Visiting Norwegian prince donates $750,000 to the U

The gift will create a Norwegian chair role in the College of Biological Sciences.

by Emma Carew

On Oct. 27, 1905, Norway peacefully dissolved its union with Sweden with the Karlstad Agreement.

As part of the celebration of Norway’s independence centennial, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and the Ambassador of Norway Knut Vollebæk spoke at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs Wednesday morning.

Following a luncheon at the Walker Art Center, the prince presented a gift of $750,000 to the University to create the Norwegian Centennial Interdisciplinary Chair in the College of Biological Sciences.

The purpose of the position is “to nurture and expand the collaborations between students and faculty here at the University of Minnesota and particularly at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Oslo,” College of Biological Sciences Dean Bob Elde said.

The chairperson will continue to encourage collaborations between the two universities, he said.

Currently there are six shared research projects between the two universities, mostly involving renewable energy and genomic approaches to food safety and crop protection, Elde said.

During his opening remarks at the Humphrey Institute, Prince Haakon said the University is one of the most important institutions in America because of its Scandinavian studies program.

Both Prince Haakon and Vollebæk said they were honored to be visiting an institution named for such a great person of Norwegian descent, in reference to Humphrey.

Prince Haakon also offered his condolences to the Americans affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“Today, we’re all Norwegian,” Dean J. Brian Atwood of the Humphrey Institute said.

Wednesday was Norway Appreciation Day, as declared by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Atwood said.

The topic of Vollebæk’s address was “Opportunities and Challenges in the High North.” He spoke about new economic activity in the Arctic that came about after the discovery of undersea oil and gas fields in the Barents Sea.

Norway is committed to the sustainable management of resources, Vollebæk said.

The Barents Sea is also home to some of the richest fishing resources north of Norway and Russia, and maintaining those resources is equally important to Norway’s economic development, he said.

Norway is the third-largest exporter of oil, behind Saudi Arabia and Russia, as well as the third-largest exporter of natural gas, behind Russia and Canada, Vollebæk said.

Public policy graduate student Ben Rau said he decided, on a whim, to reserve a place at the program.

“Being Norwegian-American, and having traveled to Norway, I thought this was interesting,” Rau said.

Prince Haakon’s visit to the University was a part of larger festivities around the Twin Cities, said Linda Pederson, Vice Counsel to the Royal Norwegian Consulate General.

Pederson said this is the only official visit Prince Haakon will make to the United States this year, and his visit concluded today with a stop at St. Olaf College in Northfield.