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Updated as of April 9, 2017 November 15, 2016 For Immediate Release Memoir about Concordia Language Villages tells of Program’s History, Success (Minneapolis, MN) – When Odell Bjerkness was named executive director of the Concordia College (Moorhead, MN) Language Villages in 1971, he and Professor Gerhard Haukebo, along with Concordia President Dr. Joseph L. Knutson, had big plans to expand the program beyond the original German language camp (launched in 1961 at a rented Bible camp facility near Alexandria, Minnesota) to as many as ten villages at a permanent site. Now, in his recently published 250-page memoir that spans nearly thirty years, Bjerkness reveals the coming together of the right people (Dr. Knutson and innovative language professors) at the right time (post-Sputnik era) on the right piece of Minnesota lakefront property (800-acres on Turtle River Lake) near Bemidji to create one of the most successful and imitated language-learning programs in the country. It Takes A Village: The Story of Concordia Language Villages, A Memoir and Perspective contains some 350 photos by David J. Hetland documenting the rapid growth and popularity of the villages. Enrollment grew from 75 in 1961 to some 7,000 villagers in 10 year-round programs in 1989 when Bjerkness retired; new villages included French, Norwegian, Spanish, Russian, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, Japanese, and Chinese, employing 41 full-time staff and 800 seasonal staff. The economic impact of the villages in the Fargo/Moorhead and Bemidji areas was estimated to be $10 million in 1987-88. With Dr. Knutson’s blessings, Bjerkness and cohort Alvin Traaseth, who oversaw business operations, were able to capitalize on The Ugly American sentiments inspired by the novel that put language learning on U.S. radar. Minnesota business leaders, local and other prominent U.S. philanthropists, and interested families in some 30 U.S. states became ardent supporters as the villages grew and the language-learning programs for youth ages 8-17 took off. Knutson’s only admonition was to “keep all operations in the black,” a tenet Bjerkness and Traaseth were able to honor. In one of the book’s twelve chapters, Bjerkness tells of his meeting with Gov. Bill and Hillary Clinton at the Arkansas governor’s mansion during a conference with U.S. teachers of foreign languages in 1987. Daughter Chelsea Clinton attended Waldee, the Concordia German Language Village, for six years. He says Mrs. Clinton and her book, It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us,” had an influence on him. Bjerkness, professor emeritus of Concordia, received the college’s Soli Deo Gloria Award for his efforts in raising funds for the language villages; Augsburg and Luther Colleges presented him with their distinguished service awards. In 1982, His Majesty King Olav V of Norway awarded the prestigious Saint Olav Medal to Bjerkness for his work in promoting and strengthening Norwegian-American relations. Since retirement, Bjerkness has taught at the University of Minnesota’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). He founded The Edvard Grieg Society and served as a founding board member of the cultural center Norway House in south Minneapolis. He is also the author of eight books. Bjerkness lives in Richfield with his wife, Joann. They have four children, twelve grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The book (Birchpoint Press, $24.95) is available at Ingebretsen’s Scandinavian Gifts, 1601 East Lake Street, Minneapolis. For further information, contact Odell Bjerkness at 612.866.3699 or at ojbjerkness@aol.com.

November, 2016 For Immediate Release Memoir about Concordia Language Villages tells of Program’s History, Success

(Minneapolis, MN) – When Odell Bjerkness was named executive director of the Concordia (Moorhead, MN) Language Villages in 1971, he had big plans to expand the program beyond the original German language camp (launched by Gerry Haukebo in1961) at a rented Bible camp facility near Alexandria, Minnesota) to ten villages at a permanent site. Now, in his recently published 300-page memoir that span nearly thirty years, Bjerkness reveals the coming together of the right people (Concordia College President Joseph L. Knutson and innovative language professors) at the right time (post-Sputnik era) on the right piece of Minnesota lakefront property (800-acres on Turtle River Lake) near Bemidji to create one of the most successful and imitated language-learning programs in the country. It Takes A Village: The Story of Concordia Language Villages, A Memoir and Perspective contains some 400 photos by David J. Hetland documenting the rapid growth and popularity of the villages. Enrollment grew from 75 in 1961 to some 4,000 villagers in 1989 when Bjerkness retired; villages included German, French, Norwegian, Spanish, Russian, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, Japanese, and Chinese, employing 41 full-time staff and 800 seasonal staff. The economic impact of the villages in the Fargo/Moorhead and Bemidji areas was estimated to be $10 million in 1987-88. With Dr. Knutson’s blessings, Bjerkness and cohort Alvin Traaseth, who oversaw business operations, were able to capitalize on The Ugly American sentiments inspired by the novel that put language learning on U.S. radar. Minnesota business leaders, local and other prominent U.S. philanthropists, and interested families in all 50 U.S. states became ardent supporters as the villages grew and the language-learning programs for youth ages 7-18 took off. Knutson’s only admonition was to “keep all operations in the black,” a tenet Bjerkness and Traaseth were able to honor. In one of the book’s twelve chapters, Bjerkness tells of his meeting with Gov. Bill and Hillary Clinton at the Arkansas governor’s mansion during a conference with U.S. teachers of foreign languages in 1987. Daughter Chelsea Clinton attended Waldee, the Concordia German Language Village, for six years. He says Mrs. Clinton and her book, It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us,” had an influence on him. Bjerkness, professor emeritus of Concordia, received the college’s Soli Deo Gloria Award for his efforts in raising funds for the language villages; Augsburg and Luther Colleges presented him with their distinguished service awards. In 1982, His Majesty King Olav V of Norway awarded the prestigious Sanke Olavs Medjaljen, Saint Olavs Medal, to Bjerkness for his work in promoting and strengthening Norwegian-American relations. Since retirement, Bjerkness has taught at the University of Minnesota’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). He founded The Edvard Grieg Society and served as a founding board member of the cultural center Norway House in south Minneapolis. He is also the author of eight books. Bjerkness lives in Richfield with his wife, Joann. They have four children, twelve grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. For further information, contact Odell Bjerkness at 612.866.3699 or at ojbjerkness@aol.com.

Torske Klubben News

October 6, 2012

Ragnhild Sohlberg, PhD Speaks to Torske Klubben

Ragnhild Sohlberg's Speech to Torske Klubben