by Robert Smith, '03
On June 28, Luther Seminary student Megan Torgerson was crowned Miss Minnesota 2003. Torgerson, 23, is a second-year student in the M.Div. program. She is a graduate of Warren-Alvarado-Oslo High School and Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn.
Life around campus has been a little different for Torgerson since that winning weekend. "Before, I was just a seminary student--now there's this idea that I'm a celebrity," she said. "I get more than just 'Hi' when I'm walking on campus. I get, 'Hi! Are you Miss Minnesota?'"
The ribbing she's received from her fellow student employees in the seminary's financial aid & housing office has been enough to keep her humble. "When I came back, I was greeted by a nice color photo of myself taped to my desk," she said. "They keep threatening to take it down since my 15 minutes of fame is up!"
Fifteen minutes, though, may be a low estimate: she will compete in the Miss America Scholarship Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., Sept.17-20.
For all this hustle and bustle, Torgerson expects that the impact on her schoolwork will be small. "Miss Minnesota is technically a part-time job," Torgerson explained. "For my first semester, I'll take a little less than a full load since I'll be gone for most of September."
After that, who knows what Torgerson's schedule will look like. As she says, "Miss America is definitely a full-time job!"
But don't think Torgerson would turn it down. "At the Miss America level, every young woman from every state is extremely accomplished and talented," she said. "It's a matter of who is considered to be a good fit for the Miss America organization."
Torgerson's pageant career began in the summer of 2000. "I ran for Miss Marshall County at the behest of a family friend who had come to be in charge of the pageant," she said. She placed as First Runner-Up and was encouraged by the judges to run again.
"When the next year's pageant came around, I won and then ran at Miss Minnesota 2002," she said. "I made the top seven last year, got a little more scholarship money, and realized I wanted to do it again."
This year, she won the title of Miss Coon Rapids, one of four open pageants held in Minnesota each year. Torgerson enjoyed a large delegation of supporters from Coon Rapids at the state-wide event.
Torgerson's hometown lays claim to her as well. "I represented them at Miss Minnesota last year, so the Warren community is pretty excited as well," she said.
In addition to being crowned Miss Minnesota, Torgerson won both the interview and talent portions of the competition. The latter was won with her rendition of "Una Voce Poco Fa," an aria from Rossini's "The Barber of Seville." She will be singing the same piece during competition for the national title.
More than a national beauty contest, the Miss America organization competitions are more focused on the talents and achievements of their participants than are other pageants.
Someday, an ELCA congregation will be calling a former Miss Minnesota (and, possibly, a former Miss America) to be its pastor. Questions about how Torgerson plans to bring together these two realities were bound to come up.
"People have asked me, 'Pageants and pastor, how does that work together?' It's actually easy to do," she said. "When I look at my call to ministry, I realize that I've been given gifts, talents and abilities that are valued by organizations beyond the church.
"I consider this to be another form of ministry. It is a different forum and a different group of people, but I get to speak to a wide variety of organizations, communities, schools and groups," she added. "And when I speak, my message to them will not be just as a woman in pageants but as a person in the ministry."
Torgerson's platform issue, Taking Time to TEACH Tolerance, has already taken her into many venues. Using the acronym for 'Talk openly, Experience others, Appreciate diversity, Correct stereotypes and Help victims,' her goal is to help promote diversity and work to end hatred.
"It's something I've been passionate about for a long time, "Torgerson said." I've traveled quite a bit--in my talks, I discuss the roots of fear and hatred to help people be a little more inclusive." In addition to Scandinavia and Europe, her travels have taken her to Israel and Southeast Asia. She has become convinced that diversity can shape society in constructive ways.
"I am honored and excited to have this opportunity," Torgerson said of her participation in the Miss Minnesota and Miss America events. "I am especially proud that the Luther Seminary community has been so supportive of this new opportunity in my life."
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