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Volume Seventeen, Number Four (April 2016)


“What we have loved, others will love, and we will teach them how.”

(W. Wordsworth, from “The Prelude”)





What you think


It’s a beautiful spring day here in Minnesota and we’ve just celebrated a remarkable weekend on campus. We broke ground on our transformative Hagfors Center for Science, Business and Religion (and construction commenced this morning!) and then we graduated the class of 2016 on Saturday, including one of the most diverse undergraduate classes in the US – 42% of our grads were students of color. I’m catching up a bit on my Notes, but still basking in the special moments we celebrated here on campus!


Occasionally, I (or my colleagues) refer to items from previous issues of Notes.   If you have not been a subscriber previously, and wish to review our conversations, past issues of Notes are available on-line at I thank my friends at Johnson, Grossnickle & Associates for their many years of abiding support for our reflective practice.





Drawn to the light


I preached the following homily in the Augsburg Chapel during the Second Week in Easter.


(Scripture: John 3: 12-21)


In these early days after Easter, I often find myself imagining the experience of the 1st century disciples of Jesus after the provocative events of the past few days. The betrayals and denials, the wrenching crucifixion, the reports of an empty tomb, the appearances in upper rooms and along the road – the fear, the doubt, the loss, the confusion about what will happen now. And I wonder what we 21st century disciples might learn from these experiences 2000 years ago as we reflect once again on our lives of faith? What do Mary and Thomas and Peter and James and John, among the saints of our faith, have to teach us about what we are called to do here and now? Are there saints in our midst today who continue to teach us the way of faith?


It is intriguing to have these verses from John’s gospel assigned for the Wednesday of this second week in Easter – familiar verses for many of us, verses captured in a gospel written decades after the events in Jerusalem that we remember in Holy Week and Easter, and verses that remind us that the early faithful looked back on Jesus’s teaching and ministry as a pattern for their lives as they sought to live as his disciples in the world.


Let’s take a look at the logic of these verses. First, he challenges them (and us) to believe in him so that we might have life abundant and eternal. It begins with faith. Second, he proclaims the central message of our faith that our God sent God’s only Son into the midst of human history so that the world God loves so very much might be redeemed. It is grounded in God’s love for the world. And finally, Jesus calls us to be drawn to the light, to what is true, to lives and deeds done in God. It is about living as those who love the light and aren’t afraid to have their deeds known before each other and our God.


Saved through faith, called into the world God loves, challenged to be God’s light in all we do – here is a pattern for the life of discipleship, here is what it means to live as Easter people, people of the resurrection.


This Eastertide I am mindful of how important it is to find in our own 21st century lives those who have followed this pattern and who show in their lives what it means to follow Jesus – where are our 21st century saints and what lessons do we learn from them about discipleship? I’ve got a few lessons and saints in mind…


Nobody said it would be easy. This is such a tough message for all of us – especially for young people. In a world where our national character is marked by inequality and greed and fear, how can we expect to overcome the sense of entitlement that invades all aspects of our personal and public lives? I deserve that scholarship, that car, that job, that relationship, that stock option, that respect…When I am asked to offer my understanding of vocation, I always include the fact that it may be sacrificial – and I’ve had students tell me how helpful it is to consider that we may be called to places and challenges unknown and daunting. It may not be easy, though the world would have us believe otherwise. The early disciples accepted the call, and though I imagine they had their share of doubts along the way, they did what Jesus called them to do – to continue a ministry of healing and compassion, to share the good news, to live as those who love the light. The way of discipleship, the German theologian and World War II martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer tells us, is “costly.” The cross is more than a symbol of our faith – it is a way of faithful and joyful living – and nobody said it would be easy.


