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Henriette C.K. Naeseth, professor emeritus

Henriette Naeseth in her office
Henriette Naeseth in her office, 1957.
President Bergendoff and Henriette Naeseth with Phi Beta Kappa initiates Henriette Naeseth and students with the 1962 issue of Saga
President Bergendoff and Henriette Naeseth with Phi Beta Kappa initiates (date unknown). (See larger image) Henriette Naeseth and students with the 1962 issue of Saga. (See larger image)

Henriette Christiane Koren Naeseth was born April 6, 1899, in Decorah, Iowa. Naeseth received her bachelor's degree from Grinnell College in 1922, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, her master's from the University of Minnesota, and her doctorate from the University of Chicago.

Before coming to Augustana as an associate professor in 1934, she taught at Goucher College (1931-32) and Chadron State Teacher's College in Chadron, Neb. (1932-34).

Naeseth was promoted to professor and named chair of the English department at Augustana in 1935, a position she held until her retirement in 1968. Naeseth also served as chair of the humanities division from 1945 to 1968.

Upon her retirement from Augustana she was named professor emeritus. Naeseth was the author of The Swedish Theatre of Chicago, 1868-1950 and the translator of Return to the Future by Sigrid Undset.

Naeseth helped to establish Augustana's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 1949 and served as its president for 10 years. She was also instrumental in having Augustana recognized by the American Association of University Women, serving as president of the Rock Island-Moline branch, and in gaining membership for Augustana in Mortar Board, a national honor society for senior college women. Naeseth was the founder of Augustana's Writer's Club and its literary magazine, Saga. The 30th anniversary edition of Saga, published in May 1967, contained a special supplement in honor of Naeseth.

Naeseth received many honors, including an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Luther College in 1961. She was awarded the St. Olaf's Medal on behalf of King Olaf V of Norway in 1970 for "her contributions and work in furthering the knowledge of Norway and Norwegian culture in the United States, and for furthering the relations and solidarity between Norwegian America and the old country." She was instrumental in founding the Norwegian American Museum in Decorah and in establishing a chair in Norwegian studies at the University of Chicago.

During her time at Augustana, Naeseth was considered something of an institution. Her name was considered as synonymous with Augustana's vision of quality education, along with those of Conrad Bergendoff, Henry Veld, and Fritiof Fryxell. Naeseth died Nov. 25, 1987, at the Rock Island Convalescent Center.