Sigurd Lee Passes at 95

Sigurd K. Lee on a theatre set
Sig on a theatre set from 1990

Beloved Bethany Lutheran College (BLC) Professor Emeritus Sigurd (Sig) Lee has passed away at the age of 95 in Mankato. Sig was a 1949 Bethany alumnus, and returned to his alma mater where he taught English and was the pioneering theatre director for over three decades spanning the years 1960-1993. He directed countless drama productions at BLC, and even in his retired years, Sig continued to help the College and Theatre Department in so many ways. He also served as the editor of the Bethany Report, the predecessor to the Bethany Magazine.

Dr. Gene Pfeifer, President of Bethany Lutheran College, remarked about Sig, “Although our tenures at Bethany are separated by decades, Sig was certainly one I enjoyed visiting over lunches during my time as president. He appreciated hearing updates about his beloved Bethany, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning from his perspective about the cherished stories and traditions of the College. In my early years at Bethany, Sig was especially helpful in coordinating visits he and I would make to see Rudy Honsey. Those memories are treasures of mine that have helped me to learn and appreciate Bethany’s rich history and culture. Blessed be his memory.”

At their May 2010 meeting, the Bethany Lutheran College Board of Regents voted unanimously to name the theater housed in Bethany’s Ylvisaker Fine Arts Center as the Sigurd K. Lee Theater. A ceremony in Sig’s honor was held on November 14, 2010, where he was recognized for his many years of service, and for starting and developing the theatre program at Bethany. At the ceremony, Sig’s daughter Caroline and current Bethany Professor of Theatre Peter Bloedel unveiled the sign that adorns the entrance to the Lee Theater with many of his former students and colleagues in attendance.

Sigurd K. Lee speaking
Lee speaking at the theater naming event in 2010.

A few remembrances of Sig have already been shared, including Ann Fredrickson (Music Department) who said, “Sig was one of those people who made you want to be a better person. In my early years of directing, he was highly influential on my teaching and directing style. He operated from such a depth of kindness, and was always so supportive of the work we were doing in the theatre. Several of us have kept and treasured the letters from Sig following a performance, typed laboriously on his old typewriter, and then amended by hand. On a rough day, I will still pull out one of his notes to be encouraged.”

And Assistant Professor of Religion Shawn Stafford talked of his time as a student of Lee. “When I was in plays under his direction, he would help me stretch beyond what I thought I was capable of and get out of my comfort zone. He was an inspiring prof as well. I took acting and lit classes from him. His home was always open, … and we could go and visit him there.”

The funeral service was held Thursday, December 16, at 11 a.m., Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Mankato. View the service online. Visitation was from 9:30-11:00 a.m. prior to the service at the church.

Read Sigurd Lee’s obituary here.