The kid from Broken Bone School No. 1 is moving on.
Loren Anderson, who has led Pacific Lutheran University onto solid financial ground and into the great world of international studies and service, is retiring.
After 20 years as PLU president, he’s not merely retiring; he is returning to his family’s ranch in North Dakota and home in Minnesota.
His wife, MaryAnn Waalen Anderson, is going with him, to the dismay of the many students she has befriended and mentored.
Together, they are leaving their work and Gonyea House, the president’s residence where their daughter, Maren, 25, grew up.
Like all the Lute graduates who got their degrees over the weekend, the Andersons are packing everything and planning for the best.
“In a very special way, MaryAnn and I have been thinking of this as our commencement day,” the 66-year-old Anderson told PLU’s 680 graduates Sunday. “We hope it is OK with you if we claim for ourselves honorary membership in the class of 2012.”
That class reflects the Andersons’ drive to make PLU a global force for good.
“You have come together in this great PLU learning community from 32 different states and 14 different countries,” he said. “Your membership represents the great diversity of the human family, religiously, ethnically, economically.”
Of the graduates, 346 studied abroad, Anderson said.
“You have studied in 48, yes, that’s right, 48 different countries, and on all seven continents. It is a very impressive record.”
The record at home, he said, is equally impressive, and one in which the Andersons have delighted to share as a team.
Leaving will be like taking the rope swing as high as it will go, he said, then jumping off.
He’s done it before. Raised on the family ranch in Rugby, N.D., he started first grade as one of three students in the one-room, distinctively named Broken Bone School No. 1. He didn’t have a classmate until he left for ninth grade.
He was the first in the family to jump into college, the first to earn a doctorate.
All of it led to PLU, where he led the drive to raise $100 million to create an endowment and financial aid reserves to admit students from all income levels.
He pushed the college out into Parkland, and jump-started the economic revival on Garfield Street.
He and MaryAnn worked on community involvement programs. On the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation board, she helped plan last year’s Be the Spark event with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and invited PLU students to use it to build community around them.
PLU students volunteer in the Franklin Pierce School District and at Boys & Girls Clubs. They pull blackberries and have pushed to make the campus sustainable.
Last week, the Andersons sat in Gonyea House, looking out over the pond at a bend of a Clover Creek offshoot.
“You live in a place like this, built in 1939,” said MaryAnn, 53. “It’s meant to be shared. There’s a spirit of hospitality that permeates this place.”
Anderson’s position demanded they host some 100 events a year. The couple’s vision inspired them to include students who worked the dinners and maintained the grounds in their circle of dear friends – and in the Gonyea Fellowship leadership program MaryAnn developed.
“They are student ambassadors who can carry on an adult conversation with bishops and scholars and funders,” he said. “That is a great, great value.”
“It creates a really authentic atmosphere for students and guests,” she said. “That’s rare air. That’s magic.”
PLU, he said, doesn’t churn out yes people. It nurtures life-long learners.
Outside, Gonyea Fellow Erik Olson was cutting the grass.
When Olson arrived at PLU, MaryAnn said, “he thought you came to college to be something.”
“It isn’t about the answer,” Olson told her last week. “It’s all about the question.”
It is, the Andersons said, about the transformations that come with broad experience and an open mind.
PLU students who study in Namibia, Norway or Nepal come home with a fresh understanding of their responsibility as global citizens and stewards.
Heading back to North Dakota, then to Minnesota, Anderson will consult with colleges searching for new presidents, including transformative ones. MaryAnn will take a year to recharge.
“It’s been the adventure of a lifetime,” Loren Anderson said Thursday, looking at Gonyea House’s pond. “We have been changed for good.”
On Sunday, he bade farewell to the new graduates, hoping they would attain what he already has.
“I wish for each of you,” he said, “a deeper sense of gratitude for the gifts of your life.”email@example.com 253-597-8677 blog.thenewstribune.com/street