St. Olaf Campus News
Forbes has named Connor Wray ’14 and Erik Brust ’14 to its “30 Under 30” list of young entrepreneurs for their work with JonnyPops, a company that has gone from a dorm room startup to the shelves of national retailers.
The business magazine says its list includes “600 of the brightest young entrepreneurs, innovators and game changers,” selected from more than 15,000 nominations.
“It’s a personal milestone for us,” Brust tells CBS affiliate WCCO-TV. “But we’re excited for the team because it’s a much bigger effort here than just the two of us.”
Wray and Brust started JonnyPops by trying different recipes in a blender in the basement of their St. Olaf dorm. Their goal was to create better tasting frozen bars — or “smoothies-on-a-stick,” as Twin Cities Business magazine says — with just natural ingredients: fruit, cream, sugar, water, and a pinch of salt.
They received an entrepreneurial grant from the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career to help get JonnyPops started, and their business plan led them to take first place at the inaugural Ole Cup competition.
Today, JonnyPops produces about 80,000 of the frozen fruit and cream treats out of their facility in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. JonnyPops come in seven flavors, with four more on the way. Once a popular feature in Minnesota farmers markets, JonnyPops now stock shelves in national retailers like Kroger, Target, Walmart, Costco, and more.
At 25 years old, Brust and Wray are still dreaming. In 2015, they decided to make the perfect addition for a healthy school lunch. Their Smart Snack JonnyPop has real fruit as the primary ingredient. Smart Snacks have been a hit in Minnesota schools. Brust and Wray plan on expanding Smart Snacks beyond the state.
Each popsicle stick has a message. “We call it a better pop for a better world. It’s a really big program for us in the Minneapolis schools,” Brust tells NBC affiliate KARE 11. “We’ve basically spun it into this anti-bullying, pay it forward message, to get kids engaged with random acts of kindness.”
A recent article in the Star Tribune highlights The Architect, a dance performance choreographed by Mathew Janczewski and St. Olaf College alumnus Timmy Wagner ’11 of Arena Dance.
Wagner, a dance major at St. Olaf, performed the piece solo “as homage to the collaboration between head, heart, and body,” notes Caroline Palmer, a dance critic writing for the Star Tribune.
Intense visual elements form vital components of the performance. Wagner danced in a white space often filled with colorful bands of fabric, stretched so tight individual fibers could be seen. Music, gentle lighting, and projected text completed the vibrant, thoughtful atmosphere.
Throughout the piece, Wagner moved in conversation with his surrounding environment. Palmer describes how “When a piece of fabric drifted to the ground, [Wagner] improvised another way to hold it aloft — some of the falls were opening-night surprises, but they worked. Seeing Wagner thinking on his feet — literally and figuratively — provided a source of tension but also satisfaction.”
The Architect aims to show audiences the complex nature of bringing an artistic vision to life. The performances succeed in granting viewers a “a glimpse into the creative mind at work, a loving ode to the neurons that make it all possible,” Palmer writes.
Many of the skills Wagner possess today were built during his time with the St. Olaf Dance Department, which gives students a strong basis in physical, creative, and analytical skills. The department prepares students to flourish beyond college by teaching them to perform and manage, and work as freelance artists or as part of professional companies. Many dance graduates also go onto rewarding careers in fields from arts management to dance therapy to teaching.
New York City may be thousands of miles away from Northfield, Minnesota, but St. Olaf College students attending the recent New York Connections trip found a thriving and engaged Ole community despite the distance.
“These alumni reminded me that even though St. Olaf is a small Minnesota college, we have a wide reach of influence,” says Aaron Lauby ’19, who hails from the Chicago area.
The program in New York, offered through the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career, offered 35 students the chance to meet with alumni and employers and visit places like The New York Times, New Amsterdam Theatre, and the New York Stock Exchange.
“Everyone I spoke to was so helpful in the assistance they offered, and genuinely cared about my life on the Hill and beyond,” Dylan Walker ’18 adds. “Their advice was so necessary, and I learned things on the trip that I have yet to stop thinking about.”St. Olaf students (from left) Sara Albertson ’18, Aaron Lauby ’19, and Christine Menge ’18 speak with Alisha Spielmann ’03 about a career in the performing arts as part of the New York Connections Program.
The trip was part of the Piper Center for Vocation and Career’s Connections Program, which enables students to explore careers and network with alumni in cities across the country. It’s one of a number of programs and resources the Piper Center offers to help students leverage their liberal arts education to achieve their full potential.
In addition to New York, the Piper Center offers Connections Programs in Washington, D.C.; Seattle, Portland, Boston, Denver, San Francisco, Madison, and Chicago. The career tracks change with each city.
