Helga Fjelstad, who was responsible for overseeing all elements of food service at the college, was like a mother to many Cobbers.
Helga Fjelstad, college matron from 1895 to 1921 and 1923 to 1930, was born in Norway in 1864.
Fjelstad immigrated to the United States in 1885 and lived in New York and Minneapolis before coming to Fargo, N.D. When Fjelstad arrived at Concordia, the school only had 70 students and two buildings (one of which is where she lived). By the time she left her post, the school had expanded to 500 students with multiple buildings. Moreover, the school’s kitchen changed drastically to a modern facility with mechanized equipment.
As matron, Miss Fjelstad, as she was called by students, was responsible for overseeing all elements of food service including the department’s employees. A competent, resourceful woman, Fjelstad supervised more than 100 people in the “kitchen faculty.” She was also a prudent spender, often earning extra income for the boarding department, which was used to offset the deficits of other departments.
During her time at Concordia, Fjelstad planned thousands of meals, believing that “when they [students] work so hard, they must have something good to eat.” A 1927 Concordian article discussed the wonderful food Cobbers consumed, stating that the school was well-known for its delicious, nutritious food.
But Fjelstad was much more than the college matron, she was like a mother to many Cobbers. Stories abound of Fjelstad visiting with many homesick students, tending to ill students, and talking with many Cobbers over cookies and milk. Alumni returning to campus did not consider their visit complete until they had seen their dear Miss Fjelstad, who recalled them by name. Fjelstad also played an important role in educating students about cooking and cleaning; this instruction was not only for females, but also the male students under her employ.
After Fjelstad’s first retirement, the school found a replacement; however, no one could rival her performance and dedication to Concordia. After two years, she agreed to return to Concordia where she stayed for an additional seven years.
Because she was beloved by so many, the college named Fjelstad Hall in her honor. Fjelstad was present for the cornerstone laying but fell ill and passed away before the structure was completed. At the dedication of the new dormitory, President Brown praised Miss Fjelstad for making “the greatest contribution of any individual to the progress and welfare of Concordia College.”
– Contributed by Lisa Sjoberg, college archivist