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Stephen Rendahl

Jul 17, 2015


Dr. Stephen Earl Rendahl died at age 71 surrounded by loved ones on July 5, 2015 due to acute respiratory distress following successful lung surgery. Rendahl was born and raised on a family farm near Fillmore, North Dakota. His grandmother, Sena (Amdahl) Rendahl, was an original homesteader in 1899 at the age of 25, just six years after she migrated from Nedstrand, Norway. He attended grade school in a four-room schoolhouse in Fillmore, later attended Dakota Lutheran High School in Minot, and graduated from Rugby High School.

Rendahl earned his B.A. from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, where he gained a deep appreciation for liberal arts and critical thinking, which served him well along with the thousands of students he taught over 41 years as a professor. Steve lived out the spirit of Concordia’s mission statement of being “sent forth” to be of service to others. He earned his M.A. from the University of North Dakota and his PhD from the University of Minnesota.

He met his wife, Robbin, at Concordia College in 1964, when she was a freshman and he was a junior. Over their 47 years of marriage, Stephen and Robbin raised a daughter, traveled the globe, trained horses, collected art, attended concerts, and became avid fans of the University of North Dakota hockey team. They were planning to attend the Winnipeg Folk Festival this weekend, as they have for many years, just before flying to Montreal where he would have presented a paper at the International Association for Mass Communication Research conference about Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala. There were good times and bad, as is the case with a long shared history, but they always returned to laughter.

Steve joined the faculty of the University of North Dakota in 1974 where he had been a longtime advocate for and leader within the Communications Program. His research interests included peace journalism and cross-cultural communication. During his tenure, he taught at the American College of Norway in Moss, Norway, the University of Shanghai Science and Technology in China, the University of Bucharest in Romania, and lectured in South Africa, Malaysia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Romania and throughout the Philippines.

In 1978, Rendahl received an Amoco Foundation Award for outstanding teaching. He received the Teacher of the Year Award in 1995 and was honored at a UND Founders Day.

In addition, Steve was the Regional Director for Region 5 Arabian Horse Association and a member of the International Arabian Horse Association Board for many years. As an equestrian, he and his horse River Chief were top-rated winners in horse showing, competitive trail riding, fast track, and endurance racing. Passing on the gift of discipline, he trained his daughter, Brenda, in horse showmanship and supported her athletic accomplishments in high school. They also took bareback vaulting lessons together, which is gymnastics on horseback, and he enthusiastically stood on the backs of horses as they galloped around the ring.

Known for his leadership skills, Steve’s sister, Laurel, describes him as her childhood hero and the “big man on campus” when they overlapped at Concordia College. She remembers swelling with pride when she saw a banner that read “Rendahl for Vice President” before he was elected as the vice president of the Concordia College student body.

Ever the frustrated artist, as described by his wife, Steve was always creating, whether training a horse, painting, playing piano or guitar, or orchestrating a moment for family and friends. He was the keeper of traditions, the storyteller of the family, the organizer of reunions, and the promoter of living a creative and stimulating life. Every Christmas he donned his red Santa hat and led the family in a reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. He and Robbin collected art and stamps from around the world, attended concerts and performances, fished, and encouraged friends and family in their artistic and other endeavors. Though he was extroverted, he was also pensive and introspective in ways that served his art and teaching.

A proud Norwegian American, Rendahl and his wife visited his four grandparents’ ancestral homes in Norway, including the Rendedal farm in Balestrand on the Sognefjord, the Amdal farm in Nedstrand, and the Syrtveit and Flaat farms in the Setesdal Valley. He was rooted in the land homesteaded by his grandmother, Sena (Amdahl) Rendahl. His brother, David, who farmed their family’s homestead, recalls that no matter where Steve’s travels took him, he often came back to the farm to help with harvest, most recently the fall before David’s retirement.

Steve loved spending time with his daughter, Brenda, her husband, Paul, and their two children, Haley (13) and Anthony (9). He was an enthusiastic supporter of “Haley’s Milk Run,” which just marked its fourth year of raising money to buy milk for underprivileged children in Fargo, West Fargo, and Moorhead elementary schools. Steve and Robbin took their grandchildren on summer education trips to Minneapolis/St. Paul with Steve’s sister Laurel. They also visited their daughter and her husband’s lake cabin where he enjoyed fishing for walleye. They also held a fall Rendahl/Dellaneva Deer Camp on the four miles of river along the border of the farm. He loved his grandchildren and he loved being a grandpa.

Rendahl was grateful to live on the homestead along the Red River from his mother’s side of the family. He was a member at East Walle Lutheran Church in rural Thompson, where he served on the church council and call committee.

He is survived by his wife, Robbin (Maves) Rendahl, daughter, Brenda (Rendahl) Dellaneva, and her husband, Paul, and their children, Haley and Anthony; sister, Laurel (Rendahl) Engelmann; brother David Rendahl and wife Laura (Jacobsen) Rendahl; nephew, Randy Rendahl, and his wife, Rebecca (Hunt) Rendahl, and their children Carson and Sydney; and niece Kristi Rendahl. He is preceded in death by his parents, Lester and Signa (Flaat) Rendahl, sister-in-law, Ruthie (Martin) Rendahl, brother-in-law, Jim Engelmann, and brother-in-law, Bob Maves.

His energy, enthusiasm, and engaging spirit will be missed.

Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. with a 7:00 p.m Prayer Service on Thursday, July 16, 2015 in Amundson Funeral Home, 2975 S. 42nd St., Grand Forks. Funeral Services will be at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, July 17, 2015 at Sharon Lutheran Church, 1720 S. 20th St., Grand Forks, with visitation one hour prior to the service and lunch following. The burial will be at East Walle Cemetery in rural Thompson, North Dakota at 3:00 p.m.

Memorial donations may be made to East Walle Lutheran Cemetery Fund or the UND Foundation for the American College of Norway Endowment.

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