Alumni in the News


Four Augustana alumni from various parts of the country were recently recognized for achievements in their respective careers. Their education at Augustana prepared them for successful careers in coaching, politics, faith, and nursing.

Dirksen ('77) to be Inducted into Hall of Fame
North Iowa Preps
The Rev. Jeffrey Barrow Elected Bishop of ELCA Greater Milwaukee Synod
Worldwide Faith News
Montana Democratic Party gets new Director
The Montana Standard
Local Research on Violence Leads to Award
The Fergus Falls Daily Journal


Dirksen ('77) to be Inducted into Hall of Fame

North Iowa Preps

CEDAR FALLS — Newman Catholic football coach Mike Dirksen (Augustana 1977 graduate) will be among four coaches inducted into the Iowa Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame at halftime of the Class 4A championship game on Nov. 20.

Dirksen, who has led the Knights to an 11-1 mark and a berth in the Class A semifinals against North Tama this season, is in his 26th year at Newman and 29th year as a head coach.

Dirksen has a 185-97 career record overall and a 173-81 mark at Newman.

The Knights have won nine conference or district championships under his tutelage.

Dirksen is a 1973 graduate of LeMars High School, received his undergraduate degree from Augustana College and his graduate degree from Minnesota State.

Other coaches to be honored include Rick Pogemiller (Bellevue), Dave Mineart (Norwalk) and Darrell Schumacher (Oskaloosa).

Players to be inducted into the hall of fame are Bill Reichardt (Iowa City), John Arnaud (Sioux City North), Reggie Roby (Waterloo East), Jeff Dole (Grundy Center), Matt Whitaker (Ankeny) and Mark Kacmarynski (Mallard).

Montana Democratic Party gets new Director

The Montana Standard

HELENA (AP) - The Montana Democratic Party has a new executive director.

David Benson (2002 Augustana graduate), a veteran of political campaigns in South Dakota and Minnesota, took over the job in mid-October. He replaces Art Noonan, who resigned last summer.

The 29-year-old Benson is a graduate of Augustana College in Sioux Falls. He worked on Sen. Tom Daschle's unsuccessful re-election race in 2004 and, after moving to Minnesota in 2005, worked for a political action committee called Midwest Values. He later was deputy campaign manager for Al Franken's 2008 senate race.

Benson said he's looking forward to the 2010 elections, setting his sights on the Legislature and five-term U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, the lone Republican in Montana's congressional delegation.

He said he wants to build on the successes of Montana Democrats.

He praised Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer and U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester for advocating for Montana families, farms and businesses.

In Minnesota, Benson worked for Stephanie Schriock, who managed the Franken campaign after running Tester's 2006 general election race. Shriock, a Butte native, is now Tester's chief of staff in the senate.

The Montana Democratic Party now has two other employees besides Benson. He plans on hiring a fund raiser and someone to work on 2010 legislative races.

"For me coming in to this position, I want to create stability and continuity for the party for now and in the future, " Benson said.

The Rev. Jeffrey Barrow Elected Bishop of ELCA Greater Milwaukee Synod

Worldwide Faith News

MILWAUKEE (ELCA) -- The Rev. Jeffrey S. Barrow (1973 Augustana graduate) was elected Dec. 5 as bishop of the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America (ELCA) at a special synod assembly here at Our Savior Lutheran Church. Barrow, 58, is currently an assistant to the bishop in the synod
and senior pastor of Holy Communion Lutheran Church, Racine, Wis.

Barrow, who led on all ballots, was elected on the 5th ballot for bishop, 209-185 over the Rev. Susan E. Tjornehoj, director for evangelical mission, ELCA Minneapolis Area Synod. The Rev. Joseph G. Crippen, pastor at St. John's Lutheran Church, Northfield, Minn. was also a candidate on the fourth ballot. There were 36 names on the first or nominating ballot.

"I am very grateful to be a pastor in this church," Barrow told the ELCA News Service in a phone interview. "I am hopeful for what is ahead for the Greater Milwaukee Synod and the wider church."

Barrow added that his experience as a parish pastor was helpful as he worked with congregations in his role as assistant to the bishop. "I think I will always look at things through the eyes of a parish pastor," he said.

Raised in Billings, Mont., Barrow earned a bachelor's degree in 1973 at Augustana College, Sioux Falls, S.D., one of 28 ELCA colleges and universities. He earned a master of divinity degree in 1979 at Luther Northwestern Seminary (now Luther Seminary), St. Paul, Minn., one of eight ELCA seminaries.