Recently I learned that 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of a man whose name we all know, but whose story we may not – a man who understood that it wasn’t always easy to live faithfully in the world. That man is Brian Coyle, after whom the Brian Coyle Community Center down the street is named. Brian Coyle was born in 1944. He was active in the anti-war movement in the 1960s – he resisted the draft. In 1971, Brian Coyle “came out” as a gay man – certainly a courageous stance at that time in our history. He was resilient and persistent in all he did in his life. He ran for public office and after several tries was elected to the Minneapolis City Council in 1983, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the country. Brian Coyle became a voice for the disenfranchised in our city – immigrants and refugees, people in poverty, people of color, people of diverse sexual and gender identities and orientations. In 1991, Brian Coyle was diagnosed with the AIDS virus, and died a few months later. His funeral was held at Wesley Church in downtown Minneapolis, a choice he made so that his family and friends would know that there was one church in our city that would accept a gay man who had died of AIDS. As our neighbor, Pastor Greg Renstrom, has written “Even in dying, he lived for others. That is a saintly life. Brian Coyle was a saint.” We celebrate that saintly life today and in the months ahead as we recall the lessons Brian Coyle taught us about discipleship, lessons that draw us to the light.


Keep your faith and keep your wits.  This is the stuff of patience, which may be the most essential skill for faithful living in the world – and the early disciples surely were role models of patience. Why didn’t they just run away and save themselves? I imagine they may have had that temptation, but they took up their work and the rest is history. Surely patience is a trait not always valued in our culture today. We’re in a perpetual hurry, lamenting a lack of time, never catching up, cutting corners to get ahead. And we’re called to pay attention to God’s time, to the arc and horizon of God’s love breaking in again and again to our lives in the world. We’re called to keep our faith – and our wits – by being patient and watching for what God is doing and calls to us do as God’s people.


I have been thinking about this lesson a good bit recently as I consider the example of our friend (and Augsburg graduate), Martin Sabo, whose remarkable career of public service was celebrated just a couple of weeks ago at his funeral. How did he do it over the almost 50 years he served in public office? Surely he models a life of patience for all of us. Those of us who had the privilege to known him know that he listened carefully, he discussed and reflected, he waited for wisdom and insight, he prayed and worshipped, he considered the wider context and important relationships, he was not afraid to take an unpopular position if it is in pursuit of the greater good. He made our world a better place. Now I don’t imagine Martin would appreciate comparison to the early disciples – he was the consummate modest Norwegian-American – but I believe that his example of faithful living, pointing to the One who was to come, coupled with his intentional living, keeping his wits, if you will, as he doggedly went about his daily business, helps us to understand what it means to be patient. And Martin is a modern-day witness to how faithful and intentional living – the stuff of patience – is the essential skill for our lives in the world, as we are drawn to the light.


Turn, turn, turn because God’s love is breaking in again and again. And here then is the call all of us must heed as people of faith, saints and sinners called to be God’s people and do God’s work in the world. The late Lutheran theologian and preacher, Joseph Sittler, once said that the whole of the Christian life is summed up in the liturgical formula, “O God, from whom no secrets are hid.” Wow. That is a more than ever relevant message for all of us. Your God knows you – your God has named you – your God loves you – no secrets are hidden from God’s loving gaze. Turn away from your sins because life abundant is yours through the graceful gift of faith, ours in the Easter promise. You are my beloved, our God says, turn to me and all things will be new.


These then are the lessons of Eastertide – 2000 years ago as much as today: To pay attention to a God who knows us so well – who knows it won’t be easy, who knows we will struggle to keep our faith and our wits, who knows how difficult it is to turn away from our comfortable lives – and because God knows us, God does not leave us alone.


This Eastertide, may we pursue God’s work for our time, may we pay attention to the ways in which we are called to love each other and all of creation, again and again. It is our Easter call. Shall we pay attention together – pay attention to the needs of the world – pay attention for peace, for our children, for a living wage, for Black lives, for a world that hungers no more, for justice in the land, for a sustainable earth, for common purpose? Will you pay attention and give up your comfort and safety – perhaps even your life – to do God’s will? There is work to be done, a promise to be fulfilled, life abundant to know and enjoy.


