Minnehaha Academy Blog

Senior Evelyn Ramgren on the Challenge of Place

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jul 14, 2020

Evelyn Ramgren by Sarah Swanson yes copy

This content is from recent Minnehaha graduate Evelyn's baccalaureate speech.

When I first received the email asking me to speak I honestly had the gut reaction, “No!” I had no clue what I would say, but then I thought: I have to. It's like that thing you dread doing the most, but once it is done you feel successful, like cleaning or doing homework. But here I am today with a speech written and hopefully some words that impact one person, even if that is just my mom, because sometimes that is what matters the most.

To share a part of my faith journey is hard for me. There are many areas I could touch on, but one that has been a consistent struggle for me is place. The different transitions throughout high school have been greater and more challenging than I initially thought and during this time at my fourth school building of high school (my house) I’ve had some time to reflect on how place has changed and challenged my faith.

The Normal Year

Looking back, freshman year was maybe the most normal high school experience I had and perhaps was the easiest transition as well. Different school building, longer class periods, and taking physics was difficult, but fun. (Mr. Terfa, sorry, but honestly I don’t think I can still name Newton’s Laws).  Even though we came in as new ninth graders, the actual building felt like home. 

I remember on nice days when people would go into the courtyard and just sit during activity period relaxing under a big oak tree or “studying” while talking to friends. But personally my favorite place was the library. I would arrive early every morning and go up the three flights of stairs to a bench right near the big bird book. Sometimes I had homework and other days I would sit there and read a book, loving the sun shining in through the windows. Ms. Morris often would come over and say good morning and check in on me. I just knew I was in a location that was safe and it was a place that made me want me to grow in knowledge and in spirituality. The old Upper School Campus was my place. The library was my place.

"Minnehaha Academy Strange"

The next two years of high school were weird in what I am now categorizing as “Minnehaha Academy strange." Very few people I meet going forward in my life will be able to say they spent two years of Upper School in a business park due to their building getting destroyed in an explosion. Going from a pretty big campus with a gym and a chapel to a place that was pretty much one hallway was quite an adjustment. I struggled with feeling at peace with where I was physically which then affected me inwardly. I felt more anxious and unsure about what my future held after knowing anything can happen, both bad and good.

One place I could calm myself was in choir. I didn’t see it necessarily at the time, but having the opportunity to express my feelings and thoughts was freeing. During the crazy polar vortex of junior year, we were preparing for the Madrigal review and even when school was closed Ms. Lutgen had us gather and sing. I clearly remember how anxious everyone was, but during those moments of singing the feelings of uncertainty, worry, and stress were pushed aside and replaced with laughter, joy and peace. In that moment, I realized that gathering together and supporting one another was my place. Making music was my place.

Walking Through Grief

Senior year arrived and that is where a new MA strange was forming.  It was exciting and hopeful to be in our new building, but I was surprised about the mixed emotions I felt. The first time I walked into the new building I clearly thought “This smells like a new car and there are so many lights." I also was not prepared to have stairs again. Walking up to advisory or English on the third floor was a struggle some days, and I honestly wish we could walk across the roof to move more efficiently. After the first three days of school though, a wave of loss hit me. I hadn’t thought about how much felt wrong being in a brand new building because it also felt right to be back at the Upper School campus. 

That Friday I had a guttural feeling that I could not be in the new part of the building anymore. I decided to go to the chapel before I had to go to soccer practice to be alone. Entering through the dark stage was calming, but it was also the first moment that I began to reflect on my journey to get to that moment, and I broke down. The loss of the old Upper School campus felt strong as did the loss of Mendota Campus, which to be frank, felt unexpected. Yes, I spent the majority of my Upper School career there, so I should have expected more grief, but somehow I had just blocked it from my mind until that moment.

I could have stayed in that room for the rest of the day, but Mr. Freeman walked in looking for Shannon, and instead found a wet faced Evelyn of whom he asked what was wrong and allowed me to stay there without getting a detention (even if he did mention it being a possibility).

