An Augustana Story
THE MAVERICK FACTOR: AN AUGUSTANA STORY
You might call it the maverick factor. Or the social justice gene. That impulse to push, or at least, to nudge boundaries established by ethnicity and pietism seems to have been part of the Augustana story almost from the beginning.
It started back with T. N. Hasselquist, Augustana's second president. White-bearded, keen-eyed, "venerable," and determined, Hasselquist made up his mind to create an "American college." Undoubtedly he saw this as a pragmatic move: the more you market to varied constituencies, the more students you're likely to get. And for an institution struggling financially, that's good news. But it's nice to believe that other motives operated as well, and there's some evidence to support this belief. Because among other "Americanizations," Hasselquist proposed to educate women.
Educate women? In 1870?
In 1870, among 582 degree-granting institutions in the U.S., 12 admitted women only and 29 admitted women along with men, according to statistics prepared by Barbara Miller Solomon in her study of women in American higher education. Yet as early as the Paxton years (1863-1875), Hasselquist was writing catalogue copy (in Swedish, of course) that didn't specify gender when it referred to the need for more students.
Did he not know what was going on in the American academy? Perhaps. But if your motive is to "Americanize"-or anything-ize-your logical first step would be to look at the model you seek to adopt. Hasselquist, scholar and practical visionary, would understand this. So it seems more likely that he was going his own way, acting on his own values. Playing the maverick. And, importantly, redefining "American college."
He was bucking his own Swedish-American culture as well. In the eyes of many fellow émigrés, college was simply a necessary evil for preparing (male) teachers and preachers. Too much education, some Swedish farmers contended, put you above your station-made you lazy and unfit for the real work of the world. And certainly that applied doubly to women. If "girls" could cook, sew, sing in a (church) choir, and plunk out a one-finger piece on the piano, that was as much learning as they needed. More could be downright dangerous.
But Hasselquist had never let opposition stop him. By the 1880s he was actively recruiting women. The Conservatory of Music and the Commercial Schools, separate but equal institutions under the general aegis of Augustana, were organized during his tenure (1886 and 1888 respectively), perhaps in part designed to attract women. At any rate, that's what happened; with the establishment of these schools, the number of women students rose. And the first catalogue for the commercial school states as its objective to "give young men and women the best possible opportunity of acquiring such a knowledge of business as will enable them to utilize, to the best advantage, the means and opportunities within their reach [italics mine]."
What makes these activities of the eighties more impressive is that they came near the end of Hasselquist's life, at a time, for him of age, exhaustion, and grief. His vigor had spent itself in a life of teaching, writing, editing, and administration-all with pen and ink, in shaded script, often by candlelight-whose demands stagger the imagination. By 1881 he'd lost both his wife and a much-beloved nineteen-year-old daughter. In 1888 he had only three more years to live. And yet he made that vision of equity real, to the last years of his presidency.
Maybe his final energy came from a maverick spirit even more profound than that which urged social justice.
Maybe it came from love for the women he'd lost.