God sends us God’s only Son. Then God sends us the early disciples, the saints of the ages, and the saints of our time like Brian Coyle and Martin Sabo and countless other faithful witnesses whose lives draw us to the light. And then God sends us, this community of faithful brothers and sister, to bear testimony to the light, the love of God breaking into our world with words and deeds of faith and hope and love. Thanks be to God. Amen.



A fierce independence


I mentioned in my last issue of Notes that I had been asked to contribute a chapter to a volume celebrating the 200-year anniversary of statehood for Indiana – a volume focused on the role that philanthropy has played in that history. My chapter focused specifically on higher education and philanthropy. Here are excerpts that give you a flavor of the (still in draft form) chapter…


“One of the great treasures to be celebrated on the occasion of Indiana’s 200th anniversary of statehood is its robust and diverse higher education community. From great public universities to flagship research institutions; from leading liberal arts colleges to faithful and high-quality sectarian institutions, the state of Indiana is home to a remarkable legacy of higher education.


The evolution of Indiana’s higher education community over the past 200 years is a story of passionate individuals and communities, seeking to ensure a citizenry and a body politic in which education is a vital public good. At the same time, it is a story of generous and often strategic philanthropy aimed at ensuring that these various institutions – public and private – can pursue their missions with a fierce independence.


In what follows, we intend to highlight five particular themes related to the history of higher education in Indiana and the role that philanthropy has played in the founding and flourishing of colleges and universities in the state. This selective approach means, of course, that much will be left unsaid about this history, but we would argue that the themes we have chosen provide a fitting framework for exploring this history and understanding its central dynamics.


After some introductory reflections on the core motivations to found and support higher education institutions and a brief reflection on how an 1819 Supreme Court case set a course for the emergence of robust public and private sectors for higher education, we turn to our five themes:


  • The founding of a great public university in 1820;
  • The Lilly legacy – family, corporation and Endowment;
  • The creation of the Associated Colleges of Indiana;
  • The role of faith communities in founding and supporting colleges and universities; and,
  • The links between a strong city and a public university – the founding of IUPUI.



Higher Education and Philanthropy


The story of philanthropic giving to colleges and universities in Indiana has been guided by two core beliefs, common to the history of higher education in the United States. The first of those core beliefs is that “giving is a response to divine blessing,”[1] motivated by the belief that everything we are given, including wealth, is a gift from God and should be used accordingly in God’s honor. Many of Indiana’s higher education institutions were founded by those who held this belief. They made it their explicit goal to educate new generations of Christian men and women with the firm conviction that those leading religious lives should also have an educational foundation on which to base their understanding of Christianity. Even the founding of non-sectarian and public institutions often was premised on the spread of religious values and their parallel civic virtues.[2]


The second core belief stresses “social need and a horizontal movement of benefits among humans.”[3] Those who worked to found Indiana’s colleges and universities and those who supported them did so to improve the knowledge and the lives of the people in their communities. Philanthropists like Eli Lilly, who have pride for their home state and for whom higher education was a symbol of the American Dream, were motivated to give to Indiana colleges to keep the state flourishing for Hoosiers in years to come.


An expansive understanding of philanthropy, defined by Robert L. Payton as “voluntary action for the public good”,[4] suggests that the founding and flourishing of colleges and universities is, at its core, the result of philanthropic intent and activity. Higher education, whether focused on the formation of individual values or the betterment of society, is a public good supported by the many forms in which philanthropy is practiced. As we will show in the case studies below, Indiana has been a leader in many of these philanthropic practices aimed at securing a vital higher education community….


[What follows is one of the five case studies in the chapter.]


