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Professor receives one of Swedish government's highest honors

Philip Anderson with wife and daughter

CHICAGO, IL (November 18, 2008) – The Swedish government has honored Philip J. Anderson, professor of church history at North Park Theological Seminary, with its highest honor given to “foreign nationals.”

Anderson was presented with the insignia of the Royal Order of the Polar Star from the King of Sweden at the Swedish-American Historical Society’s 60th Anniversary gala on November 8 in Chicago. He was made “Commander of the Royal Order of the Polar Star.”

Anderson was recognized for his many years of scholarship, service to the historical society, and promoting Swedish relations with North America. The honor is significant in that, typically, it is given to members of Sweden’s royal family or to recognized “foreign nationals.” King Frederick I founded the royal order in 1748.

Other notables to receive the award have been Gen. Colin Powell and Strobe Talbott, the former president of the Brookings Institution. The medal was also presented to David Nyvall, retired president of North Park, in 1929.

Anderson had no idea he was receiving the award, which was presented by the Swedish Consul General for Illinois, Kerstin Lane. “It was very meaningful for me to receive it from her because we have been friends for a long time,” Anderson said.

Anderson has focused much of his professional career on the study of Swedish immigration, especially its religious influence on America and the Evangelical Covenant Church.

For the last 20 years, he has been president of the Swedish-American Historical Society, which has made its home at North Park since the society’s founding in 1948. The work of the society includes publishing scholarly material.

Anderson also serves on the boards of the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill.; the Swedish Council of America; the Center for Scandinavian Studies at North Park University; and the Swedish American Museum of Chicago.

“History gives us a sense, not only of who we were, but also of who we are,” Anderson said, in explaining his passion for the field. “Our histories are all connected whether we are old churches or new churches.”

The issues addressed in the past by Swedish immigrants are similar to those faced currently by other ethnic groups immigrating to the United States, he added. How the church addressed those issues can inform us today.