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Concordia says goodbye

Concordia College said goodbye to Pam Jolicoeur the best way it knew how - through song. After the school put out a call for past and present choir members to sing at Monday's memorial service for Jolicoeur, who died last week of a stroke, so man...

Concordia choir
A Concordia choir ensemble under the direction of Dr. Rene Clausen sings at the memorial service Monday for Concordia College President Pamela Jolicoeur, who died after a stroke last week. The service was at Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Concordia College said goodbye to Pam Jolicoeur the best way it knew how - through song.

After the school put out a call for past and present choir members to sing at Monday's memorial service for Jolicoeur, who died last week of a stroke, so many showed up that the choir balcony couldn't hold them all.

Beyond choir members, nearly 1,000 people packed Moorhead's Trinity Lutheran Church, where Jolicoeur and her husband, Michael, worshipped after Jolicoeur became president of Concordia in 2004.

More than 800 computers tuned in to a live Web stream of the service.

Jolicoeur, 65, died Wednesday afternoon after suffering a stroke at her on-campus home that morning.


Former Concordia President Paul Dovre said he told Jolicoeur's mother, Eleanor, he thought Jolicoeur had given the best six years of her life to Concordia.

"She agreed, and then she added, 'And they were the happiest six years of her life as well,' " Dovre said.

Jolicoeur's sister, Sue Kremser, said family members feel like true Cobbers from hearing so many stories about faculty, staff and students.

"We could hear her enthusiasm every time we spoke to her," said Kremser, speaking on behalf of the family with Jolicoeur's daughter, Jessica, at her side.

Jolicoeur, a former Catholic nun who came to Concordia from California Lutheran University, quickly embraced Concordia's traditions, from the corn feeds to the beanie toss, Dovre said.

But leading the Concordia cheer at halftime of the homecoming game "was a bridge too far" for Concordia's first woman president, Dovre said.

Still, he said, "Pam gamely gave it her best shot."

Under Jolicoeur's leadership, Concordia raised its academic profile, adopted a new core curriculum and completed a $100 million fundraising campaign.


"The sense of momentum around this place was and is palpable," Dovre said.

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Church in America, was among the speakers Monday, extending condolences for the loss of "a president that exemplified excellence."

Concordia sent an e-mail on Friday seeking current and former choir members to perform at the service.

Monday, about 120 members of a Concordia choir ensemble performed two songs, including "Prayer," which was written by director Rene Clausen and was a favorite of Jolicoeur's.

Choir member Kris Braaten, who graduated in May, said they planned to sing from the balcony, but so many showed up they filled the front of the church.

"The outpouring of current and former members was tremendous," said Braaten, who traveled from the Twin Cities for the service. "I'd want to be nowhere else than to be right up there. It meant a lot."

Current and former members of Concordia's board of regents filled several pews at the front of the church.

Richard Solberg, a former board of regents member who was on the committee that hired Jolicoeur, said afterward, "It was a beautiful service and tribute to a beautiful lady."


Presidents and other leaders of local and regional colleges and universities attended as well.

"All of us are in deep sorrow and grief," said Rick Torgerson, president of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and a 25-year friend of Jolicoeur. "Everyone will miss her great spirit and her friendship."

Among the many Concordia alumni in attendance was journalist Roxana Saberi, who received support from Jolicoeur while she was imprisoned in Iran.

"She had a big heart. I admire her greatly," Saberi said. "She had an ability to make people feel comfortable around her, make people feel loved."

Following the service, the family and pastors led a processional to a reception at the Knutson Campus Center, a $32 million facility that was completed under Jolicoeur's leadership.

During the service, Bishop Hanson left attendees with some advice:

"Don't try to replace Pam Jolicoeur," he said. "There is not another one on the face of the earth. But God will provide leadership for you."

Memorial service


A second memorial service will be held in California at 1 p.m. June 26 at Holy Trinity Lutheran, Thousand Oaks. Jolicoeur spent 32 years at California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, most recently as provost

and dean of the faculty.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590

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