Minnehaha Academy Blog

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

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

Tom Evans Krause '69

Posted by Nick Tofteland on Apr 15, 2020

Twins Win 2016 at Hohokam 2“The future of Minnehaha Academy?  I think it looks great!” Tom had come back to the Twin Cities to visit his brother, Todd ’76, the summer of 2018, less than a year after the explosion. He asked his brother if they could drive over to MA to see it.  They lingered on the property for 30-45 minutes, taking photos of the devastation and getting a sense of what had happened – the people who had lost their lives, others injured, the lost buildings, it all had a huge impact.  “Just talking about it and thinking back on it gets me emotional. Then contrast that with attending my 50th class reunion last September and seeing the amazing new building that has literally risen from the ashes.  It’s beautiful, functional, and all I can see is great promise for the students attending now and the students yet to come.” 

Deep Roots

Tom’s cousin Reid Westrem ’84 and wife Robyn both work at Minnehaha Academy and their son Beck is a student there. During the Homecoming weekend reunion, Tom got a chance to watch Beck play soccer and say hi to the cousins he had not seen in a while, including Scott Westrem ’71. Another Westrem cousin, Barb, graduated Minnehaha in 1973.  “That soccer field was the football field that we used to play on!  Though the campus has been rebuilt, there are still elements of the property that retain the same feeling, if you will, even 50 years later.”  It was such a mixed set of feelings--including images in his head of the middle part of the old building--which was no longer there. “Even so--it’s more than a building--it’s a community of students, faculty, staff and administrators from the past, present, and of the future.”

“I only attended my Mom’s alma mater for two years after we returned to Minnesota from Illinois, but completely immersed myself in sports, clubs, academics and was Student Council President during my time at MA.”  Tom’s Mom, Betty, and her twin sister Mary (Nokleby) graduated from Minnehaha in 1946 along with Mary’s husband Doug Westrem ’43. 

Tom had great teachers across the board, but favorites included Harlan Christianson, Harry Opel, Flora Sedgwick, Gerry Nordstrom and Guido Kauls.  “Teachers were knowledgeable, dedicated, and really worked you hard to get the best out of you in a loving way. I remember them very fondly.”  Tom finished up college with an education degree, but never thought he would end up in teaching, because by the time he was a college senior, he was deep into broadcasting and already had a part-time job outside of the Twin Cities. 

“Broadcasting got inside me, and it was all I wanted to do.” A 21-year career in professional radio as Tom Evans offered many opportunities and rewards including 27 gold and platinum records, hanging out with famous artists, and even a trip to the White House.  Then he got an opportunity to teach broadcasting at a Seattle area college.  He dusted off his never used teaching degree--and lo and behold-- things came full circle!  During the 26 years of a second career in higher ed, Tom drew upon some of the teaching methods that the MA Faculty utilized when he was in their classes.

Life on the Diamond

One of Tom’s favorite past times is baseball. He attended his first pro game at Metropolitan Stadium in 1961, the Minnesota Twins’ inaugural year, and remains a huge Twins fan. “I have been wearing #3 since high school in honor of Harmon Killebrew.”  He lettered in baseball during his two years at Minnehaha (and as a freshman and sophomore at his previous high school), but his playing time at MA was limited due to injuries as a junior and senior. 

He picked up a baseball again in the mid-‘90’s and his impact and passion is undeniable. As his ‘side job’ he has helped make the 1,100 member Puget Sound Senior Baseball League one of the premier leagues in the national Men’s Senior Baseball League – a 45,000 member organization. He and his Seattle teams have won three International World Series championship rings.  He was inducted into the MSBL Hall of Fame in 2012, received the 2016 MSBL Lifetime Achievement Award and is part of the MSBL Honor Roll contingent. For Tom’s leadership abilities and love of the game, MSBL Founder and President Steve Sigler named Tom as the 2019 MSBL Man of the Year, the organization’s highest honor.

To Fellow Alums

To this day, Tom believes strongly in the value of a Christian education.  “When I attended MA,  the only way my family could afford it was by both my dad, Don, and mom working there plus lots of support from others--donors and those in the community who supported MA in various ways, which allowed someone like me to be able to attend. Without that help, I would not have been able to go. My message to other alumni is that we should stay connected and help support students that wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend through programs like the Heritage and Hope scholarship.”