Finding My Place

After I left, I attempted to continue on to a normal afternoon, but something new occurred to me: it is okay to feel loss and renewal at the same time. The chapel and the stage are my place. Being reflective helps me find my place.

Coming up with a conclusion to my Upper School career is hard, but two Bible verses come to mind. Our freshman year theme verse was Hebrews 10:23, which reads “ Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” This year’s Bible verse, Isaiah 43:11, says “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” These verses remind me that no matter the wilderness we are in, the truth is that God is making a way that is greater and bigger than any of us can imagine. God knows our place and he can be trusted to keep his promises.

We can hold tightly to a place, knowing place is not always a location. It could be a library, or a stage, or making music with others. It may even be a wilderness. God knows our place.  He will meet us there through people, experiences, and physical locations.

Minnehaha Academy is my place. Class of 2020, Minnehaha Academy is our place. Amen

Topics: Upper School, 3100 Campus

Senior Honors: Class of 2020

Posted by Amy Barnard on Jul 9, 2020


It's been quite the journey for the class of 2020: This group of students passed through three separate buildings (the old Upper School building, Mendota campus, the new 3100 building), saw two shut downs for health safety (norovirus in 2017 and covid-19 this year), watched multiple teams take state championships, and pulled in one award after another for their academic excellence.

"From the explosion to the coronavirus, our class has grown stronger together," says senior Jenna. "Minnehaha seniors have really been through it all. We've learned that things may not go our way or how we expect...but we've learned how to adjust to adversity and how to overcome it. Through it all, the class of 2020 has come out stronger than ever and ready to take on the world."

Here is a run down of the honors and awards handed out at this year’s Senior Honors Night:


Minnehaha Academy Distinguished Graduates
Jack Daenzer ● Annika Johnson ● Andrew Karpenko ● Clara Stein

Minnehaha Academy 4.0 Scholars
Allison Callstrom ● Mia Curtis ● Jack Daenzer ● Annika Johnson ● Andrew Karpenko Tessa Leiner ● Clara Stein ● Brynne Whitman

National Merit Finalists
Jack Daenzer ● Andrew Karpenko ● Clara Stein

National Merit Commended Scholars
Patrick Cullinan ● Samuel Harris ● Annika Johnson 


 Leadership - Citizenship - Scholarship Awards

AAA Academics, Arts and Athletics Award
Jordan Brown ● Andrew Karpenko (also winner at the regional level)

American Legion Citizenship Award
Elaina Drake ● Kaden Johnson

Dennis and Marcia Pearson Award
Arne Christiansen ● Danyelle Robinson

Minnehaha Academy Exemplary Service Award
Trent Chiodo ● McKenzie Thompson

Minnehaha Award
Danyelle Robinson

President’s Award in Arts & Scholarship
Grace Anderson ● Patrick Cullinan

President’s Award in Athletics, Leadership, and Scholarship
Annika Johnson ● Andrew Karpenko

Principal’s Leadership Award
Arne Christiansen ● Mia Curtis

Ruth Berg and John Carlson Servant Leadership Award
Trent LeVahn ● Evelyn Ramgren

Sons of the American Revolution Award
Juliette Kline


Athletic Awards

Athletic Director Josh Thurow called the 2020 class "The greatest athletic class in school history."

Athena Award
Kate Pryor

Best Senior Athletes
Jalen Suggs ● Mia Curtis

Three Sport Athletes
Trace Chiodo ● Arne Christiansen ● Pearl Fallin ● Taly Gentolizo ● Kylee Kassebaum ● Isaac Laddusaw ● Terry Lockett ● Kate Pryor ● Peter Shaffer ● Bennett Thurow


English Department Award

Fitzgerald Award
Clara Stein


Fine Arts Department Awards

John Phillip Sousa Award
Andrew Karpenko

Louis Armstrong Jazz Award
Adam Coles

National School Choral Award
William Hite ● Juliette Kline

Excellence in Theatre Performance Award
Grace Anderson ● Trent Chiodo

Media Arts Award: Excellence in Filmmaking
Arne Christiansen


French Department Award

Minnesota Department of Education Certificates in French
Trent Chiodo ● Peter Fortier ● Sam Harris ● Kate Hennings ● Brynne Whitmann


