On Feb. 24, 2012 Gustavus Adolphus College and the American Swedish Institute (ASI) in Minneapolis issued a joint press release announcing a visit from the King and Queen of Sweden in October. Their majesties King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia will visit Gustavus on Friday, Oct. 5, 2012 and ASI on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012. The visit will commemorate the sesquicentennial at Gustavus and the opening of the new Nelson Cultural Center at ASI. It comes after a long period of planning by both parties.
“I approached the subject in November 2008. When you talk with the royal court about a visit, they say either, ‘That’s not possible,’ or, ‘That’s not impossible.’ For four years, we’ve been in the ‘not impossible’ mode,” President Jack Ohle said.
“It’s always been an interest of [the King] to take part in a dedication moment when [the construction of the Nelson Cultural Center] was all completed. In one sense, it’s been more than ten years in planning,” Bruce Karstadt, president and CEO of ASI and honorary consul general of Sweden for Minnesota, said.
Gustavus and ASI, who had originally approached the royal court independently, decided to combine their efforts when they realized 2012 was a significant year for both of them.
“When ASI started their construction, we found that it was going to be completed during Gustavus’ sesquicentennial year. It became a possibility that we could go to the royal court together and ask if their majesties could come for both events,” Ohle said.
The king and queen last visited Minnesota in 1996 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Swedish immigration to the state. They dedicated the addition to the Alfred Nobel Hall of Science, attended a luncheon and were honored in a convocation in Christ Chapel.
The schedule of events for the royal visit will not be finalized for months, but there have been meetings to discuss the possibilities.
“There aren’t that many opportunities in most people’s lives to see a head-of-state in person. There’s something very special about that. For some people, maybe that’s all they need,” Barb Larson Taylor, assistant to the president for special projects, said.
“During the day, we hope to have an opportunity for their majesties to interact with students and faculty and staff. The queen has real interest in women’s issues and she is very interested in how the U.S. is dealing with women’s issues. The king, on the other hand, is very much interested in environmental issues. The Johnson Center for Environmental Innovation is a great link to that,” Ohle said.
Students and alumni will also be able to volunteer in various capacities during the visit. Those interested in volunteering can contact Taylor and watch www.gustavus.edu/royalvisit for updates.
Gustavus made a long-term commitment to have an office space in the new Nelson Cultural Center and ASI will gain the academic resources of Gustavus. Discussions about how this partnership will function have included ideas such as lectures from Gustavus faculty at ASI and using the office as a home base for internships and community service in the Twin Cities area.
“Having a Gustavus presence on their campus enriches their offerings and will help reach a younger age group, and Gustavus can engage in the Twin Cities and have a presence without having a campus there,” Larson-Taylor said. “We see the partnership as a way to make our ‘Swedishness’ relevant [for both ASI and Gustavus].”