November 9, 2015

Swedish-American of the Year 1980-1999

★ 1980 – Signe Karlström

The first woman to be named Swedish-American of the Year, Karlström dedicated her life to membership in and leadership of Swedish-American cultural organizations and strengthening ties between Michigan and Sweden.  In addition to positions as a Swedish instructor, freelance writer, board member and campaign consultant, she served as a Director on SCA’s Board.

★ 1981 – Curtis L. Carlson

The head of Carlson Companies (a hospitality and travel company encompassing more than 1,075 hotels and 1,000 restaurants worldwide), Carlson began his career as a newspaper vendor and, in a story that embodies the American Dream, worked his way to a position as CEO of a company employing more than 150,000 people. He also served as the Chair of SCA’s Board of Directors.

1982 – Russell Peterson

Peterson, the President of the National Audubon Society and one of America’s foremost advocates of the protection of nature and the environment, also served as the governor of Delaware.

1983 – J. Erik Jonsson

Jonsson, a co-founder and later president of Texas Instruments, also served as the mayor of Dallas and was instrumental in the planning and construction of the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and Dallas Convention Center.

1984 – Gurli Johnson

Johnson, who worked for the Salvation Army for 17 years as a major, upheld Swedish traditions through services and radio programs in Swedish, as well as gathering Swedes for holiday celebrations at the Salvation Army.

1985 – James R. Thompson

Thompson, the longest-serving governor of Illinois (serving 4 terms for a total of 14 years), was the CEO of Winston & Strawn LLP and served on the 9/11 Commission.

★ 1986 – Franklin S. Forsberg

A Colonel in the Army, Forsberg had a lucrative career as the publisher of the Yank, Stars & Stripes, Liberty, and Popular Mechanics magazines.  He also served as the United States Ambassador to Sweden from 1981-1985 and as the chair of SCA’s Board of Directors from 1991-1994.

★ 1987 – Alice L. Carlson

Carlson, the Vasa Order of America’s Grand Lodge Treasurer, became the Vice Grand Master and later Grand Master of the Vasa Order of America – the first woman to hold any of the three positions.  She contributed over 20 years of service to the Vasa Order.  Carlson also served as a Director on SCA’s Board.

1988 – H. Arnold Barton

Barton, a respected Swedish-American historian, taught at the University of Alberta, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  He was also awarded the Order of the Polar Star by the Swedish Royal Court.

1989 – Signe Hasso

The youngest actress ever accepted to the Royal Dramatic Theatre (at age 12), Hasso continued her acting career with foles in several Hollywood films in the 1940s, then garnered acclaim as a poet, writer, and translator of Swedish folk songs.  She has a star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame.

★ 1990 – Oscar A. Lundin

The Vice President of General Motors, a member of the Swedish Engineering Society, one of the founders of the Detroit Swedish Council (now known as the Detroit Swedish Foundation), Lundin held several leadership positions in Swedish-American organizations, including a tenure as Chair of the Swedish Council Board of Directors.

★ 1991 – Nils Hasselmo

Born in Sweden, Hasselmo came to the United States after studying at Uppsala University, and quickly became known as one of the leading experts on the scholarly study of the Swedish language in America, along with the study and documentation of Swedish immigrant culture.  He joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota in 1965, and served as President from 1988-1997.  He also served as the Chair of SCA’s Board of Directors from 1999-2001.

1992 – John N. Nordstrom

As the grandson of Nordstrom’s founder John W. Nordstrom, John N. Nordstrom saw the company through a transition to public ownership, facilitated growth to a national chain, and helped expand Nordstrom’s catalog sales.

1993 – William Rehnquist

A lawyer, jurist and political figure, Rehnquist also served as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court for 19 years.  During this impressive tenure, Rehnquist administered the oath to three presidents, presided over many significant *, and gained a reputation for fairness, humor, and an easygoing personality.

1994 – Arne H. Carlson

Carlson, who entered Minnesota politics as a City Councilman, served as a member of the Minnesota House of Representative and state auditor before becoming the state’s 37th Governor.  He made “youth, work and quality of life” his priorities in office, and is noted for supporting the rights of women and children, along with environmental issues like water conservation.

1995 – Richard E. Oldenburg

Swedish-born Oldenburg came to the US as a boy when his father was appointed Consul General of Sweden in Chicago.  He began his career in publishing, working at Doubleday & Company and Macmillan Publishing Company, before serving as the Director of the New York Museum of Modern Art for 22 years.

★ 1996 – Siri M. Eliason

Eliason and her husband started a Scandinavian furniture business and, and she served as head of the retail chain as it expanded to five stores in three states. However, she is most well-known for her work promoting the American-Swedish connection. Besides serving as the Honorary Consul General in San Francisco, she also held the position of President of SWEA and Chair of SCA, where she continues to serve as a Director. She has also been awarded the Royal Order of the Northern Star by the Swedish Royal Court.

1997 – Arnold Lindberg

He began his career at Disney working as a mechanic, and after a few years progressed to head of technical constructions. By the time Lindberg retired, after 40 years with Disney, he was the Technical Director of all workshops at Disneyworld, overseeing more than 400 employees.  He is also a gifted singer and folk dancer and has made several recordings of Swedish songs.

★ 1998 – Glen E. Brolander

Brolander, who served 39 years as a financial manager for Augustana College, was also one of the driving forces behind the founding of the Swenson Swedish Immigration Center at the College, which has now become the largest archive for Swedish immigration research. Brolander also served as Chairperson of SCA’s Board.

1999 – Rod Johnson

His Swedish family passed down a long tradition of woodcarving, but it was Johnson, whose grandparents immigrated from Sweden, who combined the traditional Swedish art with the American influences of his Texas home and created a unique woodcarving style of his own. Besides educating others and taking part in many festivals, Johnson has also been active in several projects and organizations working to preserve Swedish cultural heritage in Texas.


 A denotes a member of Swedish Council’s Board of Directors.