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History Center Awarded Endowment

History Center Awarded Endowment

The late Virgil Olson included the History Center in his estate.

The History Center recently received a $20,000 endowment from the estate of the late Virgil Olson, who served Bethel University in several roles during a long career at both the seminary and the college.

Located on the second floor of the Carl H. Lundquist Addition at the Bethel Seminary Library in St. Paul, the History Center houses and archives documents significant to Swedish Baptist institutional, cultural, and immigration history; Converge Worldwide; and Bethel University. It is funded in part by Bethel University, Converge Worldwide, and through the fundraising efforts of the Friends of the History Center, which is comprised of volunteers who promote the work of the History Center, present fundraising/educational events, develop a newsletter, and advocate for The History Center’s staff, funding, space, and projects.

Olson, who died in June at the age of 96, was a leader of deep faith and piety, an engaging professor of history, and a devoted chronicler of the history of the Baptist General Conference (BGC), now Converge Worldwide. “People have said that Virgil Olson made history ‘real and relevant’ in his career as professor and dean,” says Randy Bergen, executive assistant to President Jay Barnes. “With this endowment, Virgil will continue to make Bethel and BGC history real and relevant for future generations. We are very grateful for this remarkable gift.” 

Nine of the 19 collections in the Bethel University Digital Library were digitized from materials originally housed in the History Center, and funds from the Olson endowment will likely support efforts to digitize additional materials. “An endowment will afford the History Center the opportunity to embark on projects that otherwise would take years to complete in-house or piecemeal through grants,” says Diana Magnuson, director of the History Center and Bethel University American history professor. “The History Center will be able to prioritize digitization projects based on need, rather than solely on the aims of a funding organization. We will be able to outsource digitization of materials that require specialized treatment and equipment, such as oversized journals, microfilm collections, slides, reel audio tapes, audio cassette tapes, films and LP albums. These are important historical materials that are fragile and in real danger of damage beyond repair. Because of their historical importance, we also want them to be available world-wide to researchers, scholars, genealogists, and the Bethel community.” 

Expressing gratitude for all that Olson gave to Bethel, she remarks, "It's so moving that someone who invested their whole living life in Bethel will continue to significantly invest in Bethel after their passing."

The History Center has also published several books about Converge Worldwide/Bethel history, including New Center Directions5 Decades of Growth and Change, and the just-released Give First Priority to Jesus Christ, about the life of former Bethel President Carl Lundquist.

To be included in the History Center’s mailing list, please contact Carole Spickelmier at jcspickelmier@msn.com. Visit Bethel’s Campus Store to order the History Center’s books.

Find out more about including Bethel University in your estate plans, or contact Dan Wiersum at 651.635.8052.