Margaret Callsen (1932-2014)

Margaret CallsenMargaret Signora Callsen discovered a love of learning in her time as a student at Concordia that she carried with her throughout the rest of her life and career. This love of learning grew in Callsen and she became determined to spread it to others through her own teaching at several universities.  After her retirement she continued to encourage education by providing a generous donation to Concordia College to support junior faculty and undergraduate research.  

Margaret Callsen’s early life was spent mostly in North Dakota and Minnesota.  She was born and raised on a farm near Ypsilanti, North Dakota in 1932, and graduated from high school in Jamestown, North Dakota. During her time at Concordia, Callsen was an active student on campus as a member of the Alpha Kappa Chi literary society and the Omicron Tau Delta home economics society. She graduated in 1954 with a bachelor’s degree in home economics and education. [1]

Following her graduation from Concordia, Callsen began her career by teaching high school home economics in Osakis and Virginia, MN.  She then obtained her master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and finally her doctorate at Kansas State University. She taught primarily in teacher education at Oklahoma State University, Kansas State University, the University of North Dakota, and summer sessions at the University of British Columbia and the University of Nova Scotia. Callsen retired from teaching in 1994 and returned to Moorhead where she became very active in the community.  A few of the many organizations in which she participated include: the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) especially its Fine Arts section, as well as the Concordia College Alumni Board. In addition, Margaret also remained active in the Concordia College community attending theatre and choir events, and the occasional sporting event. [2]

In 2012, near the end of her life, she made a generous financial donation to Concordia College. Callsen designated the money to support student/faculty research in the humanities and social sciences, as well as junior faculty research, both relatively underfunded areas in higher education. She was the sole remaining member of her family and the owner of the family’s farm near Ypsilanti, North Dakota. The land, no longer in use as a farm in 2012, was worth approximately $1.6 million. The donation was in the form of an annuity – Callsen was supported by the annuity until her death in 2014, at which point the rest of the money was donated to the college and used in a manner that she specified. The funds began to support research opportunities in summer of 2016. [3] 

Margaret Callsen’s dedication to furthering and improving the education of young people, especially women, is evident throughout her career following her into retirement, and living on even after her death. Her dream of providing college students with an opportunity to develop a love of learning will live on because of her generous donation to undergraduate and junior faculty research.

Authors: Amy Crane & Hans Frank

[1] Margaret Signora Callsen Obituary,” Fargo Forum, Apr. 14, 2014, Margaret Callsen, Biography Files Collection, Concordia College Archives; Concordia College, 54 Cobber (Moorhead, MN: Concordia College, 1954), Concordia College Archives, 43.
[2] Margaret Signora Callsen Obituary”;  Dorothy Heieiei, telephone interview by Amy Crane, Feb. 3, 2016.
[3] Eric Johnson, interview by Amy Crane, Feb. 9, 2016, Moorhead, MN.