2018 Founders Day Homily

Three exemplary employees were honored at the annual Founders Day celebration in Christ Chapel on October 30.
Posted on October 31st, 2018 by

Kate Knutson, Deb Swanberg, and Amy Brown were honored with 2018 employee awards at the annual Founders Day service.

The annual Founders Day celebration commemorates the dedication of Old Main on the College’s Saint Peter, Minn., campus on October 31, 1876. Each year, three outstanding employees are recognized with the annual employee awards during the Founders Day chapel service. Here are President Rebecca Bergman’s remarks at the 2018 event.

Romans 12: 6-8 (Common English Bible translation)

6  We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us.  If your gift is prophecy, you should prophesy in proportion to your faith.

7  If your gift is service, devote yourself to serving.  If your gift is teaching, devote yourself to teaching.

8  If your gift is encouragement, devote yourself to encouraging.  The one giving should do it with no strings attached.  The leader should lead with passion.  The one showing mercy should be cheerful.

Greetings to all of you as we gather to celebrate Gustavus Adolphus College’s Founders Day. On October 31, 1876, Old Main was officially dedicated. At that time, Old Main stood by itself here on the hill. The building could house up to 100 students in 17 dormitory rooms on the upper floors, with library, lecture rooms, and professor’s office on the main floor, and a dining hall, kitchen, and laundry in the basement.

From these rather simple beginnings, Gustavus has undergone dramatic growth and change over the last 142 years. And as you look out the window behind me at the construction site for our Nobel project, it is clear that we are continuing to undergo growth and change. And yet, the mission of the College, to educate students for lives of leadership and service in society, remains the same.

Today we honor our founder, Eric Norelius, and we celebrate his vision in establishing this College and the rich heritage on which we stand.

In this morning’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans, we hear a variety of examples of the spiritual gifts given to us by the grace of God. In reading this particular translation, called the Common English Bible Translation, I was struck by the concept of “devoting oneself” to using one’s gifts, and I found myself coming back to that concept as I thought about Eric Norelius and the gifts he brought to Gustavus.

What does it mean to be devoted to something or someone? Devotion is a word that goes deep. The dictionary describes devotion with words like commitment, dedication, love, passion, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause. It is being “all in,” giving your time, energy, and attention to something of value to you.

President Bergman addresses employees and guests in a reception following the chapel service.

So, please listen again to Paul’s words on various spiritual gifts. I have taken the liberty of highlighting this notion of devotion to using one’s gifts:

  • If your gift is prophecy, then devote yourself to preaching in accordance to your faith.
  • If your gift is service, then devote yourself to serving.
  • If your gift is teaching, then devote yourself to teaching.
  • If your gift is encouragement, then devote yourself to encouraging.
  • If your gift is giving, then devote yourself to giving generously.
  • If your gift is leadership, then devote yourself to leading with passion.
  • If your gift is showing mercy, then devote yourself to showing it cheerfully.

Do you relate to one or more of these spiritual gifts? I invite you this morning to ask yourself whether you are fully devoted to using your special gifts? Of course, the first question might logically be, do you know what your special gifts are? I will leave that to each of you to ponder. We do know that each of us have different gifts, which is marvelous.  Together we become a community that works in ways that are complementary and synergistic. We don’t all have to be good at everything. I thank God for that! Rather, we can each utilize our special gifts for the betterment and overall success of the community in which we live and work.

Whatever is your special gift, I believe the important thing Paul is telling us to use it. Cultivate and nurture your gift. Get busy – consciously and deliberately put your gift into action. Use it for the benefit of others. Use it for the advancement of our mission. Use it to serve a neighbor. Use it to pursue justice. Use it to explore questions of faith. Use it to build up our community. Use it to deliver excellence in all our pursuits. Use your gift to put our values into action here at Gustavus.

As you devote yourself to using your gifts, know that you are doing the work of God.  And know that it is good.

Now today, in celebration of Founders Day, we celebrate three individuals who are being honored for their extraordinary service to the College. This is an especially meaningful award, as it is recognition from your peers. I am grateful to all those who nominated individuals for these awards, as well as those who served on the selection committees.

I would like to ask our award winners to please stand and remain standing as your name is announced.

Deb Swanberg is the recipient of the 2018 Augusta Carlson Schultz Award, which is presented annually to a support staff employee who exemplifies outstanding dedication and spirit of service. Deb serves as the Administrative Assistant in the Dean of Students Office and has worked at Gustavus since 2003.

The 2018 Eric Norelius Award recipient is Amy Brown. The Norelius Award is given annually to an outstanding administrative employee, who has demonstrated exceptional service and dedication to the College. Amy serves as the Office Manager in Facilities Management. She has worked at Gustavus since 1997.

Finally, we celebrate with Dr. Kate Knutson, Professor in Political Science, who will receive the 2018 Faculty Service Award. This award is given annually to a faculty member whose service has improved the College. She has been at Gustavus since 2005.

I invite Deb, Amy, and Kate to come forward, and I have the distinct pleasure of presenting each of you with a plaque.

Thank you, Deb, Amy, and Kate, for your devotion to the gift of service. Let’s all honor these well deserving recipients of our 2018 service awards once more with our enthusiastic acclaim.

Following the recessional, you are all invited to a Founders Day reception in Alumni Hall to congratulate our 2018 Award recipients.


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