Going to college brought me to Minnesota

Published 9:13 am Monday, November 26, 2012

Sara Aiekens, Creative Connections

Surviving long enough to celebrate a 50th college graduation reunion from Macalester in St. Paul in June of 2013 seems reason enough to join a reunion committee a whole year ahead of the gathering.

Sara Aeikens

I paused to track my cause for attending a college in Minnesota when I could have saved money, lived at home and continued to walk only two blocks to where my dad taught science at Minot State University in North Dakota.

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As I reminisce, my reasons seem a bit ridiculous now. I recall attending a Presbyterian Church youth group as a high school senior to hear a speaker advise us on choosing a college. The church organist’s son traveled all the way to the Twin Cities, perhaps by train, for an appealing adventure away from home and being independent, at a higher learning institution where students from all over the world mingled. Plus, he was cute!

After a few discussions with my parents, I found my dad’s tales about his connections with Macalester intriguing. My interest in foreign affairs increased as he told me more about his travels in Persia and his five years of teaching science in a Presbyterian school in Tehran.

One of his students, Yahya Armajani, later became the head of the history department at Macalester College. With my interest in teaching social studies and world history, I decided to transfer to the liberal arts college of Macalester. My dad’s former student became my major adviser.

I grew up on Persian carpets, surrounded by Persian artifacts, so when the Armajani family invited me to their home only a few blocks from my dorm in the college neighborhood for weekend visits with their family, I felt culturally at home. I found the beautiful wall hangings, especially the silk carpet, had a calming effect on me. I can picture myself admiring them while various Iranian students gathered in the living room to discuss the leadership role of the Iranian shah whom I recall visited the United States in that same decade.

I was able to work on college projects at the family dining room table sometimes for hours. One time while creating an art scrapbook for a Macalester art teacher, I attached my pictures with pieces of Scotch tape and inadvertently left a neat row of tape scraps on the edge of the finished wooden table.

I felt more than just a bit embarrassed after Dr. Armajani discovered bits of sticky tape clinging to the bottom of his suit jacket arms during dinner. I never forgot that moment of surprise for both of us as he exclaimed, “Vhat is this?!”

I also never forgot how helpful my adviser turned out to be in guiding me through our discussions in his office, concerning the beginning philosophy of history course I took from him, that proved fairly difficult for me to comprehend. With his help, I completed the last two years and also student taught and graduated the spring of 1963.

Several decades later, I visited the Armajanis’ home in northern California. During dinner Dr. Armajani shared some of his recollections of my dad, the young man, Charles Hoffman, and his journey to Persia as a young scientist, when they had marriage requirements for teachers that my dad managed to have waived.

Strangely enough during my overnight stay, an earthquake occurred that bounced my bed around rather jarringly.

The next morning my host kindly invited me into his study to show me a diploma hanging on the wall above his desk.

Even though it was at a very odd angle due to the rumblings during the night, I delighted in viewing Dr. Armajani’s high school framed diploma from many years ago, with the signature of my own father.

I take these stories with me as a part of the Macalester 50th class reunion, as the experiences became a bridge for arriving and living many years in Minnesota.


Sara Aeikens is an Albert Lea resident.