From your co-chairs

Portrait of Jeff & Jone Riester

Happy Spring!  For those of us who experienced firsthand that remarkable “Blizzard Evelyn” in Door County the weekend of April 15…breaking calendar-date snowfall records going back to 1928…our recent thawing and blooming are especially welcome.  Wisconsinites are known for dwelling on the weather, sometimes too much so.  But this April it was truly justified.  When all the pet supply stores have run out of mealworms because we have been buying them to feed to distressed robins who came back too early, you know it’s an extreme situation.   But we’re past it now (I think!) and can move on to our glorious natural rebirth in the Nor-Dor.

This issue features pieces on student collaboration, volunteer days, the seminar season and the exciting Celebrate Water initiative.   Good stuff, as always.   My role, as usual at this time of year, is to say “thanks” for your support of Bjorklunden and to remind you to continue that support between now and Lawrence’s fiscal year-end on June 30.  

It’s not unusual for those of us involved in “good works” to willingly pitch in on projects or serve on a committee or governing board, as long as we don’t have to ask others for money.  Like many of you, I’ve said “I’ll do anything to help with the organization, because I believe in it, but please don’t make me ask for contributions.”   Ring a bell?  Well in the case of the Boynton Society, I’ve overcome that reluctance.  Because we who support Bjorklunden financially make possible the extraordinary things that happen at the Lodge, I again ask without hesitation for you to get out your checkbook.    Please renew (and if possible, increase) your gift to the college earmarked for Björklunden.  The Boynton Society, and all who benefit, value your support.  Again, thanks!

Jeff Riester
Boynton Society Co-Chair

Bill Hillburg's Cuba Narrative

It’s complicated.

So we were reminded time and again as a band of Lawrence alumni spent seven days in March traversing Cuba, a tattered, Cold War relic recently yanked back from the precipice of a promising future by yet another twist in American foreign policy.

After arriving at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport, we headed out for some typical tourism, including photo ops at the gaping concrete of the Plaza de la Revolution and a visit to Finca Vigia, the one-time home of Ernest Hemingway. The author fished the local waters for the inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea, but abandoned Cuba soon after the victory of Fidel Castro’s revolution on New Year’s Day 1959.


The date 1/1/59 is deeply ingrained in Cuba. Everything is measured before or after that day nearly 60 years ago, including the frozen-in-time fleet of ‘50s American automobiles that ply the streets with nary a smog control device.  We were fortunate to board some convertible examples for a cruise down the oceanfront Malecon Avenue. Our driver was happy to note the American Mafia roots of each of Havana’s pre-revolution hotels.

Cuba’s complications have many roots, including a cruel Spanish colonial rule that lasted for nearly four centuries and did not abolish African slavery until 1886. After winning their independence with American help in the Spanish-American War, Cubans had to endure a series of armed U.S. interventions in their internal affairs.  The U.S. also soured on Castro early on as it gave refuge to Cubans fleeing his new brand of  tyranny.

Cuba then became a Cold War pawn of the Soviet Union until that entity collapsed in 1991, leaving Cuba’s people and economy hanging high and dry.

Cubans endured another jilting in 2017, when the Trump administration put a chill on the minor thaw in relations enacted in 2015 by President Barack Obama. Cubans now speak wistfully about Obama’s 2016 visit to their country. The Trump reversals currently limit Americans’ access to Cuba to educational and cultural exchanges like ours. Cynical Cubans are quick to note that an exception is made for Americans visiting on cruise ships. They credit that loophole to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), an enthusiastic embargo advocate who has received campaign contributions from the cruise ship industry.

Today’s Cuba is a crazy quilt of relics. Russian Lada automobiles share the streets with the American antiques. A centrally planned communist economy still holds sway amidst a small and growing free enterprise sector that is heavily taxed and regulated by the government. Education is free from kindergarten through college and the literacy rate is near 100 percent, but study choices and job options are tightly controlled by the government.

Music was woven throughout our trip thanks to fellow alum and percussionist Eli Adelman, who has a passion forCuban rhythms and has studied extensively on the island. He guided us to a rooftop concert at Havana’s Lincoln Hotel, where Eli was invited to sit in for a set with some of his Cuban mentors. He would continue to share his expertise as we took in a performance by the Guitar Orchestra de Cienfuegos and enjoyed a dinner concert at the legendary Buena Vista Social Club in Havana.

