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Summer 2003 | Volume 26, Number 3 | Alumni
Still Exploring
Former Missionary Pilot Now Urges Young Alaskans to Set Sights High

bush pilot Roald Amundsen ’41 was a boy in Vancouver, Canada, he met the famous Norwegian polar explorer for whom he had been named.

Young Roald’s dad, a recent immigrant, had arranged the meeting, and the explorer invited them both to a dinner at the Vancouver hotel where he was going to speak. “I asked my dad if we could go,” Amundsen remembers, “but Dad said no, because folks would be drinking there.”

Young Amundsen read every book on the adventurer he could find, however. “I followed the old explorer through my life,” he says, “and have many books about him in my library.”

As a student at Seattle Pacific College, Amundsen majored in education, sang in the Clarion Quartet and the Victory Quartet, and wrote musical arrangements for the choir. When the choir director had to take emergency leave, Amundsen — still an undergrad — directed the choir on tour.

After graduation from SPC, Amundsen attended seminary and, in 1944, married Harriett Swanson ’37. The following year they settled in Nome, Alaska, where Roald pastored a church and became a missionary pilot, flying small planes for the Evangelical Covenant Church through the wilds of western Alaska for 20 years. In 1964, the Amundsens started Missionary Aviation and Repair Center (MARC), an interdenominational repair service that is still going strong.

Harriett Swanson Amundsen, who died earlier this year, raised her family, worked as a school secretary and prayed for safe journeys for her husband. “It’s an important thing for a pastor or missionary to have a positive prayer partner,” Roald Amundsen says. “I was in hard places, with many narrow escapes, but because my wife was home praying, I felt safer in God’s hands.” One night, he had to make an emergency landing on a mountaintop south of the town of Unalakleet. “Since then,” he says, “I’ve looked at that mountain in the daytime and haven’t found any place on it I’d want to land.”

Now 89, Roald Amundsen is still president of the board of MARC, though he no longer is involved in the day-to-day operations. Two years ago, he saw another vision come into being: Amundsen Educational Center, a school that encourages young Native Americans to learn vocational skills in an accredited Christian setting and gain confidence in their walk with God. “There’s been so much suicide among Eskimos in recent years; we wanted to turn that around,” Amundsen explains. “We teach them how to be carpenters or mechanics and encourage them to be whatever they want to be. This gives them an outlook that with people supporting them, they can do anything.”

There are actually two Norwegian explorers named Roald Amundsen. “My dad was proud for me to do mission work,” says the SPC graduate. “After all, that’s exploring, too.”


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From the President
Americans today are searching for a new tone for their lives. “We are talking here about another set of values — not the giddy sense of entitlement that emerges out of exuberant times,” says President Philip Eaton.

A Gift at Any Age
Young alumni are supporting The Campaign for SPU with the Young Alumni Endowment. They will provide scholarship support to students engaging the culture. [Campaign]

Like Grandfather, Like Grandson
On June 7, 80-year-old Sheldon Arnett finally received his bachelor’s degree from Seattle Pacific. His grandson, Jeremiah Johnson, earned his SPU bachelor’s degree the same day. [Campus]

The Retiring Class of 2003
Five professors, with a combined 162 years in the classroom, retired this year. They tell of their careers and the impact students had on them. [Faculty]

Second Wind
A marathoner, wife, mother and business alumna, Claudia Shannon came back after tough times. As a 45-year-old senior, she was on the SPU cross country team that ranked 14th in the nation. [Athletics]

My Response
After 25 years, Joyce Quiring Erickson, retiring professor of English and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, reflects on glossy brown chestnuts, home and the Promised Land.