Latin Department Award

National Latin Exam: Gold Medals 
Andrew Karpenko ● Clara Stein


Mathematics Awards

Council of Presidential Awardees in Math
Sam Harris ● Annika Johnson ● Michael DiNardo ● Jack Daenzer ● Andrew Karpenko

Newton Award
Patrick Cullinan ● Clara Stein


Senior Science Award
Clara Stein


Congratulations, seniors! We are so proud of your hard work and commitment to excellence. May you continue to find joy and success in the next leg of your journey!

Topics: Awards, Upper School, Academics

Commencement 2020 [Video]

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Jun 24, 2020

Watch Minnehaha Academy's entire 2020 Commencement ceremony. Congratulations, 2020 graduates!




Watch Commencement Clips





A Letter from Rev. Dr. Donna Harris in the Wake of George Floyd's Death

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Jun 1, 2020

Dear Minnehaha Community,

We are in the midst of a suffocating season of grief, pain, anger, and fear. We are reeling from the shock of witnessing the horrific death of Mr. George Floyd at the hands of a police officer and are aggrieved by the massive chaos and rioting in its aftermath. Our hearts ache for loss of life, loss of dignity, loss of voice, loss of unity, and for many, loss of hope. Our cities are fractured, and neighborhoods are torn. As a mother of two African-American sons, Mr. Floyd’s agonizing cry for “Mama” still reverberates in my heart. It will cause an ache deep within my soul for a very long time. My prayer is that this horrible tragedy will strengthen our collective resolve at Minnehaha Academy to amend injustices, heal festering wounds, galvanize our communities toward positive action, and turn our eyes to God, our Savior and Refuge. 

Because of God’s reconciling grace, our lasting hope of healing and the cure for all hearts that are prone to wander, rests in the full embrace of our common humanity and selfless love for one another— a love rooted in and nourished by our love for God. Only then can meaningful action, demanding courage and persistence, take flight. 

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18

The mission of Minnehaha Academy is to provide high quality education integrating Christian faith and learning. Within a distinctively Christian context, the educational experience at Minnehaha develops both intellect and character. The why of our mission from Luke 2:52 is so that students grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and others. This is our sacred commitment to students and families. Minnehaha’s mission intersects with God’s reconciling work in the world. In partnership with parents, this work begins by demonstrating to each child that they are created in the image of God, possessing inherent honor and dignity as a unique individual. We aid them in seeing God’s beauty in them, their God-given potential and the many gifts and talents God has bestowed on them for His service. When this inherent honor and dignity permeates deeply within the soul and spirit of each child, we gain fertile soil at Minnehaha to nurture a love for God and our neighbors. From this place, all good work flows. Our prayer is that as students mature, that they will be inspired to not just set life goals, but to set their gaze on seeking their life purpose.  This is how the bright light of Minnehaha’s mission is cast and becomes an enduring guidepost in the lives of students. 

Now is a pivotal time for Minnehaha to chart our path forward as a community of faith. We must come together as brothers and sisters created in the image of God to discern how we collectively, passionately, and sacrificially approach the essential Kingdom work of establishing racial righteousness in our nation, thus becoming laudable agents of change. The heaviness of this moment in time is reminiscent of other uprisings in our nation’s distant past and more recent history that have called for justice and systemic change. It has become a deafening refrain that pleads for more ears to hear and hearts to listen. The time is now to take action.

