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Breakfast of presidents

By David Gonnerman '90
September 23, 2010

“What’s the buzz?”

St. Olaf’s Student Government Association leaders aren’t taken aback by the question from President David R. Anderson '74. In fact, they’re expecting it. It’s a question he always asks during his monthly breakfast meetings with student leaders in Stav Hall cafeteria, who this year include Kimberly Spitzfaden '11, SGA president; Eric Sheforgen '11, vice president; and Samantha Sickbert '11, chair of the board of regents student committee.

President Anderson meets informally with student leaders (l-r) Samantha Sickbert '11, Kimberly Spitzfaden '11, and Eric Sheforgen '11 every month.

Because it’s still a little early in the year for controversy, the answer to the president’s question is “Homecoming” (and all four agree that “this year’s shirts look good”). But, in addition to chatting about classes and Anderson telling the students about discontinued traditions like “first-nighter” dates from his student era, the group does have more serious items on the agenda.

Anderson, a bit overdressed for Stav in shirt and tie but looking at ease, tells the student leaders about a new plan to name college roads, for example, and throws out some of the possible names. “Whaddya think? Plausible?” he asks. A little later he seeks their opinion about whether or not to have a commencement speaker. Anderson listens to the students as the conversation meanders to the upcoming board meeting, parliamentary procedure, the opening of Tomson Hall, and Carleton College’s upcoming presidential inauguration.

The students, in turn, ask about enrollment issues and how the first-year students are doing. The conversation lasts for a little more than an hour before the students go off to classes and Anderson heads to his office. Before they part, however, he makes sure the students remember to “be in touch if there’s anything I can do. My phone is always on.”

Not just for breakfast
This accessibility continues to the end of the day, when the president will attend a “senior transition meeting” to talk to students about how St. Olaf will help them explore post-graduation opportunities. And later this semester he’ll breakfast with student leaders of TRiO’s Student Support Services program.

In addition to keeping both sides of the table informed, these breakfast meetings that Anderson began when he became president can help foster lasting relationships with students. He told the SGA students, for example, that he enjoyed catching up with last year’s president, Taylor Brorby '10, at a recent St. Olaf On the Road event.

But Anderson has a special place in his heart for the lunch he shares each semester with student David F. Anderson '12. “We get to talk about all things ‘David Anderson,’” he says.

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or