Rolf Arthur Syrdal (1902-1993)

Biographical Sketch

Rolf A. Syrdal was born August 12, 1902 in Hatton, North Dakota; his father was Rev. Peter R. Syrdal.  He married Borghild Roe (1926); they had two children.  He earned his BA at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota (1924) and attended Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, for his BTh (1927) and MTh (1939).  He was ordained in 1927 on a call as pastor to Trinity and Rosendale in Madelia, Minnesota (1927-29); he also served as assistant pastor at Trinity in Brooklyn, New York (1939-41) and associate pastor at Nazareth in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  He was a missionary in China (1929-36) and then a teacher at St. Olaf College (1937-39).  He attended Union Seminary, New York (1940-41) and completed his PhD at Drew University (1941), after which he became a professor at Luther Seminary, St. Paul (1941-46).  He then served as executive secretary of the ELC Board of Foreign Missions (1946-1960) and executive director of World Missions for the ALC (1960-63); his duties included editing The Missionary.  In 1963, he began a professorship at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, from which he had received an honorary DD in 1951.  He died in a car accident December 2, 1993, in Northfield, Minnesota.

Scope and Content

The collection contains materials pertaining to Rolf A. Syrdal’s missionary endeavors, primarily in China, Japan, and Africa.

BIOGRAPHICAL FILE:  File on Rolf Syrdal himself contains copy of history of Japan mission in Japanese with English translation; oral history abstract; clippings and photocopies of articles about Syrdal; a biographical paper written by Paul Hexom; photographs; memorial programs; report forms for retired ordained minister; and obituaries.  Separate file on his wife Borghild contains oral history abstract and photocopy of obituary.

PAPERS COLLECTION:  Correspondence with international students, other individuals, and organizations with which he was involved.  Synod constitutions and bylaws for church bodies in Japan, Tanzania, the Caribbean, and the Batak community.  Materials on South Africa, including correspondence, histories, correspondence, budgets, and seminary documents, and assorted minutes.

Folder List

International Students:

Bhengu, Shadrach – S. Africa
Jensen, Gurli Vibe – Nigeria
Johansen, Troels & Bodil – Sudan
Manoela, Nilsen
Ruohoniemi, Sanfrid E.
Chen, Peter – China
Hu, Paul,            “
Kan, Viola          “
Ku, Loren           “
Kuo, Charles       “
Ma, Nathan         “
Shen, Peter    Shen Ko-chun
Shen Yu-ching     “
Tung, Stanley       “
Wang, Dora          “
Wang, Harry  -      “

Keith Bridston correspondence ‘56
ELC edited Constitution for church and District –‘53
Japan ELC  - Constitution ‘61
Caribbean Synod Proposed Constitution ‘52
Tanzania Constitution and Bylaws ‘56
Statutes and Regulations – Batak; Constitution of SE Lutheran Theol. Seminary, Constitution of
Northern Lutheran Church – Santal, ‘41
Correspondence concerning Missionary Taxation – with IRS

South Africa

Graetz, Dr & Mrs. Correspondence ‘61
Misc. documents and minutes, 1961-1971
Hospital Work in South Africa  1958 – 1972
South Africa History
JCSA (?) Correspondence
Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches – South Africa
Lutheran Medical Foundation Correspondence (Hestenes)
South Africa – Church correspondence
Budget – South Africa – American Lutheran Mission 1962
ELCSA-SER  Budget & Minutes  1967
Lutheran Theological Seminary  S.A.  1967
South Africa Correspondence and Executive Committee minutes, 1960’s
Young Lutheran Churches – LWF Study 1957