Out and About
The Governor's Dinner
On the evening of January 11, 1991, Arthur and Jackie Mampel, the Poetry Editor, the Poetry Editor's wife, the Copy Editor, and the author of this column (the Copy Editor's husband) joined other friends and the families of Governor Arne Carlson and Lieutenant Governor Joanell Dyrstad for dinner at the Governor's Residence.
It was the Friday of Inaugural Week in Minnesota. The Inaugural Ball was to follow the next evening. Our long-time friend, Arne Carlson, is now Governor of the state. We are pleased that he is and that he did not forget these old friends.Rather, he and his wife, Susan extended the hospitality of the Governor's home to us.
Associations began in 1965 or 1966 when Arthur Mampel was pastor at Minnehaha Congregational Church in South Minneapolis and Arne was a parishioner. Arne, then 12th Ward Alderman, was soon to run for Mayor of Minneapolis. Art introduced Bruce Carlson and me to Arne. At that time, we lived in the exuberance of the "Secular City" (the blessings of which we continue to enjoy) and with a positive regard for political people in the style of John Kennedy. Arne reminded us of Kennedy.
Getting to know Arne, his family, friends, and supporters was exciting, fun, and world enlarging. At the recommendation of Dr. Gordon Nelson, now of Augsburg College, I read the excellent book City Politics by Banfield and Wilson. While I was reading it, I joined the staff of Arne's Campaign for Mayor. Early morning to late night I travelled with Arne to meetings, plant gates, press conferences, and neighborhoods. It was an education and a wonderful experience.
When we were about to dine on this recent evening, Governor Carlson introduced Art Mampel as "my first and last pastor." The guests laughed. Personally, I think the Governor's tribute to Art is to be taken in the spirit of alpha and omega, not literally.
In any event, Pastor Mampel was asked to pray before we ate, and this is what he prayed:
Let our good and noble resolves for this New Year become realities. Let what we say be the measure of what we do. May we be remembered for our good actions and not our good intentions. May we be nourished by great ideas and noble examples.
And, Holy God, in the midst of conflict and sharp exchange give us a light heart and a sense of humor.
And may even these gifts of food and refreshment become for us an energy to do what is good and right and just in the world.
The evening continued with good food, good humor, and warm hospitality. Arne and Susan Carlson have warmed the hospitality of the Governor's Mansion. May their time there be happy, and we wish for Arne blessing and wisdom in his work as governor.
Launching the Karl A. Olsson Chair of Religious Studies at North Park College
Dean of Students Arthur A.R. Nelson, as Master of Ceremonies, noted that North Park College and the Covenant Church are enriched as they pay tribute to the life and work of Karl Olsson. The people gathered for the luncheon to inaugurate the Karl A. Olsson Chair of Religious Studies were clearly in agreement.
Former Seminary Dean, Donald Frisk, first to the podium after lunch, said it well when he stated that he was happy that a chair in Karl's honor was a chair of Religious Studies, because religion deals with all of life. Creating this chair reflects, he noted, the broad perspective of Karl Olsson ("KO") who saw all things through the eyes of faith. The persons who fill this chair will be challenged also to be broad in their search. Frisk urged that those persons take on the work of "faith seeking understanding of the wonderful world of which we are a part."
Many of us, who first came to North Park from regions ~here faith was deep and perspective more limited, know the enlargement of spirit and perspective that we began to gain through the years of study and life at North Park. This has been a pearl of great price, a treasure that was hidden in a field. Karl Olsson, fortunately, was not alone in providing an education and in pointing the way for us. There were others, like Don Frisk, Zenos Hawkinson, Carroll Peterson, Mel Soneson, Gladys Larson, E. Gus Johnson, Elder Lindahl, Paul Larson, Calvin Katter Ted Hedstrand, Ivar Wistrom, and Yank Swanson, to mention just a few from my own experience who helped open up the world. These were people who helped me discover that Christ and his spirit were always somewhere ahead as well as present and, therefore, I continue to be taken by surprise.