Topics: Alumni Stories

Meta Herrick Carlson '00

Posted by Nick Tofteland on Apr 15, 2020

IMG_3539Meta Herrick Carlson has just become a published author!  Ordinary Blessings: Prayers, Poems and Meditations for Everyday Life is collection of poems and blessings to support people in everyday life, whether simple or complex.  The book includes prayers for paying bills, a sleepless night, an apology, loving an animal, resilience and the courage to say no.  “It’s all those little everyday things that God cares deeply about.”

A Warm Welcome

Meta transferred from a Twin Cities suburban public school to Minnehaha Academy when she was in 9th grade.  Like so many middle schoolers, she experienced bullying had a hard time fitting in. “I got off to a rocky start and couldn’t find a way to be myself there.”  MA was the first school that she toured, and she felt warmly accepted and received by the students that she met that day.  She noticed that students had the freedom and flexibility to be themselves. She felt safe and comfortable that day, so she came home and told her parents “there was no need to look anywhere else.”  Meta believed she could be herself at MA. “I could not have asked for a better place to focus on school, try a variety of activities, and over time shed some of that ‘stuff’ that is really hard about being 13-14 years old.” 

Meta liked the size of her class: she knew everyone’s first and last names. She was involved in sports, music, and student government. She had friends across several different groups and took a variety of classes.  “I got to say yes to a lot of different things and embraced being pretty good at a bunch of stuff.  I didn’t feel the pressure to have to be the best.  I learned at MA is that it is OK to do a lot of things, and that you are a lot of things--and I was enough.  That wisdom continues to give freedom to my life.”

Serving in Ministry

After college at St. Olaf, Meta went right to Luther Seminary and received a scholarship for the Master of Divinity Program, the track for ordained ministry. She originally could not see herself in ordained ministry but got excited about being a generalist; “having access to a little bit of everything with a multitude of generations and responsibilities and walking with people in the fullness of their life. That is what I still get to do today.”

While serving congregations, she is part of healthy transformation and positive change from the inside out.  “I can understand and empathize with people who had negative experiences that had broken their trust and relationship with the church and remind them that the Holy Spirit has not given up on them or the church yet--and I am not going to either. I love it and cannot imagine doing anything else.”  She loves to preach, visit people, build connections, and help cultivate meaningful experiences that resonate with a different and deeper time than we are normally living in during the week.  She also loves ritual and helping people understand why we do what we do in church. 

So often, her parishioners needed words for something going on in their life that felt ordinary and maybe the church didn’t have language for it, or they thought God didn’t care about it.  Meta wanted to support people who were going through an everyday thing like grieving, celebrating, or longing for something and looking for the words, so she started writing blessings for ordinary moments. Her book is filled with blessings written for specific people, transitions, and moments in her own life that need blessing. Her book was released on February 11th.  “We need to remind each other that God cares about this stuff. God delights in our everyday lives.  We need ritual for the ordinary to send us into a deeper, richer time than we are living in our busy, fast paced, hectic lives.  I hope my book will help people find words that they didn’t realize they needed.”  You can find the book here: Web: metaherrickcarlson.com. Insta: @metaherrickcarlson

To Fellow Alums

What would Meta say to other alumni?  “I was the last class at MA for whom every hallway that we walked in is gone.  If you are feeling with the Upper School rebuild that this is ‘not your school anymore,’ plan a visit or tour.  Have lunch at one of the many places in the neighborhood that have popped up since you went to school here or eat in the fabulous new cafeteria. Come back to campus and see for yourself.  Everything will look new, but the spirit of the school and what it meant to you still remains.”


Topics: Alumni Stories

Mark Ireland '92

Posted by Nick Tofteland on Feb 26, 2020

IMG_4083“For the people who knew me at Minnehaha--if they had to guess back then--they would probably say that I would be the one in in jail instead of the one putting people in jail,” says Ireland facetiously.  After college and law school, Mark became an Assistant Attorney General for the state of Minnesota and practiced law for ten years in the Twin Cities, then became a State District Court Judge in Ramsey County. 

Essential Skills

“The greatest gift Minnehaha gave me was the ability to write. On television and in the movies, lawyers and judges are always in the courtroom. I do a lot of writing.”  One of his most significant experiences at MA was working on the school newspaper and yearbook.  Through that work, he honed his writing, interviewing and communication skills that he used in college, in law school, as a lawyer, and now for the past nine years as a judge. “Learning to write was a huge gift.  At a lot of schools kids are just taking multiple choice tests. To write well differentiates you from everyone else. It is a real skill.” 

