L. Bruce Laingen (’44):
President-retired, American Academy of Diplomacy.
Bruce Laingen receiving the U.S. flag from President Ronald Reagan at his homecoming ceremony in 1981. Laingen, a Minnesota native, was held prisoner during the Iran hostage crisis from Nov. 4, 1979 to Jan. 20,1981. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Laingen) Minnesotan looks back on Iranian hostage crisis: Broadcast: Midday, 08/19/2008, 11:00 a.m
A Minnesotan, Ambassador Laingen served in the US Navy in World War II and in the US Foreign Service from 1949 to 1987. His tours of service included assignments in Germany, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He served as the US Ambassador to Malta from 1977 to 1979. In mid 1979 he returned to Iran for a second tour as chargé d’affaires of the American Embassy before being held hostage in the Iran hostage crisis from November 4,1979 to January 20,1981. Following his release, Ambassador Laingen served as Vice President of the National Defense University in Washington, DC until his retirement from the Foreign Service in 1987. He was Executive Director of the National Commission on the Public Service (the Volcker Commission) from 1987 until the Commission completed its work in 1990.
Ambassador Laingen holds the Award for Valor from the US Department of State, the Distinguished Public Service medal from the Department of Defense, the Distinguished Alumnus Award from St. Olaf College, the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement, a Presidential Meritorious Award and the Foreign Service Cup.
He is a graduate of St. Olaf College in Minnesota, the National War College and has a Masters degree in International Relations from the University of Minnesota. Ambassador Laingen has honorary degrees from Columbia College in Missouri, Hahneman University in Philadelphia, the Western University of Health Sciences and the University of Dubuque and is the author of Yellow Ribbon: The Secret Journal of Bruce Laingen (1992).
Philip L. Friest (’49):
BA Economics, St. Olaf College;MA Accounting and PhD Business Administration (Accounting), University of Minnesota.
My freshman year at St. Olaf suddenly came to an end in early May 1943 by an invitation to report for active duty in the US Naval Reserve (no final exams!!). Basic training, then Storekeeper School at the Farragut Naval Training Station in Idaho. Then to Aviation Storekeeper School at the Alameda Naval Air Station, Alameda, California. Across the country, San Francisco to Chicago to Washington D.C. to the Patuxent River Naval Air Test Center in Maryland, my home from February 1944 to May 1946. For a Minnesota lad in the navy, traveling to the West and East coasts certainly opened a vision of life and out country that would never have been anticipated.
The U.S. Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, home of the Test Center, is near the southern tip of Maryland, some 60 or more miles south of Washington D.C. The Naval Air Test Center is the place where all major testing of the Navy’s planes and aeronautical equipment is performed. The Naval Air Station was also the headquarters for the Atlantic Wind of the Naval Air Transport Service Command and served as the East Coast terminus for flights to England, Europe and South America.
Even in war-time, the eight hour, five day work schedule tended to be the rule for personnel with a navy specialty rank. Extra duty was shared for the other hours and weekends. At the test center, aviation supply was primarily responsible to provide replacement of aircraft parts and equipment which failed during flight and test procedures and to return instruments and equipment to manufacturers for analysis and necessary design and quality changes.
I will always remember where I was when President Roosevelt died. It was my turn to spend the night on duty in the warehouse. The Executive Officer called and wanted a supply of Black Arm Bands. Responding that I was unable to find any inventory of Black Arm Bands, he accepted a bolt of Black Cloth and sent a driver to pick it up.
The narrow, two lane, winding road north to Washington D.C. was extra busy with navy buses on weekends. In Washington, the Lutheran Service Center was located in a four-story row house, facing Lafayette Square, a half block from the White House. Here was the Church, a home away from home, for military personnel of all branches and ranks. The center provided a mix of comforts and activities, pastoral care and fellowship. This was the place where I met a charming member of the Women’s Marine Corp who became my wife.
Back in classes at St. Olaf in the fall of 1946 my wife Ruth and I wee fortunate to have a small 2-bedroom house, five or six blocks down St. Olaf Avenue. With the crush of student veterans in need of rooms, we invited two women to share the second bedroom and two men to share a makeshift room in the basement. We enjoyed two years of togetherness with many tales of our lives in the service. The six of us trudged up the hill, even in the snow, wind and the cold of winter, Ruth to her desk in the business office and the other five to class.
