dentist, worked together during many trips to Peru, acquiring the supplies and dental equipment necessary for the clinic. They also recruited dental assistants from their offices to accompany the group.
“We rented and borrowed equipment and made do with what we could carry through customs,” Appeldoorn says. “None of it would have been possible without the help of the many dental professionals who volunteered their time and service.” Mittelsteadt noted that the experience of both Dan Raether ’79 and Eric Gretzner has been invaluable to the program.
Gehringer, a pediatrician with extensive experience in international child health care — particularly in Peru — first volunteered his services with PME in 2008. He oversees the group during its week in Arequipa, organizing service-learning opportunities for the students, who spend a week interacting with the community and reflecting on all they’ve seen and learned in Peru.
“They’re able to see themselves as a world citizen in a global context that extends beyond the United States and see how culture and poverty impact health care, and how their experience in Peru may impact their own future career choices,” Gehringer says. “I’m continually inspired by the students — they’re inquisitive and thoughtful, and I’m optimistic about shifting responsibilities and leadership to this next generation.”
Both Tate and Mittelsteadt have also had pivotal roles in establishing Andean Community Partners, a nonprofit organization that is providing the infrastructure needed to improve health, education, air and water quality, and transportation in Andean communities. The organization also trains Peruvian medical care coordinators, who regularly visit the communities to provide basic health and dental care.
“This organization grew out of a desire to extend our footprint beyond one month a year by helping Peruvians provide year-round health care so that these communities become more self-sufficient,” Mittelsteadt says.
The careers of Appeldoorn, Tate, Gehringer, and Mittelsteadt reflect their compassion and commitment to serving others, from participation in international medical service work to the founding of nonprofit organizations focused on health care for underserved populations.
“The most important aspect of the Peruvian Medical Experience is to help students figure out their vocational niche, which is pretty hard to do. But they benefit from testing the waters. We also hope to foster a spirit of service among the students no matter where they serve — internationally or in their own communities.” — Douglas Tate ’70, P’06
Douglas Tate ’70 earned a B.A. degree in biology from St. Olaf. He also holds an M.D. and a Ph.D. in anatomy from the University of Minnesota. He was a pediatrician affiliated with several hospitals, including Children’s Minnesota, Fairview Ridges, Fairview Southdale, and Abbott Northwestern. He retired in 2014 from Metropolitan Pediatric Specialists in Edina. Tate’s previous medical mission work with Children’s Surgical International inspired the founding of the Peruvian Medical Experience. In addition to his medical volunteerism, he served as the head reserve team coach of the St. Olaf men’s soccer program for 13 years. Tate and his wife, Cory, are the parents of two sons, Chris Tate ’06, who participated in PME as a student, and Alex Tate.
Jerry Appeldoorn ’67 attended St. Olaf for one year before transferring to the University of Minnesota to complete his undergraduate degree. He earned a D.D.S. from the university in 1969 and later was a clinical assistant professor in its dental school for 14 years. He also served for two years in the Air Force Dental Corps. In 1978, Appeldoorn left his private practice in Minneapolis to move to Northfield, where he founded Professional Drive Dental Group and practiced dentistry for 37 years. He is a founding board member and dental director for HealthFinders Collaborative, a health care organization that provides access for underinsured, uninsured, and low-income residents of Rice County, Minnesota. In addition, he volunteers at community dental clinics and is a past president of the Minnesota Dental Association’s Southeastern District Dental Society. Appeldoorn is married to Karen Hanson Appeldoorn ’67; they have two daughters and three grandchildren.
Robert Gehringer ’71 earned a B.A. degree in biology from St. Olaf and an M.D. from the University of Nebraska. He recently retired as a pediatric hospitalist with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin–Fox Valley. Gehringer has dedicated a significant portion of his career to international child health care, having served in Peru as country coordinator for the American Academy of Pediatrics’ International Child Health Network. He spends three to four months annually in South America in his role as medical director for Health Bridges International, a U.S.- and Peru-based NGO. Since 2013, Gehringer has created and led ongoing training programs in neonatal resuscitation for more than 5,000 Peruvian midwives, nurses, and physicians in an effort to decrease newborn mortality and morbidity in each of Peru’s 24 states. His past medical service work includes volunteer stints in Jamaica and Honduras with the NGOs Medical Ministry International and Global Healing. He is married to pediatrician Natalie Larsen Gehringer ’71.
John Mittelsteadt ’81 earned a B.A. degree in biology from St. Olaf and a D.D.S. from the University of Minnesota’s School of Dentistry, where he has also taught. Founder of the Eagan Valley Dental Center in Eagan, Minnesota, Mittelsteadt began volunteering in dentistry at the Twin Cities Union Gospel Mission in 1984. He now serves on the mission’s board, overseeing the creation of its independent Hope Dental Clinic, which serves the public through free dental care and education. Mittelsteadt is married to Lisa Gronseth Mittelsteadt ’83 and is the father of three sons: Marcus Mittelsteadt ’10, Michael Mittelsteadt ’12, and Matthew Mittelsteadt’15. Marcus and Michael participated in PME while they were students at St. Olaf, and Michael has traveled with the group as a volunteer dentist.