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Class Leaders

As a zoologist on several expeditions in the waters of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, Sweden's Dr. Josua Lindahl had established a name for himself internationally. While working for the Swedish Commission at the World's Fair in Philadelphia, he became acquainted with an Augustana alumnus who mentioned Lindahl to college leaders. In 1878, Lindahl was called to Augustana as the professor of natural sciences and mathematics. This was quite a coup for the young school.
Not only was Lindahl the college's first professor of natural science, but also its first full-time science teacher (and the first professor at Augustana who was not a minister). Not surprisingly, Lindahl influenced the curriculum immediately. The 1879-80 catalog marks the first time a "scientific track" was listed. Some Greek and Latin courses were dropped to make room for the new science courses, which included botany, chemistry and zoology. While laying the foundation for the science program, Lindahl also created a museum of natural history so he could use the specimens, many of which he collected himself, in his classes.

In 1882, Gustav Erik Stolpe was invited to become the first full-time faculty member in music at Augustana. No one is quite sure why he accepted; Stolpe was a well-known teacher, performer and composer in Sweden who had had earned the degree of Music Director at the Royal Conservatory in Stockholm.

For whatever reason, Stolpe came to Rock Island. His major contribution to music at Augustana was his founding of the Conservatory in 1886. The numbers are staggering. When Stolpe joined the college faculty in 1882, only 25 students had graduated from the institution. The Conservatory began with 17 students in 1886. When Stolpe left the college seven years later, in 1893, the Conservatory enrolled 157 students. Stolpe's students went on to teach at Augustana and at other Lutheran colleges around the country.

Throughout Augustana's history, there have been countless professors, such as Lindahl and Stolpe, whose expertise, experience and enthusiasm have influenced the academic program and bestowed students with new opportunities, sometimes mixed with a little adventure.

After graduating from Augustana in 1922, Fritiof Fryxell earned a master's in English from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and his doctorate in geology from the University of Chicago in 1928. Fryxell returned to Augustana in the fall of 1929. He became the founder and chair of the department of geology, making Augustana the first Lutheran school in the country and one of the first small colleges in the Midwest to have such a department.

Fryxell chaired the sciences division from 1946 to 1951 and was a longtime curator of the geology museum, now named the Fryxell Geology Museum in his honor. As a teacher, Fryxell was known for his hands-on approach, including his use of museum specimens and field trips.

Thirteen students in Augustana's first geology field course spent four weeks with Fryxell studying rock formation in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming. "Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Minnesota and Iowa universities have for years conducted classes in the Black Hills," reported the Observer on September 16, 1926. "Augustana is a pioneer among the smaller schools in presenting a course in field geology.... As trophies of the trip, eleven rattlesnake skins were brought back to the college museum, attesting to the varied experiences and recreations of the members of the party during their first excursion into the west."

Fryxell was the first recipient, in 1953, of the Neil Miner Award for excellence in teaching from the National Association of Geology Teachers. Fryxell inspired many students, of whom more than 50 received doctoral degrees and more than 150 received master's degrees in geology. Former student Dr. Richard Anderson '52 returned to Augustana and taught geology for 39 years, winning the coveted Neil Miner Award himself in 1992.

It was Fryxell who recommended Augustana create a geography department, which it did in 1949 with Dr. Edward Hamming in charge. Courses in transportation, and cultural and urban geography were offered, along with area studies (Asia, Europe, Latin America). Students and faculty engaged in local field trips, as well as trips to the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest and beyond.

"His effective teaching, including his legendary enthusi-asm and upbeat attitude, single-handedly moved the department forward over the next two decades," says Dr. Norm Moline '64, a former student of Hamming's who joined the department in 1968. Seniors twice chose Hamming as their Senior Recognition Day Speaker, which was held only five times in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. The geography department celebrated its 60th anniversary during last fall's Homecoming, which included a symposium where 11 alumni -many of them Hamming's students-shared stories of their research and work.

Several years before Hamming's arrival, in 1932, Augustana invited Martin Holcomb to be a professor of speech and debate. He was also appointed chair of the speech department, a position he held until 1966. Holcomb introduced Augustana's first course in speech correction in 1933 and organized the Speech and Hearing Center in 1941. He devoted the majority of his career to this center, acting as the director until he retired in 1969.

Yet Holcomb is remembered more for coaching Augustana's debate team from 1932 until the late ‘60s. With Holcomb behind them, the Augustana debaters won well over 70 percent of their debates, including qualifying for 17 out of 20 West Point tournaments (now the National Debate Tournament)-more than any other school in the country. The team won several championships in major tournaments, including the national championship in 1957. At a dinner honoring Holcomb for 50 years of teaching and 35 years of service to Augustana, 250 students, colleagues and friends paid tribute to Holcomb's dedication to his work and his belief in a complete liberal arts education.
These legendary teachers-Lindahl, Stolpe, Fryxell, Hamming and Holcomb-played a vital role in the develop-ment of Augustana and in the lives of their students. Many of their colleagues and those who have come after them have done the same, and we salute all of them during this sesquicentennial year.