History of the Rossing Prize

About Viola Rossing

Viola Rossing was born in Argyle, Wisconsin, on March 13, 1889, the daughter of Lars and Helena Rossing, proprietors of a thriving general store that opened in 1870 and remained in business, with Viola’s help, for over 100 years.Viola Rossing

Viola graduated from high school in 1906 and attended Red Wing Ladies Seminary for one year, then took her place in the family business as a full partner along with her two brothers, Hjalmar and Victor. Viola, like her mother before her, was by all accounts a dedicated and tireless business woman who stuck with the store through prosperity, hard times, and war years.

In the 1930s, Viola established a fund to pay for the education of her nieces and nephews who chose to attend a college of the Lutheran church—Luther, St. Olaf, and Wittenberg. Four of them graduated from St. Olaf.

About the Rossing Prize
The Viola M. Rossing fund was set up by Betty Rossing Forell, a niece of Viola who was one beneficiary of the college fund, and husband George Forell to honor Viola’s memory. In a letter sent to then-college president Melvin George, Betty Rossing Forell wrote:

I admire Aunt Viola for her accomplishments as a businesswoman, accomplishments truly unusual for her generation. Therefore I am designating my gift to start a fund, the income of which will be used for an annual prize for the best scholarly paper or creative work produced by a St. Olaf student in Women’s Studies..  . . .Many departments at St. Olaf award such prizes as marks of achievement in different disciplines. There is, however, no prize in Women’s Studies. This seems a fitting way to honor Aunt Viola.

Today the Viola M. Rossing Fund supports Women’s and Gender Studies at St. Olaf College, including an annual award recognizing interdisciplinary achievement. The Rossing Prize is an award intended to recognize excellence in the scholarship and creative work of senior Women’s and Gender Studies majors or concentrators.