Seeking Independence Together: The Idea behind the Associated Colleges of Indiana


Federated fundraising has a long history in the American context. As early as the colonial period, representatives of charitable and educational organizations traveled together in England and beyond to solicit funds for their organizations.[5] The case to be made for this cooperative fundraising was compelling for both donors and recipients. It gave charitable organizations the opportunity to amplify the impact of their common work, even as it offered efficiencies in the work of fundraising. For the donors, it was an opportunity to support that common work across the sector, even as it lessened the number of solicitations from individual causes.


The Community Chest movement (now the United Way), first launched on a broad scale in 1913 in Cleveland, Ohio,[6] is perhaps the most impressive model for this federated fundraising, primarily supporting local charitable agencies serving a particular community. For colleges and universities, the first large scale federated effort was the United Negro College Fund, begun in 1944 by 27 member colleges, raising an impressive $765,000 in its first year, 30% of which came from corporations.[7]


This effort quickly drew attention from the higher education community, especially from those who were concerned about the financial plight of independent, private colleges and universities, and who believed that the relationships between higher education and the corporate community needed to be strengthened.


In Indiana, there were several higher education, civic and business leaders who shared this perspective. In December 1943, Indianapolis attorney Kurt F. Pantzer hosted these individuals in his home to explore the ways in which they might respond to their common concern to ensure the survival of small, independent, church-related, non-tax-supported colleges and universities. It was an impressive assemblage, including the presidents of Indiana University, Purdue University, DePauw University, Earlham College, Wabash College and Evansville College, as well as corporate leaders from Eli Lilly and Company, Perfect Circle Corporation and P. R. Mallory and Company.[8]


Of particular concern to these men was the possibility that these small schools would need to turn to the federal government for support and bear the regulatory control and oversight that might accompany such support. They considered a variety of alternatives, but ultimately agreed that the best option was to pursue cooperative fundraising, particularly from corporations.


This meeting’s conclusions gave impetus to Attorney Pantzer’s dream to create what he called the Indiana Institute for the Support of Education,[9] which would serve as the collaborative organization to raise funds and advocate for independent higher education. Though Pantzer’s dream never became a reality, it was a helpful blueprint years later when the Associated Colleges of Indiana (ACI) was created.


One of the key architects of the ACI was Wabash College President Frank Sparks, who was present at the initial Pantzer meeting and who reflected in his own background the nexus of corporate and higher education leadership.[10] Rising in the 1920s and 30s to lead Noblitt-Sparks Industries, an automotive accessories company in Columbus, Indiana, Sparks retired from the company in 1937, returned to graduate school to receive his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, and became president of Wabash in 1941, serving until his retirement in 1956.

In personal correspondence with Eli Lilly in 1944, seeking Mr. Lilly’s endorsement of and engagement with the Indiana Institute, Sparks waxes eloquent about the potential of this initiative, concluding that despite his deep attachment to Wabash College, “my estimate of the importance of this new venture…is the only educational activity of which I have knowledge – the advancement of which I would put ahead of our own institution”.[11]


Though Mr. Lilly did not immediately endorse the project – the demands of wartime America and other charitable commitments led him to respond to Sparks with these words, illustrative of his personal style: “Your letter of October 28, about Mr. Kurt Pantzer’s brilliant idea is much appreciated, and from what you say it must have made as great an impression upon you as it did upon me. I only wish I had the time and ability to help push such things through, but many other things stand first”.[12]


But “this brilliant idea” did, in fact, come to fruition, overcoming reluctance among some of the private college leaders to form an alliance with business, and finally receiving Mr. Lilly’s blessing in early 1947.[13] The effort began informally with Sparks and Earlham president Jones making a series of joint visits to Indiana corporations in 1948, and receiving two modest gifts totaling $15,000. Two other presidents joined them in 1949 and 100 appeals were made to corporation executives, raising $65,000 from 27 businesses.[14]