We cannot distance ourselves from the battle. Our Christian identity does not provide immunity from the layers of race-related trauma, institutionalized racism, and its effects. Our work is not done! We cannot be silent as silence often signals consent. We must courageously call out our own prejudice, arrogance, and pride, take them to the feet of Jesus, then work diligently toward harmony and peace in the space we own.  We must engage students in critical conversations about complex problems that plague our country, including issues of racial discrimination, and trust that our guidance will  shape their values, resulting in positive change.  And we must continue to be the justice seekers, peacemakers, wound healers, and bridge builders that students witness every day. Crucial conversations and actions in the days, weeks, and months to come must reach beyond strategies to resolve peripheral symptoms, but must expose the ugliness of root causes. The work of racial reconciliation is a protracted and arduous journey where sharing the weight of the work, bearing the burden of the pain, and operationalizing our words into clear action, is the rallying cry. With unrelenting resolve through Christ, we can accomplish immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). With arms locked and love our weapon let us partner with God to heal the land. Together we rise! 

For those who are weary in this work of racial reconciliation and facing opposition in being a voice of hope, receive the comfort of Scripture. 

2 Corinthians 4: 8-10

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 

For those who walk in fear and whose hearts are faint, receive courage from Scripture.

Psalm 91: 1-11

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;

A Prayer for Justice

Dear Lord,

Help us to follow your example, by looking out for those who each day feel that they are marginalized, who cannot find hope, who believe that they have little to offer, who are overcome by the challenges of poverty,

Help us to widen our horizons, to make space for the stranger, to watch out for those who feel invisible, to give time to the outsider, to talk to the person facing silence, to restore justice and value.

Give us the courage to undertake this, the determination to join with others in seeing grace in every human face, and the faith to embrace the opportunity in your name. Amen. 

(Amblecote Christian Centre, UK)

Blessings and peace,

Rev. Dr. Donna Harris

Catherine "Kate" (Lovaas) Stulken '37

Posted by Nick Tofteland on May 20, 2020

1937CatherineLovaas copyKate attended Minnehaha Academy her senior year and graduated in 1937. She was born in May of 1919, and will turn 101 years old this month!  This makes her the oldest living Minnehaha Academy Alum and former faculty member, to our knowledge. She typed out all of her answers for this profile with one finger on an iPad.  She doesn’t like to speak on the phone anymore, because she does not hear well.  She said, “If you really need to call me, speak slowly and distinctly. I’m an old lady, you know!” 

Early Years

Catherine Lovaas was born in Madagascar, where her parents were missionaries of the Norwegian Lutheran Church, and spent 12 years there with her mom, dad, older sister Evelyn and two younger sisters, Dorothy and Connie.  She grew up speaking both English and Norwegian, and remembers children’s games, the Lord’s Prayer, and an Easter hymn in Malagasy, the local language.  They returned home in 1931, the day Kate turned 12 years old. They lived in mission housing in St. Paul for three years and Kate became fast friends with a classmate at Murray Junior High, Charlotte Anderson. When her father accepted a call to two small churches in Prairie Farm, Wisconsin, Kate went to school in Wisconsin for two years. Meanwhile, her good friend Charlotte was attending MA and wanted her to come for her senior year. “This was the depression, money was tight, but I begged and cried and promised to work. That was fall of 1936.”

MA in the 1930s

Kate went to MA her senior year, living with a dentist and his family and working for her room and board.  Every day she rode the streetcar down Lake Street to MA.  “It was a good year. I was only five years from Madagascar and the kids had lots of questions. It was a regular high school, but we had chapel every day.” Kate was quite busy as a student - serving on the yearbook and newspaper staffs and involved in many other activities. She remembers her teachers well, especially Lydia Mytling and Dorothy Johnson, who always wore a purple knitted dress.  “Gals weren’t allowed to wear pants in school back then.” She was in the same class with Harry Mixer and Frank Hollinbeck, both of whom had a long relationship with the school as well.

Life Beyond MA

Catherine Lovaas Stulken copyAfter graduating from Augsburg college in 1941 and teaching for a year, she returned to Minneapolis and taught at MA for one year—1942-43, a challenging war year.   She taught biology, general science, German, and was the publications director.  She was known by her maiden name—Miss Lovaas—and continued to be addressed by that name even after she married Don on Christmas Eve of 1942.  She left MA at the close of that school year.