Opportunities Aplenty

Mark also loved playing soccer for coaches Karl Peterson and Herr Kauls, who were both influential and supportive of him. Mark is thankful for the size of Minnehaha -- it gave him an opportunity to be involved in multiple things at the same time like sports and theatre, which was very different from the larger schools in the Twin Cities. “I was a weird kid and it gave me an opportunity to experiment with a lot of different things which was very beneficial going forward.” 

Life Beyond MA

After Minnehaha, Mark went to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and then Law School at the University of Minnesota. After private practice and working at the Attorney General’s Office, he left and started a non-profit program that helped neighborhoods that were being affected by predatory lending and the resulting foreclosure crisis. He got to know a lot of people in the community and throughout St. Paul and Minneapolis. 

There was an opening for a judge in the 2nd Judicial District.  A friend called and said he should run for the position; it was an open seat and not an appointment from the governor.  Mark laughed at his friend, then told his wife, and she laughed at him.  He then talked to another friend about it and he encouraged him to run. Both friends were on different sides of the political spectrum.  Mark figured that if he could get these two folks to support him that were from two political parties then maybe he should do it.  “So I ran, and got elected!”   He ran largely on the platform that a judiciary shouldn’t be a political arm but should be non-partisan.  He is currently serving as a District Court Judge, where he presides over everything from the St. Paul petty court traffic calendar to murder trials.  He has been the lead judge presiding over cases involving abused and neglected children as well as the county’s drug court program. Recently, he became the head of the Juvenile and Family Division, working with complicated and difficult cases dealing with divorce, child custody, child abuse and neglect, and juvenile crime.

“I think people would be either lying or have a dead soul if they didn’t think that this was a difficult job. I’ve handled serious criminal sexual conduct cases, murders, and hundreds of child protection cases. Those are tough emotionally.  At the end of the day, your job is to provide a forum for the cases to be heard and then ultimately, make the best decision that you can.  You learn how to cope with it and figure out how to continue to be balanced and healthy.” 

To The Students

What would Mark share with current students?  “Start something.  The world is not perfect. The school is not perfect.  Your community is not perfect.  Don’t wait for other people to solve problems. Do it yourself.  Everyone has gifts and talents.  There are lots of angry people talking about things in our society right now.  Unfortunately, there are very few people who are actually doing something about it.  Our world requires more action, living out our faith and values in the community.”

Topics: Alumni Stories

James Barnett '04

Posted by Nick Tofteland on Feb 26, 2020

image0“I cherished the place, because it provided a lot of stability and was very special to me.  It was the most stable part of that period of my life.”  James had been living in a foster home since he was 9 years old after his mother lost custody. He never met his father. He was attending a charter school in St. Paul, MN, where Ellen (Higginbotham) Ruiters ‘93 was his 8th grade English teacher.  She would tell the story of Minnehaha often to her students and he always thought it sounded like a special place. He never thought attending MA would be a possibility.  

Finding Community

One day, Miss Higginbotham asked him if he would like to go on a tour of MA, and he jumped at the chance. He came to the realization that a learning environment should be fun and joyful, and students should have a vision for what they want for their lives.  He observed interactions with students and teachers, saw that students learned from their peers, and felt that attending Minnehaha was an “all-consuming great opportunity.”  “When I was accepted, I was very much aware of what this could mean for me. My social worker, my guardian ad litem, everyone was so positive about me going to Minnehaha.  I felt like if there was one right thing that I could do for my life, it was to go to MA and graduate.” 

Mentorship, Faith & Identity

Dan Bergstrom taught his 9th grade Bible class.  “I was going through a tough time in my life.  I was trying to reconcile my turbulent home life and personal life. My life had a ton of uncertainty. I really wanted to change my circumstances. I knew that my life was deserving of more, and I wanted more for myself.”  Rev B put him at ease with his concerns and helped him deepen his faith.  “He let me know that God was with me along the way and I was not alone; I would come out stronger on the other side.”  Having a person like that who invested in his life helped him stay the course and be optimistic about what life and God had in store for him.  James questioned a lot of things and found a lot of certainty in engaging with Rev B.  “I needed a lot of character coaching and development. He took me as I was.” 

