Tribute to C. Hobart Edgren
March 18, 1921 to May 24, 2002
[Dr. C. Hobart Edgren, PhD. was a Professor of English Literature and Academic Dean at North Park College. He was a vigorous supporter of Pietisten. The following is adapted from the tribute given by his son, Roger Edgren, at the Memorial Service at North Park Covenant Church, Chicago. — Ed.]
Three major themes have dominated my Father’s life: Love of God, Family, and Education, specifically, Christian Education. At 21, in an article for the Covenant Weekly entitled “The Failure of Skepticism,” he wrote:
In this chaotic world, we need to experience some solid fact upon which to base our confused attempts at trying to understand this thing called life. If this fact could be God it would be well for humanity, for through this very fact meaning and purpose would be given to the whole of life.
Dad was a missionary in many ways. He wrote articles in the The Covenant Weekly and The Covenant Quarterly before and during World War II. North Park College President Algoth Ohlson responded to these articles in a 1944 letter:
…your articles in the Covenant Weekly impressed not only me but a number of people whom I have talked to…. Evidently you are developing rapidly in your spiritual insight, and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction to see how you, a representative of the younger generation, face so seriously the problems that confront us. We need young people like yourself thinking seriously about the solution of the great and tragic problems that face us, and for my part I find your contribution in this direction very promising indeed.
Some years later, when Dad was interviewed as “Professor of the Week” at Elmhurst College the interviewer wrote:
A logical question to ask a teacher in an interview…is, “Why do you teach?” He [responded that] making a contribution to someone else’s life was primary. “I think that is where we find our greatest reward. It’s an awful lot of fun to try to lead, instruct, and enlighten students—there’s no question about that.” Dr. Edgren also said, commenting on the world today, “Eventually the problems of the world are going to be solved in the area of the human heart, rather than in the fields of science and technology alone.”
He loved to write—whether books, articles, papers, and even poetry. More recently he wrote for The Covenant Companion, did book reviews for the New York Times, The Swedish Pioneer Historical Quarterly, and so on. His book, Of Marble and Mud, speaks of the dual nature of the human personality. In many ways this describes my dad. He could be sarcastic, but had a sweet, soft heart. He could be very serious and extremely funny. Once when I asked Dad to tell me more about his days in Naval Intelligence, and specifically what he did, his only response was, “Shhhhhh” with his finger over his lips. He kept his commitment of secrecy for 60 years.
Dad loved his family, his children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and his siblings. He cherished the times we could be together and when we called. And, of course, he loved Chicago where he was raised and spent most of his life. Lincoln Avenue and the German restaurants, but especially the North Park community—the College and North Park Covenant Church where he was confirmed, married, and where our family grew up—were dear to his heart. He appreciated education, but even more, a liberal arts education. When it came to education, he had very high standards and a true sense of commitment.
During the great Chicago snowstorm of 1967, when Dad was Academic Dean at the College, we were awakened one night by what turned out to be almost the entire North Park student body standing in front of our house throwing snowballs at the front door and chanting, “We don’t want school, We don’t want school.” Virtually the whole city was shut down for three days, but North Park went on as scheduled. However, it was reported that Prof. Lindahl, after calling his Dean on the phone and being told that classes would be meeting as usual, snowshoed across the high drifts of a deserted Foster Avenue to meet his 8:00 a.m. Philosophy class. Though NP was technically in session, no students showed up.
Dad cherished his Swedish heritage, and spoke in Swedish whenever he had the opportunity. He loved shopping at Wikstrom’s, and was proud of having had an integral part in creating the Swedish exchange program at North Park that is vibrant to this day.
Dad was an intellect, but he also knew about the practical “business” components that are required to make any organization successful—commitment, sound finances, passion, reaching out, and getting everyone involved.
The last days of his life were hard. But, through it all, Dad retained his wit, his sarcasm, and “the look.” In fact the day before he died when his wife, Jane, my sister, Sara, Uncle Dick, and Aunt Caryl were in his room, Sara asked my Mother in a whisper if he was finished eating, since his eyes were closed. He opened his eyes quickly and responded, “Yes, he is!” As we shared a final communion with him just the day before he died, there was a twinkle in his eye. He smiled with no strength left in his body, and as he peered into Pastor Hagemeyer’s eyes, I believe he was seeing God and would be in heaven soon. Dad, we miss you, and we love you.