Leif Johan Sverdrup and his son Johan N. Sverdrup left their mark on Augsburg in “Old Science” Hall. Leif who was also known as Jack, was born on January 11, 1898, in Norway and he emigrated to the U.S. in 1914 to live with relatives. He started attending Augsburg in 1916 and graduated in May 1918 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After his graduation, he served in the army in WWI.
Leif Johan Sverdrup eventually returned to education after he finished his military service and earned a civil engineering degree from the University of Minnesota in 1921. After completing his engineering degree, Leif Johan went into business with his University of Minnesota professor John Ira Parcel, and together founded Sverdrup and Parcel (a civil engineering firm specializing in bridge construction).
His career eventually led him to rejoin the army and eventually (between the years 1942-1958) he led engineering construction projects in Europe.
In the 1990’s his son, Johan N. Sverdrup, gave financially to establish the Johan N. Sverdrup Ozone Photophysics Laboratory, the Sverdrup Advanced Physics Laboratory, and the General Leif J. Sverdrup Visiting Scientist Program in honor of his father. These plaques are situated in the basement of “Old Science” Hall.
One of the current physical centerpieces of the campus, Science Hall, was constructed in 1947-1948 and opened for fall semester classes in 1949. Like the new Hagfors Center, which will realign how the campus is used, this multi-functional building became a hub, not only for science classrooms, laboratories, and lecture halls, but also for campus life.
It was home to administrative offices, faculty offices, the student lounge, student org offices, the home economics department, and a prayer chapel on the fourth floor. Originally a library was envisioned as a part of this capital project, but was built separately years later. The Lisa Odland Observatory, which was constructed on the roof and accessed by an exterior stairway, was added in 1960. The building cost $450,000 and was supported by Lutheran Free Church members, as well as alumni and other friends. It was reported that part way through the fundraising campaign, 350 students gave a total of $3,611, towards their overall goal of $6,000. Alumni who gave financially to make this building an integral part of the Augsburg experience include Luther A. ’29 and Clarette (Jorenby) ’29 Arnold, Paul R. ’42 and Maxine Fridlund, Lisa Odland, Johan N. Sverdrup, and General Leif J. Sverdrup ’18.
As we eagerly await the grand opening of the Hagfors Center, this series we will pay homage to the important people who made the original science hall a possibly. In “Did you know? Alumni behind the Science Building” we will explore each week specific generous donors of “Old Science” Hall, and highlight the importance of the building to Augsburg College.