Learning at Its Best

by Arthur W. Anderson

I was a very nervous freshman at North Park in the fall of 1938. At the outset, the only thing I could do was smile and suffer. While I really didn’t grow up on a farm, I had enough of it to make me more retiring than I wished. While in high school, I enjoyed football, and even caught the winning pass to make us champions in our region. I won the regional speech contest in Hibbing, Minnesota. Being chairman of the Senior Prom was not one of my favorite responsibilities. While trying to be a good Christian, and also loyal to my church, I did not dance (to say nothing of my dancing abilities). My geometry teacher tried to drag me out on the dance floor, but I won the battle. High school plays were something I took a real shine to, but when I came to North Park, I felt so inferior that I wanted to run.

When coming to North Park, I rushed for the back seat. I was shy and a generous amount of dread filled my spirit. But one thing happened that got me chuckling again... something that began to open my eyes. There we were a bunch of cautious freshmen waiting in a sizable classroom for our yet-to-be-introduced professor! I was sitting by the window – a healthy spot for someone not wanting to be noticed. Within minutes, an elderly, distinguished gentleman entered, whom I’m sure it would be safe to say none of us knew. He introduced himself as David Nyvall, a guest professor for the freshmen class – and we were it!! We soon found out that he was from Sweden, coming to us with advanced degrees from institutions in both Sweden and the United States. A classy scholar, to say the least he had us all spellbound right from the very first lecture. Suddenly, I felt a bit easier.

Though I thought I might not last long at North Park, I was completely caught up in what this man had to say. To say that I understood what he was lecturing would be wrong. Given our familiarity with most lecturers, I was uprooted into a new way of comprehending our world. He took us way beyond ourselves and into an exploration of life and the meaning of the Universe itself. He certainly was not boring! His philosophical adventures provoked our attention beyond belief. Professor David Nyvall was in a class of his own. His lectures were a philosophy of such dimensions that we would never forget. WE WERE NOT WRONG! While he opened vistas of understanding in our world and the cosmos, he did not cater to our status. As finals approached, we wondered what he would ask us. We had been led far out of our concern about exam questions such as, “What does the book say?” or “What must I memorize to pass this final?”

Believe it or not! We were all given one question! Which is most important---


As I reflect on all of this later, I realize he was inviting us to do our own thinking about the dimensions of life, and try to see through our own eyes, and learn how to really think.


I am sure that I speak for hundreds of friends who want to express thanks to Phil Johnson for his spectacular work as Managing Editor of Pietisten, and also to his wife, Sandy, for her support and keen eye as Copy Editor of Pietisten. Phil introduced a wide perspective of news from both sides of the Atlantic....not only news, but stimulating articles that enabled us to understand our brothers and sisters abroad.

A note to our Readers: for an in-depth look at the educational philosophy and remarkable career of Prof. David Nyvall (1863-1946), see David Nyvall and the Shape of an Immigrant Church (Uppsala University, 1996) by Scott Erickson. –MS