Cover photo for Donald Rudolph Gustafson's Obituary
Donald Rudolph Gustafson Profile Photo
1933 Donald 2019

Donald Rudolph Gustafson

July 19, 1933 — April 14, 2019

Longtime resident of Nicollet County, Donald Rudolph Gustafson, age 85, died peacefully on April 14 at his farm home near St. Peter.

Don was born July 19, 1933, just above Patrick's, now a popular bar in St. Peter. He was baptized and confirmed at First Lutheran Church. He attended elementary school, first in Cleveland and then in St. Peter, graduating from St. Peter High School in 1951. At Gustavus Adolphus College he majored in philosophy and earned his B.A. in 1955. In 1956 he received his Master's degree in history from the University of Wisconsin. From 1957 to 1959 he was in Germany with the U.S. Army. Following his service, he worked as a Lutheran student counselor at Mankato State and then as a history instructor at Gustavus Adolphus College. In 1961 he began his long career as a history professor at Augsburg College (now Augsburg University) in Minneapolis where he taught until his retirement in 2014. At the University of Wisconsin in 1969 Don earned his Ph.D. in Comparative Tropical History.

In June of 1965 Don married Beverly Matson of St. Peter and they made their home in Minneapolis. In 1977 they moved to the Gustafson family farm, where they raised three children--Jeffrey, Marya, and Peter. Don divided his time between commuting to Augsburg and keeping up with gardening and maple tapping at the farm. He and Bev traveled extensively in Asia, Africa, and Europe, and Don was proud that each of their children joined them on at least one overseas trip. They also found time to participate in many church and community activities.

Teaching was the joy of Don's life, and he often said, "What could be more exhilarating than a career in education?" He considered teaching more a mission than a job and happily worked with over 6500 students during his more than 50 years at Augsburg. Jacqui deVries, Interim Chair of Augsburg's History Department remembers: " Gus had little patience for the pedantry of academia. He was interested in sparking thought, engaging minds, and resisting norms. With a career that spanned more than a third of Augsburg's history, he was a keeper of this community's memory, an endless font of entertaining stories."

Another great love for Don was books of all types. He read widely, and frequently began conversations by asking, "And what have you been reading lately?" Jacqui deVries also remembers that even in his last days, Don "regaled us with his admiration for David Christian's Origin Story and the works of Yuval Harari."

He developed countless friendships over the years and was treasured by many till the end. Dick Elvee, former chaplain at Gustavus, said, "It is difficult to imagine that bright spirit diminishing in this conversation. If he does happen to go ahead of me toward any future conversation ... I want a seat at his table."

Survivors include his wife Beverly of St. Peter, son Jeffrey (Tammy) of Forest Lake, daughter Marya of Waseca, son Peter (Dan) of Chicago, and sister Evelyn Davenport of Houston, Texas.

A memorial service will be held at First Lutheran Church in St. Peter on Saturday, April 27 at 5 p.m., with visitation beginning at 3:30. A Celebration of Life will follow the service from 6 to 9 in the Heritage Room at Gustavus Adolphus College. Another Celebration of Life will be held at Augsburg University in Minneapolis at a later date. Memorials are preferred to Resurrection Cemetery, St. Peter, or the Linnaeus Arboretum at Gustavus. Remembrances can be left at

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Service Schedule

Past Services


Saturday, April 27, 2019

3:30 - 4:45 pm (Central time)

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Memorial Service

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Starts at 5:00 pm (Central time)

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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