Mel Soderstrom Retiring After 42 Years

Post a Comment » Written on June 22nd, 2006     
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CHICAGO, IL (June 22, 2006) – Mel Soderstrom has raised millions of dollars in donations from friends of North Park University, but on Wednesday, it was friends who praised his contributions to the school.

More than 200 people feted Soderstrom at a gathering on campus as he prepares to retire June 30. Soderstrom has worked at the university since 1964 in several capacities, including director of student aid, director of development, and director of major gifts.

Mel SoderstromThe esteem in which people hold Soderstrom was demonstrated when Nicole Daniels, the director of external relations, surprised the honoree with the announcement of a scholarship in his name. Daniels said school leaders had hoped to raise $25,000, but more than 430 people eagerly contributed a total of $50,000.

The scholarship will be just another way of carrying forward Soderstrom’s legacy said Daniels. She added it was a minor miracle that hundreds of people had been able to keep the undertaking a secret from Soderstrom.

Speakers noted and joked about his intimate knowledge and friendships with people across the country, including information about family members of donors. Dan Tepke, university senior vice president, said Soderstrom is a “Who’s Who” of people in the Covenant.

“Every university needs a Mel, and we have been fortunate to have Mel here,” Tepke said. Turning to the honoree, Tepke added, “You have served the university incredibly well.”

Carroll Peterson, who originally hired Soderstrom, recalled the honoree was popular from the day he arrived as a student. “Mel was the best-looking man in this area, and that includes Albany Park,” Peterson said.

Four colleagues presented skits that highlighted Soderstrom’s foibles and quirks. In honor of his love for whistling, they whistled “Children of the Heavenly Father.” A video set to the Bob Dylan classic “Forever Young” traced Soderstrom’s history with the school.

Soderstrom recalled that it was in 1952, “I experienced the North Park feeling.” That feeling began when his youth group heard the North Park choir sing at Orchestra Hall. His love for the school continued to grow. After attending the college, he never moved far away, for example, and now lives only two blocks from the campus.

“I figure I crossed Foster Avenue 40,000 times, and I hope I make it to June 30th,” he quipped.

On a more serious note, Soderstrom told the people stories of several people across the country who had contributed to the school over the years. Some include people who never attended the campus. One woman who donated more than $2 million never even saw the campus before her death, but she had been impressed with the North Park graduates she had met.

“There are people who believe in what you are doing,” Soderstrom concluded.

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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