Alumni & Friends

Finnish Council of America


Furthering the understanding of the Finnish Culture in America (FUFCA).


Established in 1983, Finlandia University’s Finnish Council in America strives to preserve, maintain, and promote Finnish cultural heritage through support of the University and the Finnish American Community.

Goals for 2021-22
  • Participate in 125th Anniversary Celebration through planning, volunteering, and contributing financially.
  • Increase current membership.
Council Meeting Dates at Finlandia
  • Thursday Evening, June 23, Reception
  • Friday, June 24, Annual Meeting

The concept was conceived by Dr. Ralph Jalkanen, then President of Suomi College, in the early 1980s and guided to fruition over many months of careful consideration. Dr. Jalkanen’s original proposal for the Council stated:

BE IT RESOLVED that a Finnish Council be established of an undetermined number of persons to have as its focus and concern the Finnish heritage programs, curricula and interests of Suomi College, with the right to review, and receive reports of those activities, to make recommendations thereon and to provide or obtain resources to develop its proposals and actions, and to report annually thereon to the Board of Trustees.

The multifaceted purpose of the FCA was listed:

  1. To identify and review the faith and ideals of the founders of the college and early Finnish-American leaders;
  2. To explore the articulation of the programs and purposes of the tradition in relation to the life of the college and the Finnish-American community throughout their history in America;
  1. To examine the values of contemporary Finnish culture and to determine how best to nurture these values  in the process of enculturation;
  2. To maintain the best values of Finnish culture and heritage at Suomi college by establishing a climate and base of support for development.

During the latter part of 1982 and the first six months of 1983, Dr. Jalkanen‘s focus was on recruitment and targeted dissemination of information.  He identified Suomi’s initial charge, “To preserve and enhance its Finnish tradition”, and maintained that the college had established the FCA  “to ensure that the Finnish flavor isn’t lost in the American melting pot.” By July 1983, the FCA was 40 members strong with 22 attending the initial meeting at Suomi College.

Dr. Ralph Jalkanen

Become a Member

Please fill out this application form to submit your application to join the Finnish Council of America today. Applications are accepted year-round and voted on by the current council.

As a member of the Council, your responsibilities are to participate in the council by:

  1. Attending the annual summer meeting in Hancock, Michigan; usually in July
  2. Becoming a participating member of one of the four committees (Academic, Heritage Center, Historical, Outreach)
  3. Supporting the University and Heritage center (financial, time)
  4. Attending area Finnish-American events
  5. Communicating with the council’s executive committee anything that will help promote the university or Heritage Center

Niska named new leader of Finnish Council of America

The Finnish Council of America elected John Niska as its new president in May 2018. Niska was raised on a beef and horse farm in Green, MI, just west of Ontonagon. His parents were bilingual and often spoke Finnish in his home, shared in Finnish customs and were very proud of their Finnish heritage. Niska went to Michigan State University for his undergraduate degree and worked in the education realm until his retirement from Rhode Island College as a professor and director in July 2017.

Q: When and why did you become involved with the Finnish Council?

Niska: My good friend…

To read the full interview, visit here!


Current Members

Steve Aho
Evelyn Anderson
Julie Badel
Joy Dorvinen
Dave Holli
Steve Holli
Candace Koski Janners
Darley Kemppainen
John Kiltinen
Pauline Kiltinen
Jorma Lankinen
John Makinen
Marvin Makinen
Fern Malila
Keith Meyers
Arlene Morrissey
Mike Nakkula
Leslie Niemi
Norma Nominelli
Kristin Ojaniemi
Mary Pekkala
Allan Poikonen
Tuula Poikonen
Carl Rahkonen
Daniel Sarya
Anne Todia
Henrik Työppönen

Current Officers

Chair: John Niska
Vice-Chair: Cheryl Rogers
Recording Secretary: Sharon Franklin-Rahkonen
Corresponding Secretary: Kristiina Vanhala
Past Chair: Pauline Kiltinen

Support Finnish American Heritage

The Finnish American Heritage Center has compiled a wish list of items it needs to continue to preserve the Finnish American history. You can view the wish list and make a donation here.

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