Jim Wald '67
The Gift of Education
Jim had four aunts who never married, and lived together in the same house in Minneapolis most of their lives. “My aunts, who were staunch Lutherans, were aware of Minnehaha Academy, as Lutherans were typically the majority of the student body in those days.” Because of how close his aunts were to both his dad and the five nieces and nephews, they offered to pay tuition for anyone who wanted to go to MA. When Jim’s brother started in 1949, it was a whopping $50 for the first year’s tuition. By the time Jim enrolled, it was up to $500. As tuition rose, the aunts wondered if it was still worth it to send everyone to MA. They told Jim if he wanted to go, they would be happy to pay. If not, they would give him the equivalent amount for his college education. “In 9th grade, I was not thinking about how to fund my college education. I had seen how my family loved MA and I wanted to go! My dad’s four sisters funded tuition for all five of us in the family. Our family could never have considered sending any of us otherwise, so I am extremely grateful to my aunts.” With the exception of one year (1962-63), someone from Jim’s family attended MA from 1949-1967!
Jim felt that “everything about MA was a really good fit” and it was where he needed to be during his high school years. His teachers are some of the “legends” at MA: Guido Kauls, Rabbi Swanson, Harvey Lundin, Chuck Sulack, and Harry Opel. It was the work of those teachers that inspired him to pursue teaching as a career. The most influential person from MA was Arlene Anderson, the Dean of Students. Arlene’s son Dave was a friend and classmate, and they spent lots of time together outside of school. Jim was introduced to Mrs. Anderson as ‘Dave’s mom’ and not as a teacher or administrator at the school. “Arlene and I had a different relationship because of that.” After graduation, Jim went to the University of Minnesota and majored in Industrial education, preparing him to teach industrial arts, such as woodshop and drafting. “I really enjoyed the shop program at MA and wanted to teach those types of classes.” While Jim was still in college, he got a call from Arlene Anderson inquiring about when he would be done, as they were hiring a new shop teacher. He still had one year to go. Arlene asked the current teacher to stay on, and Jim was hired as the MA shop teacher just out of college.
Recruited as the shop teacher; Three Distinctive Careers at MA
Jim taught shop for 6 1/2 years, and the rest of his MA career was spent in administration. As Arlene had recruited him to be the shop teacher, she had mixed feelings about his transition into administration, but encouraged him in that role as well—where he spent the next 35 years. At first, he was responsible for the facilities, which included both Minneapolis campuses, and eventually, the Bloomington campus. In ‘94, President John Engstrom added business operations to his responsibilities, making him Director of Finance and Operations. He had three distinctly different careers during his time at MA.
God’s leading in my life has been nothing like I would have mapped out for myself. It’s really important to be open to go where God leads us even though we don’t have any idea or might not think it is the right path for us. As I look back, I see how important it was that at each juncture of my life, I was willing to say ‘Ok God. If you want me to do this, let’s give it a shot!
Jim is thankful for the opportunities he’s had to make an impact through facilities projects. When he was a high school student, Jim enjoyed working with his hands, and as an adult really enjoyed teaching woodworking and drafting. When he became an administrator and responsible for the facilities, there were always various projects. Ultimately, the projects that were the most rewarding in his life were the major construction projects at the Upper School (2001-2003) gym and chapel—and a few years later—a similarly large project at the Lower and Middle School that totally transformed a 1950’s school building into what it is today. “It totally blew me away to have the opportunity to get to be involved in those projects.” After he retired, President Donna Harris asked him to come back and oversee the construction of the STEM lab, and post explosion, to assist with the construction project at the Mendota campus. That facility needed to be ready for school in just a few weeks, and Jim calls it “one of the most incredible projects of my life,” seeing what could be accomplished in such a short time.
We Need to Be Open to God's Leading
“What I learned at MA over all of those years is that we really need to be open to wherever God is leading us. I could never have anticipated the ramifications of my decision after 9th grade to stay at MA when I had the opportunity to go to a public school and have a big chunk of my college paid for instead. I never could have imagined that Arlene would be earmarking me to take a teaching position, or that a few years later I would be moving from teaching to facilities administration, and I couldn’t have imagined that a few years after that I would be moving into finance operations. God’s leading in my life has been nothing like I would have mapped out for myself. It’s really important to be open to go where God leads us even though we don’t have any idea or might not think it is the right path for us. As I look back, I see how important it was that at each juncture of my life, I was willing to say ‘Ok God. If you want me to do this, let’s give it a shot!’”