Glenda Sehested’s photograph will hang forever in the Madsen Center to help the Augustana community remember her always. They will remember her not only as a brilliant professor, but also as a mentor, a friend and an advocate of gender equality.
Sehested was set to retire in May after teaching in the sociology department for 39 years, but she took an early leave after being diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in November. She passed on Monday morning at age 64.
“Glenda came to Augie expecting to teach a few years and then pursue a career in research,” said her brother Ken Sehested. “Then she fell in love with teaching and with the Augustana College vision, colleagues and students.”
Born in Marlow, Okla., Sehested grew up in Snyder, Tex., received her bachelor’s degree from Baylor University in Waco, Tex., her master’s from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Colorado in Boulder.
She began her teaching career at Augustana in 1974, while her colleague professor Susan Schrader came in 1978, getting to know Sehested for 35 years.
“In many ways, I think she was a mentor to me, as I think she was to many,” Schrader said. “I really admired the way she was able to instill critical thinking and a sociological imagination in her students. She was a very hard worker and expected the same from her students.”
Senior Kadyn Wittman was Sehested’s teaching assistant since September her freshman year, and she never planning on becoming a sociology major until taking a course with her.
“Dr. Sehested was a little bit terrifying,” Wittman said. “She was the most brutal grader I’ve ever had here at Augie but she was also one of the most invested professors I’ve ever had. Always willing to explain why she took points off, what you can do better the next time, always working to help you achieve your highest level of performance.”
Communications professor Heather Bart agreed with Wittman, remembering what it was like to be a student of Sehested’s.
“She expected integration, creative thinking and critical reading,” Bart said. “She did not accept the obvious or easy answers. Glenda taught me a great deal about gender and sociology but she also taught me a great deal about how to learn, ask good questions and be curious.”
Sehested was the first female elected to serve as chair of the Augustana College Social Sciences Division and she also fought for gender equity among faculty salaries. Sehested was known for always standing up for her beliefs.
“She had no problem letting people know her stance on an issue, and she saw it as a human responsibility to openly address social problems,” junior Michael Vos said. “Her presence will definitely be missed around campus as she was never afraid to stir the pot.”
While nothing has been said about replacing Sehested, her presence will be missed in the sociology depart as well.
“In some ways, we’ll really miss [her as our] cheerleader,” Schrader said. “We’ll certainly miss her expertise in gender inequality and social psychology. It will be hard for us to replace her in that regard.”
There will be a memorial service for Sehested at 3:30 p.m. Friday, May 3, at the Chapel of Reconciliation.
“We should, as a community of Augustana, recognize and support each other when we lose a professor who is such an integral part of our community,” Wittman said.