Remembering Agnes Mellby
On Nov. 18, 1885, Agnes Theodora Mellby entered the Academy of St. Olaf College. She has played such an important part in the school that one can easily count her as a pioneer of the institution. Always very active, she promoted several things of interest to women in the school, such as the organization of the first literary society of the Academy—the Utili Dulci. In her article in the Quarter Century Souvenir, she says, “Politics and wire pulling have been foreign to the Utili Dulci. Probably the name has been a charm against such evils. Music always has been an essential thing on the program.”
Finishing the Academy in 1887, she entered the college department that same fall. In June 1893, she completed her college course—the first woman to graduate from a Norwegian Lutheran college in this country. Now the faculty wives were so elated when they could count her as an alumna that they presented her with a gold ring set with pearls as a remembrance of the day.
She became Preceptress here after her graduation and remained so for many years [1894, 1897-1904, 1905-1910]. During this period, she was granted two years leave of absence in which she studied at the University of Minnesota.
Another organization she started was the St. Olaf Women's League for the faculty women and Profs' wives. This group has proved to mean so much to the school in a social way. Also she was instrumental in starting a Norwegian Supper given by the young ladies on the second floor of the Old Main. That idea was later adopted by the Ladies Aid of St. John's Church who has maintained faithfully the traditional Norwegian supper.
In 1910 she resigned as Preceptress and went to New Richland where she kept house for her widowed father [Rev. O.A. Mellby]. When he later resigned his charge in Richland, they built a home in Northfield on Manitou Street.
After her father's death in 1917, she returned to teach at St. Olaf. As her own health began to fail, she was forced to discontinue her work and to dispose of her home. She then made her home for a short time with her brother, Dr. C.A. Mellby.
The last week of her life was spent at Fairview Hospital where she died on Sept. 4, 1918. She is buried at Oaklawn Cemetery in Northfield near her former St. Olaf co-workers who preceded her in death.
Blessed be Agnes Mellby's memory. She was always willing to do for others, never considering what was most pleasant for herself. Hers was a noble character. A faithful servant of the Church all her life, at her death, she gave her possessions to Church institutions. She endeared herself to us all; we miss her to this day.
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