A New Season
Phil attended MA for 3 1/2 years but went back to his neighborhood high school for the spring semester of his junior year before returning to MA for his senior year. “I was very impressed that they let me back in, as my first years at Minnehaha were stormy ones,” he said.
"Overall, the lasting legacy left to me by my years at MA is a strong sense of spirituality,” Phil says. The courses in Bible, chapel attendance, and the memorization of the great Christian music sung by the Singers deepened his religious experience. His theological views began to broaden during and after his college and military years. Following a year at Bethel University and one academic quarter at the University of Minnesota, he dropped out in December 1950 to join the U. S. Air Force, where he served a four-year enlistment during the Korean War, including a year in Korea. Confirmed by that experience as a Christian, he re-entered the U of M and graduated in 1957. “While the spirituality nourished by MA has stayed with me, my understanding of the nature of reality has grown immensely,” he says. He continues to study philosophy, science and religion and conducts courses in 21st century religious studies with groups of fellow-residents at White Sands La Jolla, the continuing care facility where they now live.
Service in Ministry
One of Phil’s classmates was Russell Brandt (‘49), who was also his closest friend from church. He was the link between Phil and his future wife, Barbara (’55), who was Russ’s sister. Phil and Barbara were married in 1957. They left the Twin Cities area immediately after their marriage, as Phil entered theological seminary in California. He spent three years at Fuller Theological Seminary before graduating in 1961 from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He then served three Presbyterian parishes in Caldwell, Ohio, Two Harbors, Minnesota, and Crookston, Minnesota during a pastoral career that ended with retirement in 1993.
In 2005 they moved from Minnesota to California, where they can watch the gradually rising Pacific Ocean from the windows and outdoor dining and recreational facilities of what will likely be their final home.
Barbara Weiler '55
“I look back on my four years at MA as the launching pad for my life that prepared me for a career in music and journalism.”
Barbara was a part of the MA Singers, and remembers that the music program with Harry Opel was above excellence. “He created a musical world for the students that was outstanding. To all of us, it was a religious experience to sing under his direction—the way he put so much meaning into everything he did.” When performing, Barbara wanted to do the best she could. Mr. Opel encouraged her to perform classical music, and she also played piano and organ.
Mr. Opel was not only an excellent teacher, he also built strong relationships with his students. “His life was one I emulated as a teacher and a friend, and as an adult, committed to communicating his story through music.”
Another teacher that strongly influenced Barbara was Frances Armstrong, the advisor for The Quiver, the student newspaper. Barbara was the editor and learned a lot from Miss Armstrong. "She was always a dedicated person. Everything had to be factual and honest. It didn’t matter how long it took—it needed to be accurate." Miss Armstrong taught her how to commit herself to something she was doing. Barbara spent long hours at MA with the Quiver staff—sometimes working into the night—and “Miss Armstrong was always there with us. Her commitment to her students was amazing.”
Music & Journalism
These teachers gave Barbara a love for music and journalism, and a launch for her future careers. Careers, she shares, that she might not have tried if not for their encouragement.
For many years after high school, Barbara played the organ at various churches, sang in choirs, taught piano and organ, and after raising five children, began her career in journalism. She worked for a daily newspaper, was a freelance writer for several newsletters, and then worked in University Relations at the University of Minnesota, Crookston for 20 years, until she retired. Now in retirement, she is the editor of the weekly publication of The Sandpiper, the White Sands La Jolla’s weekly newsletter.
“MA holds a special place in my heart—giving me friends and adults who always wanted the best for me.”