Florence Sponberg, of North Mankato, will be awarded an honorary degree from Gustavus Adolphus College at 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 28 in Christ Chapel during the opening service of this year’s MAYDAY! Peace Conference, titled “The United Nations at the Crossroads.” A member of the college’s Board of Trustee’s from 1986-2003, and a generous benefactor since 1981, Sponberg has made great contributions to the Gustavus community.
Sponberg has long been an advocate of peace and social justice in the community. A graduate and professor emeritus of now Minnesota State University, Mankato, she was awarded a Distinguished MSU Alumna Humanitarian Award for her years of efforts to improve the lives of poor and minority groups, and her active promotion of world peace. She has devoted time and resources to organizations such as Citizens for Non-Nuclear World, Mankato Just Peace, Bread For the World, the Lutheran Student Foundation, Grace Lutheran Church, and the Mankato YMCA.
Sponberg and late-husband Raymond helped establish the MAYDAY! Peace Conference in 1981, and continue to support it through annual gifts to the college. Sponberg herself suggested the title MAYDAY! because of its dual meaning — the international distress call and the return or spring, bringing renewal and hope.
The Sponbergs have made numerous monetary contributions to Gustavus over the years, totaling more than $2 million. The Sponberg Chair in Ethics, currently held by Elizabeth Baer, English, was established in 1989. “This academic chair, at Gustavus, shows the commitment of the college to provide additional funding for the academic program,” says Baer.
As holder of the Sponberg Chair, Baer helps coordinate the annual MAYDAY! conference and has developed a program in service learning for social justice to help Gustavus faculty incorporate ethics and social-justice elements into their courses.
“Florence Sponberg is a model for all of us,” Baer says. “She is a lively and active individual, a person of remarkable vision who lives out her ideals, and the consummate educator as she continues to provide new ideas for the MAYDAY! Conference each year.”
Also benefiting from the Sponberg’s generosity at Gustavus are the Montague Scholar (faculty position), Lund Center, Nobel Hall, Gustavus Library Associates, Linneaus Arboretum, Peace Studies program, Christ Chapel endowment, Habitat for Humanity, women’s varsity softball team, and the Gustavus Adolphus College Association of Congregations Scholarship Fund among others.
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