ELCA NEWS SERVICE
March 26, 2010
Howard Hong, Lutheran, Kierkegaard Translator, Refugee Advocate, Dies
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Dr. Howard V. Hong, English translator of writings by the Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard, a pioneer in leading Lutherans' service to refugees in Europe after World War II, and philosophy professor emeritus at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn., died earlier this month while in hospice care in Northfield. Hong's death resulted from effects of a fall in Oct. 2009. He was 97.
A memorial service will be held March 27 in Boe Memorial Chapel, St. Olaf College, and will be streamed live at 11 a.m. CDT at http://www.stolaf.edu/multimedia/ on the Web. St. Olaf College is one of 27 colleges and universities of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
A burial service for Hong will be held March 29 at Trinity Lutheran Church, Hovland, Minn. Trinity is an ELCA congregation.
Hong and his wife Edna developed an interest in Kierkegaard and traveled to Copenhagen in the late 1930s. They studied Danish and began translating scores of Kierkegaard's writings. The Hongs were honored many times for their translation work, including a National Book Award presented to them in 1968.
In 1976 they donated their life's translation work to St. Olaf College, establishing the Howard V. and Edna H. Hong Kierkegaard Library. The library is an internationally known center of Kierkegaard research. Hong retired from teaching at St. Olaf in 1978.
Howard Hong was also known for his pioneering work in establishing "the foundations of international Lutheran service to refugees," according to Lutheran World Information (LWI), the news service of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Geneva.
Hong was born in Wolford, N.D., and grew up in Willmar, Minn. He earned a bachelor's degree from St. Olaf College in 1934. He studied at the University of Minnesota from 1934 to 1938, and earned a doctorate in English.
In 1938 he was appointed to the St. Olaf faculty, but earned a scholarship and went with his wife to Copenhagen. He returned to teach at St. Olaf from 1939 to 1941, and left the college to work with German and Japanese prisoners of war in the United States during World War II.
"Howard Hong was above all things a builder," said the Rev. Ishmael Noko, LWF general secretary, in a statement to LWI. "As a teacher, he formed young minds with his own passion for knowledge and inquiry. In the midst of the devastation caused by war, he offered help in rebuilding lives and societies, first with prisoners of war and then with refugees. And he was one of the creative minds behind the construction of the Lutheran service to refugees and displaced persons in the aftermath of World War II."
When the war ended, Hong went to Germany under the auspices of the World Alliance of YMCAs to work with war prisoners, LWI reported. In 1947 the National Lutheran Council in the United States asked him to develop a program to aid refugees in war-torn Europe. That work eventually became the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Service to Refugees (LWF-SR) and continues today as the LWF Department for World Service, the LWI release said.
Working with the international organization of Lutheran churches, Hong pioneered a model of resettlement that asked congregations in the United States to receive refugees and aid in their resettlement, LWI reported.
"In doing so, he set an example of compassion and reconciliation, transcending the still jagged boundaries of wartime enmity," said Noko. Today in the United States, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service continues to work with Lutheran congregations throughout the country to assist in resettlement of refugees.
Howard and Edna Hong were active members of St. John Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Northfield. They also spent summers in Hovland, where, along with other members, helped plan a new church building for Trinity Lutheran Church in the late 1940s.
The Hongs bought and restored many tracts of land around Hovland where timber had been harvested. In 2001 the Hongs' conservation work was recognized. They were presented the Minnesota Outstanding Conservationist Award by the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
Howard and Edna Hong, who died in 2007, were parents of eight children who survive them. He is also survived by numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Information about St. Olaf College and Howard Hong is at http://www.stolaf.edu on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or email@example.com