Don Gustafson, a life remembered

Kristian Evans, Senior News Editor

Augsburg history professor emeritus Don Gustafson passed away on the evening of April 14 at the age of 85. Gustafson taught in the history department from 1961 until his retirement in 2014. Born and raised in St. Peter, Gustafson earned his undergraduate degree from Gustavus Adolphus College and a master’s degree in history from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. After two years of service in the U.S. Army, Gustafson taught at Mankato State and Gustavus before joining the teaching community at Augsburg for over 50 years.

In a statement to “The Echo,” Augsburg history department chair Jacqueline deVries illustrated Gustafson’s relationship with Augsburg and his students. “Professor Gustafson (everyone knew him as ‘Gus’) was an ‘Augsburg Original.’ Even though he rarely went to faculty meetings, everyone on campus knew him, and nearly everyone had lingered at some point by the open door to his poison-green office, ensnared by his lively personality. 

When Gus was on campus, his door was always open to students. He especially loved talking and working with students who traced their heritage to the places he had studied and visited: Southern India, Namibia and South Africa, Vietnam and Cambodia, China, Central America and so many other regions, and he spurred many others to travel to these regions.”

Professor deVries also recalls the departure of Gustafson from Augsburg. “When he retired in 2014, he declined a formal party and instead requested an open house for former students. That day, the halls of Memorial were abuzz for a straight six hours as streams of former students came back to visit. He was delighted.”

Gustafson is survived by his wife Beverly, sons Jeffery and Peter, daughter Mayra and sister Evelyn. A memorial service will be held at First Lutheran Church in St. Peter on Saturday, April 27 at 5 p.m. Visitation begins at 3:30.

This article was originally published in the April 26, 2019 issue. 

Don Gustafson photo is from the Augsburg University Photo Archive.