The Norwegian language classes were started at Sons of Norway. Well-known educator in the Metro area, Ben Eggan, who taught Norwegian at Roosevelt High School, initiated the program. It quickly became very successful. In 1983, a new department was established at Sons of Norway called the Heritage Department. Liv Dahl, then director of the Norwegian American Cultural Institute (NACI), was recruited to lead the new department. At the same time, all the programs of the NACI were merged with the new Heritage Department.
From this time on, in addition to the language classes, Sons of Norway offered classes in Norwegian cooking, rosemaling, knitting, Hardanger embroidery and more. Similar classes were also offered for some time in about 20 school districts in the Metro Area under Sons of Norway leadership. Many of the instructors affiliated with these community classes had Mindekirken affiliations.
In the 1990s major remodeling was needed at Sons of Norway Headquarters. In the process, classroom space was lost and a hunt was started to find a partner and later a home for the classes. It was at that time that Mindekirken expressed interest after being approached by Sons of Norway, and soon after, Mindekirken’s Language and Culture Program (NLCP) began a collaborative initiative with Sons of Norway. In 2000, the Sons of Norway fully endorsed the NLCP, and Mindekirken assumed full responsibility for design and implementation of all language and cultural programming. The first classes were offered at Mindekirken in the fall of 2000.
Priscilla Sorknes became the first chairperson for the NLCP board and without her tenacity and passion the program would not have taken off as successfully as it did. Denise Arntsen was hired as the first Administrator, and along with the other members of the board, was also a great part of making the program so successful. The first board consisted of the following members:
Denise Arntsen, administrator
Priscilla Sorknes, chairperson
Jorid and Ole Amund Gillebo
Liv Dahl, Sons of Norway liason
John Casey, congregation president