Growing up on the Wartburg campus in the 1960s: Nancy Mista Anderson, ’58

Thank you for your patience. Since the beginning of the year, my creative attention was devoted to a TEDxTalk at Wartburg College on Information Literacy and the “algorithms of outrage.” I presented it at the Lyceum on March 12, 2022. I’ve also been helping with a friend’s biography of his father’s experience in a bomber crew in Italy during World War II. It is a fascinating story that could easily be a movie.

Anyway…

I have had plenty of time to come up with a few story ideas for the blog. I was reminded of a post I made on Facebook. It captures the good fortune of what it was like to grow up on the campus of Wartburg College in the 1960s and later. There were many fascinating people that I met. Some will remember them as beloved faculty and staff members, but to me they were occasional childhood playmates. It is easy to understand now that they became master educators because they could relate to anybody – whether they were a college sophomore or a six-year old son of the Sports Information Director.

This is the first of many stories of my encounters with some of the giants of the Wartburg faculty and staff. You may not remember them all, but you walked by the building or classroom named after them.

First, I would like to introduce Nancy Mista Anderson, ’58, who unfortunately passed away in 2019. I knew her as what I would imagine a mischievous, much older-sister would be if I had one. She was later my physical education professor. I was very happy to call her professor emeritus colleague when I returned to Wartburg as a librarian.

First, is a reworking of what I wrote on Facebook when I learned of Nancy’s death. That will be followed by a short essay that Nancy’s classmate, Harold Kurtz, ’58, wrote as an email to my sons, Lukas and Niko, as part of series after the dedication of the Duane Schroeder Press Box at Walston-Hoover Stadium. Harold’s piece became part of our book, -30-: Remembering Duane Schroeder. There is some repetition between Harold and me, but I take comfort that our memories are consistent.

***

It is with great sadness that I learned that my Dad’s classmate, my professor, my playmate when I was a kid, honorary Wartburg aunt, friend and colleague, Nancy Anderson died last Sunday.
One of my earliest memories was hanging around while Dad called in the football box score in his office after a game. In those pre-computer or even pre-fax days that meant going through the box line by line for the Waterloo Courier, Des Moines Register, and AP. Needless to say, this was dreadfully dull for a little boy.
Dad had a football in his office…I don’t know why…and Nancy came in and started a game of “hide the ball” with me, which then turned into the world greatest game of hide and seek in Luther Hall.
She was College Marshal when I was a student. Nancy asked Carla Stahlberg, ’81, Schulz, and I carry the American flag and college banner for academic processions, including Bob Vogel’s inauguration. Carla was a top academic student, so I understood why she was picked, but I never quite understood why she gave me the honor. Certainly not for grades. Our reward at the end of the year was a complete turkey dinner with all the fixings at Nancy’s house.
In short, Nancy was one of my many honorary Wartburg aunts and uncles, perhaps one of the most delightful ones, growing up on campus and continuing as a student. She honestly had the quickest mind for quips I’ve ever known.
You will be incredibly missed, Nancy. I’m so happy I got to talk to you at the Greenwood reception for the Press Box this Fall for the last time. Well done, good and faithful servant.


***

Duane and I had several classmates who made achievements in the field of athletics. I don’t want to discuss Fred Jasper, who as a college basketball referee had a chair thrown at him by Bobby Knight. Nor do I want to discuss Don Denkinger, who as major league umpire was at the epicenter of a well- known blown call in the St. Louis/Kansas City World Series. Fortunately, this classmate never achieved any degree of infamy.

Our classmate is Dr. Nancy (Mista) Anderson, professor of Physical Education. I may not be totally accurate on a few details. I could always give Nancy a call, so I would be totally accurate, or could have talked to her at the dedication of the Press Box. But since I am not writing a peer-reviewed historical document, I’ll merely be reasonably accurate.

