by Chloey Mayo ’10
In the globalized classroom of present day Oglethorpe, it’s difficult to imagine a campus without faces from around the world. Not surprisingly, Oglethorpe led the way during the emergence of international student programs, welcoming some of the first university international students in Georgia in the 1940s.
According to Oglethorpe archivist and trustee Mr. Fred Agel, Oglethorpe’s first documented international students were former soldiers—four Norwegian World War II veterans who received scholarship awards offered by Oglethorpe to former students of Norwegian colleges. In 1946 the Atlanta-Constitution wrote: “Gunnar Bjune, Leif Haug, Rolf Ottesen and Odd Johnsen, who during the war years secretly carried time bombs, Molotov cocktails and dynamite against the invaders of their native land, today will walk in the bright Georgia sunshine along the quiet paths of Oglethorpe University, this time armed with American textbooks, slide rules and pencils.”
Kendall Weisiger, Oglethorpe’s treasurer and assistant to then-President Philip Weltner, had worked to establish the scholarships and extended the invitation to the young men in an effort to reestablish and extend goodwill and understanding between nations in the wake of World War II. At the time, Weisiger was also an active Rotarian in Georgia, and had founded the Rotary Club of Atlanta’s Educational Foundation 22 years earlier. Georgia’s Rotary was known for providing scholarships to local students, but Weisiger also was very passionate about extending the aid to students abroad. Not long after Oglethorpe hosted the four Norwegian veterans, Weisiger convinced the Georgia Rotary to expand their educational programs to include students from overseas, much like the scholarship he established at Oglethorpe. The 61 Rotary Clubs of Georgia went on to host international students from Norway, Holland, and China at local Atlanta universities, in the Georgia Rotary Student Program, that continues today, 65 years later.