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Kierkegaard Library celebrates 30th anniversary

By Tom Vogel
November 27, 2006

Robert L. Perkins
St. Olaf celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Hong Kierkegaard Library this fall with a series of events, including a lecture, a dedication and a visit from the Danish ambassador to the United States. The Library is a special collection of St. Olaf College that serves anyone interested in the writings and ideas of Soren Kierkegaard, the 19th-century Danish philosopher, and related thinkers.

Howard Hong '34 (center) meets Danish Ambassador Friis Arne Petersen (left) and Consul Anelise Sawkins.
As part of the celebration, Robert L. Perkins, senior research professor of philosophy at Stetson University, delivered the first Julia Watkin Memorial Kierkegaard Lecture. Perkins' talk was titled "'With the Help of the Ideals -- Against Illusions: For Eternity!' Kierkegaard's Critique of Christendom." Perkins is the author of many articles on Kierkegaard and also has founded the Kierkegaard Newsletter and the Soren Kierkegaard Society.

The Kierkegaard lecture is named in honor of Julia Watkin, an accomplished scholar and a prolific author, who died in 2005. In an effort to help support Kierkegaard scholars all over the world, Watkin bequeathed her estate to St. Olaf's Kierkegaard Library. The library also is endowing a research fellowship in her name.

The dedication of Finholt House, residence for the numerous scholars of Kierkegaard who visit St. Olaf annually from around the world.
The celebration continued with a visit from the Honorable Friis Arne Petersen, Danish Ambassador to the United States. Petersen was on hand for the dedication of the Finholt House, which will be for Kierkegaard Scholars.

The Kierkegaard Library arose as a result of Professor Emeritus of Philosophy Howard Hong's bibliographic expertise and scholarly vision. Hong and his wife, Edna, who worked together as translators, searched to find the same editions of publications which Kierkegaard read himself as well as other materials important for the study of Kierkegaard's thought. Over the years, the Hong collection grew, and Howard and Edna become internationally celebrated for their lifetime work of translating from Danish into English most of Kierkegaard's published writings and journals. In 1976 the Hongs donated their collection to St. Olaf College as the Howard V. and Edna H. Hong Kierkegaard Library.

The Hong Kierkegaard Library was developed with the support of the Philosophy Department at St. Olaf as part of its teaching mission for St. Olaf students. The gift of the library stipulated that a professor be present on the campus who would teach courses about Kierkegaard's thought to undergraduates of the College. Two curators of the Library have fulfilled this goal: C. Stephen Evans was the first curator, arriving as a faculty member in philosophy in 1984. The second curator has been Gordon D. Marino, who arrived in 1995.

After 30 years of growth, the library distinguishes St Olaf as a rare undergraduate institution with a center for graduate studies. Visiting graduate students, professors, writers and others interested in Kierkegaard receive fellowships, especially during the summer months, that provide housing on campus and modest food stipends for 2-9 weeks. A course in Danish for Kierkegaard scholars is offered during some summers.

The Kierkegaard House Foundation augments the library's visiting scholars programs with fellowships that enable scholars to stay from 4-12 months during the academic year. St. Olaf students, students from other colleges in the region, area pastors and others are welcome to use the library and are frequent visitors throughout the year.

Poul Houe, from the Department of German, Scandinavian and Dutch at the University of Minnesota, has arranged a miniconference December 8 on Kierkegaard and Irony. The conference will be held at the Andersen Library on the University of Minnesota's West Bank Campus. Gabriel Merigala and Soren Landkildehus, House Foundation fellows at the Kierkegaard Library, and Jon Stewart, Kierkegaard Library visiting scholar from the Soren Kierkegaard Research Center in Copenhagen, will present papers. public reception will follow in the Heritage Room. The dedication of the Finholt House, which will be for Kierkegaard Scholars, will take place at 1:30 p.m.

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or