After teaching at MA, she and Don worked some temporary jobs, and then moved to Cresco, Iowa, where Don had accepted a teaching position. Their son Don, Jr. ‘Butch’ was born on D Day, June 4th, 1944. Then they went to Chicago, where Don enrolled at Northern Illinois School of Optometry, and Kate went home to live with her parents and teach at Prairie Farm High School. Then, she and Butch moved to Chicago and the family lived there until Don graduated from Northern Illinois College of Optometry.  “Those were long years, but we made it through.”  Kate had a job teaching botany for a correspondence school, which she could do from home. 

In 1948 they moved to Viroqua, Wisconsin, where Don started his practice as an optometrist.  “We were there 30 years!” Kate taught most of these years in Westby, WI, seven miles away. They made many friends and had good years. Kristi Anne was born in 1957 and Randall Kent in 1961.

Don retired in 1978, and Kate in 1980. They moved to a mobile home in Woodruff , WI. Don died in 1984, and Kate stayed until 1994 when she moved to Waunakee, WI. While living up north she took several big trips, one to Europe with her sister, and one back to Madagascar where she visited some of her old homes, including the house in which she was born.

Kate is now living in Madison, WI in an assisted living facility.  “It was fun to go back and remember those days.”

Topics: Alumni Stories

Shawn Zobel '08

Posted by Nick Tofteland on May 20, 2020

Shawn ZobelGrowing up, Shawn’s dream was to scout in the NFL. Every year, he and his dad would go to the NFL draft in New York.  In 2006, they were coming home from the draft and he said to his dad, “I think I can scout like these people on TV who talk about the players.”   His dad replied, “Do you think you could start a website and see what happens?”  And that’s how it all began.  

Embracing Opportunities

Shawn transferred to Minnehaha Academy midway through his sophomore year and it immediately reshaped the way he went about his daily life.  As soon as he got to MA, he saw how many resources were available to him: he could play multiple sports like football and lacrosse, and also participate in Jazz Band.  At his previous public school, he had to choose one or the other.  “At MA, they celebrated my involvement in many things. Teachers at MA had the mindset to go over and above and gave such great support.  The atmosphere was incredibly welcoming.  It was easy for me to prosper.”   

“The camaraderie at MA was absolutely special.”  Shawn was not a basketball player, but Coach J. (Lance Johnson) was still fully supportive of him.  When LSU was playing Kentucky, Shawn told Coach J that he thought Kentucky was going to win for the first time in 15 years.  Lance told him, “If that happens, I’ll wear your Kentucky jersey to school the next day.”  It did happen, and Lance wore Shawn’s jersey the whole next day at school.  Mr. Scholl was his homeroom teacher and also coached football.  “When I was in the newspaper, Mr. Scholl posted my stories on the board in his room. It was always motivation to succeed.  I had really never received that type of support anywhere else in my life until I came to Minnehaha.” 

An Entrepreneurial Spirit

Within 9 months of being at MA, Shawn started his first company, the website mentioned above, called Draft Headquarters.  That took him onto a different path than he was ever expecting his life to go. He traveled around the country and scouted every single one of the 255 NFL players who were drafted into the NFL from 2007-2018.  His senior year, he took a week off school and went to Indianapolis to work for the NFL Network as a production intern.   He also wrote 2 books, “Shawn Zobel’s 2007 and 2008 Draft Preview,” while he was at MA—both were about the NFL players that were drafted by the teams.  He distributed the books to the NFL teams and sold them digitally.   A highlight for him was when the MA librarian, Bonnie Morris, allowed him to give a 15-20 minute presentation to the whole school about his books, and he personally signed them afterwards in the library. 

The NFL and Beyond

Throughout college at the University of St. Thomas, Shawn continued to run his business.  He also worked for the Gopher football team, and after he graduated, did some part-time work for the Miami Dolphins and the St. Louis Rams. In addition, he coached high school football in Eden Prairie.  A year later, he went to work in the NFL league office and shut down Draft Headquarters for good.  