Other highlights included shopping visits to art and crafts galleries and walking tours through the old sections of Havana, Matanzas, Cienfuegos and Trinidad. Baseball fans in our group got up close and personal with Jorge “Pepito” Estrada, newest inductee to the Cuba Baseball Hall of Fame in Matanzas. We even got to take the field with Estrada for some batting practice.

The old and new Cuba collided during a visit to Varadero, a beachfront enclave filled with all-inclusive resorts and foreign visitors. Varadero has its roots in Xanadu, a mansion built in the 1920s by American billionaire Irénée du Pont. He owned most of the acreage in Varadero, which became a sinful playground for his wealthy pals. That party ended on - you guessed it - New Year’s Day 1959 and Xanadu is now open to the public as a restaurant.

Our crisscross through Cuba’s quilt revealed a proud but needy populace that waits in long queues for public transit (horse carts are popular in rural areas), relies on rationed food staples and resides in structures that are in dire need of stucco and paint. Our Cuban guide freely admitted her country’s shortcomings, but she also expressed pride in what has been accomplished amid a tottering experiment in communism, the ongoing U.S. embargo and abandonment by Cuba’s former Soviet ally.

As we stood in Havana’s former presidential palace, now home to the Museum of the Revolution, our guide pointed out numerous artifacts and photos from the heady days when the late Fidel Castro and his handsome colleague, Che Guevara, proclaimed a new era for Cubans. Asked to evaluate where things stand as Cuba prepares to mark the 60th anniversary of that revolution, our guide replied, “it’s complicated.”

SPECIAL NOTE: Our Cuban adventure would not have possible without the efforts of Lawrence organizers and chaperones Beth Zinsli and Mark Breseman. It was also a pleasure to travel in the company of Lawrence grads and friends from a variety of walks of life and eras. Shared college memories and intellectual curiosity greatly enhanced the experience.

This is Björklunden by Cathy Kautsky

Björklunden is such a special place to me – I remember coming with my kids when they were little (and Björklunden too was far littler), and coming for summer seminars with husband and dog in tow, and for countless school-year weekends.  Summer or winter, rain or sun, kids, dog, husband, or all by my lonesome, the place makes me happy.

And for my students, it’s magical as well.  This is a place where we can do so many things we can’t do anywhere else. We can have long performance classes where everyone gets to share ideas and there’s time to discuss each performance and experiment with solutions.  We can have listening sessions where everyone brings a favorite recording or YouTube clip and we encounter music and performers we never knew existed.  We can have splendid and hilarious talent shows where students reveal their hidden gifts—whether it’s racing hopping bunnies, playing and composing for the melodica, starring in gymnastics, or performing Latin American dance.  How else would I learn that I had a childhood ping-pong champion in my midst or an expert on Chinese folk traditions?

And I’ve left the best for last.  This is a place where we can creep out of our cubbyholes and truly cross disciplines.  This year’s endeavor is a perfect example.  I’m always looking for ways to tie music in with the rest of the world’s preoccupations, and at this particular historical moment, climate change seemed a pressing issue to latch onto. And so I proposed to my faculty friends, Marcia Bjornerud of the geology department and Rob Neilson of the art department, that we collaborate—we’d provide a concert of music about water in its many forms and about the passage of time, the geologists would tell us what’s happening to water these days and how that scenario has evolved over time, and Rob’s artistic crew would provide outdoor sculptures to embody the ideas and images we were jointly conjuring. As I write, this is all yet to unfold, but I can hardly wait.  Where I else in the world could I sit by a Great Lake, eat M&M cookies, hear music of Debussy, Ravel, and Liszt, happen upon original sculptures in the woods, and at the same time try to understand one of the most pressing political issues of the day?  Only at Björklunden.

I am grateful indeed.

Assistant Director’s Column

I can’t believe spring has finally arrived in Door County!  With the warm weather and sunshine that has graced us the last few days, you wouldn’t know Baileys Harbor received over 20 inches of snow just three weeks ago. Thankfully, all that snow disappeared just in time for our springtime event on April 29th.  Attendance for This is Björklunden was record-breaking this year; 142 people came to explore Bjorklunden and experience the student program.  This year’s schedule was especially exciting and collaborative.  Professors Cathy Kautsky, Marcia Bjornerud, and Rob Neilson worked together to combine their disciplines (music, geology, and art) into a presentation for our afternoon guests. 

