Every campus has its treasures: its people, its architecture, its statues. And Augustana is no exception. From Moses to bears to owls, oh my! Augie is also home to one of our most beloved works of art, the Ole statue that stands proudly between the Administration and Commons buildings.
“Ole is my best friend and long-time mentor,” President Rob Oliver said. “We have lunch every day and sometimes I bring him coffee in the morning.” For our beloved college president, Ole is more than just the face of Augustana; he’s the very heart and soul and the best lunch date a man could have.
“We have great conversations. Sometimes I just sit up in my office and look out the window at him,” Oliver shared, wiping a tear from his eye.
Ole was here before Augustana College was even in Sioux Falls. In fact, no one really knows how Ole came to be, or who or what built him, but it was most likely the Norwegian settlers that we all know settled in the Midwest.
“We decided on Sioux Falls as the permanent home for Augie when our colleagues discovered Ole,” dean of students Jim Bies said. “We thought the Augie Doggie mascot was crap when we found this wonder.”
The statue of Ole was most likely carved from rock, particularly a type of metamorphic rock that was brought over by the Norwegians and the Vikings themselves during the days of old. The archeology department has concluded that the tools used to carve the rock were simple deer bones and other rocks.
“Ole is an archeological miracle, just like the mammoth outside our offices,” archeology professor Adrien Hannus said. “He’s a precious piece of anthropological heritage.”
Ole, however, is more than stone. He is more than a chunk of some rock we don’t care enough about to identify. He is, instead, a rock star.
After being adopted and raised by the family of bears near Humanities, he ran away in a fit of adolescent rebellion and spent a semester in the circus. Unable to overcome his intense stage fright, Ole ended up as a bouncer at the after-hours, circus performer-only bar, “The Ringmaster.”
It was then that he met the bronze elephant, who was ejected from the circus for steroid abuse that eventually led to his current muscle-bound condition. The pair left the bar together.
“Too many stoners,” he said.
The two fast friends instead made their way back to Augustana and settled down not far from Ole’s bear family after a happy reunion (think “the prodigal stone son”). After helping his friend the elephant through a rehabilitation program led by Corey Kopp, Ole settled down in a close vicinity to his bear-mom and little bear brother.
“My struggle to find my place is what made me so stoic,” Ole whispers into the ears of any passersby who will listen. “They are also what made me stronger. And yours can, too.” (Other catchphrases include “Rock on” and “Please don’t put your gum there.”)
Ole’s positive attitude, wisdon and willngness to befriend everybody have endeared him to more than President Oliver. Even our professors can’t get enough of this inanimate Viking. Once the weather warms up, classes can be seen sitting at Ole’s base, clearly paying attention to the lesson and not dozing in the sunshine or picking grass like we do.
“We find that students that study around their Viking ancestor do better on exams, particularly the Senior Assessment test,” economics professor David Sorenson said. “His presence on our campus ensures our continued achievement in academia.”
And it’s not just during the few weeks of spring that classes are held outside with Ole. “They’re college students,” communications professor John Bart said. “They can handle a little South Dakota winter.”
Students and faculty alike have strong feelings for Ole’s presence on campus.
Perhaps what students treasure most about Ole is his committment to being there for you when you truly need it. Rain or shine (literally), Ole will be where he always is.
“He’s the world’s best listener,” sophomore Sarah Swenson said. “He doesn’t try to talk over me, which I think is the best trait in a confidant. I know Ole can keep my secrets, and he has.”
“It’s a hunk of rock,” junior Matthew Stoffel said. “I don’t know why we put a scarf on it during the winter; it’s not like it gets cold.”
Senior Kirsten Hastings has different feelings. “Ole is my spirit animal – or spirit warrior rather. I get goosebumps when I look into his eyes.”
For senior Maryia Swella, Ole holds a special place in her heart.
“Ole is my hero,” Swella said as she ran her fingers across Ole’s boot. “I can’t even explain how he makes me feel.”
Truly, Ole is what makes Augustana, Augustana. He is our mentor, our hero, our homeboy. Ole is our ancestor, and we are all indebted to him as Vikings. May he ever live on as a part of our campus, as a part of our hearts. We all bleed blue and gold, and Ole is no exception. But don’t go trying to see if that’s true, cause you’ll get arrested and probably expelled for destruction of property, and then you’ll have to go to USF where their sculptures are just crap anyway.