Remembering Professor O’Leary

St. Olaf College Professor of Norwegian Margaret Hayford O'Leary pictured knitting.
St. Olaf College Professor of Norwegian Margaret Hayford O’Leary, the King Olav V Chair of Scandinavian-American Studies and Associate Dean for Humanities, taught generations of students.

St. Olaf College Professor of Norwegian Margaret Hayford O’Leary, who taught generations of students over the last four decades, died June 30 at the age of 67 after a two-year battle with cancer.

Services will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 28, at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northfield. Visitation will be one hour prior to the service. A reception will follow.

O’Leary, the King Olav V Chair of Scandinavian-American Studies and Associate Dean for Humanities, began teaching at St. Olaf in 1977. She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her B.A. degree at Concordia College (Moorhead) in German and education.

She specialized in language pedagogy, particularly the use of technology in teaching Norwegian. She co-authored Norsk i sammenheng, an intermediate Norwegian textbook aiming to acquaint students with everyday communication in Norway. She went on to co-author a CD-ROM called KlikkNorsk, and write the books Colloquial Norwegian, The Complete Course for Beginners and Culture and Customs of Norway. She later completed a new web-based version of KlikkNorsk and added supplementary material for the novel Brødre i blodet (Ingvar Ambjørnsen) to the På gang materials.

O’Leary traveled to Norway as often as possible. She spent two sabbaticals at the University of Oslo and led several study tours to Norway and Scandinavia, including two for Smithsonian and four for St. Olaf. From 2007 to 2016, O’Leary taught Norwegian language and culture at the University of Oslo International Summer School.

In 2016 O’Leary was awarded the rank of Officer of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit at a special ceremony on campus. The award, which honors outstanding service in the interests of Norway, was conferred by Norwegian Ambassador to the United States Kåre Aas. In 2017 O’Leary was named the King Olav V Chair of Scandinavian-American Studies, and she also served on the board of directors of the Norwegian-American Historical Association housed at St. Olaf.

Read O’Leary’s full obituary here.