Arlene Anderson, a pillar of Minnehaha Academy

  • Article by: PAMELA MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 17, 2012 - 6:20 PM

Arlene E. Anderson, obit subject of ANDERSON3xxx by Pam Miller

Arlene E. Anderson, a formidable but beloved educator who helped shape a culture of academic excellence at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, died March 4 at her Minneapolis home. She was 92.

Anderson's career spanned almost half of the history of the private Christian academy, which will celebrate its centennial next year, said her son, David, of Minneapolis. From 1945 to 1963, she taught English and history there. From 1963 to 1984 she was dean of students, then dean of instruction, and finally Minnehaha's first middle-school principal. Even after retiring in 1984, she continued to help chart the school's path as chairwoman of its board.

David described his mother as "somewhat self-effacing and charming -- she'd capture the room, but not right away. You'd come away from talking to her feeling that you had been treated with respect and affection."

Anderson, the oldest of nine children, was born in Suring, Wis., and grew up in Iron Mountain, Mich. She graduated from Carroll College in Waukesha, Wis., in 1941, and began teaching in Kingsford, Mich. In 1942, she married Courtney Anderson and they moved to Minneapolis. Four years later she began her career at Minnehaha Academy.

In 1949, she gave birth to twins Dennis and David; Dennis died in infancy. In 1964, her husband died, and she received her master's degree in education from the University of Minnesota, which she had earned while working full time and raising her son.

Minnehaha Academy president Donna Harris said she arrived at the school 2 1/2 years ago and within three days, Anderson was in her office with a warm welcome and a gift book, "A Passion for Learning: The History of Christian Thought on Education."

"We'd lunch from time to time and she always said she wanted to steep me in the essence of the school, which is so tight-knit," Harris said. "She also stressed that this is a Christian place, but it's also one where students can ask questions; we readily integrate academics and faith."

On Monday, Harris gathered a group of longtime academy educators to talk about Anderson. Among their comments:

Teacher Jan Johnson: "She hired me in 1972. She exemplified the consummate professional woman, then and in the years following. For the first 10 years I worked for Arlene, I was a little bit afraid of her. She had this beautiful, distinctive handwriting and would sign her notes 'A.A.' I'd dread seeing that note on pink paper in my mailbox -- 'See me after school. A.A.' But there was never anything to fear. [In recent years,] she always wanted to discuss books and ideas. She would read contemporary literature one week and the next the works of St. Augustine."

Teacher Phil Erickson: "Even after she retired in 1984, she would have teachers over for coffee and be so interested in what was going on in our lives and at school. She was so positive, was always asking how we could make the school better and God glorified."

Jim Wald, finance and operations: "She was fair and compassionate, and she had a humorous side. In the 1960s, she was known for having the hottest car in the parking lot, a bright red Pontiac GTO."

In addition to her son, David, she is survived by a brother, Clyde Carpenter of Suring; two sisters, Sara Jane Huchnuth of Green Bay, Wis., and Nona Troutman of Denver, and a granddaughter.

Services have been held.

Pamela Miller • 612-673-4290

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