The New York Connections Program was designed with three tracks available to students: journalism and publishing, visual and performing arts, and business/finance.
Students interested in publishing were able to visit Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster and meet with a panel of recent grads working in publishing.
“So much of the industry is founded through networking, so it’s important to make those contacts,” Kit Stookey ’18 says. “I got a way better idea of what it’s like to work in publishing, and even some idea of where it’s probably going.”St. Olaf students interested in careers in business and finance spend time at the New York Stock Exchange as part of the Connections Program.
Accomplished actor and screenwriter David Rysdahl ’09 was one of the notable alumni who were able to sit down and discuss the transition from St. Olaf to New York with students.
“Our shared background as Oles made a quick and meaningful connection possible and set the groundwork for a further ongoing conversation,” says Lauby, himself a theater major.
Other alumni connections included New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning Assistant Business and Financial Editor Gretchen Morgenson ’76; Associate Music Director for Aladdin Aron Accurso ’01; and JCRA Financial CEO William Kloehn ’83.
“I feel more confident about my ability to live in such a large city,” Walker says. “And now I know that there is a network of Oles who would support me if and/or when I decide to make the move out there.”Click to view slideshow.
St. Olaf College Professor of English Diana Postlethwaite will deliver the fall Mellby Lecture, titled The Monster’s Plot: Memory, Intelligence, and Time in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, on November 14.
The lecture, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Viking Theater in Buntrock Commons, is free and open to the public. It will be streamed live and archived online.
Postlethwaite’s greatest academic interests are 19th-century British fiction, and the Victorian period in general, as well as film studies. She has published a book, articles, and reviews on George Eliot and 19th-century scientific psychology, including Making it Whole: A Victorian Circle and the Shape of Their World and “George Eliot and Science” in The Cambridge Companion to George Eliot.
A Minnesota native, Postlethwaite graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University before earning her doctorate from Yale University. She went on to teach at Yale, the University
of Chicago, and Mount Holyoke College before joining the St. Olaf English faculty in 1988.
About the Mellby Lecture
The annual Mellby Lectures are named in remembrance of St. Olaf faculty member Carl A. Mellby and were established in 1983 to give professors the opportunity to share their research with the public. Mellby, known as “the father of social sciences” at St. Olaf, started the first courses in economics, sociology, political science, and art history at the college. He was professor and administrator from 1901 to 1949, taught Greek, German, French, religion, and philosophy, and is credited with creating the college’s honor system.
The St. Olaf College Viking Chorus is bringing messages of hope to a choral symposium in Michigan.
Viking Chorus, a choral ensemble of more than 60 first-year student men led by Conductor Mark Stover ’01, will be a featured ensemble at the University of Michigan Ambassadors of Song International Male Chorus Symposium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
There they will be performing, along with other inspiring works, Jake Runestad’s Please Stay, a powerful piece that was composed using words adapted from tweets using #IKeptLiving — expressions of hope from those who battled depression and chose to live.
Before they leave, Viking Chorus will host an open rehearsal on November 9 at 5:15 p.m. in Boe Chapel. It will be free and open to the public.Members of Viking Chorus sing during the 2016 St. Olaf Christmas Festival.
Viking Chorus has been organized to sing the highest quality literature, and the ensemble performs a program of music that includes motets, cantata movements, and anthems, as well as contemporary choral pieces, spirituals, folksongs, and music traditionally associated with men’s singing groups.
Eugene Rogers, the director of the Men’s Glee Club at the University of Michigan, invited Viking Chorus to be a featured ensemble at the Ambassador of Song International Male Chorus Symposium after being inspired by their music during a performance of the St. Olaf Christmas Festival at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis last March.
“I was really touched by his invitation because he specifically mentioned the spirit of the singing, the heart behind the singing,” Stover says. “He talked about how listening to Viking Chorus never felt self-serving. It always felt like, for him, the men singing were doing so to serve others and it inspired him in that way.”
Stover experienced this spirit firsthand as a student at St. Olaf, and returned to help build the commitment to artistic excellence and to one another as a community.
“Looking back, I see the absolute privilege it was to be a part of that ensemble, because it didn’t just serve me during that first year as an initial first family on campus, but the relationships I formed in Viking Chorus have been part of my whole life since then,” Stover says.
He’s excited to showcase the talent of Viking Chorus at the symposium in Michigan, which will attract ensembles and musicians from around the world.
“Our hope is that the same spirit that inspired the invitation to bring us to Michigan is what we will represent when we are there in November,” Stover says. “It’s an opportunity to represent the college in a way that we hope makes the college proud of how we can be an ambassador — to serve through the arts and share a message of faith and hope, and inspire people in their lives to be a light.”
