Gustavus alumni and college supporters kicked off Gustavus Homecoming Weekend Friday night in Lund Arena with a gala dinner in celebration of the College’s Sesquicentennial year and the launch of a new fundraising effort called Campaign Gustavus.

While the Sesquicentennial officially began at the start of the year with the Back to School Bash, Friday’s gala dinner kicked off the first public celebrations of the College’s 150 year.

“The 150 anniversary is a significant milestone. All year long we will reflect on all that has been done in 150 years to help Gustavus become one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation, celebrate our history, be courageous enough to think boldly about our future and engage our alumni and friends in building even a greater Gustavus,” President Jack Ohle said.
The gala dinner complements the traditional Gustavus homecoming events, including the homecoming parade, football game and Fifth Quarter alumni tent. Additions this year include the Pep Fest, a fireworks show and Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. concert featuring Eric Hutchinson.

The rest of the state will join Gustavus in celebrating on Saturday, with Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, who has  named October 1, 2011 as Gustavus Adolphus College Day.

Sesquicentennial celebrations won’t end with Homecoming. Events will be held throughout the year, both on campus and off.

“The unique part about our Sesquicentennial is that we are doing the things we do every year, but everything is just a little bit more focused,” Sesquicentennial Assistant Maggie Hedlund said.

In addition to traditional fixtures of Gustavus life, like the Nobel Conference, MAYDAY! and Building Bridges, there will be special events hosted throughout the year funded by Sesquicentennial departmental grants.

For Gustavus alumni unable to make it to campus for the Sesquicentennial celebrations, Gustavus will be holding alumni events throughout the year in many cities across the country, including New York, Dallas and Seattle.

“We’re trying to bring the Sesquicentennial to people who can’t get here to celebrate,” Alumni Relations Engagement Coordinator Megan Myhre said.

For many in the Gustavus community, the Sesquicentennial is more than just a celebration of 150 years of history.
“There are really two parts to this weekend: first, we are reflecting on the past and celebrating what it means to be a Gustie now. Second, we are engaging people to build resources at this college for future generations of Gusties,” Assistant to the President for Special Projects Barb Larson Taylor said.

Friday’s gala dinner served as an initial step linking 150 years of history at Gustavus and the efforts that will sustain its future. The Chairman of the Gustavus Adolphus College Board of Trustees Mark Bernhardson set in motion a tangible component to those efforts with the unveiling of a new fundraising initiative called Campaign Gustavus.

The campaign, which aims to fund the recommendations put forth by Commission Gustavus 150—the series of committees tasked with developing a strategic framework for the future of the College—has already raised more than $70 million of its $150 million goal.

Bernhardson also announced to the more than 750 dinner attendees that Warren and Donna Beck—for whom Warren & Donna Beck Academic Hall is named—will serve as the Chairs of Campaign Gustavus.

“Donna and I feel called at this time in our lives to lead this transformation endeavor—Campaign Gustavus,”Warren Beck said. “We see ourselves as partners in this collective effort. It is up to all of us to seize this opportunity to enable future generations of Gusties to learn how to pursue lives of leadership and service and discover how to make their lives count.”
At the dinner, notable alumni and supporters shared their experiences with the core values of the College: Excellence, Community, Justice, Service, and Faith.

Featured speakers at the dinner included Mayanthi Jayawardena ‘11, a tsunami relief activist and former chair of Building Bridges; Dr. Robert Brown ‘83, Chief of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic; Dr. Mary Nelson ‘61, the founder of community development organization Bethel New Life; and Rev. Dr. Herb Chilstrom, the first Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a Gustavus parent and St. Peter resident. Jonathan Poole ‘01, Special Agent in the Violent Crimes Branch of the U.S. Department of State, was featured in a video on the importance of Service.

President Ohle also announced the establishment of “The Sesquicentennial Award”, which will be presented throughout the year to 150 distinguished alumni, supporters, and friends of Gustavus who have made a significant difference in the life of the College.

The first round of awards was given out Friday, with President Ohle presenting Sesquicentennial Awards to the living Chairs of the Board of Trustees, and Bernhardson presenting Awards to all living Presidents of the College and their spouses.

The night concluded with a performance by the Gustavus Trumpet Ensemble of “Fanfare 150,” an original piece composed by Professor of Music Dr. Steve Wright.

More information, history and photos regarding the Gustavus Sesquicentennial can be found at the newly launched Sesquicentennial website, gustavus.edu/150.