Honoring a legend

Audun Toven smiles as the Svare-Toven Professorship in Norwegian and Scandinavian Studies at Pacific Lutheran University is announced during the Syttende Mai Norwegian Constitution Day) celebration Tuesday, May 17, 2011. Photo: John Froschauer/PLU

Audun Toven smiles as the Svare-Toven Professorship in Norwegian and Scandinavian Studies at Pacific Lutheran University is announced during the Syttende Mai Norwegian Constitution Day) celebration Tuesday, May 17, 2011. Photo: John Froschauer/PLU

New endowed professorship at PLU honors beloved professor Audun Toven

At Pacific Lutheran University’s Syttende Mai celebration in Tacoma, Wash., President Loren J. Anderson heralded the day and then paused for a very appropriate, and unexpected, announcement.

A decade of work and a last-minute push for funding paid off as Anderson announced the Svare-Toven Norwegian and Scandinavian Studies Professorship. The $1 million to establish the professorship reached the needed milestone just days before the May 17 announcement.

During the announcement, Anderson recognized three people who made this dream a reality. The idea for an endowed professorship came from Richard Svare and his sister Betty Svare Parrot made plans to honor their father Trygve Svare, who was a PLU professor from the 1920s – 40s.

The brother and sister passed away in 2004 and 2005 respectively, and left their promised gifts, but it was not enough to create an endowed position. Audun Toven, who is a professor emeritus of Norwegian at PLU, took up the task. Toven challenged the PLU community on May 17, 2010, to finish the fundraising needed for the endowed professorship.

“If it wasn’t for Audun, we wouldn’t be here today,” Anderson said.

From left: Kim Nesselquist, Audun Toven, Knut Brakstad and President Loren J. Anderson pose for a photo after the announcement of the Svare-Toven Professorship in Norwegian and Scandinavian Studies at Pacific Lutheran University during the Syttende Mai (Norwegian Constitution Day) celebration Tuesday, May 17, 2011. Photo: John Froschauer/PLU

From left: Kim Nesselquist, Audun Toven, Knut Brakstad and President Loren J. Anderson pose for a photo after the announcement of the Svare-Toven Professorship in Norwegian and Scandinavian Studies at Pacific Lutheran University during the Syttende Mai (Norwegian Constitution Day) celebration Tuesday, May 17, 2011. Photo: John Froschauer/PLU

Knut Brakstad, the private secretary of HM King Harald and the Grand Marshal of the Seattle 17th of May festivities, was on hand to celebrate the new professorship at PLU. Brakstad is Toven’s nephew.

“You know much more than me about the important role Audun Toven has played in the Norwegian-American society here on the West Coast – as a devoted professor at PLU who have introduced an entire generation of students to Norwegian language, culture and politics,” said Brakstad. “And you know much more than me about Audun being a dedicated goodwill ambassador for Norway. What I do know, however, is that it is a great privilege for me to pay tribute to his achievements and to bring greetings from his family in Norway to all of you.”

Just days before the May 17 announcement, Consul Kim Nesselquist and Executive Director of the Norwegian American Foundation, engaged in a flurry of fundraising that brought the total to the needed $1 million.

On May 17, an obviously surprised Toven smiled broadly as he went up to the podium in the Scandinavian Cultural Center, which he helped establish. He said that creating an endowed professorship of Scandinavian studies is important, especially at universities with a deep Lutheran heritage, such as PLU. Faced with tough times, some universities are reducing or phasing out their Norwegian studies programs altogether.

“I’m interested in making sure that there is always a professorship in Norwegian studies at PLU,” he said.

He then turned to the crowd and issued a challenge on the fourth annual Syttende Mai celebration, how about an announcement for an endowed chair? Only $1 million more to go, he said.

“We’re half-way there,” he laughed.

Source: Pacific Lutheran University

This article was originally published in the June 3, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email subscribe@norway.com.

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