We moved to a three-room second floor apartment near Carlton College for my senior year and discovered Stanley Peterson, also a St. Olaf senior, and his wife, Joyce, lived in the other two rooms. More togetherness and a lifetime friendship sharing travel and all important family events as our children grew and were married. The five-year class reunions helped catch up on changes at St. Olaf and to our fellow classmates.
The classes and faculty in Economics and Business are my primary memories. Charles Weisheit, in his accounting classes, kept us awake. His mind often seemed to move faster than his lecture so keeping track of what he meant, not just his words, was critical. Sever Klaragard’s Business Law classes were more laid back but his exams could easily catch the unsuspecting student. Tillman Sogge, as I remember, had recently arrived from Washington D.C. and brought an aura of authority to his courses dealing with government programs. Enrolling in a beginning course in Speech as a senior, somehow keeps a place in my memory. The Lion’s Den was the place for married students to meet with their bag lunches.
I was employed as the Assistant to the Business Manager at St. Olaf for two years following graduation. Fall of 1951 I started graduate work at the University of Minnesota. With the balance of my “GI Bill®” benefits, work as a graduate assistant in the School of Business, and my family living at University Village, I was able to complete two years of graduate work. Summer of 1953 I worked on the audit staff at the Minneapolis office of Peat, Marwaick, Mitchell and Company, a national CPA firm.
Fall of 1953 I accepted a position on the faculty of the University of Minnesota, Duluth. The Duluth State Teachers College students and campus became the Duluth Campus of the University of Minnesota in 1947. By 1953, UMD had four buildings on a new site with a shuttle service to classes and student housing on the old Teachers College campus. UMD had a small student body when I arrived, maybe 1,200 students in winter 1954, with academic faculty and course offerings organized in four Divisions. When I retired in 1987, UMD was a campus of interconnected academic and administration buildings, offering graduate and professional programs, and organized as academic departments and schools. Enrollment had grown to some 7,500 or more undergraduate and graduate students.
To be part of the growth of UMD in a changing, post-war, U.S. and world economy brought academic challenges for business and accounting programs and courses. During the early years of growth, I had the opportunity to have students in courses in economics and business and accounting. A Bachelor of Accounting Degree was added to the curriculum un 1973 and the faculty and courses in Economics, Business Administration and Accounting became The School of Business and Economics in 1975 when UMD organized into schools (now the Labovitz School of Business and Economics). I served as Chair of the Accounting Department for eight years.
In 1956 I was a member of a community planning committee for a blood program for the local hospitals. Blood Donors, Inc., a non-profit, donor program, was created to serve the hospitals in Northeastern Minnesota. I was a member of the Board of Directors and Treasurer from 1956 to 1992 when it merged with Memorial Blood Centers, Minneapolis, Minnesota. I served two, three-year terms on the Board of Directors of Memorial Blood Centers.
From 1988 to 1998 I was on the staff of First Lutheran Church, Duluth in a temporary, and part-time administrator position. Computers, membership and accounting programs, budgets and reports for the Council and congregation, committees and communication. Two major projects were completed during these years. The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s construction of a tunnel for Interstate 35 required fences within a few feet of a major entrance to the church. Weekly meetings during the two years of construction with representatives of MNDOT and the contractors greatly assisted the congregation in maintaining access for worship and weekly programming.
The second project remodeled and added construction for Sunday School, offices and an elevator. The two, three-year funding programs encouraged a tithe of pledged amounts for sister churches in Africa and community projects in Duluth. Payment of the project, about $2+ million (including $150,000 for the tithe’s), was completed in the six-year pledge time.
Ruth passed away in August 2002 and I moved to Edina in August 2003 to be nearer to my two children and four grandchildren. Two great grandchildren have been added. I was elected President of the Resident Council at Edina Park Plaza and served two, two-year terms. I have been a volunteer financial coach for students at Luther Seminary in St. Paul for several years since moving to Edina.
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