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History of Scandinavian Languages at PSU

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SCANDINAVIAN MISSION AT PSU

Courses in the Scandinavian languages have had a robust presence at Portland State University since 1958.  Finnish was the initial language offered, with a course led by Professor Paul Vehvilainen, who also taught classes in German language and literature.  Johanna Borrevik Fedde was hired soon afterwards to teach Norwegian, and she continued in thiscapacity until her retirement, in 1990. Her husband, attorney G.Bernhard Fedde, simultaneously conducted courses in international law and Scandinavian history in the Political Science and History Departments. Together they left an indelible legacy at this university.

At present, language classes are offered in Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish. In addition, several Scandinavian literature and film courses are taught each year. Financial support has come from the Oregon State System of Higher Education, the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation, Scandinavian governmental ministries, the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation and local businesses.

THE FINNISH ROOM

In the mid-1950s, the idea of "nationality classrooms" was suggested by John Cramer, who was then the president of Portland State College. The intention was to offer local ethnic groups rooms which they would furnish and decorate in traditions mirroring their particular countries of origin.

Portland's Finnish community was the only one to answer this call. A working committee was formed in 1957, under the guidance of the Finlandia Foundation's Vice President, Vaino Hoover. The space was constructed, according to a period brochure, with the intention of capturing "the essence of Finland." To this end, granite baseboards, birch panelling, woven matting and furniture were imported from that country and installed by local Finnish craftsmen. Consul General John Virtanen spearheaded the effort locally, and the room was completed in 1959, at the cost of $20,000.

Remodeled and rededicated in 2009, the Finnish Room continues to serve as a classroom for Scandinavian subjects. It holds a unique place in the rich tapestry of the local Scandinavian community.

THE SCANDINAVIAN SAMPLER

Initiated in 1993 by FLL/WLL instructors Britt-Mari Lord and Inger M. Olsen, the Scandinavian Sampler is a yearly workshop to which speakers are invited to lecture on Scandinavian history, culture, art and current events. Informal introductions to the languages of the Scandinavian countries are also provided.

This event is held yearly, in late winter or early spring.