The case for corporate support of private higher education was strong. At that time, almost 50% of those who pursued higher education in the United States attended private institutions. Corporate contributions through taxes paid a large portion of the operating costs of public institutions, but they gave almost nothing to the private colleges that were educating their future workforce. And yet, there were many industries that doubted the associated college movement and that even questioned the legality of corporate philanthropy. In 1951, the not-yet incorporated group of private colleges organized a series of meetings across the state to explain the federal law established in 1935 (the so-called “five-percent tax privilege”) that encouraged corporate giving.[15]


The compelling case for corporate support and advocacy in the corporate community for private higher education propelled the growth of the ACI over the next several years. Four more institutions joined in 1950, three more in 1951, and the final inaugural member in 1952, bringing the total membership to twelve institutions and raising almost $150,000 in federated support for their operating budgets.[16]


In 1952, the Associated Colleges of Indiana was formally incorporated:


To encourage and promote scientific, literary and educational purposes within the State of Indiana, and more particularly to further the cause of higher education and culture within the State; to support the Members of the Corporation in a cooperative movement to secure eminent teachers, worthy students, and adequate plants and equipment; to broaden the foundation of higher education and culture in the State of Indiana; and to stimulate interest of the citizens of the State of Indiana in educational and cultural pursuits.[17]


Significant operating support from Lilly Endowment, first funded in 1952 and sustained over many decades, created the infrastructure needed to support and expand ACI’s work. Within two years, ACI had doubled its fundraising to almost $300,000 from 149 corporations and businesses.


Though not all private institutions chose to join ACI, believing that their reputation and profile made it better to seek corporate support on their own, for those who did join, the corporate support generated through ACI offered an important stream of philanthropic revenue to support their fragile operations and secured a relationship between private higher education and the corporate community that was groundbreaking.


Many things have changed in the philanthropic work of colleges and universities since ACI was established. Today, the Independent Colleges of Indiana, the successor organization for ACI, represents 31 private higher education institutions in Indiana (including several of those who chose not to join in its initial years) and serves both as a cooperative fundraising organization and a public and government advocacy group.[18] Though individual institutions long since have developed their own robust fundraising operations, these federations – albeit serving wider purposes – continue to serve as important symbols of an idea first launched in Indiana….



Conclusion: A Fierce Independence for 200 years and beyond


The challenge of this brief overview of 200 years of the history of the nexus between higher education and philanthropy in Indiana is all that must be left unexplored and unsaid. The vitality of both the public and private higher education sectors in Indiana is the envy of many and deserves a comprehensive history. For our purposes, though, we can draw several conclusions and lessons learned from our research – lessons that may suggest a path forward for the years ahead.


First, there has always been an understanding on the part of the higher education community in Indiana that these colleges and universities, no matter their mission and status, play essential roles in the economies, communities and civic life of the state—there is public-spiritedness to these institutions. Whether in South Bend or Crawfordsville, Indianapolis or Bloomington, Fort Wayne or Anderson, Muncie or Evansville, higher education institutions across the state view themselves as serving important public roles. Certainly their core mission is educating people for lives of meaning and purpose – many of whom will pursue their work and civic lives in the state. Equally impressive is the role these institutions play as anchors in their communities – economic engines, conveners of important conversations, stewards of place, and so on.


There also is an impressive thread of innovation and nimbleness in the role of colleges and universities in the state. From the pioneer role played by Indiana University in carving out a vision of public higher education, to the entrepreneurial efforts of Kurt Pantzer and Frank Sparks to secure corporate funding for private institutions, to the founding of a distinctive urban university in Indianapolis, Hoosier higher education leaders have been leaders in key areas of innovation in higher education – often supported by strategic philanthropy.


Finally, there is throughout the history of the links between higher education and philanthropy in Indiana a deep sense of Hoosier pride that often presents itself as a fierce independence; an aversion even to relinquishing control to others as institutions live out their missions. It seems part of Indiana’s character, this fierce independence, almost always supported by generous and passionate donors who share the values and commitments of the institutions they love. Though the shifting sands of higher education financing and oversight sometimes threaten this independence, the principled spirit that characterizes higher education in Indiana ensures that, at its best, there will always be those who stand up and fight to maintain that independence and the sort of education it fosters.