April 30 and May 1 were reserved for our spring cleanup, and our wonderful volunteers did a phenomenal job getting Björklunden ready for the busy season.  They hauled brush, pulled weeds, raked garden beds, cleaned the beach, pruned roses, washed windows, organized the library, vacuumed guest rooms, and more!  They were here for just over two days and accomplished so much—Björklunden would certainly not be ready for summer guests without volunteers! 

This week is a quieter one, so I’m taking the opportunity to prepare as much as I can for the summer without summer actually being here. Of course, most preparation is for the seminar program and making sure participants and instructors are equally ready for a week at Björklunden.  Our first seminar week is 31 days away, and while I am beyond thrilled to be going into my third season, I must admit I am a bit disappointed I won’t be able to sit in on Eric and Robert Simonson’s class Art and the Cocktail.  They will be looking at the relationship between alcohol and the arts while focusing on select plays like Design for Living, films like Casablanca, and TV shows like Mad Men. Brady has a home bar and while we don’t have Robert’s cocktail crafting expertise, we do play around with mixology when we have the time, so I am certainly envious of those able to attend.  If Art and the Cocktail sounds intriguing, give me a call, and maybe I can copy your notes at the end of the week! 

If you still haven’t settled on a June seminar, Fact or Fantasy: Science for Presidents is certainly the most relevant to today’s world, and Jerry Clifford ’68 will take participants through the science issues a president must understand to make knowledgeable decisions.  Or, if you’d prefer to learn how to photograph wildlife—and really, where better to learn that skill than at Björklunden?—John Van Den Brandt will increase your knowledge and skills.   There are more fabulous seminars in July, like Our Freshwater Future: The Ecology, Economics, and Politics of the Great Lakes which will be a great hands-on experience since we are on the shores of Lake Michigan. Wisconsin Jazz is set for the third week in July, and Kurt Dietrich ‘73 will talk all about Wisconsin’s surprisingly rich history in jazz and how our fair state continues to produce jazz stars in the modern age. August ushers in another inspiring group of seminars, such as And That’s the Truth!, where participants will discuss philosophical theories of truth.  The Niagara Escarpment will look at the evolving concepts of geotourism, sustainability, natural heritage, and how they all relate.  The last week of August can be spent exploring major themes in Cuban art with Looking Beyond the Embargo.

I wish I could spend more time fawning over how amazing the 2018 seminar schedule is, but I would go above and beyond my word limit.  So, I will leave you with a reminder to check out our 2018 offerings by clicking here.  I hope to see all of you this summer, either during a seminar or at the Boynton Gala on August 4!

Celebrate Water Door County

Celebrate Water Door County is a year-long initiative that aims to draw together the talents, efforts, energy and enthusiasm the county is known for and bolster the appreciation and awareness of our unique waters. Organizers are creating an umbrella campaign that can make celebrating, restoring and preserving our water an additional focus of all the events and publicity materials planned throughout the county for the next year. Through the year-long series of activities, they hope to inspire and support people to act to restore and protect our waters. The campaign will conclude with a water summit, administered by the UW Oshkosh Environmental Research and Innovation Center, in June 2019. For more information visit

Save the Date: Björklunden is going to Italy!


Ancient Romans took the famous Via Appia when they headed south for the seasonal and sybaritic pleasures of the Bay of Naples and the Amalfi Coast.  We, however, will take the A1 autostrada.

The Amalfi Coast is a place to relax, enjoy the sunshine and splendid views of the sea, explore the isle of Capri and take one of the most beautiful but harrowing drives anywhere!  We also visit two of the most important archaeological sites in the Roman world.  Then it’s off to Sicily, home to more Greek temples than Greece.  Well, not really, but Sicily was Magna Graecia before it was Sicily.  Hades abducted Persephone near where we can lie on the beach.  Taormina is one of our favorites and will surely become one of yours too, and Mt. Etna is still an active volcano.  Yikes!  Sicily is magical.
We’ll then have a half-day in Rome. What to do?  Shopping with Donna?  The Roman Forum with Dan?  St. Peter’s with Mark?  Andiamo!  Let’s go! 

Arrivederci, Dan and Donna Taylor

Click here for trip itinerary.