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Denkmann serenade: an outburst of gratitude

Photos courtesy Augustana Special Collections

Students sing their thanks in person


On Jan. 28, 1909, President Gustav Andreen issued a call for an all-campus meeting in the chapel at 4 o'clock. This unusual request incited a great deal of speculation on campus, but no one came close to guessing the truth.

At the meeting, President Andreen announced that the children of Mr. and Mrs. F.C.A. Denkmann had decided to give Augustana a library in honor of their parents. The library was to cost no less than $100,000. It was the largest single donation ever received by Augustana at that time.

The Observer, which named its February issue the "Denkmann Memorial Library Number," describes the reaction to Andreen's announcement:

"Staid old Augustana chapel perhaps never heard a more joyful announcement, and the scene that followed was one of those rare spontaneous outbursts of enthusiasm that seldom take place within its walls. For a moment, however, there was complete silence as though every one was stunned by the sudden surprise. But the pause was only momentary and then the whole chapel rang out with ‘Hip, hip, hooray! hooray! hooray!' Then followed cheers for the Denkmanns and for Dr. Andreen, and finally came ‘Rockety-i-kei.'"

Work and classes were suspended for the rest of the day, and students gathered to make plans to show their appreciation of the donation. It was decided that a group of students would march to the houses of each of the donors (seven in all) and show their gratitude with a good old-fashioned serenade.

The students began their torch-light parade that evening; even a huge downpour could not dampen their enthusiasm. The rain did, however, prevent the band from bringing its instruments, but the Wennerberg Chorus was present to provide music. At each of the stops the chorus performed and Emil Bergren gave a speech of thanks on behalf of the student body. Mr. J.J. Reimers, whose wife was one of the donors, was so impressed at this demonstration in such inclement weather that he hired a private trolley car to take the students home.

The serenade was much appreciated by the Denkmann family, and Denkmann Memorial Hall remains a splendid tribute to their generosity. The cornerstone of the building was officially laid on Jan. 21, 1910. On May 19, 1911 students and faculty formed a human chain to carry the books from their old quarters on the third floor of Old Main to the new library, where they remained until the construction of the Tredway Library in 1990.