Boyd Koehler, Associate Professor Emeritus
Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial celebration would not be complete without the
recognition of early and fervent advocates of social justice. Lyla Anderegg, Associate
Professor Emerita in education and psychology, came to Augsburg in 1959 and
stayed for more than four decades. She passed away on Sept. 17, 2019.
Throughout this time, she was, indeed, a genuine pioneer of feminism and women’s rights—a strong voice in attaining pay equity for women and reducing the discriminatory treatment of women faculty and staff. She was a woman of action.
“She was a good friend to me and to Augsburg,” said Vivian Jenkins Nelsen, Director of InterRace and one of the first African-American associate professors at Augsburg. “Anderegg was a most fierce advocate for Augsburg but at the same time loved it enough to correct it. She was brilliant, a woman of grace and style, and a justice warrior.”
In the mid-1980s, Anderegg focused on the concept of androgyny in an interim course called “The Male Jail.” Androgyny, of course, was a shocking and alien concept to many students at that time, but she made them aware of the complexity and multifaceted effects of feminism.
One student, Dan Malloy ’86, a marketing major and football player, observed the following: “Anderegg challenged us to think outside the box with her interim course. Back in the 1980s, androgyny was considered an undesirable trait in men. But this psychology course made us aware of the negative impact and stress of gender stereotypes. I stepped outside my comfort zone frequently.”
Another eye-opening class that Anderegg taught was “The Psychology of Feminism.” Students of all genders were introduced to the concept of feminism, and to key feminist scholars and the prevalence and harm of gender stereotyping. As the library liaison to the feminism class (and other psychology classes), I visited this class for instruction purposes. What I witnessed was an unusually stimulating–electrifying–teacher-student exchange in her classroom. Anderegg’s brilliant strategies for teaching critical thinking skills in students and eliciting intense discussion of often uncomfortable and sensitive issues. I realized I was in the presence of a master teacher!
In subsequent sessions with Anderegg’s classes in both educational psychology and introductory and advanced psychology classes, I was even more convinced of her dedication and commitment to higher education, her high standards for students and peers, and her devotion to the moral, intellectual and cultural development of students.
Dr. Patricia Parker, Professor Emerita of education and former associate dean, echoed this assessment. “Lyla! A wonderful teacher and a glamorous stylist! I admired her approach to teaching very much,” said Parker.
Before coming to Augsburg, Anderegg’s experiences in higher education were national in scope. Earning an M.A. from Northwestern University in Evanston, Il, to graduate study at the prestigious University of Chicago and Berkeley University in California. Her previous employment included working as a psychologist in the Chicago and Denver public school systems, as a research assistant for the Medical Society of San Francisco and the University of Minnesota and a psychology professor at St. Olaf College. And Anderegg’s world travel to exotic places like Antarctica and Siberia no doubt enhanced her many students’ global awareness and sensitivity.
Her intellectual prowess is underscored by her longtime membership in Mensa International, whose induction requires IQ scores in the top two percent of the population, according to Senior Times, July 1997.
The men and women of Augsburg University owe a debt of gratitude to LylaAnderegg, a true agent of change and a personification of the school motto: Through Truth to Freedom.