Out and About

North Park Homecoming October, 2005

by Phil Johnson

It was the 45th anniversary of my class (1960) and the 40th of Sandy’s class (1965) so we headed to Chicago to celebrate. We share with many North Parkers a deep gratitude to North Park for giving us a great start in life by providing the place where made life-long friends, learned important things, and had a lot of fun. I think the class of 1960 believes it is extra special; that it reaped even more from North Park than other classes. We were the first persons to graduate with Bachelor degrees. During our time NP ended its standing as a Junior College and became a regular four-year school. We were the first juniors and seniors in school history.

“Guinea pigs,” some may think. Yes, and it turned out wonderfully. The faculty was caught up in the spirit of creating their majors and were giving their very best. They had a 100% commitment to the Liberal Arts and to intellectual honesty. Karl Olsson was inaugurated President and he said the school was committed to excellence. We were convinced that he was excellent and that he compared favorably with any college president in the land.

A happy group of 1960 graduates showed up at the currently vacant President’s Residence Friday evening. Mel Soderstrom arranged for and hosted the gathering. Names flew around the rooms—friends, other classmates, faculty—Mel Soneson, Zenos Hawkinson, KO, Bill Fredrickson, Don Wikholm, CP, Alice Iverson, Opel Moore, Elder Lindahl, Hartwell, Ivar Wistrom, and on and on. The next morning celebrating classes gathered in the gym for breakfast, class pictures, and the like. The room buzzed reminding me that other classes had their own special experiences and NP friendships—their own reasons to be proud.

The football game at Ted Hedstrand Field took us down a peg as it has been wont to do for quite a few years. The team looked better than in the past and gave undefeated Elmhurst a tough game. Other NP athletic teams did well and the school displayed its new Holmgren Athletic Complex.

We encountered Michael Harper and Dan McCarrell at the football game. Mike was honored as the Alumnus of the year and his coach, Dan (Mac) McCarrell, came to honor the success of one of his greatest players. North Parkers know that NPC won three consecutive Division III basketball championships (1978-1980) and then won two more (1985 and 1987). North Parkers from earlier and later years have been heard to say: “I went to North Park. We won five NCAA Division III basketball championships.” It must feel really great if you actually were a North Park student during championship years and even greater if you played on championship teams.

Mike and Mac entertained us with stories at Mel and Joanne Soderstrom’s home for a couple hours between the football game and the banquet. The Soderstroms regularly pick up the “ball” at NP. In this case the ball was providing a place for the guest of honor to hang out and to change clothes before the banquet. Mel, I’m pleased to say, was in our class; Joanne and Sandy were in the Class of 65.

“Harp” (the nickname Jim Clausen and other teammates call Mr. Harper) gave an excellent talk. He thanked North Park warmly for setting him on his way and for strengthening the values that have served him well in his productive and rewarding life. He is deeply involved in the community of Portland, Oregon, he is associated with the Trail-blazers (the team that drafted him out of North Park), and he operates an insurance agency.

Homecoming Chapel on Sunday turned out to be a lively event. I had envisioned a sparse gathering of reunion folks and discovered, arriving a few minutes late, that only balcony seats were left. The Rev. Alise Barrymore is North Park Pastor and a lot of students worship regularly at Anderson Chapel. The service was pretty much contemporary until the 70 year-old preacher, a North Park Academy, NP Junior College, and NP Seminary graduate, Arvid Adell, stepped up to the pulpit. His title: “Stuff that Lasts for Fifty Years.”

Arv soared. I think most of those present were taken by surprise. The congregation’s delight was evident. The Philosophy Professor, Emeritus of Millikin University hit a home run. You need not take my word for it; you can read Dr. Adell’s sermon on page 11 of this issue and judge for yourself.

After lunch at the Heartland Cafe near Lake Michigan with Mel and Joanne and Ralph and Joyce Sturdy, Sandy and I headed northwest on familiar I-94 toward Minnesota. As we traveled through the hills of Wisconsin, I thought about old US Highway 12. I remembered the joy that was also in my heart those times more than 45 years ago when early on an August morning in International Falls, I’d get in my two-tone green and rust ’41 Plymouth, head down Highway 53 through Orr, Gheen, Virginia, and Duluth, join US 12 in Eau Claire and, with windows open, drive on through Wisconsin Dells, Madison, and on to Chicago.

Phil Johnson is Editor Emeritus of Pietisten.

See all articles by Phil Johnson