After his appointment was announced, the first Karl A. Olsson Professor of Religious Studies acknowledged the precedent set in the religion department by two long-time mentors of the minds and spirits of North Park College students, Drs. Mel Soneson and Elder Lindahl. All the editors of Pietisten experienced the value of the teaching of these persons, and we can think of nothing better for North Park students than that the persons who occupy this chair continue to be guided by the tradition established by them and by the light of the work of Karl Olsson.
I wondered what Karl was thinking as speeches were made about him and his contributions. I wondered what Sally Olsson, esteemed partner of Karl, was thinking. We heard later from Karl. Sally never got the podium. After the program, while people were milling about, I did catch a view of Sally and Karl kissing each other, the way students might have sneaked in a kiss when nobody was looking on the steps of old Caroline Hall — except the kiss I saw represents a lot more experience.
As a graduate in the first class (1960) of Bachelor degrees from North Park, I listened proudly as my classmate Fern (Swanson) Weiss toasted Karl. She was Karl's secretary for 11 years, so she must have been excellent.
Fern spoke of watching for split infinitives and dangling participles and getting letters and documents perfect, without benefit of white-out or computers, during the "days of Camelot." She must have been referring to the split infinitives and dangling participles of others on the staff, because an authoritative source reports that KO denies ever splitting an infinitive or dangling a participle. Fern reported that President Olsson established the standard that a distinctive word could not be used twice in a paragraph. Much retyping was avoided by Karl's ability to substitute another word with exactly the same number of letters. He must be a terror in Scrabble.
Fern lived and worked in an atmosphere that was filled with a sincere commitment to the pursuit of excellence. The explicit theme for the college, "the pursuit of excellence," was a reality both in name and substance. Karl, she said, expected excellence from his staff and no less from himself.
Fern told us she was fortunate to be part of those years of big developments. In conclusion, she turned to Karl and said, "Thanks for letting me be on your team. Congratulations."
Dr. Myron Madden, a World War II buddy and dear friend of Karl, followed Fern to the podium. Madden and Olsson were chaplain colleagues during WWII. "We met," he said, "in 1944 and began to stumble around together." They went from Normandy across France and Austria with the troops. After the war, Karl shipped out earlier than Myron because he had a family. Dr. Madden said he felt a deep emptiness when Karl left.
Their friendship, Madden said, has continued through the years. He recalled a recent trip to Washington D.C. "Karl and I met at the station, sat on a bench, talked, and kicked pigeons like old men do." Karl once again demonstrated his great memory for which Myron has a long-established awe. "Karl," he said, "remembered everything about our 46 years of friendship."
It was with a degree of glee that the Southern Baptist then pointed out that there are two days Karl does not remember the two days he was in a coma after he had a heart attack in Sweden.
Once, when they were flying on an early passenger jet, Myron asked Karl what he thought of jet planes. "Karl responded," said Madden, " 'I hate 'em! If it went down, I think of the fool I'd make of myself before I hit the ground.' "
After that, Dr. Madden assured us that a distinguishing feature about Karl Olsson is that he looks at all of life from a spiritual perspective.
LeRoy Johnson, Executive Director of the Covenant Office of Estate Planning Services, who was KO's travelling companion as Assistant to the President during Olsson's North Park Presidency, remarked in his turn at the podium that, though he thinks of himself as a relatively young man, he has had four decades of experience with KO. LeRoy has been a college advisee of, an assistant to, and a neighbor of Karl during that time.
Director Johnson reminded us that students were in awe of KO. In his comments about student days under Dr. Olsson, he reported that fellow student Tom Tredway, now President of Augustana College in Rock Island, vowed to get a PhD so that "KO will have to call me Dr. Tredway." Tom was present at the luncheon so KO had an opportunity to do that.
