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ISSUE 118 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/12/2004

Heritage day honors memories

By Tiffany Ayres
News Editor

Friday, November 12, 2004

St. Olaf College celebrated 130 years as an institution for higher education on Friday, Nov. 5, with a chapel service featuring Lois Rand, president of the Norwegian American Historical Association and wife of the late St. Olaf President Sidney Rand.

"Today we are here to give thanks for St. Olaf College," President Christopher Thomforde said as he opened the service and introduced Rand.

In her speech, "Stumbling Blocks and Launching Pads," Rand gave a brief, lighthearted and encouraging account of the colleges founding and growth.

On Nov. 6, 1874, Rev. B. J. Muus, Northfield businessman Harold Thorson and local farmers O.K. Finseth, K.P. Hougen and Osmund Osmundson signed the charter which founded the College, she explained.

"After the business was done, Mrs. Thorson served refreshments," Rand said amid chuckles from the audience.

Rand emphasized that the idea fueling the College was to honor the Norwegian heritage and language of the area farmers, whose children would be attending the school, while teaching in English as a sign of the importance of preparing young people to become good American citizens.

When the school opened on January 8, 1875, the available supplies consisted of only the building and some furniture. Rand shared a quick anecdote about the conditions.

"My grandmother told me her first memory of her year here: she remembered going into the nearby corn field to gather husks to stuff the mattresses," Rand said.

Rand spoke of St. Olafs long past, its many milestones and the "stumbling blocks," such as the Vietnam War and periods of changing norms and ideologies in society which affected life at St. Olaf.

"Those five founders, ambitious men, had the faith to move along with Gods blessing," she said.

Rand concluded her speech by encouraging gratitude and respect for the events and ideas, good and bad, which have nurtured the growth of St. Olaf into its present state over the past 130 years.

"A Norwegian man once told me that even if they dont know a lot about U.S. higher education, they know we have Harvard and St. Olaf," Rand said.

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