Barrow was ordained in 1979 by the former American Lutheran Church and served as pastor of three congregations -- Zion Lutheran (Arneckeville), Cuero, Texas, and Ascension Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, before he was called to Holy Communion Lutheran Church. He also served as executive director of the Koinonia Community, Highland Lake, N.Y.

The Rev. David W. Olson has been serving the Greater Milwaukee Synod as interim bishop, following the Sept. 30 resignation of the Rev. Paul W. Stumme-Diers. Stumme-Diers accepted a call to Bethany Lutheran Church, Bainbridge Island, Wash.

The synod council has recommended the new bishop begin Feb. 1, 2010. Barrow will be installed by the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, March 14, 2010, at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Menomonee Falls, Wis.

Barrow and wife Kate have two children, Jackson and Anneka. The family resides in Racine.

The ELCA Greater Milwaukee Synod has 91,000 baptized members and 137 congregations in the Greater Milwaukee Area.

Local Research on Violence Leads to Award

The Fergus Falls Daily Journal

While completing clinical experience at a Fergus Falls shelter, nursing graduate student Marion Kershner (Augustana 1970 graduate) learned that most of the shelter's residents hadn't discussed with a health professional the violence they had experienced.

"It's just too risky," she said.

That led her to begin a unique study on violence in rural women's lives in 1998, which she completed with Dianne Longer, former executive director of what's now known as Someplace Safe.

Kershner was recently honored by her alma mater [graduate school], the University of North Dakota, for her research.

Kershner and Long received funding from the Allina Foundation for a community-based violence prevention research study, Kershner said. Their focus was on the barriers that keep a woman from disclosing if she's the victim of violence and also how health professionals can screen for violence in the home.

Typically studies are completed at universities. Instead, they knew they needed rural data, she said. A sample was selected from women in women, infant and children programs and clinics in ten counties. The study remains the largest study on rural women in the country, she said.

The study is used to train nurses and physicians and to develop nursing curriculum, she said.

She noted that the year the study was published, 40 Minnesota women died from violence and 70 children were left without mothers.

"This is a problem," Kershner said.

When the UND College of Nursing held its 100th anniversary celebration in October Kershner was among four alumni who were recognized for their accomplishments.

Kershner received the Discover Award, an award for major contribution to nursing research or scholarship, or have used research findings in practice leading to significant changes in the clinical nursing practice, according to UND.

Being singled out for the award was humbling, she said, pointing out that she's "surrounded by professionalism that astounds me." She added that she's proud of the people she encounters in her profession, especially at the Otter Tail County Public Health Department.

Kershner noted that UND "bookends" her education.

She was interested in nursing because she was interested in people and science, she said. As a high school student in Detroit Lakes, her class was visited on career day by a public health instructor from UND, who impressed her, she said.

At the time, she could have gotten a three-year degree with a hospital college. However, she decided to attend Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD, to receive her four-year degree needed for a public health career.

Two decades later she rounded out her education with a master's degree from UND's College of Nursing, after she received a mailing about their program offering graduate nursing courses. The courses were being held at distant sites, in the days before online classes were developed, and Kershner said she was able to take classes in Fargo.

With four children, she had to go slowly and took four years to complete the program, she said.

She graduated with a specialty in parent/child nursing and now works as the family health nursing supervisor in the Otter Tail County Public Health Department.

Working in a Public Health Department can take a person in many different directions, she said. A public health career is "such fertile ground for creativity and excitement and the prospect to make a change that impacts the population," she said. She worked with the Public Health Department on and off through the 1970's and 80's as she was raising her children. She has worked steadily at the department since 1991.

In her position, she supervises nurses as they complete daily tasks such as early childhood screenings and family home visits.

She supervises four nurses in the department's Nurse-Family Partnership Program, where nurses work with first-time parents for more than two years and complete 40 to 60 home visits with the families.

She's been part of the department's effort to receive a statewide health improvement grant to fund a program called The Golden Start, which promotes breastfeeding for the first four weeks of a baby's life. Four weeks is doable, she said, and in the program, they encourage women to then think about continuing after the four weeks.

Part of Kershner's week is also spent hosting a weekly radio show called "Health Matters" on Lakes Radio, which began in 2003 and won an award from the Minnesota Broadcasters Association.

She said she's grateful that Public Health Director Diane Thorson has given her opportunities to grow professionally and noted that they have a great partnership.

She credits one of her instructors at Augustana College with setting the stage for her. The instructor found the joy in work, she said.

It's the joy that Kershner shares with the current students who work with the county's Public Health Department. Many of the nurses began there while they were students, she added.

"To just ignite the passion for public health in students is great fun," she said.

Bruce Conley
Director, News Information

Phone: 605.274.5526
Fax: 605.274.4903