The Circle of Life

Cobber Connections: As Homecoming reunion participants stood in a circle reminiscing, they decided to circle back to a mentor from 50 years ago and share the inspiration they took from a seminar experience.

A group of alumni from the Class of ’68 were standing in a circle at the Speak Easy restaurant in Moorhead celebrating their 50th Homecoming Reunion in September when one noticed that seven of them had been on the 1968 New York Seminar. As they shared memories, it was apparent the experience had been pivotal in the life of every person in the circle.

It seemed appropriate to gather statements from all those willing to contribute and to present the messages to Dr. James Hofrenning ’50, professor emeritus of religion, who led the seminar. 

Of the 19 participants on the 1968 New York Seminar, they were able to contact 18 and gathered 11 memories that contributed to the thank-you message for Hofrenning.

At the end of October, John Jorde ’68 and Phil Scheide ’68 went to the Episcopal Homes of Minnesota in St. Paul, Minn., where Hofrenning and his wife, Ingeborg (Skarsten) ’82, live.

“Right on time, they came down the spacious hallway,” Jorde said. “Dr. H. being pushed in a wheelchair by son Dan ’80, and Ing walking cautiously with assistance from son Peter. We recognized that wonderful full-face smile from 40 feet away. Dr. H. was thrilled from the get-go.”

Chairs were pulled into a circle to create a more intimate setting in the large but otherwise quiet lounge.

“Dan offered an introduction,” Jorde said. “Then Phil led off with a very warm and affirming tribute that once again brought forth that huge, familiar smile. We tag-teamed back and forth sharing a few direct quotes from the statements.”

Hofrenning’s son Dan pointed out photos of the seminar participants as each statement was read.

“It was hard to tell if Dr. H. more readily recognized the 22-year-old or the 72-year-old,” Jorde said. “Actually, he didn't care. He just loved everything being said.”

Midway through the presentation when asked if he could handle all the information, Hofrenning burst out with a familiar, hearty laugh.

Peter’s wife took some audiovisual of the event, and Jorde and Scheide plan to share it with the rest of the seminar participants.

“Overall, it was quite simply a wonderful experience for all involved,” Jorde said.


Photo (from left): John Jorde ’68, Dr. James Hofrenning ’50, Ingeborg (Skarsten) Hofrenning ’82 and Phil Scheide ’68

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