Ronald C Gustafson '51

2006 Distinguished Citizen Award

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The Rev. Ronald C. Gustafson came to Macalester following service in Italy during World War II. Here he was president of his class and met and married classmate Merle Bendewald. Influenced by the college’s commitment to social service and inspired by the Westminster Fellowship at Macalester, Gustafson earned his divinity degree at McCormick Theological Seminary. For 40 years, he has served in ministry across the Midwest and now in his Arizona retirement community. As moderator of the Presbytery of South Dakota (1973–74), Gustafson’s ministry was highly visible, but he is perhaps better known for the kind of quiet leadership that generates innovative solutions to problems, builds community and knits a safety net beneath the most vulnerable.

While serving in Huron, S.D., Gustafson brokered a deal that saved an essential community institution, Huron College. The college was in serious financial difficulty, and he convinced the church to mortgage its own property and give the proceeds to the college. The mortgage was paid, the college served the community for another 30 years, and Gustafson was awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity degree by Huron College for his service to college and community.

"I never met a person who didn’t like Pastor Gustafson," wrote Charlie Herrmann ’52. "Ron has generated renown as someone who is caring, amenable, friendly, patient and overflowing with Christian kindness."

While serving in Mitchell, S.D., Gustafson took on the delicate work of helping small, financially fragile congregations join together in a stronger, united ministry. Although officially retired, he served in prison ministry in LaCrosse, Wis., works in non-denominational ministry in Arizona and continues to preach wherever he is needed.