E. Roald Carlson, Class of 1948
There was one lone professor of Philosophy at St. Olaf College when I returned from the United States Navy in September of 1948 after spending the last 10 months of my enlistment on the island of Guam serving in the Naval Operating Base at Apra Harbor there and doing part time work as a translator of Japanese as I had learned that language somewhat as a student at the Naval Oriental Language School at the University of Colorado at Boulder having been commissioned as an ensign in the United States Naval Reserve in March of 1945. That Professor of Philosophy was Dr. William H. K. Narum who had just received his doctorate in Theology from Princeton Seminary. Professor Howard Hong, who had been the Professor of Philosophy had been selected as the administrator of a Lutheran Relief Agency in Europe seeking to serve the huge needs of Lutheran Refugees and others in Europe in the aftermath of World War II. Dr. Hong had specialized in the study of Soren Kierkegaard in Denmark before the war . . . knew Europe better than many members of the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America at the time . . . and went to Europe to head up that monstrous effort – – enlisting the help of students like Loren Halvorson, Ed Bersagel and Anderson as able assistants. Dr. Hong, and his able assistants along with many others, did a great work. He returned to St. Olaf once during my two years as a junior and a senior there when he spoke in Chapel one day about his experiences and ministry – – the Chapel (the old Gym) was full, many of them veterans of the war who knew the destruction and pathos of the residents of Germany and other nearby countries as well as the plight of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who had fled the encroaching advance of the Russian Army and Communism and made their way into camps set up all over the place to house them and then provide food for them as well. It was a great work and in his Chapel Talk Dr. Hong told of driving his Jeep along an Autobahn once and picking up a lone hitch-hiker with whom he conversed regarding his plight and being told that he was a “Nihilist” now as nothing made any sense anymore to him as he viewed the situation in Europe and his future there. I have never forgotten the picture Dr. Hong painted and his mention of the term “Nihilist” as that was a new term to me. I was fortunate to have Dr. Hong as a professor of Freshman English Literature in the second half of my Freshman Year at St Olaf (January-June of 1943) when Dr. Arthur Paulson was pulled out of English Classes and became an Instructor in Navigation for trhe United States Naval Cadets in the Pre-Flight Program of the V-5 effort of the Navy to train pilots for the thousands of planes being produced by a rejuvenated industry. The one thing I remember from Dr Hong’s class was his effort to expound on Thomas Hardy’s book, “The Return of the Native” . . . an effort I discussed with him several times when I returned to the Hill and visited with Dr. Hong about that semester, when he helped me so much in appreciating English Literature. In my Philosophy Major I focused on Kierkegaard rather heavily and then to do my Philosophy Major Thesis (required at the time and for which I received 3 credits) I wrote a long paper on Dostoyevsky and particularly his message in “Crime and Punishment” and “Brothers Karamasov” – – two books that sort of changed my life as Dostoyevsky wrestled with the great themes of sin and forgiveness and God and hope . . and whatnot!
Graduating with honors in the Department of Philosophy, a great surprise to me, I went on to Luther Seminary, Biblical Seminary in New York CIty, and finally earning a Masters in Theology at Princeton Seminary in June of 1953 . . . and then being ordained as a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church at Henning Lutheran Parish, Henning, Minnesota, Ottertail County in August of 1953 serving three churches in the city and countryside. The GI Bill was a “God-send” to me and many others. I used up all 48 months of education on the GI Bill.
After four years I was called to Immanuel Lutheran CHurch on Snelling Avenue across from Macalester College where I served seven years and then accepted a call to Bethany Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York serving 17 years after which I was at Concordia Lutheran CHurch in Superior, Wisconsin for ten years . . . retired at age 65 and have lived in St. Paul across the avenue from Stub Hall of Luther Seminary ever since.
My wife is the former Marjorie Jean Mueller, born and raised in Bemidji, MN and a graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead, MN – – later earning a Masters in Library Science at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, N. Y. She served for years as a Counselor at the Educational Opportunity Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant where students seeking to get up from poverty learned a trade and went to work in Manhattan mostly as clerks and secretaries in the vast office buildings there.
We have four daughters . . . the Rev. Kristine L. Carlson, pastor of Christ Church Lutheran in Minneapolis, Dr Paula Carlson, soon to be installed as the 10th President of Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, the Rev. Janet Carlson who served a parish in Winthrop, MN and then Grace Lutheran Church, in Lincoln, CA (a suburb of Sacramento) and now a Real Estate Agent in Sacramento, and Carolyn Carlson, an Executive Editor of Viking Penguin Publishing in New York CIty I am now 89 years old, in good health, and happy that I studied Philosophy at St. Olaf and was exposed to great thinkers who stimulated in me good thinking and later action seeking to serve people in a calling as a Lutheran Pastor.