Archived Story

Quam remembered as dedicated English teacher

Published 11:11am Monday, April 2, 2012

Evangeline Quam, 98, a retired Fergus Falls High School English teacher who died Wednesday, March 28, was a legend in her own time. Former students from the 1950s, 1960s and other decades marveled at her longevity.

“When we invited former teachers to our 40th class reunion in 2006, Evangeline Quam came quickly to mind,” said class reunion planner Carlton Bjerkaas. “She was both energetic and highly motivated as an instructor.”

Quam was famous for her narrative about jungle life in Africa. In the 1950s, she took a leave of absence from FFHS to teach at Zulu Lutheran High School in Eshowe, Natal, South Africa, for three years.

“She always had a poise and classiness,” said Quam’s former student Steve Rufer, a Fergus Falls attorney. “Evangeline knew her subject well. She was a great teacher.”

Quam was a graduate of Detroit Lakes High School and Concordia College in Moorhead, who made it a point to keep on learning throughout her life. She attended graduate school at the University of Minnesota, MSU, Moorhead, known then as Moorhead State College, Jamestown College in North Dakota, and the University of Alaska.

In addition to teaching English, she also directed junior class plays, headed speech activities, was advisor for the student convocation committee and was a junior class advisor.

Many high school juniors studied English under the guidance of Quam. During the mid-1960s, her students concentrated on the works of American authors and how they influenced the development of the United States.

Quam instructed her students on the correct procedure to use in writing bibliographies. She offered tips on writing related to a particular subject and certain historical period.

Her former students remember the south wing first floor, which later made room for the community ice arena. That’s where English classes were taught by Quam, Carrie Moen, Josephine Sevada and others at the former Fergus Falls High School complex.

In 1965, Quam directed the junior class play, “The Miracle Worker.” Helen Keller’s childhood turned into the light of understanding, under the tutorship of Annie, a girl who was previously blind. FFHS junior Jill Barnum took the role of Annie Sullivan and Helen was portrayed by Pauline Winjum.

“Evangeline was a wonderful person and was a world traveler,” said friend and retired FFHS science teacher Paul Anderson. “She was in our circle of former teachers, along with Grace Halcrow (retired bookkeeping teacher) and others.”

Anderson and his wife, Mary Ann, would give rides to Quam and Halcrow when attending events such as Fergus Falls Concert Association performances.

Fellow teacher Wayne Swenson and his wife, Glori, a former student of Quam’s, lived in an apartment complex where Quam also resided in the mid-1960s.

“I taught industrial education and had a deep respect for Evangeline,” said Swenson. “She had a great reputation.”

Quam visited many of the mission fields of the American Lutheran Church. After retiring in 1975, she headed for Papua, New Guinea, and taught English at Balob Teachers College for four years.

Quam’s funeral service is at 11 a.m. Wednesday, at First Lutheran Church in Fergus Falls. Burial will be in Oak Grove Cemetery in Detroit Lakes.

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