Nancy started teaching physical education in 1962. At the time she graduated, Wartburg did not offer a major in women’s physical education. She received her master’s degree from Northern Colorado University and her Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. I recall at an early class reunion she announced that when she earned her Ph.D., she was younger than Martin Luther was when he received his doctorate.

Under her direction, Wartburg began to offer a physical education degree for women. (A bit of trivia: One of the early—perhaps even the first—woman to major in physical education was Helene Kurtz Stadtmueller, my sister.) Although Nancy never coached any women’s athletic teams at Wartburg, she did provide critical leadership that led to the development of intercollegiate athletic competition for women. She served as a mentor and a source of support for many young female coaches.

It took a while—and the passing of Title IX—until Wartburg women had adequate facilities and coaches. (One area where women achieved immediate parity was in sports information. From the start of intercollegiate competition, Duane saw that women’s teams received the same treatment as men’s teams in press books, schedule posters, news releases, and all other aspects. Duane was a pioneer in this respect.)

Nancy’s leadership was more than athletics and physical education. When Dr. Alfred Swensen, long-time professor of chemistry, retired, he also stepped down as the marshal of the commencement academic procession. Nancy was selected for the position and continued to lead the procession of faculty and graduates on the annual march for the awarding of degrees until her retirement.

Nancy was not immune from controversy, although she never made a wrong turn and led the academic procession to the Cedar River instead of into Knights GymnAsium. (Note: For years, until Bill Jellema became president, the sign on the gym had a capital “A”. No one knew why.) No, her brush with controversy was that on occasion a student’s 4.0 grade-point average was ruined by a “B” in physical education. A few critics claimed she took special delight in doing this. I doubt it, but there are those who believe it.

In 1966 Nancy married Wayne Anderson, an executive with Lutheran Mutual Life Insurance (now CUNA Mutual). I believe she retired a few years before Duane, keeping Duane’s longevity record unchallenged. In retirement Nancy continued to live in Waverly. She took a special interest in assisting elderly retired faculty, or widows of retired faculty, with such things as grocery shopping, doctor appointments, and other activities.

[Author’s note: Sadly, Nancy passed away in March 2019.]

            –Harold Kurtz, ‘58

Randall’s Sidebar:

Harold mentions Dad’s drive for equality of coverage for women’s athletics at Wartburg. The college started official women’s competition when I was in high school and we were finding our way when I was a sports writer for the Trumpet and announcer for KWAR. We didn’t do a very good job in those days, and it didn’t help that the Wartburg women’s teams weren’t very good. Still Dad insisted that the Trumpet and KWAR treat the women’s teams professionally and with the same opportunities as the men’s teams. The upperclassmen who were editors of the Trumpet when I started out would use “Lady Knights” or, worse, “Dame” for headlines to differentiate the teams. By the dictionary, dame can be a term for a female knight, e.g. Dame Judy Dench or Diana Rigg. A grumpy Duane Schroeder put an end to that in quick order. I did have to remind him at one family dinner that he needed to yell at the upperclassmen editors, not his sophomore cub reporter son. In Duane Schroeder’s eyes, if you put on the uniform, regardless of gender, you were a Knight.

He then used the power of his office as secretary-treasurer of the Iowa Conference to insist that all conference news releases not use female diminutives for women’s athletic teams. Thus, the Iowa Conference was one of the first to not refer to their teams as the Lady Norse or the Spartanettes or even the Upper Iowa Peahens. Dad won one of his many national honors for being a, albeit cantankerous, pioneer in this area.

Thus, I was more than a little irritable with a previous commissioner of the Iowa Conference, now American Rivers Conference, decided to take Dad’s name off the female Scholar-Athlete of the award and leave it on the male athlete of the year award. Frankly, it should have been the other way around if it had to be done. One of Duane Schroeder’s— and Wartburg’s—biggest accomplishments was changing how the NCAA thought about covering women’s athletics after Title IX.

-30-

Photo courtesy of Cliff Brockman

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