60th Anniversary Dinner & Symposium

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by Eric Lund, November 2008

The Swedish–American Historical Society celebrated its 60th anniversary Saturday, Nov. 8 2008, at a symposium and festive dinner at the Westmoreland Country Club in suburban Chicago.

The club, in candlelit ambience, lived up to its slogan of "creating positive memorable experiences," offering many amenities and serving the guests a superb dinner in fine style. The program following the dinner highlighted the Society's achievements over the years, including publishing 25 books and four issues per year of the Swedish-American Historical Quarterly since 1950.

As part of his president's report, Phil Anderson introduced Bill and Willow Hagans of Detroit, whose book on Anders Zorn in America was about to be published.

A number of presentations were made at the anniversary dinner, at which Nils Hasselmo, former president of the University of Minnesota and of the Society, was the main speaker.

The rank of Commander of the Royal Order of the Polar Star, awarded by King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, was conferred on Philip Anderson by Kerstin Lane, honorary Swedish Consul General for Illinois. Anderson was cited for his scholarship and writing, teaching (at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago), and leadership in the Swedish–American community, including as president of the Swedish-American Historical Society since 1989.

The rank of Commander of the Royal Order of the Polar Star was also conferred on Byron Nordstrom, professor of history at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN, by Bruce Karstadt, honorary Swedish Consul General for Minnesota. Nordstrom was cited for his teaching, writing, and editorship of the Swedish–American Historical Quarterly since 1997.

The Society's Carl Sandburg Medals were presented to Eloise and LeRoy Nelson of Chicago. Eloise has served as a director of the Society for 18 of the last 25 years, chair and vice chair during part of that time; LeRoy served as a director for six years and is a long-time member of the publications committee; together they have led Society tours to Swedish–American sites in America since the early 1980's, as well as Holiday Lights tours to Sweden since 1985.

Anita Olson Gustafson, associate professor of history at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC, was announced as winner of the Franklin Scott Prize for her first article to be published in the Swedish–American Historical Quarterly. The prize is named for an early president of the Society and leading scholar of Swedish America. Anita's article, "'We Hope to Do Some Good': Swedish Women's Organizations in Chicago," will appear in the October Quarterly.

Features at the dinner included music by Nordic Voices of Chicago, a young women's chorus directed by Melissa Grant, who sang a delightful group of Swedish songs, and a 16-minute film of 1948 Centennial Celebration events by Swedish photographer Bengt Janzon and American photographer Leonard Claremont.

Nils Hasselmo spoke on "An Immigrant's Stories for His Grandchildren," reading a story from a book he has written for publication. He came to the U.S. in 1956 as a student at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL, expecting to return to Sweden. Instead he stayed, became a teacher at the University of Wisconsin and then at Minnesota, where he rose through the ranks to become president. He was also the speaker at the Society's 50th anniversary dinner in 1998.