Another significant person to James was David Glenn, his history teacher and football coach.  “He had a great presence about him--he understood that ‘kids would be kids’ and they grow and develop, and you need to meet them along the way.  He was always encouraging, positive and supportive.”  James knew that if he could get his vote of approval it would go far in giving him the confidence needed to take on a challenge or opportunity.  When James was accepted to St. Olaf College, Mr. Glenn told him that it was a tough school but reassured him, “You can do this!  You are going to be really successful there.”  “I was so emotional getting that affirmation from him.  I knew he would shoot straight with me if I was in over my head. He sent me on my way with a vote of confidence, which meant a lot.”    

Paulita Toddhunter helped him process, interpret and engage the experiences he was having.  “She was invaluable.  To have a person of color understand and talk through some of the challenges I was going through was great.  She was a mom--her own kids were at the school--and I leaned on her for nurturing and emotional support as well.  She was always there for me.” 

From Student to Career Educator

James graduated from St. Olaf with a major in Post-Secondary Education.  After college he worked for Teach for America for several years, which led him to teach middle school social studies and science in North Carolina.  His goal was to be a transformational teacher, and he was sold on the fact that he’d had these opportunities in life because at Minnehaha, he had the chance to have amazing teachers, go to a great school, and be in an environment dedicated to his success.  He is currently on the leadership staff of a network of charter schools where his team and work is focused on opening and working in schools regionally in the Twin Cities. His title is Resident Principal.  He is working now at a middle school, and the vision is to keep opening schools, including a high school in North Minneapolis.  Once opened, he is slated to be the Principal. 

“We’re trying to help kids see that with someone there to help them, they can end up in college--even a college of their choice—and that can take them places they could never imagine.  The MA community wanted me to reach my greatest potential.  My professional aspiration is to create that same space for kids in Minneapolis.” 

Topics: Alumni Stories

Tommy Boyd '10 Goes Beyond Comfort

Posted by Amy Barnard on Feb 20, 2020

Raspberry Island copy

"I'm a very introverted person, I don't even like leaving St. Paul," says Tommy Boyd, '10. And yet, in 2017, this self-proclaimed homebody found himself peeling potatoes in a co-operative refugee community in Athens, Greece, alongside men from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq.

"Of that time spent in the kitchen 75% of it was spent dancing. Just dancing in the kitchen, just gaining friends. You know, genuine friends," says Boyd.

That winter, Boyd was part of a YWAM (Youth With A Mission) team that landed in Athens, Greece, with few connections and a hope that somehow they could serve the refugees there. The group soon found themselves connected with Khora, a humanitarian co-operative foundation unlike anything most of them had ever encountered.


By Refugees, For Refugees

Khora formed in response to the European Refugee Crisis, an influx of individuals fleeing war, violence, or persecution from their home countries. Many of these individuals and families pay smugglers or flee on foot of their own devices and make the perilous journey through Turkey to a handful of Greek islands that have become primary entry points for migrants to Europe.

As refugees and migrants made their way from these islands into Athens, entry to the rest of Europe became increasingly difficult. Surrounding countries began shutting their borders, even as thousands continued to flood the islands of Greece, many losing their lives along the way.

A handful of NGO volunteers as well as refugees the volunteers worked with wanted to find a way to give those stuck in Athens a place of refuge, services, and skills to help prepare them for any new doors of opportunity that might open.

Without work permits or visas, many of the refugees Khora serves have left the camps to live as squatters in abandoned buildings or on the streets, struggling to make it from day to day.

"These are some of the most educated people from their home countries; they are the ones who had the resources to get out," Boyd says, "so you're looking at individuals who went to medical school and taught in universities."

Boyd arrived at Khora with a handful of YWAMers to discover an eight-story, formerly abandoned building bustling with life: On one floor, a kitchen serving 800 meals a day. On another, attorney advice for those trying to sort out passport and asylum issues. Other areas provided language classes, childcare, dental services, and basics like clothing and toiletries.

The refugees themselves often teach classes at Khora in their areas of expertise. Often these are language classes, an attempt to give individuals greater success once (and if) they finally leave Greece.

In spite of the dire circumstances these people faced, Khora offers an atmosphere of warmth and hope.

"When you volunteer you sign up for things you're good at—volunteers even give music lessons—and then weekly they send out an agenda saying who is where at what time. I'd say probably 98% of my time was spent in the kitchen. So, peeling potatoes, washing dishes, all of that," says Boyd.

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Unlike most refugee camps where volunteers and refugees separate into the servers and the served, Khora empowers refugees to help run its programs and make decisions for the community.

"[It's] crazy the amount of ministry you could do in there because you're seeing the same people everyday," Boyd shares.

