Former Gov. Al Quie takes pride in his Norwegian heritage, like so many Minnesotans he represented over the years.
On Friday, he celebrated that and hundreds of people gathered to celebrate him as the namesake of the education center at Norway House in south Minneapolis. The Albert H. Quie Center is the first facility in the Twin Cities to be named after him.
Quie, 94, cracked jokes and charmed those in attendance. Asked about the honor after the dedication ceremony, Quie offered a humble and playful response.
"Oh no, why in the world would they do that?" he said, laughing. "So many other people did so much."
Rebecca Jorgenson Sundquist, director of development for Norway House, said it was fitting to honor Quie, and noted he brought an abundance of passion to the education center project.
"He could see the big picture in terms of honoring the past but looking toward the future," she said.
The former governor has long supported Norway House, a nonprofit that aims to spread appreciation for that country. Quie helped secure a $5 million state appropriation from the Minnesota Legislature this year to expand it.
The project combined the personal and professional for Quie: his Norwegian heritage and decades-long passion for education. Norway House also honored his late wife Gretchen Quie's passion for art by staging an exhibition of her work.
The ceremony Friday drew a crowd of about 350 people, including a bipartisan group of politicians: DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, Republican state Sen. David Senjem and former DFL state Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe.
Dayton praised Quie's ongoing contributions to the state.
"After he left elected office, he's continued to be involved in so many projects, so committed to the betterment of our state," Dayton said.
A lifetime of service
Quie was born into a Lutheran family on a farm in Rice County near Dennison, Minn. — where the post office now bears his name, his grandson said. Quie graduated from St. Olaf College and became a Navy pilot, a school board clerk and a dairy farm owner-operator.
He won a spot in the Minnesota Senate, then moved on to the U.S. House of Representatives. He filled a vacant seat, then stayed for 20 years.
He was a ranking minority member in the House Education and Labor Committee, "setting the foundations of nearly all education legislation during that time," a Minnesota proclamation for his 90th birthday read. He later went on to serve on a presidential commission on education.
He came home to serve as governor of Minnesota from 1979 through January 1983.
The newly dedicated education center at Norway House includes gallery space and meeting rooms for community groups to use. Norway House is still raising money for additional facilities.
Quie shared some advice as he addressed those gathered for the education center dedication, emphasizing personal integrity and respect for others.
"You have to learn to live alongside other people," he said.
Quie's son, the Rev. Joel Quie, spoke about his mother and the way she viewed the world through her artwork.
"She was able to see in the world lots of things that many of us never see at all," he said.
Gretchen Quie died in 2015 after a battle with Parkinson's disease.
Her works on display in the Norway House gallery range from needlepoint to pottery to paintings. One painting shows a scene of the Stone Arch Bridge. A heron stands in a marsh in another.
The exhibit will be on display until Nov. 7 at the Galleri at Norway House.