By Stan Friedman
MINNEAPOLIS, MN (April 30, 2013) – Minnehaha Academy’s uncompromising pursuit of truth, love for students, and the integration of faith have been hallmarks of the school’s first 100 years and will continue to be so in the future.
That theme was echoed throughout the school’s centennial worship celebration Sunday evening.
“It is still the search for truth that allows Minnehaha to excel and to be the beacon of light for young people,” said Craig Nelson, the school’s president from 1977 to 1994, in his greeting to the gathering.
That commitment to excellence was evidenced early in the service. Astronaut Tom Marshburn sent a recorded congratulatory greeting from the International Space Station (ISS) and noted that his team was conducting an experiment designed by students at the school.
The experiment tests how polymers – the building blocks of many adhesives and rubbers – might one day be used on Mars. Minnehaha was one of only eight high schools in the nation to send a student-designed and student-built micro-lab experiment to the ISS.
Minnehaha began as a high school serving grades 9-12. Over the years, all grade levels were added, including preschool. This year, Minnehaha has a student body of 900 individuals, with a Lower and Middle school that serves pre-kindergarten through eighth grades and an Upper school, both located in Minneapolis along the Mississippi River.
The school early on developed a reputation for excellence and has been recognized nationally for it academics, athletics, moral training, and leadership development.
“It is our prayer that Minnehaha’s students not only be honor students, but honorable ones, that they not only be good people, but godly people, said Northwest Conference Superintendent Mark Stromberg, who also is a 1974 graduate of Minnehaha.
Dave Parkyn, president of North Park University, highlighted the long-standing relationship between the two schools. This year, one of Minnehaha’s graduates was honored for academic achievements at the university.
He added that the relationship has gone both ways. The audience laughed when he pointed out that this years boys state basketball championship team was coached by North Park grad Lance Johnson.
“You send us some of your best, and we send you some of our best,” he quipped.
Theodore W. Anderson Jr., the son of the school’s first president and a 1935 graduate, joked that he had a long history with the school. Now a professor emeritus at Stanford University, he also told of watching his father work tirelessly to promote Minnehaha in its early years. The elder Anderson also served as president of the denomination.
Swedish immigrants started Minnehaha with the goal of providing a superior academic education integrated with faith. People even mortgaged their homes and farms to make the school a reality.
“Minnehaha is the same school but made new many times over,” denomination President Gary Walter said in his sermon. “If (the founders) were here today, they would be overwhelmed by what has happened over the years.”
Not everyone has initially been excited about the school, Walter said. He shared that a pastor recently told him he had not wanted to attend the school and rebelled as a way of expressing his anger.
By the time the young man graduated, however, he had undergone a transformation that was made possible by the faculty’s patience and demonstrable love toward him. “I didn’t want to go here, but I needed to go here,” the former student said.
Minnehaha has continued to engender loyalty. In interviews, many of the graduates told of great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles having attended the school.
Thomas Lundberg, a member of the class of 1962, said he was determined to attend Minnehaha after an uncle suggested the idea. He paid the $500 per year tuition himself.
“I had a paper route, and I was ambitious,” Lundberg said.
School President Donna Harris said following the service she is excited that many of the current students were the first generation of their family to attend. She noted that the school has grown much more diverse economically, socially, ethnicity, and even in terms of religious background.
“We want to reflect the community around us,” she said.