After three years in a pastorate, LeRoy was invited back to North Park to fill Louis Person's job as Assistant to the President. He worked with Dr. Olsson, whom he described as "tough, unreasonable, and highly interested" in the job being done. They travelled to Covenant churches to speak on behalf of, and raise funds for, North Park. They called this "The Rubber Chicken Circuit." In 1965, North Park acquired its first pool table. For some constituents this was a touchy subject. Debate about whether they should show the picture slide of the pool table was resolved by Karl's referring to it as a "ping-pong table with colored balls."
LeRoy concluded his remarks by stating that, during Dr. Olsson's term, he always felt proud when the President of North Park spoke. A pride, he noted, that we have again in the North Park President's office.
When Sarah (Olsson) McCarthy courageously took the podium for the family, she gently chided her safely seated older brothers, Alan and Kurt. Rick, a third son who lives in Japan, had an obvious excuse and Sarah read a letter of tribute from him to his dad. It was a challenge, she acknowledged, to be looking at her former speech teacher, Betty Nelson, as she addressed us.
As a little girl, Sarah used to listen to a 45rpm record which, she has since concluded, was a North Park promotion piece. Among school songs like "The Elm Trees' Shadows," "Hail to the Alma Mater," and "Ruton Scruton," was, she said, "Dad talking about where faith and learning meet."
Young friends at North Park Academy would ask Sarah how she could stand to attend the Academy when her father was President and so wise. Sarah said that it was difficult but she felt proud and she lived in the conviction that her parents were special and that she was in a special place.
Sarah knew, close up, the melding of faith and learning and the meaning of academic excellence. She demonstrated how these messages continue in her dad's life. Her eight-year-old son, Chad, had an assignment to write a report on Raphael. Grandpa agreed to help him with it.
Karl prepared to work with Chad by spending some time in his library studying his material on Raphael. He was ready for Chad on Saturday. Chad and Grandpa spent eight hours together that day preparing Chad's report.
In conclusion, Sarah turned to her dad and said, "Thanks for the legacy; thanks for the memories. We love you." We were all moved.
Then it was time for President David Horner to step to the podium. It was his duty, he said, to introduce the person who would be the first holder of the chair. "This is a great day for North Park College. I enjoy it when the North Park family gets together." He said he is pleased and proud to be associated with these people — great people. (For the record, we note that, at Homecoming 1990, Dr. Horner was granted an honorary degree from North Park so that he could begin to consider himself part of the family.)
"During lunch," Horner told us, "I asked LeRoy Johnson how we could preserve this quality." President Horner reported that LeRoy's answer was: "Just don't hire any more baptists." I know I felt an amen rise within me. I saw others nod as if they thought LeRoy's idea was a good one, too.
My parents were Covenanters who held to believer's baptism and I was baptized at 14 myself, so I have nothing against baptists, but enough is enough. They have refreshed and continue to refresh the church, but I think things are getting out of balance at North Park.
We joked about "balance" at our table. Someone stated that Professor Wesley Nelson was hired to be a conservative balance to the liberals at North Park. Wesley Nelson's spiritual depth and love of truth immediately transcended any partisan politics that may have brought him to the school.
Each professor at our table (there were three of them) reflected on what he was, or may have been, hired to balance. One professor said: "When they (those hired for balancing things to North Park, they find themselves so happy about the intellectual freedom that they begin to love the freedom and are no longer interested in shaping, correcting, or balancing things." Baptists and others apparently like it, too, and North Park has gained many fine people from outside. This inculdes Mel Soneson who was raised a baptist and who graduated from Bethel College.
Prcssure for balance at North Park has usually come from fundamentalists and conservatives. Now, though, it appears that the "liberals" are on the elevated end of the teeter-toter, needing some weight to balance the non-Covenant evangelicals. Where are the Covenant men and women? If there are no Covenant people available (there are), how about a few Lutherans?