Public-spiritedness, innovation and fierce independence – the stuff of higher education in Indiana during the past 200 years, perhaps more relevant than ever as we plot our way into the next 200 years!”





Augsburg’s vocation – defined


A group of faculty and staff here at Augsburg have worked over the past few months to craft a succinct articulation of our institutional vocation. Here are their inspiring words…

  1. We believe we are called to serve the neighbor.

  2. God calls and frees us to live in responsible relationships in the world.

  3. Freedom comes from a compassionate God who empowers humans to steward creation and care for one another.

  4. God frees us for abundant life together, a freedom from fear and shame, and freedom from political and religious ideologies.

  5. Our neighbors are the people, creatures, and contexts that depend on us and upon whom we rely.

  6. Vocation is a summons to engage the neighbor in our common life together.

  7. Responding to this call opens deeper discovery into who we are and the meaning and purpose of our lives.

  8. Augsburg College is a community of students, faculty, staff and alumni whose daily work pursues multiple pathways of inquiry into how we might best live in freedom and responsibility for the sake of the world.




Resources for your reflective practice


I am enjoying Outlaw Christian: Finding Authentic Faith by Breaking the “Rules” (Nelson Books, 2016), written by colleague Jacqueline Bussie, professor of religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. She gets it!


Also, Augsburg’s own Professor of Religion, Mark Tranvik (a classmate of mine from Luther College!) has just published Martin Luther and the Called Life (Fortress Press, 2016). I look forward to being with Mark on a journey to Wittenberg, Germany next May in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.


Finally, I am inspired (once again) by Krista Tippett, in her new Becoming Wise: AN Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living (Penguin Press, 2016)





Just a few days ago, my spouse, Abigail, and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary – wonderful! Here is a delightful poem from Billy Collins to mark the occasion.


I want to carry you

and for you to carry me

the way voices are said to carry over water.

Just this morning on the shore,

I could hear two people talking quietly

in a rowboat on the far side of the lake.

They were talking about fishing,

then one changed the subject,

and, I swear, they began talking about you.


-from The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems




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(c) Paul Pribbenow, 2016



[1] John R. Thelin and Richard W. Trollinger, Philanthropy and American Higher Education, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, 49.

[2] For example, see Thomas D. Clark, Indiana University: Midwestern Pioneer, Volume I/The Early Years, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1970, 3-4, for this point related to the founding of Indiana University and other early public universities.

[3] Thelin and Trollinger, op cit., 50.

[4] Robert L. Payton, Philanthropy: Voluntary Action for the Public Good, New York: Greenwood, 1988.

[5] Robert H. Bremner, American Philanthropy, Second edition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988, 22.

[6] Ibid, 118.

[7] Ibid, 227. Philip K. Sherwood, “A Historical Study of the Associated Colleges of Indiana,” Unpublished dissertation, Indiana University, 1973, 58.

[8] Sherwood, 65.

[9] Kurt Pantzer, “Prospectus of the Indiana Institute,” Private papers, 1945. Quoted in Sherwood, op cit., 66.

[10] Trippet, op cit., 40.

[11]Sparks to Lilly, October 28, 1944, Wabash College Archives.

[12] Lilly to Sparks, November 1, 1944, Wabash College Archives

[13] Sparks to Lilly, 1947, Wabash College Archives

[14] Associated Colleges of Indiana, “A Report of Progress 1948-52,” 4

[15] Sherwood, op cit., 70.

[16] Ibid, 72.

[17] Associated Colleges of Indiana, Articles of Incorporation, 1952, (Article I, Section 1, clause (a), 1.

[18] Independent Colleges of Indiana, History of ICI,, accessed 1/14/16.

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