First Culture Shock: Minnehaha Academy

Boyd himself never had great aspirations of becoming a potato peeler in a refugee community; nor did he expect to step into the ministry of friendship with men from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria through dancing.

His first big culture shock happened in ninth grade when he transferred to Minnehaha Academy.

Students freely leaving backpacks in the hallway or on tables without fear of theft was as much of a surprise to him as were the chapels, where modern worship music combined with students who would clap or even raise their hands contrasted with his more formal religious upbringing.

But Boyd says that the Minnehaha culture of doing the right thing "without it being written on the wall, but because it was the right thing to do" had a life-long impact on him and gave him a vision for the type of person he wanted to become.

He also shares that while during his first years at MA he generally kept to the fringes during chapel and stayed seated when possible, "by my senior year I was standing up and I was singing...I was buying into the culture, little by little."

Although intense on the basketball court or football field, former classmates comment that Boyd's intensity was tempered by a kindness and warmth off the field.

"He was never too big or too cool to take time to connect with younger kids," says classmate Matt Pryor '11. "He was friends with everyone."

Boyd went on to study physical education at Bethel and then worked for two years in the small town of Zimmerman, Minnesota, teaching health education, strength and conditioning, first aid, and coaching basketball and football. This was a move sparked by his time at MA.

"Josh Thurow was one of my favorite teachers...I don't know if he knew it or not but he influenced me to be a teacher," says Boyd. He also says that he felt compelled to "pay it forward," noting that his life could have taken many courses, but the teachers who poured into him helped nudge him on track.

Called to Serve

In 2017, Boyd was working in Zimmerman and married to his former Bethel classmate Kailey, also a physical education teacher. While they both loved teaching, each began wondering whether or not God might be calling them to another type of service.

"At the end of that second year of teaching for me, the end of her first year, we went in to resign from our jobs because we were going to go do mission work with YWAM," Boyd says. The school district offered the Boyds another option: take a year-long leave of absence and then revisit the discussion.

And so, in September of 2017 the couple found themselves in the Manoa Valley of Honolulu at a YWAM base for Discipleship Training School (DTS).

Three months later, they arrived in Khora, a ministry environment unlike anything they had been part of before.

In this moment, Tommy and Kailey found themselves in the unique situation of ministering not as hosts to foreigners in their own land, but as foreigners themselves walking alongside other foreigners in an unfamiliar place.

And for Tommy, this meant peeling potatoes and washing dishes with men from across the Middle East and Central Asia.


It was here that Tommy taught his co-cooks the dance to Darude's Sandstorm.

Soon the group was exchanging dance moves. At one point, a Palestinian man whose wife and daughters were still waiting in Palestine, jumped in, hefted Tommy over his shoulders and started spinning.

"I'm 6'4" and 235 pounds. That was really high off the ground in a slippery kitchen. I was honestly kind of afraid," Tommy says, laughing.

Throughout these weeks the men became progressively closer.

"Now I can definitely say I have friends from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq; really close friends that I still talk to today. And it all came from just dancing in the kitchen."

In spite of the camaraderie the Boyds felt with many at Khora the experience did have its tense moments.

Khora sits squarely in the heart of Exarcheia, also known as the anarchist zone.

"They had very frequent riots going on, so there would be times that we had to shut down early because a riot was planned." The Boyds also spent a few days visiting an abandoned building-turned refugee squat run by a faction of the Greek mafia. Leaders made it clear that they were watching the YWAMers and didn't want to see any overt ministry.

In spite of these restrictions, the couple developed friendships throughout their time in Greece that continue even two years later, thanks to social media and the ability to text across the ocean. These interactions offer opportunities for ongoing ministry and sharing of Christ's love.

Tommy and Kailey hope to arrange a trip in the coming year to visit these friends in the various places they have landed, many now scattered across Europe.

The couple also took part in a concerted effort to reach the Greek community during a three-week outreach that multiple other YWAM groups attended.

During the outreach, the teams handed out over 400 Bibles, nearly 200 individuals expressed a desire to commit to a walk with God, and upwards of 50 were baptized.

With just a few days left after this outreach, the Boyd's team took the opportunity to visit a refugee camp on the outskirts of Athens.

"That was probably the most eye-opening, impactful experience of the time, and we only went there for two days," says Tommy. "It was really cool to see how God was working in those relationships."

Six hours of basketball that first day lead to friendship with an Iraqi doctor that continues to this day. "We still talk at least two or three times a month, just checking in."

