PELICAN RAPIDS, Minn. - An educator who turned his childhood passion for foreign countries and cultures into a worldwide language program has died at age 84.

Gerhard "Gerry" Haukebo passed away at his home in Pelican Rapids on Sunday, according to the Wright Funeral Home in Moorhead.

Family members say Haukebo was fascinated with foreign countries even as a boy and used that passion to create Concordia College's Language Villages in 1961, a program that now teaches 15 languages to more than 11,000 children around the world each year.

"He had an interest, a wanderlust, from a very early age," his oldest daughter, Beth Haukebo told The Forum (

Haukebo joined the Marine Corps after graduating from high school in Roseau and spent a year in Japan. He returned to Minnesota, received a bachelor's degree at the University of Minnesota, then went to Germany where he taught American children at a military base.

In 1959, he joined the faculty at Concordia, organized a summer camp to teach children German and eventually launched Language Villages.

Christine Schulze, Concordia's vice president for Language Villages, said Haukebo's "creative spark" lives on today.

"Gerry's `brainstorm' was way ahead of its time five decades ago, and now language teaching is never separated from its cultural context," she said. "Concordia Language Villages endures today from the vision and determination of one man to create a `grand simulation' that creates the context for transformational learning."

Haukebo joined Minnesota State University Moorhead in 1967, serving as director of student teaching and chairman of the education department before finishing his career as the university's vice president for public affairs.

He retired in 1989 moved to a house on Pelican Lake. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Doris, four children and eight grandchildren. A funeral service is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 27, at Cormorant Lutheran Church in Lake Park at 2 p.m.


Information from: The Forum,