After his stint in the NFL, he realized that he wanted to do something different.  In 2015 he started his second company, Zobel Sports Consulting, working for agents, financial advisors, and for a company in Bloomington, MN who wanted to bring professional rugby to the NFL. “It was a lot of fun but a cut-throat world to be living in: it exposed me to everything the NFL is, the good and the bad that can come with working in that industry.  Eventually, in 2017, I signed 13 players and one was a first-round pick--college kids going into the NFL.”

Shawn got married, bought a house, and decided he wanted to see what else was out there, outside of sports.  He got a call from someone who was associated with the MN Chamber of Commerce and they asked him, “Can you scout companies the same way you scout football players?”  He could, and in 10 months, he brought in about 55 companies.

“The school played a major role in my development – personally, professionally, spiritually, really across the board—with the foundation that allowed me to become the person that I wanted to be.”

Topics: Alumni Stories

Hubble Thoughts: Upper School Students

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on May 6, 2020

Upper School science students were asked to watch this video of images taken by the Hubble Telescope. As they watched, they were tasked with the following:

As you watch, pay attention to what you are thinking and how you feel about this experience with the universe. Take notes, journal, sketch, write a song or poetry or express yourself in whatever way helps you capture what you are thinking and feeling as you watch the film. Then post some of these thoughts (how did it make you feel) or your notes, poems, artwork, to the Hubble Discussion.

Here is a sampling of answers from our students. We wanted to share their thoughts to give you a glimpse of what ideas and discussions happen among our students in the classroom! 

Daniel - This video really shows how much is still yet to be discovered, the colors are magnificent and there are so many stars, it is hard not to be awestruck with amazement. God’s creation is truly beautiful.

Margo - While watching the video I could notice myself getting much calmer, slower breathing, and just becoming peaceful. It was so neat to see the all the beauty up close that we can’t see normally. After watching it, it made me think about how I’m going to start to look closer at things I see and see what they’re made of.

Evelyn - While watching this video, I became completely relaxed. I felt as though I was almost part of the video; disconnected from everything around me. When it ended, I took a few minutes to reflect on everything I had just watched. I felt incredibly small, compared to our great universe. I also realized how beautiful our universe is and how grateful I should be to God for gifting us with it.

Zucy - While watching this video, I went emotionless, not in a bad way, just that I didn’t know what else was coming next. In a 10 minute video it captures how beautiful our universe actually is and the amazing gift God has given us. It felt as if I was I was floating in the universe and the music added that suspension.

Halle - The video showed me how small our world truly is in comparison to everything. There is so much beyond what we see in our everyday life. I enjoyed watching as seemingly empty spaces became colorful and glowing as they were closer. Photos that are taken make these images seem like paintings, but seeing them in a video had a different and more incredible effect.

Jack - While I was watching the video I felt more and more relaxed as it went on. When the video had ended and I stood up to go outside, I felt like earth’s gravity was not pulling me down as much. Almost as if I was walking on thin air.

Sofia - Watching this made me feel so small because it reminded me that these planets, asteroids, and stars are all out there, floating endlessly in space even if we can’t see them. I was surprised by the beauty of seeing the planets up close and how some even looked like they were from a different universe. Especially now in quarantine we only see so much and to know that there is that much other worldly stuff out there is truly eye opening and amazing.

Benjamin - For me, the biggest thing I latched onto is that even with the insane scale of our universe, and how insignificant we can feel, we’re still the only life we know about. Even with all those stars, universes, and galaxies, we are the only life inside all of that. The next thing that hit me is time. We are the only life in this time, but in another billion years or so, there might be life somewhere else, we’re just lucky enough to be alive right now.

Mayah - Sometimes darkness is calming. And sometimes the unknown is intriguing. It’s eye opening and beautiful to watch this. It’s a whole new perspective and I absolutely love it. Very amazing.

Lars - This video made me feel and awe and wonder of God’s creation. He made this whole universe out of nothing, and the beauty of space shows how incredible his work can be.

