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St. Olaf to award honorary degree to Kierkegaard scholar Bruce Kirmmse

St. Olaf College will award an honorary degree to Connecticut College Professor Emeritus of History Bruce Kirmmse, who is widely known and respected for his scholarly work on the Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard, on Thursday, May 5.

The honorary degree events will begin with a chapel service with the Rev. Chris Thomforde at 11 a.m. in Boe Memorial Chapel. Attendees will then walk across campus to the Hong Kierkegaard Library in Steensland Hall, where the honorary degree ceremony will begin at 11:45 a.m. A reception will follow.

The newly renovated Steensland Hall opened this fall as the home of the Hong Kierkegaard Library, which features the largest collection of writings by and about Kierkegaard outside of Denmark. It is a fitting space to honor Kirmmse. In addition to his work at Connecticut College, Kirmmse also taught at the University of Copenhagen while serving as director of the Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre, where he is now a senior research scholar.

Kirmmse is the author of Kierkegaard in Golden Age Denmark and Encounters With Kierkegaard, as well as many articles. He has done numerous translations, including Joakim Garff’s Søren Kierkegaard: A Biography and Kierkegaard’s The Lily of the Field and the Bird of the Air. Kirmmse also served as general editor and principal translator for Kierkegaard’s Journals and Notebooks. His translation of Fear and Trembling was published in November 2021, and his translation of The Sickness unto Death is forthcoming in early 2023. At present, Kirmmse is working on a new translation of Kierkegaard’s Works of Love.

In recognition of his work on Kierkegaard and on other aspects of Danish culture, Kirmmse was made a Knight of the Dannebrog in 2013. He divides his time between Copenhagen and Randolph, New Hampshire.

The Hong Kierkegaard Library
The Hong Kierkegaard Library serves as the world’s official repository for books by and about Søren Kierkegaard, with a collection that includes almost 19,000 volumes. The library offers programs and courses aimed at stimulating and nurturing the study of Kierkegaard among St. Olaf students and faculty, as well as domestic and international scholars.

The foundation of the library is built on the private collection of St. Olaf alumni Howard ’34 and Edna Hatlestad Hong ’38. Howard Hong taught in the college’s Philosophy Department for 40 years, and together the couple spent decades collecting an enormous body of literature by and about Kierkegaard. They became internationally celebrated for their work translating most of Kierkegaard’s published writings and journals from Danish into English, winning the National Book Award in 1968. The Hongs donated their collection to St. Olaf in 1976, and the Hong Kierkegaard Library was established.