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Finlandia announces 125th Anniversary celebrations

September 9, 2021

September 8 Dedication Ceremony 125th Anniversary

HANCOCK, MI – On September 8, 1896, hardy and hard-working Finnish Lutheran immigrants gathered to worship at the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hancock, Michigan to officially dedicate a school in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula: the Suomi College and Theological Seminary. J.K. Nikander, president of the Suomi Synod and the college’s first president, preached from the book of Proverbs 8:1, “Does not wisdom cry out, and does not understanding lift up her voice?”  

Founded in the late 19th century, Suomi College prepared young men and women from immigrant families for work in the United States. Their lives were marked by a gritty quality captured in the Finnish term, sisu – referring to a quality of grit and perseverance in the face of adversity. Finlandia’s roots are not only Finnish, they are Lutheran as well. Today, Finlandia is one of 26 universities and colleges affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  

On Wednesday, September 8, Finlandia paused for reflection at an event led by President Philip Johnson and hosted in front of Finlandia’s Old Main, marking this historical date with a brief ceremony and announcing upcoming anniversary celebration events on December 3, 4, and 5, the days leading up to Finlandia’s annual observance of Finnish Independence on December 6.

“Today, 125 years later, Finlandia serves a very diverse student body from across the country and from around the world, educating to foster enduring positive change in how students think, feel and act in matters of the self and others in the wider world,” President Johnson said. 

“For three days leading up to Finlandia’s annual observance of Finnish Independence Day, we will celebrate with exhibits, performances, lectures, worship, banquet, and more.”

Interim Director of the Finnish American Heritage Center, David Maki, also presented one of the many projects the university is undertaking to celebrate 125 years, revealing one of many sidewalk decals located around campus at various locations.  

“These sidewalk decals remind us that Finlandia is part of a larger community that extends beyond the borders of the university,” Maki said. “Our history, in an academic sense, has been well chronicled, yet we wanted the decal anecdotes to reveal the lesser-known, the more entertaining, perhaps, part of Finlandia’s story.  We want those who pause to read the decals  leave with a smile.”

Placing the last of 16 decals on the sidewalk in front of Old Main was Joanna Chopp, Archivist at the Finnish American Heritage Center’s Historical Archive.

“We wanted to have some way to mark significant places on campus and to celebrate some of the lesser-known stories about Finlandia’s history. Having these sidewalk clings around campus and in Hancock, provides little bits of information that can be digested on a leisurely walk.”

To learn more about Finlandia’s upcoming 125th Anniversary celebrations or take a virtual walk through time with Finlandia’s digital timeline, visit finlandia.edu/125thanniversary

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