Ellie - The video made me think about how small and insignificant the earth and everything on it is, and yet how much complexity there is to it. There are nearly infinite worlds beyond our own to explore, and each planet is different in its own way, yet we still have things to discover about the smallest particles and the smallest details on our earth. Space has always interested me but this video reminded me of how much we haven’t encountered yet. I think it would be really cool if humans could learn to put our differences aside and be able to work as one unit to explore more of our galaxy and beyond.

Gabe - The video made me wonder at how the God who created all that, can care about a rebellious human like me.

Clara - Watching this video was very calming and relaxing for me. Sometimes I forget that there is so much more out there that we don't know about and that is truly amazing to think about. 

Ireland - Throughout the whole video, I felt like the time flew from the video and that I was at complete peace. Seeing the planets made me feel very small, but also made me feel like everyone on this earth was here for a purpose.

Grace - While watching this video, I felt very small. It’s weird to think how big our universe is compared to us. Also, I gained a new appreciation for our beautiful and extremely complex surroundings. This video helped put into perspective what a miracle it is that Earth perfectly supports us.

Virginia (Lundberg) Taylor '57

Posted by Nick Tofteland on May 5, 2020

Ginny Taylor“When I learned I was being interviewed for this Alumni Profile, I pulled out my Antler from my senior year, and it brought back so many memories.” Ginny just celebrated her 80th birthday and her 60th wedding anniversary.  

“I appreciated how well rounded the academy was. It was solid in academics, unabashedly Christian, and offered a great variety of extra-curricular activities.  In those days, most girls were not involved in sports.  My favorite extracurriculars were being in Singers and dramatic productions.” 

Seasons of Life

Ginny met her husband Clyde at Wheaton College, and they got married after her sophomore year and moved to Washington, DC, where he was starting graduate school. In those days, there was a shortage of teachers in public schools across the nation. She had already declared her major in education and had a provisional certificate.  She taught for two years in the DC area, then finished up her degree at George Washington University. Their son Mark was born during this time.

Clyde joined the Foreign Service after he finished his master’s, and their first overseas posting was in Panama. While in Panama, Ginny taught kindergarten in the Canal Zone schools, American run schools for American children.  From there they went to Australia, where their daughter Courtney was born, then back to the US for a while, then to El Salvador, Iran, and Paraguay.  They both love to travel, and she has been to a total of 65 countries.

While they were in Iran, she taught in the American school, which was closed in 1978.  She and the two children were evacuated from Iran to the U.S. in 1977 just before the hostages were taken for the first time, and Clyde stayed on. 

People at the State Department knew that she was evacuated, and that she knew many of the hostages in Iran. Ginny was asked to come in and call the family members.  She worked as a volunteer in the Operations Center and called families from time to time to pass on any news that they had from Iran.  What started out as a short-term assignment turned into the entire 444 days of the hostage crisis. One of her friends was a hostage for the entire 444 days and was the first hostage to die.  

After this volunteer position, she decided the time had come to find a job. Clyde returned from Iran, and it was time for her to go back to work. Through different circumstances, she became the first Evacuation Officer at the US Department of State.  She wrote her own job description, which got accepted very quickly as there were many evacuations in the Middle East and Africa. This position continues today.  Ginny then became the Deputy Director of the Family Liaison Office that looks after the needs of the Foreign Service families overseas; helping with education, employment, and health issues. 

After they had been home for 5-6 years and the children had finished high school, Clyde was appointed as Ambassador to Paraguay.  They spent three years there. She worked and volunteered in many capacities and enjoyed traveling around the country, especially visiting the many Peace Corps volunteers at their projects.

Ginny and Clyde came back to live in the Washington, DC area in 1988.  She went to work for the State Department as the Director of a program at The Foreign Service Institute and finished out her working years training people in office management.

Active in Service

As a retiree, Ginny has spent her time volunteering with local missions. She is a part of an organization called “Friendship Place” which seeks to alleviate homelessness in the Washington DC metro area.  She also joined the local mission committee for her church, the National Presbyterian Church. They support 7-8 mission groups in and around the city.  “These have been a very rewarding part of my retirement.” 

