Harold Theiste is the 2020 Bethany Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient

5 women posing with the Distinguished Alumni Award (family members of recipient)

Pictured from left  is Harold’s family, Mary Farquhar (daughter), Arlene Theiste (wife), Karin Cooper (daughter), Beth Davis (daughter), and Laura Merriam (daughter) accepting the award at a private ceremony on Sunday, November 8, 2020. 

Harold ‘Hal’ Theiste (’55) was honored posthumously with the Bethany Distinguished Alumni Award on Sunday, November 8, 2020. Due to the ongoing pandemic, a small event was held with immediate family members. 

Theiste, a pioneer in the computer field and a former Bethany Regent, was called Home to heaven on December 16, 2018. His wife and four daughters were in attendance for the private ceremony held in Bethany’s Honsey Hall. The family is proud and honored to accept the award on behalf of Harold. Theiste’s widow, Arlene, said, “Receiving this award would have meant so much to him, more than any other award he has ever received. He praised and cherished his Bethany education. It helped form a solid foundation for his entire life.”

Harold “Hal” Theiste was raised in Minneapolis and is a graduate of Bethany High School (1952), Bethany Lutheran College (1955), and the College of Science, Literature, and the Arts at the University of Minnesota (1957).

After earning his bachelor’s degree, Theiste worked for General Mills and Orr Engineering before being hired by Control Data Corporation (CDC) in the Twin Cities in 1960. At CDC for 30 years, he was a programmer, held several management positions, eventually was the company’s National Account Manager, and later headed up a CDC subsidiary. Of particular note, Theiste was part of a small group of programmers at CDC who helped create the operating system for Seymour Cray’s groundbreaking CDC 1604 supercomputer. In 1977, because of Hal’s reputation as a strong technical and business leader, he was selected to oversee programs as the deputy administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration and took a leave of absence from CDC to serve three years under President Jimmy Carter.

Even in retirement, Theiste never slowed down. He penned a monthly business column through 2013 as part of the Service Corps of Retired Executives, volunteered for the United Way as a business mentor, and always found time to tutor students in math and physics.

Bethany meant so much to Harold, and he gave so much of himself to ensure the mission of the College was always delivered. He served on the BLC Board of Regents from 1984 until he chose to step down in 2017. He also led Bethany High School classes of 1952 and ’53, raising funds to create “The Way of the Cross” stained glass window, which sits above the main entrance of Old Main. He also helped to create the Distinguished Alumni Award at Bethany, serving on the selection committee from 2008–14.

Hal’s Christian faith was always number one in his life; attending and being an active member in church activities was always a priority for him. At every church that Hal was a member of, he was asked or volunteered to serve in a leadership role to help guide the church and ensure the mission was fulfilled.

Bethany Lutheran College is pleased and honored to present the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award to Harold Theiste. Blessed be his memory.