St. Olaf College | News

Queen Sonja of Norway visits campus

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Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway visited St. Olaf College on October 14 as part of a tour to highlight the strong ties between Norway and Minnesota’s Norwegian-American community.

President David R. Anderson ’74, his wife, Priscilla Paton, and Student Government Association President Sebastian Pham ’23 greeted Her Majesty as she arrived at Buntrock Commons. As they walked across campus, throngs of St. Olaf students, faculty, and staff lined the sidewalks to welcome the Queen, some waving Norwegian flags.

Her Majesty began her visit by meeting with St. Olaf students, faculty members, the Board of Regents, and members of the Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA) in the Rølvaag Memorial Library reference room for a special presentation showcasing Norwegian-American stories and artifacts housed at the college.

“NAHA, the St. Olaf Archives, and Rølvaag Library Special Collections all share common Norwegian roots,” NAHA Executive Director Amy Boxrud ’89 noted in her opening remarks. “The Norwegian immigrants who founded St. Olaf in 1874 had the foresight to gather and preserve a historical record of their community.”

St. Olaf students provided Queen Sonja with glimpses into that historical record. Leah Berdahl ’23, Skye Federation ’23, and Teague Peterson-McGuire ’23 read from letters that Norwegian-American immigrants had written sharing about their new life in the United States. Caroline Flaten ’23, Esmir Hodzic ’23, Erik Moe ’23, and Helen White ’23 presented their research into various aspects of Norwegian-American life.

King Olav V Chair in Scandinavian-American Studies and Professor of Norwegian Kari Lie Dorer shared with Queen Sonja that St. Olaf is one of just a few U.S. higher education institutions where students can study Norwegian to complete their foreign language requirement and also be able to further develop their knowledge of Norwegian language, literature, culture, and history. St. Olaf offers the largest number of Norwegian language courses in North America.

As she thanked the St. Olaf students for their presentations, Queen Sonja noted how meaningful the experience had been. She then joined President Anderson and Head of Strategy for Library Collections and Archives Mary Barbosa-Jerez for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Special Collections vault at Rølvaag Memorial Library.

Her Majesty’s visit was documented by a number of media outlets, including CBS affiliate WCCO-TV and the Norwegian television station NRK. The visit was Queen Sonja’s fourth to St. Olaf; she previously traveled to the college with King Harald V in 2011 and 1995, and first visited in 1978 as Crown Princess of Norway. The Queen’s four-day stay in Minnesota included a meeting with Gov. Tim Walz, a centennial event for the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church, or “Mindekirken,” in Minneapolis, and the opening of a new building adjacent to the nearby Norway House, a center for Norwegian art and culture. 

St. Olaf College was founded in 1874 by Norwegian immigrants and has hosted members of the Norwegian royal family on several occasions. In addition to Queen Sonja’s previous appearances with King Harald V, other Norwegian royal visits include Princess Astrid in 2008; Princess Märtha Louise in 2006, Crown Prince Haakon in 2005, and King Olav V in 1987.