“It’s been a wonderful life--I have enjoyed it a lot. God has been good.  We have seen God’s hand in our lives everywhere we have been. I have not had the kind of career that most people would think is a progression up the career ladder, but in every country where I have lived, I have found jobs that I enjoyed and/or worked at getting to know the people, country and culture.”

To The Alumni

What would Ginny say to other alumni?  “Get out and see the world. We are in a global society.  There is a lot that people living in other places can teach us. Our Christian faith should certainly extend to our love for people of different faiths and ethnicities.  Get to know people who are different from you, and who are also loved by our God and our creator.” 

Topics: Alumni Stories

Franeda (Franny) Williams ‘12

Posted by Nick Tofteland on May 5, 2020

Williams, FranedaFraneda Williams attended Minnehaha Academy from 7th-12th grade. Because the school and class sizes were small, she grew close to her teachers.  “It was one of the best parts. I loved my teachers so much.” The classes had an intimate feel, and she appreciated the community. “It felt comfortable--like a family.”  One of her favorite things about MA was her advisory group, which is a smaller group of students who meet on a regular basis to talk through how things are going with classes, extracurriculars, and life. Her advisor for this group was Elizabeth Van Pilsum.  “She did a good job of making the time cohesive--to foster community and give advice. It was a safe space: no one was excluded, and everyone felt comfortable coming to her with anything. It was so valuable, and not every high schooler has that.”

Journey Abroad

After MA, she received a bachelor’s in Linguistics from the University of Minnesota -Twin Cities and a master’s in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) from Hamline University. After her master’s, Franeda worked part time in the Twin Cities as she searched and applied for full-time positions abroad. God had placed a desire on her heart to go to Japan and when a full-time teaching position in Japan presented itself, she applied for the job ,hoping God would open the door. That summer, she had the opportunity to conduct workshops in China for Chinese English teachers and, while there, she found out she had gotten the job in Japan. She was headed to Japan in the fall.

Teaching in Japan

Franeda currently lives in Tokyo where she teaches an English discussion class for freshmen at Rikkyo University. The different topics and discussions students engage in each week have given her a deeper understanding of Japanese culture. Additionally, class sizes are small which gives her a chance to connect with students on a more individual level. She now sees the benefits of small classes sizes from a teacher’s perspective. 

Moving abroad, though exciting, does not come without its challenges. Franeda lives in a tiny apartment in the midst of a concrete jungle. “I did not expect to miss grass!” she said, referencing Minnesota’s lush landscape. However, the hardest thing about being in Japan is the language: Japanese is a very hard language to learn. The language barrier coupled with the busyness of city life can make socializing with locals a bit difficult. Fortunately, Franeda has made friends at work, with people at Meet-Up events, as well as at church. Finding a church, however, proved to be another challenge of coming to Japan. “I had never looked for my own church as an adult. The process was new to me.” Options were slim, but she eventually found one and got connected to a small group. Like small groups in the US, friendships deepen as they find ways to support and pray for each other.

How long will she stay in Japan? Her vision is to stay for a couple of years, and then go on to teach in more countries where she could learn something new each time.

To The Students

While at Minnehaha Academy, Franeda thought she had a plan for her life.  Her advice?  “Don’t hold fast to any plan that you might have in your hand.  Hold it loosely and let God lead you where He wants you to go.”

Topics: Alumni Stories

Sixth Grade Poets: Hope, Healing, Humor

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Apr 17, 2020

Our sixth graders just finished learning about poetry.

"We asked the big question: 'Why read and write poetry?' " said Middle School English teacher Ms. Ulferts. "We looked at a variety of poems and found that they are often centered around hope, healing, and humor-which is the approach we took as we began to write some of our own."

Some of our sixth grade students wanted to share their poems with the community. Listen to their poetry below:


  • Gabi: 0:00
  • Naszir: 0:43
  • Maximillian: 1:13
  • Nevis: 1:52
  • Dalton: 4:13
  • Luka: 4:56
  • Cosette: 5:38
  • Adelyn: 6:37
  • Emmett: 7:02


Topics: Middle School, Online Learning

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