Story Magazine - Second Quarter, 2007

Like Daughter Like Mother, Like Father Like Son

by Andrew Behrendt, M.Div. Jr.

Students commonly follow their parents in attending Luther Seminary. Kate Schruba and her mother, Tryphine, and Carl Fiskness and his dad, Alton, though, have had the more unusual experience of walking the seminary halls side by side.

Kate's call to ordained ministry came sooner than her mother's, a pastor's wife and former bank officer from Caroline,Wis. But when Lay School classes weren't enough to satisfy her growing desire to minister, Tryphine started at Luther first, in fall 2005. While bringing some challenges, the Schrubas' past year together as Master of Divinity students also deepened their relationship.

At 23, Kate struggled during the first semester class she and her mother shared. "She wanted to sit next to me, and that awkwardness was definitely showing there. I had a friend who I made sit in between us," she said."But after that semester, I think we got a lot closer, actually, probably closer than we've ever been."

If anything, it's just a mother's sweetness--specifically, Tryphine's
regular gifts of chocolate to Kate's friends--that is sometimes tough to swallow. "She only gives out chocolate to guys, and they're my guy friends," said Kate, adding with a laugh, "I don't know if she's trying to gain suitors for me or what."

Of course, Kate hasn't always made things easy for her mom. "You worry about embarrassing your kids," said Tryphine. "But then on my birthday in April, before chapel, she's calling out to everybody that she sees: 'Today's my mom's birthday! Today's my mom's birthday!' So she got to embarrass me. At least she didn't say, 'My mom's 58 today!'" Alton Fiskness, 65, a Vietnam veteran from New London, Minn., started attending Luther before his son was born. A seminary stint in 1975 ended when he longed to continue teaching high school. In 1997, he began regularly commuting to classes again, and, undeterred by Parkinson's disease, earned a Master of Arts degree in Church History in 2003. In 2008, he expects to replace his M.A. with a Master of Divinity degree and serve as a fill-in pastor.

Carl, who planned a career in the ministry for most of his life, began at Luther in spring 2003, just after college graduation. He credits his father for ushering him into classes and campus housing.

"I was a lot less nervous coming--I knew basically what to expect when I came in here," recalled Carl, 28, who easily shared campus with his dad. "I could hear some people saying something like, 'Oh, it would have sort of tainted my experience or not made it my own.' But I don't feel like that at all. I feel like I did my own thing here."

A 2007 M.Div. graduate now seeking a call in northeastern Minnesota, Carl loved sharing several classes with his dad (who embarrassed him little even as his high school sex education teacher), and they regularly sat together in lectures.

"I've enjoyed that--we can sit and rap together about courses and curriculum and classes and issues," added Alton, not the least bit bitter about his son beating him to the M.Div. degree. "I'm very proud, and I know it's going to be a lot of work because I know how demanding the job of a minister is. But I hope that I can get a chance to rap with him again, and we'll share ideas and sort out things."

While the Fisknesses enjoyed several years together at Luther, the Schrubas, due to internships, won't share the campus beyond 2006-07. Both mother and daughter will miss their time as classmates. "It's kind of fun," said Tryphine. "If I'm giving her a hug in the Olson Campus Center and there are people walking by, they'll go, 'Oh, I wish my mom was here.'"

"I'm going to miss it a lot, actually," said Kate. "She is my mom, but at the same time, she is my close friend."