2022 Distinguished Midland Family: The Bonderson Family

2022 Distinguished Midland Family: The Bonderson Family

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Over the past century, the Bonderson family has built numerous strong and lasting relationships with Midland University. The Bonderson family is being recognized as the 2022 recipient of the Distinguished Midland Family award and will be honored during the Alumni & Legacy Banquet Sunday, September 25th at the Fremont Golf Club. The event is part of Midland’s Homecoming weekend celebration. 

The first of four generations of Bonderson family members at Midland began in the 1920s with the arrival of Rena Bonderson, Ruth Bonderson Nelson, June Bonderson Brainard, and Hazel Hansen Bonderson. Rena, Ruth, and June were each granddaughters of Anders and Kjerstina Bonderson, who immigrated to the United States from Sweden in 1863. They settled in Nebraska in 1867, farming near Gretna before eventually residing near Emerson, Nebraska.

Three more generations of the Bonderson family would grace the Midland campus over the coming decades. At one time in the late 1950s, there were five members of the Bonderson family on campus at the same time. Two of those were Rev. John Russell and Colleen Bonderson, who met during their senior year at Midland and soon married. They had two sons, Rev. Martin Russell and Matthew Russell, both of whom would later graduate from Midland. Rev. John Russell and Rev. Martin Russell each served on Midland University’s Board of Trustees.

“Going back to the first Bonderson family members that attended Midland, our family has valued the distinctive virtues and opportunities of a Lutheran higher education,” Martin Russell ‘86 said. “Midland’s core values are faith, quality, respect, stewardship and learning. Anders and Kjerstina possessed these values, and these very same values continue to shape their descendants’ lives to this day.

“Reflecting on my experience as a student at Midland, I have grown to deeply value how Midland's focus on the liberal arts shaped my life. It provided me with a foundation to live a life of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership, and care for the world. Moreover, I am honored to be among the 18 members of the Bonderson family who have studied at Midland during the past 100 years.”

Among the other 18 family members to attend Midland were: Phyllis Bonderson Fong (Immanuel School of Nursing), Luhleem Bonderson Davison, Fern Bonderson Yother, Elaine Bonderson Patterson, Jenet Bonderson Cain, Virginia Bonderson Alexander, Dr. Ron Alexander, Deborah Bonderson Wragge, Kathy Bonderson Fleischhacker, and Samuel Thrutchley. Thrutchley was the great-great-great grandson of Anderson and Kjerstina Bonderson and was a fourth generation family member to attend Midland.

Deb Wragge ‘74 said her Midland experience is one she, and her family, will always cherish. “I always felt like my presence was valued at Midland and it was a safe, and comforting environment,” she said. “I remember being so excited my senior year of high school to be able to share the news with my family that I was going to Midland.

“I learned so much in my time at Midland and made lifelong friends and I wouldn’t trade one minute of my Midland experience. Our family is so full of pride to be receiving this honor.”

Martin Russell said he is appreciative of the roots his family planted at Midland, and the legacy they have established. “I have always been grateful to be a member of the Bonderson family, and how my Bonderson roots have shaped me,” he said. “Within the Bonderson family DNA, there is an understanding that the Christian life is one of serving God and neighbor wherever we live and an appreciation that education equips us for this service. I believe my family has always thought about education in its fullest sense, and many of us value a Lutheran institution as a vital part of our education.

“Midland’s mission is to inspire people to learn and lead in the world with purpose. Within our Bonderson family, this mission has been lived out through various career paths, including teachers, healthcare professionals, pastors, educational psychologists, college professors, and business professionals.”