Established in 2006 by the Board of Regents, this chair recognizes Kenneth O. Bjork who taught history at St. Olaf from 1937 until 1974 and who served as editor for the Norwegian American Historical Society (NAHA) from 1960 to 1980. Dr. Bjork is the author of Saga in Steel and Concrete; Norwegian Engineers in America and West of the Great Divide: Norwegian Migration to the Pacific Coast, 1847-1893. Dr. Bjork is one of several long-time servants of the College whom the Board has chosen to recognize for distinguished teaching, professional work, and service to the college and community. The first holder of the Kenneth O. Bjork Distinguished Professor Chair was Martha Wallace, Department of Mathematics, followed by Gary Stansell, Department of Religion, Charles Wilson, Department of Religion, and James May, Department of Classics.
Corliss Swain joined St. Olaf in 1987. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 1993 and professor in 2007. She served as chair of the Philosophy department for a number of years and Associate Dean for the Humanities for six years. In addition, she has also served on a number of study groups and committees both as member and as chair. One important contribution to the mentoring of younger faculty members was her participation in the creation and planning of the Boldt Writing Retreat in 2011. Professor Swain also served as advisor to the student group Philosophia and colloquium coordinator. Teaching dozens of different courses throughout her career, she was active in the Paracollege and has taught in the Great Conversation.
Specializing in the philosophical thought of David Hume, Professor Swain has published numerous articles and presented a number of papers on Hume, in addition to serving as co-editor of the journal Hume Studies. She was recently elected president of the Hume Society, after having served as Executive Secretary-Treasurer. She also served as Vice-President of the Minnesota Philosophical Society.