Class Officer Spotlight: Owen “Sam” Sammelson ’58 Posted on December 13th, 2017 by

By Jane Norman Leitzman ’69

An Adirondack chair beside a garden of flowers seems an appropriate setting for this humble Gustavus pillar, Owen Sammelson ’58. Known by many in our community as “Sam,” this man has had much to do with charting the course of alumni giving. When my daughter Karla went to work for Gustavus, one of the first things she did was meet with him since his class is in a reunion year. Owing to our forgetting to have children and skipping a generation, Karla has been around many Gusties, often while sitting under a host company’s desk to read and color her way through more than one Phonorama. When she was preparing for her meeting, she asked me for a reminder about Owen Sammelson, to which I replied, “One of the greats Karla—a Cec cohort and college patriarch. And he arranged your dad’s financial aid.”

The Annual Fund was started by Ren Anderson in 1954. Cec Eckhoff graduated in 1956 and the class agent system of engaging with classmates began not long after that. Fast forward a few years, and Owen is now at work sharing in the planning of his class’s 60th reunion. In that 60 years his class has had only three class agents—and there is but a brief period when Sam wasn’t one of them. He and Bob Peterson worked together for many years, Bob going solo for that short period. Now the team is Sammelson-Sandvig (Carolyn). It was fun to recall the words of Jan Michaletz ’74, “When Cec asked you, it was assumed to be for the rest of your life.”

Owen Sammelson has some enviable distinctions among those still in the “class agent” mind set. He has a 60% giving rate—and everyone in the class has given at least once! He shared a very clever strategy with me—he recently worked with Philly and announced an anonymous donor’s pledge to a $25 match to each new gift within the past ten years. Six classmates came forward!

It’s hard not to mention the old Phonorama days when talking to the impressive Mr. Sammelson. That ship sailed with the answering machine and caller ID cell phone, but those years of calling established a personal acquaintance with classmates. Now Sam communicates primarily through email and personal notes, writing to everyone at least once a year. “I seldom ask for money—they know why I’m writing, though I might remind regular donors in late April.” A helpful strategy is dividing his class into six groups, based on their giving history. And, writing class letters. His classmates note that they read every single one, even those among the 60% of his class who get his letters on email.

Thank you, Owen Sammelson, for your work, dedication, and support of our mutually loved college. And, for leading by example for many of us, as you worked with Cec to bring a new way to connect with classmates to life. Your exuberance at past class agents’ meetings is a special recollection.


One Comment

  1. Noel Behne'58 says:

    When I think of the Class of ’58, I am always reminded of Bob Peterson and Owen Sammelson because of their faithfulness to GAC and their Classmates for 60 years. Go Gusties!