Tidbits from the Archives: The Death of Ytterboe

MARCH 2004

By Gary DeKrey ’71, Archivist
Center for College History

Feb. 26, 2004 was the centennial of the death of Halvor T. Ytterboe.

A graduate of Luther College, Ytterboe joined the St. Olaf faculty in 1882 and spent the rest of his professional life here. He taught economics, physiology, commercial law, geography, didactics, English grammar and civil government. He was the superintendent of the first men’s dormitory (eventually named for him) and was principal of the academy, the preparatory school taught in conjunction with the college until 1917. St. Olaf students enjoyed his wit, sense of humor and patient mentoring. A superb athlete, he played first base with the students on the college baseball team.

During the depression of the 1890s, Ytterboe traveled a five-state region raising money to keep St. Olaf open. His contemporaries credited him with saving the institution from financial failure. But more than one farmer from whom he collected money complained that even in “a good year, Ytterboe comes and takes away from us most of what we have gained.”

In 1903, Ytterboe took personal charge of sanitation in the men’s dormitory after an outbreak of scarlet fever. For 10 weeks he cleaned the washroom in the basement of the building daily with chemicals and suffered formaldehyde poisoning, which eventually caused his death.

Ytterboe’s family remained at St. Olaf. His widow, Elise Kittelsby Ytterboe, for a long time was the manager and cashier of the Boarding Club in Ytterboe Hall. His niece Agnes Kittelsby (class of 1900), an early female faculty member, eventually became a missionary in China. His daughter Evelyn ’10 married Rev. Joseph Tetlie ’09, the college’s first Rhodes Scholar, and spent time with him in China. Another daughter, Edel ’20, and her husband were proprietors of the Anniston Star, Anniston, Ala. Ytterboe’s descendants have continued to be generous friends of St. Olaf College.