President Horner did not exactly reassure us when he said that not only was he a baptist before becoming President of North Park, but, in addition, he was originally Plymouth Brethren — the church of the theological villain, Henry Nelson Darby, whose doctrine of the church was a threat to the Covenant. Horner alluded to Karl Olsson's analysis of Darby in Into One Body by the Cross. But, in Dr. Horner's favor is the fact that Garrison Keillor was Plymouth Brethren, also, God can redeem anything.
President Horner then turned our attention to the high expectations of teachers in the religion department. First, he said, they must be the best teachers because they teach required courses. Second, they must be loyal supporters of the Church. Third, they must also be true to their consciences. Fourth, they must be loyal critics of the Church, maintaining prophetic witness. And fifth, they must affirm their students' personal faith, yet stretch it.
This, Dr. Horner acknowledged, is a "tall order." He said that the department is doing a good job. The number of students majoring in religious studies is increasing. The chair that has been established, though single, honors the good work of the whole department.
President Horner announced that Dr. Gary Surge would be the first to hold the Chair. Dr. Burge has been teaching at North Park since 1987; he has a PhD from Aberdeen College in Scotland; he has written a book, The Anointed Community; he is saluted by his colleagues, a popular teacher, in demand in the churches, and a Presbyterian ("a fact we have learned to live with," said Horner).
Dr. Burge is concerned about justice in Palestine. He hopes to sponsor a Palestinian student at North Park. The only other things I know about Dr. Burge are from reading his article, "The Literary Seams in the Fourth Gospel," in the August, 1990 issue of the Covenant Quarterly. I also read some of the debate in the North Park College News between Burge and Soneson about the merits of the movie The Last Temptation of Christ. Soneson's position on the movie was positive and Burge's, negative. The exchange in the school paper was followed by an open debate held on the campus.
The fact that these points of view were debated openly and were forcefully argued without an insistence that one or the other conclusion must be accepted is an example of the school, and the department, fulfilling its mission to provide for freedom of thought. It takes faith and courage to proceed in this fashion, because there is pressure at times for the school to be compromised by a concern to satisfy its constituency, especially big givers. It is a concern to me and others that the recent retirements of Soneson, Lindahl, and Zenos Hawkinson have seriously weakened the ranks of those in the faculty who take an open, broad view of intellectual matters and who understand the North Park tradition in this respect. In the future, who will speak up for things like The Last Temptation of Christ or take a critical stance in relation to American Evangelicalism?
At Founders Day 1990 at Salem Church, Minneapolis, Dr. Horner stated that one of the five responsibilities North Park has to the Covenant (see Pietisten Vol. V, No. 1) is to provide students with the best expression of diverse points of view, including those that might be hostile to Christianity and to the Covenant Church. He is on the mark. Faith and learning must meet. And regardless of the faith, learning must be met. This means that the Department of Religious Studies and the Karl A. Olsson Chair must be a center for open, critical scholarship and not a department of religious propaganda.
Dr. Burge acknowledged his surprise at being the recipient of this chair, confessed his non-Covenant origins, and, as we reported above, acknowledged the great tradition established by his predecessors in the department, Drs. Elder Lindahl and Melburne Soneson. Burge expressed indebtedness to and appreciation for his colleagues in the department.
It was a bit disconcerting to hear Professor Burge confess that he had not finished reading the copy of By One Spirit he was given to help him learn about the Covenant. He promised to do so now, however, and one would hope that he will continue on with Into One Body by the Cross.
Dr. Burge ended his extemporaneous remarks by saying that the department's commission is to attend to and examine personal commitment to Christ and that "I for one will do my best."
Finally, KO pronounced his blessing on all these matters. "North Park, the Covenant Church, Friends of God, my friends," he began, specific and inclusive.
He expressed gratitude for the event and to all who had spoken. He was especially moved by the blessing of Sarah's words and stated his deep appreciation of his grandson, Chad.
