Written by University Writer Keeley Meier '20
Five distinguished Augustana alumni will be celebrated during Viking Days 2021 for outstanding achievement in their field and for exemplifying the core values of Augustana University: Christian faith, excellence, liberal arts, community and service.
Four alumni will receive the Alumni Achievement Award for their efforts and accomplishments: Lon Kightlinger ‘77, LuAnn (Loftesnes) Aakhus ‘76, Megan Rohrer ‘01 and Mel Antonen ‘79. One alumnus, Anders (AJ) Davidson ‘08, will receive the Horizon Award, which recognizes early career achievements of graduates of the last 15 years.
Dr. Lon Kightlinger ‘77 served as the state epidemiologist for the South Dakota Department of Health (SD-DOH) for nearly 20 years — career highlights from which include polio elimination, malaria and schistosomiasis control, as well as church building in Madagascar; disease control, immunization and infant mortality in South Dakota; and the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Ebola response team in Guinea. After graduating from Augustana with majors in biology and chemistry, Kightlinger received a Master of Science in public health from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, specializing in infectious parasitic diseases and epidemiology. At 65 years old, he left retirement to again work with the SD-DOH to aid in the coronavirus response effort. Kightlinger is now re-retired in Pierre, South Dakota. He has a son, Andrew Kightlinger ‘08, and lost his beloved wife, Mynna, in 2007.
LuAnn (Loftesnes) Aakhus ‘76 spent 40 years in health care management, operations and business development, physician and health plan partnerships, strategic planning, entrepreneurship, patient and caregiver education programs, hospital devices, as well as medical products sales and service. After graduating from Augustana with a biology major, Aakhus earned her Master of Business Administration from St. Mary’s College of California. Aakhus’ entrepreneurial spirit led her to creating an aerobics exercise company, bed and breakfast and hospital device sales and service company. She is currently the chief operating officer of Bicycle Health, a health care startup company committed to helping patients lead fulfilling and opioid-free lives.
Bishop Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer ‘01 (they/he) serves as the bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Rohrer, the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran church, was ordained extraordinarily in 2006. In 2010, they were one of the first seven pastors received into the ELCA after policies regarding openly LGBT pastors changed. On May 8, 2021, Rohrer was elected the first openly transgender bishop in a mainline Christian denomination. After graduating from Augustana with a religion major, Rohrer earned a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from the Pacific School of Religion. They have been listed in the Trans100, won OutHistory’s Since Stonewall Local History Competition and international awards for their documentary, “Zanderology.”
Mel Antonen ‘79 was a dedicated journalist and storyteller who began his career in high school at the Watertown Public Opinion, and, after graduating from Augustana, the Argus Leader, where he covered sports, farm and political beats. Antonen covered Major League Baseball for 25 years at USA Today. He was a baseball analyst at CNN, ESPN and SiriusXM and was an analyst/reporter at MASN-TV. The Lake Norden, South Dakota, native walked on Fenway Park’s left field with the late Yankee Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio, and sat in a dugout with another Hall of Fame member, Minnesota Twins’ Harmon Killebrew. Antonen, proud husband of Lisa, and father of Emmett, died Jan. 30, of a rare acute auto-immune disease and complications from COVID-19.
Dr. Anders (AJ) Davidson ‘08 is an active duty major in the United States Air Force (USAF) and a vascular surgeon at David Grant Medical Center (Travis AFB) and the University of California, Davis (UC-Davis). He is also an assistant professor of surgery through the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Davidson, a student-athlete, joined the USAF as a senior at Augustana, and following graduation, attended medical school at Creighton University, held a residency at UC-Davis, completed a master’s degree in clinical and translational research and continued surgical training with a fellowship at the University of Michigan. Davidson has published more than 30 peer-reviewed research articles, been awarded more than $850,000 in research grants and garnered national recognition from the military and trauma societies for his research into battlefield injury.