A President’s Pilgrimage

Left to right: Benedikt Atli Jónsson, Stefanía Óskarsdóttir, Friðrik Jónsson, Jón Atli Benediktsson

A few weeks ago, Stephansson House Provincial Historic Site had an interesting visitor: The President of the University of Iceland, Jón Atli Benediktsson. On holiday in Alberta with his wife and two sons, President Benediktsson stopped by the popular historic site for personal, as well as professional, reasons.

Stephan G. Stephansson is an important figure for many Icelanders. As children, they are exposed to his poetry, and some – such as his poem “Þó þú langförull legðir,” with the song arrangement written by Sigvaldi Kaldalón – are very well-known. Many other pieces have also been turned into songs. Every summer, we host several Icelandic tours and they invariably spend time around the piano lustily singing a number of Stephansson poems.

As one of the world’s great literary cultures, Iceland holds Stephan G. Stephansson in high regard, and celebrates his contributions to Icelandic culture, such as his plays, essays and 2,000-plus pages of poetry, written mostly while living in Canada, and almost exclusively in Icelandic.

Left to right: Stephansson House Interpreter Molly Thomas, Jón Atli Benediktsson, Stefanía Óskarsdóttir, Friðrik Jónsson

As Icelanders, Stephansson House Provincial Historic Site was an attractive location for Jón and his family. As President of the University of Iceland, however, Jon had some other plans; specifically, build on the connection between Iceland and the Markerville area as a way to celebrate Stephan’s accomplishments as an Icelander and poet, and to connect people to that enduring legacy. As part of this vision, there are some exciting plans by the University of Iceland to establish a professor position in Migrant Literature at the university’s Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages, in memory of Icelandic immigrant writers of North America (Finnbogadóttir is, of course, the world’s first democratically elected female president!).

Jón Atli Benediktsson and Stephansson House Facility Supervisor Edward van Vliet

Further, the University of Iceland has established an endowment fund in the name of Stephan G. Stephansson, honouring his life and work and the profundity of his artistic expression of the experience of migration. Announced on April 20th, 2017, at the opening of the University of Iceland’s Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding, the fund is meant to promote scholarly research in Iceland and Canada in the field of migrant and comparative literature, in memory of Icelandic immigrant poets and writers of North America. With the establishment of the new professor position, the experience, culture and history of Icelandic immigrants in North America will be commemorated with a rigorous and long-lasting research focus on the world’s stage.

For more information on the University of Iceland’s Stephan G. Stephansson Endowment Fund, or to donate, please contact:

Dr. Birna Bjarnadóttir
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute
Veröld – House of Vigdís, 301
University of Iceland
Brynjólfsgata 1
107 Reykjavík
Email: birna@hi.is
Tel: +354-5254933

Stephansson House Provicial historic Site was honoured to host President Jón Atli Benediktsson and his family, and we are very excited about the future of this initiative, and the new ways we will be able to share and celebrate the accomplishments and importance of Stephan G. Stephansson, Poet of the Rocky Mountains.

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