St. Olaf Campus News
Sixteen years ago, St. Olaf College alumna Brenda Berkman ’73 was among the New York City firefighters who rushed to the World Trade Center in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Since that day, when 343 FDNY firefighters lost their lives, Berkman has found healing by volunteering for the 9/11 Tribute Museum and giving tours of the World Trade Center site, which includes a memorial to the events of September 11, 2001. She has also found solace in art — specifically, in printmaking focused on the construction of the new One World Trade Center.
Her stone lithograph print series, Thirty-Six Views of One World Trade, has recently been acquired by St. Olaf College’s Flaten Art Museum.
Each piece in the series depicts a distinct view of One World Trade throughout the construction process, as well as different vantage points.
Berkman hopes that the collection will provide a jumping off point for discussion about 9/11 for St. Olaf students — most of whom are young enough that they have no memory of the country’s anguish in the days and weeks following the terrorist attacks of that day.
“This series is all about the resiliency and hope that we here in New York City, the United States, and around the world, have after enduring a terrible event,” she says. “I’m hoping St. Olaf students and faculty and the people who look at the 36 Views series see that in the work. It’s not about destruction — it’s about coming back from destruction.”
New views on campus
Berkman created six sets of the prints, and St. Olaf acquired one of them through the help of Associate Professor of Art and Department Vice Chair John Saurer, Studio Art Technician Christie Hawkins, Flaten Art Museum Director Jane Becker Nelson ’04, and St. Olaf Regent Greg Buck ’77.
“I’m really honored that St. Olaf chose to collect this series,” Berkman says. “I still have a lot of ties to the college, but I was not involved in art at all when I was a student. And it was really John Saurer and other members of the Art Department who reconnected me to art at St. Olaf through the New York Art Interim program.”
Saurer used Berkman’s series in one of his classes last spring, and he’s excited at what the prospect of now having the prints on campus could mean for his students.
“There’s nothing quite like looking at an object of art,” Saurer says. “You know, I can project images all day long on a screen, which is wonderful. But it’s not like holding the piece of paper or looking at the image in a gallery. St. Olaf is really committed to the objects of art, the exhibition of art.”
Saurer says Berkman exemplifies a St. Olaf education, and her unique career path means students can learn from her in more ways than one.
“Her desire to continue serving — to serve as a firefighter and then to continue to serve the community as an artist, defining these important events and sharing them with people — that’s really what it’s all about,” he says.
Berkman hopes students can identify with her search for purpose and mission in many different ways. She credits her St. Olaf education with helping her continue to grow.
“I think one of the great things about going to St. Olaf is that because it’s a liberal arts education, and it’s not geared toward any specific occupation, it allows you to think more broadly about what you want to do with your life, throughout your life,” she says.
Becoming an artist
After 25 years of service to the FDNY, Berkman began her career as an artist after her retirement in 2006. “I had it in my mind for a long time that I wanted to do something creative in my life,” she says.
A history major at St. Olaf, Berkman had no formal training in studio art. She reached out to friends and took one-day classes, experimenting with drawing and painting until enrolling in the Art Students League of New York in order to learn more about printmaking.
Unfortunately for Berkman, she enrolled in one of the few classes where previous work — of which she had none — was required. After some negotiation, the instructor allowed her to stay in the class, but he suggested she try stone lithography. “You have to grind the stone, which is actual physical labor. And so I think the instructor thought I would quit,” she says.
But Berkman, who broke barriers and fought to achieve equality as one of the first female fire officers in the FDNY, wasn’t deterred. “He didn’t know very much about me personally,” says Berkman, laughing. She stuck with lithography.
Berkman grew to love printmaking and lithography in particular. “It’s the closest thing you can do to creating something that looks like a drawing, and I’m kind of a realist in my subject matter. It looks like a charcoal drawing,” says Berkman.
She especially appreciates the intensive process of lithography. “I love working on the stone. The process is half of making the work. I’ve made etchings and other kinds of prints, but I always end up going back to stone lithography.”
Several years ago, the Smithsonian Channel documented Berkman’s work in stone lithography. Watch the video below.
St. Olaf College recently welcomed the Class of 2021, a talented group of 791 first-year students that is the most diverse in the college’s history.
The class includes:
- Students from 495 high schools in 41 states and 51 countries
- 12% international students
- 20% domestic students of color
- 18% first-generation college students
- 47 Davis United World College Scholars
- 13 National Merit Finalists
- 10 students who were admitted last year and chose to defer, spending a gap year participating in Semester at Sea, studying and traveling in Norway and Germany, and volunteering in locations around the world
And while these numbers provide some insight into the incoming class, each new group of students is more than just a compilation of statistics.