Professor Emeritus of Chemistry Wesley Pearson ’54, who guided thousands of Oles through St. Olaf College’s chemistry and pre-health programs during the 57 years he taught on the Hill, died on Friday, November 3.
A visitation will be held at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northfield at 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 12. A funeral service will be held at St. John’s at 2 p.m. on Monday, November 13.
Pearson taught chemistry at St. Olaf from 1958, when he accepted a one-year offer to fill a sabbatical vacancy, until 2015, when he retired.
In addition to teaching chemistry and providing mentored undergraduate research opportunities for students, Pearson made pre-health vocational training a strong priority at St. Olaf. He founded the Health Professions Committee, which became a model for colleges around the country, and he was recognized with the Minnesota Health Care Career Award in 2012. He also devised and launched The Physician in Clinical and Hospital Health Care, an interim shadowing and vocation program presented in partnership with Fairview Health Services.
For his contributions to chemistry at St. Olaf, the Pearson Endowed Fund for Pre-Health and Chemistry was established in May 2017. Hundreds of alumni and friends gathered to recognize Pearson and the impact of his efforts this spring.
“Wes was the best teacher I ever had throughout my education,” chemistry major Dan Syrdal ’68 said. “He was also the most important person to my professional development — all the way through my Ph.D. in organic chemistry, my J.D., and my legal career in environmental law and biotechnology development.”
In addition to his work in chemistry and pre-health vocational training, Pearson was also devoted to St. Olaf athletics. From 1984 until 2008, he served as St. Olaf’s faculty athletic representative to the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), and in 2009 he received the MIAC Distinguished Service Award. From 1967 until 2012, he was the official timekeeper at St. Olaf football and basketball games, a service to the college that was recognized in 2012 with the St. Olaf Athletics Service Award.
Read Pearson’s full obituary here.
Holland Hall, modeled on the Mont-Saint-Michel monastery in France, stands as one of the most majestic and iconic buildings on St. Olaf College’s campus. Thanks to a recent $13 million renovation, the interior of Holland is now as beautiful as its exterior.
First opened in 1925, Holland Hall had its interior renovated in 1969. The 1969 renovation enabled more departments to use the building; however, much of the Holland Hall’s character was lost. The renovation of Holland Hall this year revives its original design, combining classic architecture and adaptable classrooms filled with modern teaching technologies. The new technology was made possible by a generous $1 million donation from Carol and Ward Klein ’77.
The updated Holland Hall houses the Economics, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Social Work and Family Studies, and Sociology and Anthropology departments.
Improvements to Holland include:
- A light-filled interior with expanded views of campus and the surrounding countryside.
- Windows engineered for energy efficiency, with certain components custom-built to match the original design.
- An ADA floor lift, making the 5th and 6th floors accessible.
- Offices positioned toward the building’s exterior to take advantage of natural light.
- New study spaces, including lounge areas, rooms for group work, and quiet study spots.
- New classrooms, including seminar rooms, a computer lab, and an undergraduate research lab. Many classrooms now match the initial 1924 floor plans.
“Anyone entering Holland Hall today with any memory of the prior iteration will certainly acknowledge it is a transformed space,” Associate Provost and Professor of Music Dan Dressen says. “It has become a beautiful gateway to the college for those who enter it from the community.”Click to view slideshow.
The St. Olaf College Institute for Freedom and Community recently welcomed Danielle Allen, a government professor at Harvard University, and Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, to campus for a thought-provoking dialogue on academic freedom moderated by St. Olaf Professor of Religion and Philosophy Edmund Santurri, the Morrison Family Director of the Institute for Freedom and Community.
During their visit, they also took time to sit down with Minnesota Public Radio’s Kerri Miller for a Friday Roundtable discussion about the First Amendment on college campuses.
Miller began the hourlong interview with these questions: “Are college campuses still committed to a core principle of American identity: the freedom of speech? And how well do students and faculty understand what that means?”Daniell Allen (left) and Peter Berkowitz (center) during their Roundtable interview with Minnesota Public Radio’s Kerri Miller (right).
Allen and Berkowitz discussed everything from their personal experiences with free-speech backlash to whether campuses across the nation support free speech both in principle and in practice.
Their visit to St. Olaf was part of the Institute for Freedom and Community’s fall series, Academic Freedom: Its Meanings and Limits.
Established at St. Olaf in 2014, the Institute for Freedom and Community encourages free inquiry and meaningful debate, and offers a distinctive opportunity to cultivate civil discourse within the context of a liberal arts setting.