Margaret Hayford O’Leary, the King Olav V Chair of Scandinavian-American Studies at St. Olaf College and Associate Dean for Humanities, was awarded the rank of Officer of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit at a special ceremony on campus September 16. The award was conferred by Norwegian Ambassador to the United States Kåre Aas.
The Royal Norwegian Order of Merit was instituted by King Olav V in 1985 as a reward for outstanding service in the interests of Norway. The king serves as grand master of the order.
“It is an incredible honor to be recognized in this way,” O’Leary says. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to teach Norwegian to generations of St. Olaf students over the past 40 years!”
O’Leary has been teaching at St. Olaf since 1977. She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her B.A. degree at Concordia College (Moorhead) in German and education.
She specializes in language pedagogy, particularly the use of technology in teaching Norwegian.
Norwegian Ambassador Kåre Aas confers the award during a special ceremony on campus. O’Leary travels to Norway as often as possible, and she has spent two sabbaticals at the University of Oslo. She has also led several study tours to Norway and Scandinavia, including two for Smithsonian and four for St. Olaf. In 2001 she led a tour for the Center for Lifelong Learning, in 2005 she led a companion tour to the St. Olaf College band, choir, and orchestra tours of Norway, and in 2013 she led another St. Olaf tour, accompanying the St. Olaf Choir on its centennial tour of Norway. She led a St. Olaf Study Travel program to Oslo and Bergen in June 2017.
From 2007-2016, O’Leary taught Norwegian language and culture at the University of Oslo International Summer School.
She currently serves on the board of directors of the Norwegian-American Historical Association, which is housed at St. Olaf and is past president of SASS.