"Let not our town be large, remembering," he quoted Vachel Lindsay, "That little Athens was the Muses' home, That Oxford rules the heart of London still, That Florence gave the Renaissance to Rome." This — North Park — is a wonderful little place. A place where people can be people to one another — a family of Faith. "You are my people. I am your person."
He wished to thank everyone individually and said that he wanted a hug from everyone. The man says he thrives on hugs. He thanked the people who have helped him and worked with him along the way, including those who were not mean to him when he came around on fund drives.
To the recipient of the Chair, he said that he had had nothing to do with the appointment and so Dr. Burge was under no obligation to him. Karl said his part was to give blessing, which he did. He thanked his friends and his family for love, support, and help. As for his wife, Sally, Karl said that he could not express his gratitude and, in so doing, communicated the depth of it.
Then Karl blessed us all. "God Bless you everyone. Sursum Corda, lift up your hearts. Christ is alive in this place, in our hearts, and we are waiting for the day of days." PJ
Text: "Bodily exercise profiteth little." Paul of Tarsus.
Motto: The real game is the game you're in.
Robert F. Bach is not yet in the North Park College Athletic Hall of Fame. He belongs there. Bach was a terrific performer at North Park and after a half-century and a heart attack, he still throws an accurate pass, punts the ball a country mile, is tough to beat on the tennis court, and hits the long jump-shot.
Bob starred in football and baseball at North Park from 1957 to 1961. He transferred to San Jose State for the spring semester of 1958. He and Olympic sprinter Ray Norton were starting halfbacks for San Jose during spring training. Fortunately, he saw the error of his ways and returned to NPC without missing a football season.
Bach was "Mr. Outside" in the Viking backfield. His blazing speed and athletic agility were a treat to watch. We never knew how Bob would surprise us next. He might catch a pass behind his back in full stride or, though right-footed, get off a high, long, spiraling left-footed punt on the run.
One day, as Coach Yank Swanson was gathering the team together to discuss practice and the up-coming game, Socko (Bach, Sock, Socko) turned to me and said, "Watch this, White Man." He was standing on the 40-yard line about 10 yards from the sideline. He turned toward the north goal post, the old Oklahoma Station, and Foster Avenue. He swung his foot into a drop-kick. I'd never seen him drop-kick before. I watched that ball sail beautifully, end-over-end through the uprights with plenty of room to spare.
Bach played three seasons for Yank Swanson, the first as halfback in a split-T-with-flankers offense and two as the tailback of Yank's "Flying Wing" offense. In the Flying Wing, he was the triple-threat back — run, pass, punt. The Vikings' records for those seasons were: 5-3, 7-1, and 6-1-1.
Bob's senior year was the first season in which North Park took on the tough teams of the CCIW. The Vikings had suffered from graduation. The versatile Bach played quarterback the first few games until Freshman Dave Swanson was ready. Bach returned to running back. Great running by Bob, Kurt Olsson, and hard work by the rest of the team kept the Vikings close in every game. They almost beat the conference Champs and finished with a 4-5 record.
Bach was a leading hitter on the baseball team and played several defensive positions. His reputation among his teammates and classmates as a superb athlete was universal, and this should be reQected by electing him to the Hall.
After graduation, Bob Bach had an outstanding career as a football coach. He began at Minnehaha Academy. The four years he was head coach, his teams finished first once, second twice, and third once in the old, tough, Minnesota Private School league.
At Calaveras High School in San Andreas, California, Bach was a great running back. He was chosen to the All-Northern-California team. His Alma Mater hired him to come back to coach football. During his seven years as coach, Calaveras High School won seven straight championships. After these seven dippings in the Jordan, Dr. Bach apparently said, "Enough is enough, I'm clean," and began devoting his full time to education and administration.
Dr. Bach is a member of the North Park College Board of Directors and he is the new Calaveras County Superintendent of Schools. It's time to fill the void and induct Robert Bach into the North Park College Athletic Hall of Fame.