A newsletter for friends of the Global Mission Institute, Luther Seminary

Global Vision - Spring 2011

View more articles in the Spring 2011 issue.

GMI Member Profile

Hanson Finds Joy in Giving

by Tracy Behrendt, correspondent

Paul and Dolores Hanson

After Dolores Hanson's husband, Paul, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on Labor Day in 2001, he took her to meet their tax accountant. It was in the car, after that meeting, that Dolores told Paul that she wanted to continue their charitable giving, in Paul's honor.

"Then Paul turned to me and said, 'Dolores, this is your chance to find the joy of giving,'" said Dolores, 84, who resides in Minneapolis. "And I have."

Though Paul died on Sept. 30 that year, Dolores still lives with his same enthusiasm for giving, which surprised her at first.

"I really felt like he gave too much—I really did. But here I am giving as much as he did," said Dolores, who gives regularly to the GMI and Luther Seminary, among other organizations and church-wide causes.

Paul and Dolores met at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., in 1946. Paul, an Army Air Force veteran, then went on to Luther Seminary and graduated in 1950. His first call sent the Hansons to western South Dakota to serve with another pastor in a 13-point parish. They eventually moved on to Willmar, Minn., and, after nine years, a parish in Moorhead before Paul became executive director of the Division for Life and Mission in the Congregation at the American Lutheran Church (ALC) headquarters in Minneapolis in 1973.

"Wherever we lived, it was good," Dolores said. "When we were going to South Dakota out in the prairie, I thought it was the end of the world. I learned to enjoy it out there, too. It really was the people."

Building Connections with the People of the GMI

As in their congregations, it's the people that Dolores names as a reason for her continued contributions to the Global Mission Institute.

"I believe in the mission, in what they do, and the leaders they send out," she said. "And I think Luther has diversity in their staff. They're just wonderful people."

One of those people is David Preus, former director of the Global Mission Institute, who met Paul at Luther in 1947. They remained friends after attending seminary together and eventually worked together for the American Lutheran Church until the merger to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 1988. He was also close friends with the GMI's first director, the Rev. Duane Olson.

"As a parish pastor, Paul knew the importance of supporting as broad an array of mission programs as possible," said Preus, who also served as the presiding bishop of the ALC from 1973 to 1987. "When I became director of the GMI, Paul did not wait for me to ask for support. He and Dolores just started giving."

It was that same ongoing support that Dolores received in her daily life from Paul. While Dolores notes that, in her day, a pastor and his wife were seen as "a two-for-one," her husband always encouraged her to find her own calling. With Paul in seminary, she worked toward a degree in home economics at the University of Minnesota. She taught throughout Paul's first two calls and, when they ended up in Moorhead, she received her elementary education degree. Dolores would go on to teach in Minneapolis for 20 years.

"I haven't just lived in the shadow of Paul. He wanted me to be who I was," she said. "All the way, Paul was my cheerleader. He thought everything I did was the best."

And, through all those years, Paul encouraged his wife to find the joy in giving to others—whether it be through teaching or through benevolence.

"At our home church, Central Lutheran, we are often reminded that our congregation was founded to serve beyond its members, to serve the world," said Dolores. "And Paul and I believed we could be a part of assisting Luther Seminary to foster global awareness through the GMI. We wanted to be a part of that!"