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'Renaissance Man' Reidar Dittmann '47 dies

By David Gonnerman '90
December 30, 2010

Reidar Dittmann '47, professor emeritus of art and Norwegian and the first director of International Studies at St. Olaf, died while in hospice care in Minneapolis Wednesday, December 29. He was 88 years old. A memorial service will be held at St. John's Lutheran Church in Northfield Saturday, January 8, at 2 p.m.

Dittmann, who joined the St. Olaf faculty in 1947, is perhaps best known for having founded, alongside the late Ansgar Sovik '34, St. Olaf’s respected international studies program. In 1952 he took his first group of St. Olaf students abroad (12 countries in 72 days), and by 1954 he was leading such tours annually. He was named the first director of International Studies (now the Office of International and Off-Campus Studies) in 1966.

His numerous accolades included being awarded the St. Olav Medal by the King of Norway in 1977, and seeing the building that houses the college’s Art and Art History and Dance departments named in his honor in 2002.

The short film Prisoner 32,232 chronicles Dittmann’s arrest in his native Norway by German occupation forces and his subsequent survival of Buchenwald concentration camp during World War II. After the war he was a frequent lecturer on the Holocaust, and took part in the opening ceremonies of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

For more about Dittmann read his obituary, stories by Minnesota Public Radio and the Star Tribune, plus the story “Renaissance Man” in the spring 2005 issue of St. Olaf Magazine.

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or