Ruth Christenson Sorenson ’81 and Arne Sorenson: Fostering discovery, following heart

Unrestricted scholarships support Oles wherever their education on the Hill leads. The Paul ’55 and Lois Wold Christenson ’55 and Dorothy Sorenson ’50 Endowed Scholarship, established by Ruth Christenson Sorenson ’81 and Arne Sorenson, help Oles no matter their hometown or major.

Ruth Christenson Sorenson '81 and Arne Sorenson
Ruth Christenson Sorenson ’81 and Arne Sorenson P ’10, ’11, ’14

Ruth Christenson and Arne Sorenson had a lot in common before they met just prior to when Ruth came to St. Olaf College as a first-year student. Their parents were active Lutheran church leaders and volunteers who deeply engaged their families in faith, learning, and service, and they had attended St. Olaf. Yet it was Paul and Lois Christenson’s college funding plan that brought Ruth and Arne together.

“Just days before I started on the Hill, I met Arne at the Whippy Dip my parents owned in Decorah, Iowa and I served him a cone,” says Ruth. The Christenson’s Whippy Dip ice cream parlor brought in additional funds that helped all six of their children attend St. Olaf in just over 10 years. “At some point, three of us were studying on the Hill at once.”

In addition to summer work, Ruth and Arne also relied on financial aid to afford college. “We couldn’t have attended without help,” says Arne. In gratitude, they established an endowed scholarship honoring their Ole parents and doubled its value in this campaign to increase its impact. The unrestricted scholarship gives St. Olaf the flexibility it needs to support any deserving student, like recipient Hannie McGarity ’19. Such flexible funding was important to Ruth who added education to her major late in her undergraduate career. She was able to teach in India the next summer to complete her new core requirements.

“We love St. Olaf. It invites you to embrace great opportunities in and outside your comfort zone. You learn and grow surrounded by a loving community.”

“That was unbelievably life changing,” she says. “I had never been to a developing country. It opened my eyes.”

Now in Washington, D.C., Ruth has worked for 29 years as a music and movement educator, while Arne leads Marriott International as its president and CEO, focusing strongly on growth as well as inclusion, sustainability, and social responsibility. They, too, are active volunteer and philanthropic leaders, just like their parents. They also sent three of their children to the Hill.

“We love St. Olaf. It invites you to embrace great opportunities in and outside your comfort zone. You learn and grow surrounded by a loving community.”