President Letter, Fall-Winter 2010 Bridge
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Recently, in collaboration with several local Finnish-American entities, Finlandia
University hosted a program by Dr. Arne Alanen, the 2010-11 Finlandia Foundation
Lecturer of the Year. Dr. Alanen has produced a powerful and far-reaching work on Finnish
America through an extraordinary array of photographs. The images he has gathered
poignantly capture the altered rural landscapes that reveal the presence of Finnish American
immigrants throughout the U.S. and Canada. Construction techniques and materials,
homestead configurations, house, barn, and church designs and, of course, the ever-present
sauna building have clearly left a distinctive thumbprint on our land. Like all ethnic
immigrant populations, Finns have created an enduring and distinctive cultural landscape on
this continent.

As I listened to Dr. Alanen, I grew in my appreciation for the innovation and adaptation
required of mid-to-late 19th century Finnish immigrants. The emerging New World
techniques and the resultant structures were-and at the same time, were not-Finnish. The
North American environment presented early Finnish Americans with similar, but not
identical, challenges to those left behind in Finland. This change of context called for new
and modified applications of old skills and techniques, and demanded fresh perspectives on
former patterns of thought. The new lives of our forebears were forged by stubborn, tireless
adaptability. They did not abandon their old-world designs or ways of thinking. They built
upon them--and they built beyond them.

The 21st century world of higher education in which we now live demands a corresponding
degree of innovation and adaptation. I believe we are up to the task. Finlandia University
continues to respect and build upon what has brought us this far: historic relationships,
enduring successes, and proven strengths. At the same time, we are casting new molds as we
encourage emerging relationships, maximize more recent strategic successes, and reinforce
new-found strengths.

The Lutheran Finns that came to this small corner of the world so many years ago left a very
large thumbprint indeed. As you read this issue of the Bridge, you will learn how Finlandia is
building upon, around, and beyond that substantial foundation. In these pages you will find
new imaginings of older ideas, fresh innovations grown from established applications, and
new variations on familiar themes. Adaptation marked the lives of the early immigrants. It
marks our lives here at Finlandia today. Enjoy your read.

Philip Johnson, Ph.D.

Fall 2010 Bridge