Written by Hanna Schutte ’11
Being part of a team is imperative to Mark Anderson ’66, whose love for Gustavus Adolphus College brought him back to the hill for 32 years.
This year he is retiring, but his is a face that will not be soon forgotten. The recipient of the Greater Gustavus Award, Anderson has worked hard to promote diversity on the Gustavus campus. He is also a campus figure who emulates the Gustavus values in every aspect of his personality.
Anderson has held several different titles on campus, including “student” from 1962-66, Assistant Dean of Students from 1978-82, Director of Admission from 1982-97, Assistant Vice President of Development from 1997-98, Dean of Admission from 1998-2006, and Vice President for Admission and Financial Aid from 2006-10.
More important to him than titles, however, is the fact that his whole family comprises dedicated Gusties, including his wife Frani Peterson Anderson ’67, and their two children, Joey Anderson ’95 and Lindsey Anderson Carlson ’96.
Anderson is enthusiastic about the people he works with every day. When speaking about the admission department staff, he says, “Working with them has been one of the biggest joys of my life. We have a very, very strong team that works together to help each other out. There are two sayings in the admission department—‘Sure, I can do that’ and ‘TGIF, there’s only two more days to work this week’. Everyone helps out and works hard.
“But we’re not a cookie-cutter office where we’re all the same—there are different people, different perspectives, and we all really have a love for Gustavus and are competitive. Everyone really enjoys helping young people through this process. They are very committed to helping students and their parents understand a liberal arts education and the importance of one.”
Being on campus for many years, Anderson has made countless memories and seen many hardworking Gustie staff members and students. Some of the most memorable include:
The late Robert S. Esbjornson ’41, a former professor of religion and respected campus figure. “He was faculty when I was a student, and a friend when I returned to Gustavus,” says Anderson.
Owen Sammelson ’58, a boss, mentor and “a bright, hardworking Gustie,” according to Anderson.
Chia Vang ’94, who was the first Hmong student to graduate from Gustavus and has since received her Ph.D. and now teaches at the University of Wisconsin and is “a wonderful role model for young women.”
Some alumni have truly recognized the value of their Gustavus education, and have asked Anderson about giving back, such as one graduate of the class of 1992. “He called me the other day and said he would like to give back the scholarship he received from Gustavus to come here so that another student can use it. So we are working on making that happen now,” says Anderson. These are just a small sample of the students, faculty, and staff that have contributed to Anderson’s meaningful experience.
Another memory of Gustavus that resonates for Anderson is the tornado of 1998. “Knowing the beauty of the campus, and then seeing it damaged, was very difficult.” On a happier note, he also recalls working with the palace security when the King and Queen of Sweden came to visit Gustavus in 1996.
As a familiar face on campus, Anderson has a distinctive view of what he feels makes Gustavus unique. “We are one of only three Phi Beta Kappa schools to have Daily Chapel—that is very distinctive. Our Swedish heritage and the Nobel Conference are other examples. There is also a nice balance of the student body—from scientists to soccer [players] to musicians (though students can be more than one!), there is a nice mix of student interests,” says Anderson. He also notes unique attributes, such as the sense of community, caring for one another, and always striving for excellence, which he says have remained constant during his time here.
Being a part of Gustavus for so long hasn’t dampened Anderson’s year-round enthusiasm for the campus. When asked what his favorite season on the hill is, he responds: “Fall, winter, spring, and summer. I love all the different times on campus. There is a special time in the spring when there is a chartreuse haze as the willows start to bud and come out—there is a sense of life renewed. In the fall there’s Gustie football; winter, Christmas in Christ Chapel; and in the summer there is the lushness of campus.”
The changing seasons aren’t the only traditions that resonate with Anderson. “My favorite tradition is the Freshman Convocation. This is when the new group of students is introduced to the President and the Dean of Students—the ‘turning over of the class’ is the term. I was almost in tears because this year was my last one. When the president mentioned that I was retiring, I got a standing ovation from 1,200 people—that was unbelievable.”
Through it all, Anderson has remained true to what brought him to Gustavus in the first place—Christ Chapel. “I first visited Christ Chapel as a senior in high school, and that started a love affair with the college that’s gone on for 49 years,” he says. “Every morning I look at the cross—it’s a great way to start the day and it is very meaningful to me.”
Though he won’t be here as a staff member next year, Anderson still has high hopes for his alma mater and its future. “I’m glad we have the new academic building. We have made substantial changes in the number of persons of color and I hope we can keep that trend line going. There are some great organizations—the Community Service Center was a beautiful idea, and student-initiated groups like Proclaim show that there are lots of neat things that have happened on campus. We need to keep these good things going.”
And finally, after 32 years, Anderson still gives credit where credit is due. “I truly feel that God has called me to work at Gustavus. This place is where I planted my roots and flourished because He is in my life. And one last thing—the real person that deserves the credit is my wife. She’s the 5-foot, 3-inch ‘little engine that could’ and has helped me all along the way.”