My Mentor, Professor, and Friend
By Pastor Robert Bagley ’58
I know some insights into Dr. Colacci’s earliest life at Augsburg because he told me his story as I drove him for many Sunday afternoons my freshman year. He did not like to drive on country highways to speak at Lutheran parishes in many towns west of Minneapolis.
He told the story about his early life as a young professor. This is what was most fascinating to hundreds of people who heard his story. He was personally given the task by the Pope in Roome to gleen [sic] what he discovered about Martin Luther. He soon wanted to secretly leave Rome on an American cargo ship with Minneapolis as his destination. Before traveling he also arranged for an attractive nun to come on the next ship.
Professor Colacci had a brilliant mind. As a young boy his father knew that and paid him spending money for every page of Classical Latin that he memorized.
He told his stories to both the church members and to me as we traveled on the highway. I deeply admired him for always sharing positive things about his Catholic faith. He never said negative things about the Roman Catholic Church.
In his first years near Augsburg he learned English as he stocked shelves at the huge Sears store on Lake Street. He did this for four months and then was able to start teaching Biblical Latin and Greek to Augsburg students. I was grateful to learning Latin my freshman year. This gave me good foundation in English grammar so that I would use this correctly in my future sermons. My four children did not like it whenever I corrected their bad grammar!
I also learned to read Biblical Greek during my final three years at Augsburg. My huge Greek dictionary was often used in my earliest years of preaching. For example I learned that the Greek word for “born again” could also be translated “born from above” (from God the Father)!
If you have questions about my memory 57 years ago please feel free to call me. Also check out of the library Dr. Colacci’s book about Mixed Marriages. The preface may have information about his teaching years. Some of you may know his son, David, who is an actor in Hollywood movies.
I will always be grateful for my four years at Augsburg due to my Biblical Studies major and three minors in English, Philosophy, and History. Also in knowing icons such as President B. M. Christensen, Dr. Carl Chrislock, Congressman Martin Sabo, and basketball athlete – Lute Olson. I went to a small high school in N.W. Minnesota and majored in hunting and sports. I was gifted by my dad, Reverend Emil Gullickson Bagley, who was fluent in Norwegian and German. I learned Norwegian at Waldorf College at age of 45 while a pastor in a town nearby. My wife, Ruth Naomi, became fluent in Norwegian and we have been guests with relatives in Norway on three trips. We are both proud to be 100 percent Norwegian.
P.S. I have never visited Dr. Colacci’s grave since I was out of the area when he died. I’ll try to find out from one of the oldest professors where it is located.
Editor’s note: At my insistence, Pastor Bob found and visited Colacci’s grave at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. Naomi took his picture there.
P.S. #2 – I also learned three native languages during 1962-67 years as a missionary in Papua New Guinea!!