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Bergendoff the soul of Augie

Quad-Citians began 1998 by saying goodbye to one of the century's most influential leaders.

Hundreds of people gathered in Rock Island in early January to mourn the death of Augustana College President Emeritus Conrad Bergendoff. Funeral services lasted about 102 minutes, or about a minute for each year of ``Dr. B's'' remarkable life.

A noted educator, clergyman, theologian, writer and devoted family man, Dr. Bergendoff was revered locally and nationally.

He was equally well-known in Sweden, recognized as a Commander, First Class, in the Order of the First Star, an honor shared only with Swedish-American poet Carl Sandburg. He later earned the Church of Sweden's Medal of Honor.

Dr. Bergendoff became Augustana College's fifth president in 1935 and served for 27 years before earning emeritus status. He became more than the school's figurehead; he became its soul.

College enrollment doubled during his tenure. Many new buildings were constructed under his supervision, including two residence halls, Centennial Hall, the college union and a fine arts building named in his honor.

Colleagues also remembered Dr. Bergendoff for his political stances, normally expressed in a soft, whistling voice which became his trademark.

He became involved in relief efforts for displaced Europeans after World War II. He opposed McCarthyism and American involvement in Vietnam, and was remembered for his recovery efforts after the Mississippi Flood of 1965.

``We have lived in the presence of greatness,'' retired Augustana College dean of students Betsey Brodahl said when she learned about Dr. Bergendoff's death. ``We are thankful he lived, that he lived so long, that he lived so well, and that he lived in a time and place that our lesser lives were touched by his.''

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.