Ragnar Meyer-Knutsen honored by King

St. Olav’s Medal awarded to New York patron of the arts and culture

Photo: Morten Karlsen
Ragnar Meyer-Knutsen (left) was presented with the St. Olav’s Medal by Consul General Heidi Olufsen (right) in New York City on September 13.

The Norwegian American

On Sept, 13, philanthropist of Norwegian arts and culture and publisher emeritus of The Norwegian American newspaper Ragnar Meyer-Knutsen was presented with St. Olavsmedaljen—the St. Olav’s Medal—for his longtime support of Norwegian culture.

The ceremony took place at the residence of Norwegian Consul General Heidi Olufsen in New York City. In attendance were local Norwegian-American dignitaries, including representatives of the local Norwegian-American community and close friends and family, including his wife, Lauren Stanton Knutsen, and their son, Erik Knutsen. The ceremony was followed by a dinner hosted by the family at the River Club.

The St. Olav’s Medal was instituted by King Haakon VII of Norway on March 17, 1939. It is awarded in recognition of “outstanding services rendered in connection with the spreading of information about Norway abroad and for strengthening the bonds between expatriate Norwegians and their home country.”

Meyer-Knutsen was born in Stavanger, Norway, in 1944, where he was educated before joining the Royal Norwegian Navy. He went abroad to study the shipping industry in London. He first came to the United States in 1970 to work and became a founding owner of Sealift Inc. in 1975. Today, he serves as the president of the company, which operates six U.S.-flagged ocean-going ships and charters in dozens of foreign flag vessels annually.

Photo: John Haug / The Royal Court
The St. Olav’s Medal.

Meyer-Knutsen is described by his close friend Victor Samuelsen as a “quiet person in the background, who is always willing to help.” Not only has Meyer-Knutsen given generously to a long list of organizations in the New York area, he also contributes with his energy and expertise. For many years, he led the New York City Cod Club and remains active there. He serves on the board of the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in Upper Manhattan and is an executive trustee of the American-Scandinavian Foundation, which supports exchange between the United States and all the Nordic countries. In Norway, he has been a strong supporter of the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra and was instrumental in bringing them to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 2011.

In 2015, Meyer-Knutsen took over the ownership of the Norwegian American Weekly and helped transform it into The Norwegian American, a modern publication to connect Norwegian Americans to their heritage and to keep them informed about contemporary life in Norway. In 2021, the newspaper became part of Norway House in Minneapolis to take it into a new era. Meyer-Knutsen serves on the board as publisher emeritus and remains the principal benefactor of the paper.

As editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, I can tell you that Ragnar is a great supporter and friend, who is always there. This medal could not have been awarded to someone more deserving.

This article originally appeared in the October 7, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.