The Class of 2021 also includes:
- A student who excels at voice imitation, including all of the Downton Abbey characters
- Another who is in a family bluegrass band — and sometimes plays washboard
- One student who knows how to build boats
- Another who plans to publish their first novel in 2017
- One who was their school district’s spelling bee champion
- Another who is one of the youngest certified rugby referees in Wisconsin
- A student who is a black sash in Kung-Fu
- One who plans to run to become Chicago’s mayor
- Another who intends to become the Poet-Laureate of the United States
Welcome, Class of 2021!
Watch a video of the class settling in on campus:
What makes St. Olaf College’s food some of the best in the nation?
Matthew Fogarty, the executive chef for St. Olaf food service provider Bon Appétit, visited WCCO-TV to show viewers the answer to that question.
He demonstrated how he makes St. Olaf Southwest Smokehouse Huevos Rancheros with Fisher Farms boar chorizo, crispy pumpkin fry bread, double take salsa verde, and queso fesca.
St. Olaf is No. 4 on the Princeton Review’s “Best Campus Food” ranking this year, and regularly tops national lists of best college cuisine. St. Olaf’s Stav Hall, the main dining facility on campus, serves more than 70 freshly prepared, locally sourced entrees each week.
Watch Fogarty prepare one such meal for “Cooking with WCCO” co-hosts Jason DeRusha and Kylie Bearse, and then give it a try using the recipe below.
St. Olaf Southwest Smokehouse Huevos Rancheros Recipe
- Prepare Double Bacon Anasazi and Local Black Beans
- ¼ lb. Dried Anasazi Beans (Cook Until Tender, Drained)
- ¼ lb. Dried Black Beans (Cook Until Tender, Drained)
- ½ lb. Applewood Smoked Bacon (Rustic Chop, Rendered, Fat Drained)
- 1 ea. Sweet Local Onion (Diced)
- 1 ea. Summer Local Minnesota Heirloom Tomato (Large Dice)
- ½ C. Cilantro (Chopped)
- 10 cl. Fried Garlic (Smashed)
- 1 C. Chicken Stock
- ¼ C. St. Olaf Smokehouse Double Sloppy Powder
- 1 ea. Local Jalapeno (Chopped)
- 1 ea. Yellow Pepper (Large Dice)
— Rinse Dry Beans. Separate Beans in Two Separate Pots and Cover with Water. Cook for 1 hour on Medium High Heat or Until Tender. Drain.
— In Heavy Bottom Pot, add remaining ingredients and cook for one hour on low heat. Serve.
- Cook Chorizo or Favorite Breakfast Sausage.
- Make Fry Bread or Crispy Tortillas.
- Fry Egg.
- The Build: Beans, Fry Bread, Sausage, Egg, Salsa Verde (or Favorite Jarred Salsa), Queso, Cilantro.
St. Olaf College is home to a number of Dreamers whose presence and contributions to our community we welcome. We are deeply concerned about the impact the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in six months will have on them, their peace of mind, and their well-being. All of the resources of the college are available to support these students at this difficult time. We will protect our students to the extent we are able under the law.
The solution here is for Congress to pass a law securing the future of Dreamers. We will be encouraging members of our congressional delegation to work toward that end, and we encourage you to do the same.
St. Olaf President David R. Anderson ’74 spoke about the college’s values on immigration and international travel earlier this year in response to the Trump administration’s proposed travel ban, and it’s a helpful reminder for this moment in time as well. Watch below.
All are welcome to attend, and it will be streamed and archived online.
Faculty will process in academic regalia and Student Government Association President Jauza Khaleel ’18 will welcome the congregation.
The Opening Convocation address will be delivered by Anne Groton, the Marie M. Meyer Distinguished Professor of Classics and chair of the St. Olaf Department of Classics. Her talk, titled “The Light Touch,” will focus on how “the light touch” can help Oles in the work and the play that is done together on the Hill.
Groton joined the St. Olaf faculty as a specialist in ancient drama in 1981. She has taught courses in Greek, Latin, classics, and the Great Conversation program, and has led the Classics Interim abroad in Greece and Italy a dozen times. She has directed 21 touring student productions of Roman comedy in a mixture of English and Latin.
Groton has chaired the Department of Classics and directed the Ancient Studies and Medieval Studies programs for nearly two decades. She is the author of numerous publications, and has also led Phi Beta Kappa and the Language and Literature Group and advised the Blue Key student organization.