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Service In Athletics

The Boyds came home and initially returned to teaching, but Tommy felt unsettled. He wanted to use both his physical training and spiritual passion to serve others, but he wasn't convinced he was in the right field.

Ultimately, Tommy went back to school for a master's degree in strength and conditioning in order to do focused work with high school athletes.

"I really want to use this as a way of showing young people that they have so much value beyond their athletic ability." Boyd says that he faced a crisis of identity when his athletic career came to a close, and he wants to help students find their identity in Christ instead of their sport.

"That's the driving factor behind everything I do: how can I help people see that Christ is the best thing that you can possibly find your identity in?"

Boyd sees these three seasons life—first as a teacher, second in Greece, and third in strength and conditioning—as three expressions of God's call to serve others and point them towards Him.

"[It's] planting the seed knowing full well you may never see the tree," he shares, reflecting both on his friendships from Greece and future work with athletes. "It's not us in the end who saves, it's whenever Christ decides they're ready."

Topics: Alumni Stories, Caring Community

Lisa (Hubers) TerHaar '88

Posted by Nick Tofteland on Jan 28, 2020

Lisa-5Lisa TerHaar ’88 and Michelle Thompson ‘86 have created a brand-new concept combining children and elders with dementia in a Montessori program. This intergenerational classroom day program “engages children and elders in a meaningful community while experiencing ordinary life with extraordinary love.”   They call it “Nonna’s,” which is the Italian word for grandmother, and want it to be a home away from home, where children have an experience “just like being at grandma’s.” Nonna’s first location is in Wayzata, across the street from Presbyterian Homes. Right now, they are enrolling infants, toddlers, and elders in their Montessori day program. You can find out all about Nonna’s online at nonnas.net. 

Dedicated Faculty Make A Difference

Lisa attended MA from 7th-12th grade and remembers having good friends, enjoying being a part of the athletic programs, and appreciating the teachers at Minnehaha.  Being a part of the volleyball and ski team were “a lot of fun,” with the camaraderie of the team being the best part of the experience.   “My teachers at MA were all people who really loved their subject area.”  Rabbi Swanson was a very inspiring teacher who taught Biblical concepts by reading through the Chronicles of Narnia and Pilgrim’s Progress with his students, adding a layer of depth and relating it to their own spiritual formation. Her French teacher, Mrs. Johannessen was doing French immersion before immersion “was a thing.” Mrs. Johannessen “breathed French and promoted this whole feeling of another world in her classroom.”  They would have special days where they would do things like make French food.   Lisa even got to go to France on an amazing two-week trip planned by Mrs. Johannessen, which included one week of travel and one week of staying with a French family.  

Life Beyond MA

After attending Calvin College to earn her BSN, Lisa attended the University of Minnesota to earn her MSN and credentials as a nurse practitioner.  She spent several years caring for elders in the Allina Health System and Presbyterian Homes communities, which cultivated an interest in integrative/functional medicine, most specifically in the area of dementia prevention. While working at Minnesota Personalized Medicine, she collaborated with Michelle and their husbands to co-found Nonna’s, where Lisa is Chief Operating Officer and Director of Adult Programming. 

Lisa has been a caregiver for her mother who is living with dementia, which inspired the intergenerational programming.  One of her hopes and goals for this coming year is to create and launch a community-based dementia prevention program.  “For me, that is a really important part of the work--to go beyond just caring for elders---but to connect with families, and other people in the community who are concerned about dementia risk.”  

What's Next?

“The research is really building around the opportunity we have to prevent dementia. It is estimated that there is a period of 10-15 years when you’re having changes to your brain before symptoms are present.  If we can connect with people in that window of time, there is so much that we can do!” she said. Lisa has received training with Dr. Dale Bredesen, who, in his book “The End of Alzheimer’s” has published dementia reversals for people who are in those earlier stages. “It is very exciting research.  I look at my mom, and we were too late to implement the program for her--but now looking at myself, my sisters, and people who are in our generation, we are at the critical time in life to make changes.”  Dr Bredesen coined the term cognoscopy, suggesting that just as we routinely screen people for risk of colon cancer, we can screen people for their risk of dementia.  What do people aged 50+ need?  First, they need a thorough intake assessment, which includes assessing sleep status, a history of toxin exposures, along with a lab workup to identify their personal risk factors, which then leads to a personalized prevention plan. Lisa is enthusiastic in her belief that there is hope for families, like her own, who are at risk for dementia.

Topics: Alumni Stories

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